JOURNAL — Sculpture RSS



Elephant Walk

Lest some of my friends (well...let's make that relatives) across-the-aisle feel a bit left-out, here's an elephant—the lumbering mascot (with a long memory) of the Grand Ol' Party.  The population of elephants is on a steep decline.  In the wild, at least, this breaks my heart.  So I'll always have a soft spot for the peaceful pachyderm.  And I will always try to keep a nice selection of elephant bookends for my like-minded customers.  Note that this pair of bookends is "mirrored"—that is, cast from two different moulds which allows the pair to face each other.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome pair of bookends.

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Joust A Fort Knight!

In just a fortnight, our modern day jousters will appear before the judges—and we, The People, will render the score.  May the better team win!  (And by "win," I mean receive the most votes.) These bookends, made in the 1920's or 1930's, are bronze clad, patinated and hand-painted with touches of vibrant color.  They capture all the energy, tension and anticipation of a great match to come.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

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Dance! Dance! Dance!

Is that a distant drum beat?  Boom, boom, boom.  I've been hearing it for weeks. Boom, boom, boom.  Election Eve comes in two weeks. Boom, boom, boom.  Get that ballot in!  And then, get ready to dance! These cast iron bookends scream Art Deco!  A dancer flexes on his foliated stage—a healthy measure of Radio City Music Hall and a generous touch of Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun.  I  Please click on the photo above to learn more about them.

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Slay the Dragon

Saint George was an early Greek Christian who was born in Cappadocia (modern day Turkey) to a Roman Army soldier.  He died on 23 April 303.  Legend tells us of a fearsome dragon that demanded human sacrifices.  The people, attempting to placate the dragon, had offered-up a young maiden as his next meal.  This is when Saint George came along, slaying the dragon, saving the woman, and setting the captive people free. But the myth of Saint George did not become popular until many centuries later.  The first known written record of the legend is from the 11th Century.  As the Crusades ramped-up, and soldiers from different countries came together in the Holy Land, the story of Saint George and...

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Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power.  And those who have the knowledge are most likely to become powerful.  For millennia, the best transmission of knowledge was through books.  Oral storytelling, on the other hand, has always been subject to the accurate recall of the listeners and the agendas of a line of subsequent storytellers.   The written word, on the other hand, allowed knowledge to be recorded in a way that was less likely to be changed over time (as long as the original manuscripts survived, and raises a different issue).  The problem was, very few people were literate.  Reading and writing were the domain of the highly educated—poets, clerics and scribes.  For this reason, the display of books (and images of people reading)...

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Fala-La-La-La

"Fala" was President Roosevelt's beloved black Scottish Terrier, perhaps the most famous of White House pets.  Fala often traveled with the president, whether by auto, train, boat or plane.  The press (and political cartoonists) loved to share Fala's stories of life in the White House.  The dog was such a popular Democrat that even the opposition party attacked him when they could.  Republicans complained bitterly that Fala once had been left-stranded during a trip with FDR to the Aleutian Islands—requiring the president to send a US Navy destroyer back to collect the little rascal.  FDR made short work of his Republican critics; soon after, at a Teamsters' dinner and speech (which was radio-broadcast nationwide), Roosevelt pummeled the opposition for fabricating "libelous statements about my...

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Night and Day

Michelangelo was in high demand.  Just because the Pope had conscripted him for four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (plus another five years to paint The Last Judgement), it did not follow that other rich patrons would surrender their final wish: an impressive, custom-carved, Michelangelo Buonarotti tomb!  Popes, cardinals, bankers and kings stood in-line, waiting for Il Divino to start chiseling.  Michelangelo designed many ambitious (and over-the-top) tombs for his fervent patrons.  Alas, the artist rarely finished many of  his complete original designs.  Nevertheless, just the pieces of tombs which he created are masterpieces—amongst the greatest works of any human hand (ever).  His Pietà—so beautiful it makes the heart race—was carved by the 24 year old artist for...

