There's really need to butter me up to check out really beautiful and unusual antique finds! Take a look at this "mystery" piece of china, which I discovered at a recent New England Antique Shows event. Can you "rise to the top" and figure out its function?
First, a little bit about the item itself. This charming, white porcelain basket-shaped treasure is made by Haviland Limoges. It has an elegant double twisted handle and a covered, bowed hollow bottom chamber. There are drainage pores, in the shape of a flower, in the center of the main surface. Overall, the basket measures about 7 3/4" long and about 4" high. Its back stamp dates the piece to the late 1800's.
Any antique enthusiast cannot help but recognize the unique beauty of this basket. This gold-trimmed piece is part of the very hard to find Haviland "Meadow Visitors" series. Haviland produced this labor-intensive pattern from 1876 through 1899. Like its name implies, items in this series are covered in intricately detailed, hand painted grasses, flowers, birds and butterflies. Each piece is truly a work of art and a one of a kind treasure; many are also uniquely highlighted with hand-detailed enamel accents. Some pieces in the "Meadow Visitors" series feature fruits, seasonal wildflowers, and colorful backgrounds and borders. The illustration to the left shows a close up of the hand work associated with a "Meadow Visitors" plate; note the lifelike butterflies, pears, and assorted pink field flowers.
Haviland also produced a full spectrum of tablewear in the "Meadow Visitors" pattern. Each nature-inspired piece was designed to surprise and delight the users, bringing them to a calm and beautiful place. The idea of using bird and butterflies came about in the 1880's as a result of Europe's fascination with all things Asian. The picture on the left is of a "Meadow Visitors" pattern asparagus dish; note the use of swirling textures and forms that add a peaceful and balanced feeling to the serving piece.
So any idea of the function of this charming piece of china? Here's a hint to "grease" your thinking wheels. According to Joseph Addison, an English essayist, poet, dramatist, and statesman who lived from 1672 through 1719, "All well-regulated families set apart an hour every morning for tea and bread and butter." Yes, what we have here is an ingeniously designed butter basket! Chilled water was poured into the small opening on the side of the basket, and the butter was placed on the top. The cool water helped keep the the butter pieces chilled, and therefore firm, on the dining room table. The photo above on the left shows the opening where the water entered (and exited) the basket bottom's cooling chamber.
I hope solving this pastoral puzzler has whetted your appetite to discover your own great finds at a New England Antique Shows event! I would like to thank Marie Maguire of Holly Lane Antiques for sharing this butter basket with us. Holly Lane Antiques specializes in antique Haviland Limoges China. Holly Lane will be appearing at the upcoming New England Antique Show at Elm Bank in Wellesley, MA on July 24th and 25th. For more information about the "Meadow Visitors" butter dish featured here, please contact Marie directly at email@example.com.
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