Author: Sarah D. Coffin

with central column around which a bombe spiral staircase rotates terminating in a similarly curved inverted cone form standing area of the pulpit surmounted by a carved scroll canopy attached above to the column, all resting a rectangular geometrically inlaid marquetry floor-base
A Staircase to Heaven?
There are many types of staircase models in the Thaw collection, much of which was donated in 2007 to Cooper Hewitt, to coincide with an exhibition Made to Scale: Staircase Masterpieces The Eugene and Clare Thaw Gift that I was lucky enough to curate after studying their significance for the acquisition. Joan K. Davidson, whose...
Philosophers don’t condescend
I fell in love with this model the first time I saw it, and every time I see it I still smile. With its sophisticated use of materials, including that of Sèvres busts, and the humor of juxtaposing the two great French philosophers of the eighteenth century, Voltaire and Rousseau, it displays itself as a...
Spiral staircase model with curved stringboards, on a circular base on bun feet.
The Perfect Spiral
This seemingly simple model is actually one of the most accomplished of the staircase models produced in the compagnonnage tradition in France during the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. This meritocratic system of craftsmanship outside the traditional guilds started in the middle ages but reached its zenith after the French revolution when royal patronage...
A Model fit for a Pope
When I first saw this model, it immediately struck me as a work of stunning craftsmanship and design that showed the appreciation of a maker of one era for the design of another. With the elegant proportions featured by architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80), who was also from the Veneto, as well as other late Renaissance...
Tulip laid horizontally, with upper and lower portions of dish composed of full length petals.
Strewing Flowers on the Table
This tulip-form small tureen or covered dish must have appeared a wonderful bit of nature, as if fallen from a bouquet, on a dining table. Porcelain started to take the place of sugar sculptures on the most elegant tables of Europe in the eighteenth century. It came at a time when nature was being observed...
Cut and entwinned ribbon silver brooch, with basse-taille enamel.
A Pretty Thought in a Variety of Shapes
In summer, when weddings are frequent, the thought of objects given in affection or love, makes a visit to the jewelry collection seem appropriate. This heart-form brooch is one of a group of jewelry by Charles Horner (English, 1821-1896) given to the Museum in December. Horner (English, 1821-1896) was an actual silversmith, watchmaker and enamellist...
Shaped open back with voluted top rail and two horizontal crossing members enclosing a verre églomisé panel bearing the arms of the Earl of Scarsdale (extinct 1735). Cabriole sharply raking rear legs, voluted at knees, and with moulded ankles and Dutch feet. Voluted cabriole front legs with gilded pewter mounts at knees; hoof feet. Gilded pewter mask in center of front seat rail. Slip seat.
Personalized Furniture with a Bit of Flash
While it is expected that many people have their monograms, names or other personal devices on stationery, towels, and sometimes porcelain, having personalized furniture is going several steps further.  There are examples of chairs with coats-of-arms carved into the crest rail, and side chairs from New York of ca 1742 with Robert and Margaret Beekman...
Circular form with scalloped rim; white ground decorated overall with molded and gilded trellis pattern with small pink blossoms with yellow centers at crossing points.
A Strong Design for a Woman of Strong Tastes
This soup plate is one of my favorite designs of all times. Its wonderful, overlapping, radiating arcs create a design for any era. On this plate the design is moulded and sculpted in relief suggesting an openwork basketweave, with hand-painted highlights in gold set with pink-painted flowerheads where the weave crosses. Perhaps the pink of...
Image features a cuff bracelet of roughly circular form composed of two intertwined curved strands of silver containing a central irregular triangular panel. The silver surface has passages of dark patination. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.
Art in Metal: The Modernist Jewelry of Greenwich Village’s Art Smith
From the archives, an Object of the Day post on the jewelry of Art Smith, one of the designers featured in Jewelry of Ideas.