Through interviews with leading figures in the world of fine and decorative arts, Curious Objects—a podcast from The Magazine Antiques—explores the hidden histories, the little-known facts, the intricacies, and the idiosyncrasies that breathe life and energy into historical works of craft and art.
A Dalva Brothers Wonder Cabinet Turns Heads at Christie's
Dalva Brothers, Inc., specializes in the sort of lux 1700s French furniture—ebonized wood, gilded rococo flourishes, parti-colored marquetry—that just screams ancien régime. Some 250 of the choicest items from the firm’s inventory are being offered at Christie’s this October, and Dalva Brothers' principal David Dalva III, along with Christie’s specialist Jody Wilkie, talk with Ben about the crème de la crème: a secretary-cabinet resplendent with Florentine pietra dura figurative panels and gleaming ormolu mounts, possibly handled by noted marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre.
“The Most Awesome Cup of All Time” . . . and 500 Other Objects
Dealer Adam Ambros and curator Ed Town join Ben to talk about a collection of mostly small objects made in Britain between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, many of them marked with a date. During the discussion, Town and Ambros tease out the material history and forgotten figures behind six of the most quotidian of these objects—two Elizabethian shoehorns and a powderhorn by little-known craftsman Robert Mindum, and three beakers by Nathaniel Spilman—and reveal that for the emerging middle class these were not merely useful objects, but status symbols.
A Fireback from Hell—Ironworks and Industrial Labor in the Antebellum South, with Torren Gatson
Scholar Torren Gatson, guest editor for the current edition of the MESDA Journal, comes on the pod to talk about an iron fireback (a metal plate protecting the back wall of a fireplace) produced at the Vesuvius Furnace in Lincoln County, North Carolina. Established by revolutionary war veteran Joseph Graham, the furnace depended on slave labor—oftentimes quite skilled—as well as that of freedmen and white women. Gatson’s research paints a compelling picture of the unique work culture this state of affairs produced.
A Journey to the Center of the Earth, with Robert McCracken Peck
According to some, underneath our feet is a second, inverted world, home to strange beasts, the Lost Tribes of Israel . . . maybe even Hitler. In the nineteenth century, a booster for this “hollow earth” theory was one John Cleves Symmes of Sussex County, New Jersey. Accompanied by a perforated wooden globe, between 1818 and 1827 Symmes crisscrossed the United States delivering lectures on the existence of portals to this “underworld” located at the poles, and urging an expedition be undertaken to discover them. Drexel University’s Robert McCracken Peck comes on the pod to talk about the theory and the globe in this episode of Curious Objects.
An Armchair's Astonishing Provenance, with Tiffany Momon
This month, Ben speaks with Tiffany Momon, visiting assistant professor at Sewanee University in Tennessee, and founder of the Black Craftspeople Digital Archive, a scholarly resource that explores the contributions that African Americans have made to the material culture of the United States. Tiffany and Ben focus their attention on a chair made by enslaved craftsmen at Leonidas Polk’s Leighton Plantation in Louisiana, and Tiffany offers tips on what institutions and researchers can do to ensure they’re telling the full story of the decorative arts.
The Life and Labor of Enslaved Potter Dave Drake, with Ethan Lasser
In 1834 a law was passed in South Carolina that prohibited slaves from reading or writing. The punishment for transgressors? Fifty lashes. That same year, Dave Drake, an enslaved potter at work in Edgefield County inscribed his first poem on a large stoneware jug he'd made. In this episode of the podcast, Ethan Lasser, chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, tells Dave’s story and that of an 1857 storage jar that bears the epigrammatic lines: "I made this Jar for Cash-/ though its called lucre trash/ Dave.”
Customer ReviewsSee All
Zaps energy into antiques!
A wonderful podcast that provides context, insight, and electricity to objects across time!
Dave Drake with Ethan Lasser, MFA
Loved listening to this history of Dave the Potter, learning more about the craftsmanship of his Storage Jars, and hearing his clever verses that he inscribed on his ceramics.
The Caravaggio Discovery is the best ever
I was enchanted by the interview with Eric Turquin and the story of the discovery of the painting of Judith Beheading Holofernes. M. Turquin was a great subject to interview,in fact,he sent me back to read the story of Judith because of his fascinating retelling . I’m reading up on Caravaggio now. Ben Miller’s podcasts are painlessly educational for anyone who loves art and antiques!!