Ostrich eggs have long been a source of admiration and surprise for Europeans due to their size, translucency and exoticism. They became collectibles, and since about the sixteenth century, richly decorated, enclosed in gold or silver, ostrich eggs served as interior decoration as precious cups with nautilus.
In eighteenth-century Paris, there was a fashion for painted ostrich eggs, often with chinoiserie or pastoral scenes. They were often mounted in gilded bronze. Rare surviving specimens are usually signed or attributed to the Lebel family of painters.Ostrich eggs with such a painting are very rare, one similar copy signed by Lebel is kept at the Petit Trianon in Versailles. Chinoiserie painting was very popular during the heyday of the Rococo style. Jean-Baptiste Pilman (1728-1808) French painter, draftsman, ornaments maker and Rococo interior decorator, published a book of Chinese-style ornaments. The painting on eggs is very similar to the plots shown in Pilman’s book, and therefore may belong to the artists Pilman or Lebel.
Jeweler Joachim Mathias Wendt
Jeweler Joachim Mathias Wendt (1830-1917) was born in Holstein in 1830 to the family of a blacksmith. He was a watchmaker’s apprentice and studied the craft of a silversmith, and in 1854 he moved to Adelaide (Australia), where he became watchmaker and jeweler J.M. Wendt. His business flourished and his craftsmanship was praised at the 1865 New Zealand Exhibition, where his silverware and jewelry won first prize. For the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh to Adelaide in 1867, Wendt’s firm produced four gift boxes. For this work, he received the title of His Royal Highness’s Jeweler in the colony of South Australia. JM Wendt is considered one of the finest Australian jewelers in the 19th century.
Maki-e – Japanese technique
Maki-e is a Japanese technique for creating an image using gold, silver or colored powder on a lacquered surface, which was developed in the 8th – 11th centuries, and its heyday fell on the Edo period of the Meiji era (1603-1868). This products were originally created as household items for nobles or utensils in Buddhist and Shinto temples. The rise in popularity of maki-e has led to the emergence of a large number of masters of this technique, especially in the city of Edo.
To create different colors and textures, maki-e masters used powders made from different metals: gold, silver, copper, brass, lead, aluminum, platinum and tin, as well as their alloys. Bamboo tubes and soft brushes of various sizes were used to lay powder and draw fine lines. In practice, the maki-e jewelry technique required the highest skill and many years of study to develop the necessary skills.
The peak of the flourishing of maki-e technology came in the second half of the 19th century on the wave of the world community’s interest in this mysterious and closed country, when Japanese goods entered the world market and became available to buyers from Europe and America. An ostrich egg painted using the technique of Japanese lacquer painting has become a popular exotic gift in the Old and New Worlds. And I must say that many of these miniatures were real masterpieces.