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Leaps & Bounds

The tension is growing—by leaps and bounds—as the candidates stump, the pundits parse, and the votes are submitted by mail or early voting.  It should all come to a crescendo on 3 November (20 days from today!).  But that may not be the end of it!  Mailed-in ballots will need to be counted.  And there is always the chance that a candidate (or his party) may contest the results.  How much more can you take? An athletic gazelle leaps into action—ready to hold-up your precious tomes.  Made in the 1920's, this handsome pair of bookends is big on Art Deco style.  Click on the photo above to learn more about them.

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Steel City

In the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, Pittsburgh was one of the engines of America's national economic growth.  It was the height of American Industrialism and Pittsburgh was the heavy hitter.  Great fortunes were made in The Steel City—Carnegie, Frick, Mellon, Scaife, Heinz, Westinghouse—and they were fortunes which endowed other American cities (like New York and Washington, DC).  There were big companies, like US Steel, which (at its peak) employed hundreds of thousands of employees.  But there were many hundreds of smaller companies which serviced the giants or further-processed the raw material produced by the behemoths. Such a focus on industry came at a great cost.  It was terribly polluting.  It perpetuated a "caste system" that insured there always would be many more low-paid, interchangeable...

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Coming-Out

Today is National Coming-Out Day.  Every 11 October—since 1988—the day has been celebrated to encourage members of the LGBT community to come-out to friends, family and colleagues.  Since homophobia and bigotry fester in conditions of deception, lies and silence, coming-out is a powerful way to educate the broader community that gay people are contributing and valued members of the society at large.  How can bigots remain bigoted when they know and love openly gay friends, colleagues, children, siblings, parents or other family members? The bronze sculpture, shown above, was created by artist Luke Gwilliam in the 1950's.  It portrays a lithe man, removing his tight garments—perhaps symbolic of a gay person freeing him/herself from the binding restraints of a restrictive society....

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"Ex Scientia Tridens"

On this day in 1845, the United States Naval Academy was founded in Annapolis, Maryland. The Academy's motto, Ex Scientia Tridens, is the Latin for the phrase "From Knowledge, Sea Power."  It's comforting to know that some US leaders still appreciate the important link between knowledge and power! 33 miles from Washington, DC, the Academy admits 1,200 "plebes" each year (also called "Midshipmen") and graduates about 1,000 students as new officers, mostly for the US Navy or Marine Corps.  A prospective student must be 17 to 23 years of age, unmarried, without children, and be of good moral character.  Applicants are tested for physical, intellectual and emotional fitness and must have the recommendation of their state's US Senator, Representative or Delegate.  The...

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World Space Week

We are in the middle of "World Space Week"—held each year from the 4th to the 10th of October.  In 1999, the United Nations dedicated this week to the "international celebration of science and technology and their contribution to the betterment of the human condition."  95 countries observe the commemoration. The rocket, shown above, is actually a cast-bronze bank.  It can be opened (with a screwdriver) and will really make a sci-fi statement on your desk or bookshelf.  Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.

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No Lion!

No Lion!  Election Day is only four weeks from today! If you're not yet registered, do so!  And if you are, send-in that ballot.  Every vote makes a difference!  (No Lion!). This spelter sculpture shows a lion atop a mountaintop.  It has been hand-painted and you may learn more about it by clicking on the photo above.

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Round One!

For the last four years, Election Day 2020 seemed interminably distant. Now—suddenly!—we look-up and we're just a month (and a tick) away from The Big Day!  By 1 December, hopefully, all the mail-in ballots should be accurately counted and the winner declared. Tonight, we begin the first of four rounds of presidential (and vice-presidential) debates. May the best* candidate win!

