This is George-Jules-Victor Clairin’s Spanish Woman on a Balcony. (“Woman” is not a typo—maybe the others are English spies? Or men in drag?)
All joking aside, it should not be at all strange to hear from Christie’s that Clairin had an “association with the theatre.” While it is certainly obvious that he had indeed visited (and been impressed by) Spain, the touch of drama goes beyond that of a wide-eyed tourist.
The exaggerated intricacy of the carved wood (with its dragons and bull skulls and scrolls), and the sheer overabundance of flowers—added to the set-like isolation of the balcony from the surrounding architecture—make this the Spain of the stage.
you look at this object and wonder, “What is it?” Perhaps it’s a decorative
panel, a cooking utensil, or a tongue depressor?
may be surprised to learn that this carved maple wood slat is actually a busk. Beginning
in the sixteenth century, busks were used to stiffen stays (an early name for corsets). Busks
were made of rigid materials such as bone, whalebone or wood, and would be inserted
down the front of a pair of stays to render it inflexible. This reinforced the
ideal conical and erect torso, and ensured that any bending was donefrom the
hips, not the waist, encouraging dignified posture and movement.
the eighteenth century, busks were sometimes hand carved with emblems, as seen on
this example. This busk’s design was created by chip carving, where knives or
chisels are used to remove small bits of wood. While busks often served a
practical purpose, not all were functional; some were to be made and given as
love tokens. This was likely the case with this example, as it features a large
heart at its centerfront, surrounded by the initials “R.S.”. These same
initials appear on the back of the busk, along with another pair of initials
(“P.L.”) and “1777,” likely the year the busk was made.
Created by mixed media artist Anila Quayyum Agha, this elaborately carved cube with an embedded light source projects a dazzling pattern of shadows onto the surrounding gallery walls. Titled Intersections, the installation is made from large panels of laser-cut wood meant to emulate the geometrical patters found in Islamic sacred spaces.
I’m in a non-timber forest products class where we’re learning how to make all sorts of stuff, like maple and hickory syrups, soaps and salves, honey and beeswax products, and carved items, to sell at our open house tomorrow. I’ve always loved woodworking, so carving especially was right up my alley :D