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A Stroll Through Old Town Square

Prague is a wonderful blend of the old and the Nouveau.  In this etched view of the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) Jan Hus presides from his 20th Century memorial while the Baroque Saint Nicholas Church (1732-1737) looms behind him. Behind the viewer, one would see the regal 14th Century Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn (burial place of the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe).    Jan Hus was a Protestant reformer who was burned at the stake for his perceived heresy.  The resulting "Hussite Wars" lasted 15 years, burnishing Hus's heroic status amongst his supporters. The memorial was unveiled on 6 July 1915—the 500th anniversary of the Czech martyr's death. Though this print is signed, I have not yet deciphered...

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World Book Day

23 April is World Book Day—a day devoted to the promotion of reading, publishing, book collecting and copyright protection.   This date was first marked by Catalan booksellers who, in 1923, wanted a way to commemorate the burial date of national literary giant Miguel de Cervantes.  Interestingly, William Shakespeare also died on 23 April (according […]

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The Birds Are Back - Part VI

This pair of sculpted sparrows seems to express a curiously alert demeanor. Made of cast brass and finished with a verdigris brass patina, they will happily roost on your bookshelf, coffee table or mantelpiece. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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The Birds Are Back - Part V

This little warbler—made of cast bronze—is wondering what to do next. Is it too early to eat again? Learn more about him by clicking on the picture above. More Spring birds tomorrow.    Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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The Birds Are Back - Part IV

This fat little baby—to young and too heavy to fly—will sit contentedly on your desk, windowsill or bookshelf. Please click on the photo above to learn more about him. More Spring birds tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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The Birds Are Back - Part III

From Japan, a cast iron paperweight—from which a curious owl gazes out. He'll add a measure of scholarly bona fides to your library, office or den, not to mention a dose of serene tranquility. Click on the photo above to learn more about him More Spring birds tomorrow.    Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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The Birds Are Back - Part II

A long, pointed beak—plus a dynamic forward-thrust—are two signs that the bird you're watching is a Nuthatch. This fellow, made of cast bronze, is perfect as a paperweight, bonsai decoration, or just left to hang around. Learn more about him by clicking on the photo above. More Spring birds tomorrow.    Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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The Birds Are Back - Part I

Spring in in the air—and the birds are back!  Our garden is a riot of activity: cardinals, blue jays, robins and countless varieties of brown, sparrow-like birds. Over the next few days, we'll be sharing some our our favorite bird sculptures, currently in-stock in the LEO Design on-line store. Here's a fluffy little guy. Whether he is simply conserving his heat or otherwise has had his feathers ruffled, he does have the look of annoyance in his eyes. Learn more about him by clicking on the photo above. More Spring birds tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). ...

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Heartfelt Thanks

A sincere and heartfelt thank you to all the customers who have remembered LEO Design over the last couple of weeks. This is such a difficult time. Everyone is affected in some way; some are being crushed. My heart breaks for my fellow brick-and-mortar merchants (and restaurateurs)—some of whom were just getting-by as it was—whose livelihoods may succumb to the pandemic. And, of course, there are too many who will be physically harmed as well. It is against this fraught background that I express my gratitude to the customers who have continued to support us. In an abundance of caution, I have suspended adding any new merchandise to my collection. Everything that is now in-stock (to be shipped) has been "quarantined" under my protection since...

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Spring Fresh - part VI

And now a shout-out to those brave bird souls who do not leave for the winter—the Chickadee! They nest in the early Spring, it's true, but they've been huddling here in the cold, all Winter long, waiting for the warmth to return. And a big thank you to all the kind people who put-out sunflower seeds for them during the chill. In Winter, chickadees search out high-fat meals during the day, increasing their weight by 10% by sunset, only to burn it off keeping warm through the night. This bronze bell, topped by a chickadee on a branch, was made and hand-finished in Canada. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store...

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Another Virus Besieges

Hardly a day goes by that I do not pine for my little shop in Greenwich Village—or, at least, wistfully remember being a part of the bloodstream of that wonderful neighborhood. Yet, knowing the hardship that New York's (and every other city's) merchants are enduring right now, I consider myself blessed to be disentangled from the long tally of monthly expenses that a brick-and-mortar shopkeeper must shoulder: rent, payroll, utilities, insurance, banking fees, repairs.  And—oh!—let's not forget the cost of acquiring new merchandise. With most small businesses (in the best of times) barely held-together with the "glue" of the owner's free labor, coming-out of this dormancy will be very difficult for most mom and pop merchants. And this sector is only...

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Éirinn go Brách!

"Ireland Forever!"  Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Saint Patrick—spelled Pádraig in Irish—was born to a Christian family in "Roman Britain" in 387 AD. At the time, the island of Britain was nearly-totally occupied by Roman forces. Though his father was a deacon, Patrick was not religious or particularly faithful. As he wrote in his autobiographical Confessio, as a young teenager he was abducted by pirates and sold into slavery in Ireland. He was made a shepherd and had plenty of time alone (with the sheep) to pray and contemplate his faith. He grew in his love of God, despite Ireland's hostility to the Christian faith (which was populated with Druids and Pagans). At the age of 20, he had a dream that...

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Bacchus Day

Bacchus is the Roman name of the demi-god, also known as “Dionysus” by the Greeks.  His father was Zeus and his mother was the human female, Semele. Bacchus was the god of wine-making, theatre and merriment, but also of sexual frenzy, ecstasy and extravagance. He would be accompanied on his wild, “Bacchanalian” benders by The […]

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Pewter Perfect - part I

Pewter is an "alloy" (that is, a metallic combination) of the soft metal tin (approximately 95%), mixed and "hardened" with antimony, copper, bismuth and (sometimes) silver. Pewter was first crafted in the Early Bronze Age, around 3000 BC, in the Near East (modern day Turkey and Egypt). The oldest known pewter objects were found in Egypt. This "Mama Bear" sculpture was cast in Italy. She will sit on your desk, bookshelf or mantelpiece—lending an air of sophisticated yet rustic elegance. Click on the photo above to learn more about her.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also...

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March Forth!

I've always liked the sound of today's date: March Fourth (or "March Forth!"). It has a strong, determined resonance—full of possibility and brimming with opportunity. These bookends depict a knight, lance in-hand, atop his twisting (almost Mannerist) steed. They are bronze-clad and treated to a hand-painted "polychrome" finish. Click on the photo above to learn more about them.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private...

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Shine On

A few nights ago, walking home in the dark, I looked-up and saw the most beautiful sight: a slender Crescent Moon—hanging in an inky dark blue sky. In all of nature, is there anything so elegant, beautiful and sublime? Inspired by that mysterious celestial body is this handsome "Crescent Moon" bottle opener—handcrafted of brass in Japan. Practical and beautiful, it's a bottle opener one will not want to hide from sight. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at...

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Leap Day

Every school child knows that it takes 365 days for the Earth to orbit around the Sun. Or does it? Since the Second Century BC, Greek mathematician and astronomer, Hipparchus, had (accurately) calculated the precise number of days of an Earthly orbit:  365 days + 1/4 of a day - 1/300 of a day. Unfortunately, when the Julian Calendar was instituted in 45 BC, the extra 1/300 was ignored and a single leap day was added every fourth year. After a few centuries, however, the seasons and equinoxes were becoming mis-aligned with the annual calendar. When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582, the "extra" allotted leap days (since 45 BC) were "taken back" and a new pattern was instituted: add...

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Fat Tuesday!

It's Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday! And, NO, I am not implying that these buxom beauties are fat! On the contrary, they represent the artistically-idealized female figure for most of the last four thousand years. These "Satyresses" (female Satyrs) convey the (extreme) Bacchanalian character of the last day before Lent. In Catholic households, Mardi Gras is the opportunity to eat-up and get rid of all meat, fats, sweets, alcohol and other gustatory indulgences before the proscribed Lenten abstemiousness begins the next day (Ash Wednesday).

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Caucus in the Silver State

Today is the Democratic Primary Caucus in Nevada, "The Silver State." Nevada's nickname hearkens back to the 1800's when silver mining drew many westward to find fortune. Today—considering the caucus—it's worth noting that most of the top candidates are "Silver" themselves: in their Seventies (and some close to their Eighties). I find it interesting that so many Millennials—who wouldn't hire a colleague in her Fifties—have amassed behind an "Almost Octogenarian."  But there are Democrats in the race. And, if you support one, you may like this little bronze donkey, handmade in California. On the bottom of each hoof you'll find the letters spelling K-I-C-K ("Kick Ass"). Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich...

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Back To "My Roots" - Part Three

I have always loved artistic metalwork—and the brawnier, the better. While in New York, I made note of (and photographed) two different types of sculptural foundry work, both artistic, which I admire and like. First, there's the "high end, fine art" type, usually crafted as a precious, one-off piece and sometimes used to adorn architectural exteriors or interiors. The second type of casting—and potentially just as impressive—are those metal architectural elements which are beautifully modeled and then reproduced by the dozens, hundreds or thousands. The stainless steel bas relief sculpture, shown above, is to be found at 50 Rockefeller Plaza (near the site of the Center's Christmas tree). It is a great example of important, bespoke fine art metalwork. It was commissioned...

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Saint Valentine's Day

I remember Valentine's Day since the Second Grade. Miss Lum had us all bring-in valentines—one for every classmate, both boys and girls. My mother bought me a box of valentines for 19¢. They weren't proper, folding "greeting cards" but, rather, cheerfully illustrated die-cut hearts, flowers, puppies and mailboxes. They came connected on a large, printed sheet and I spent the night before Valentine's Day punching-out the pieces and writing upon them the names of each classmate. I don't recall there being any envelopes, just the two-dimensional, flat "greetings," each with a "To" and "From" line on the backside. The next morning in class, we were instructed to come forward and deposit our valentines into a cardboard "mailbox" which the teacher had...

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Countdown to Valentines - part V

A little something to remember your loved one. This rustically-sculpted pewter heart—finished in a brassy wash—is pierced and swings from a brass key ring. It's a small token, but a happy reminder of the one who loves you. Find out more by clicking on the photo above. More Valentine's Day gift ideas tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Countdown to Valentines - part I

We're on the run-up to Valentine's Day. If you haven't found your sweetie a little something, yet, maybe we can help with some ideas over the next few days. Here's a sculpted pewter heart, handmade in San Francisco. It's just the right size: big enough to function as a paperweight, but small enough to be a love token in the hand. Its rustic casting—lightly pocked and perfectly imperfect—is not unlike the human heart, well-worn and tried by love. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More Valentine's Day gift ideas tomorrow.    Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell...

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American Football's Big Night

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about American Football (not much!).  I much prefer "The Beautiful Game" and believe that "A Football is Round" (and kicked with the feet). To my eye, "soccer" (as some call it!) allows the player's personality, fitness and (sometimes) good looks to shine through. American Football players are buried beneath mounds of plastic padding and nylon mesh. They also stop running and stand around a lot! Nevertheless, I love finding handsome, vintage gifts—like this Japanese Crystal (American) Football. It was made in Japan in the 1970's or 1980's. Perhaps they were usually etched with a particular team's logo? If so, this one was left unblemished. It would make a wonderful paperweight or conversation piece...

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Howdy, Yinz!

While Western Pennsylvania may sometimes resemble parts of the South, Pittsburgh is certainly a Northeastern urban community. Now having lived three years in "The Burgh"—after 27 years of living in New York City—my opinion is that the Iron City has all the "gritty realness" of any of New York's outer boroughs. In Pittsburgh, I see neighborhoods reminiscent of those in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island or the Bronx. And while Manhattan has yet to be replicated in Pittsburgh, let's not forget that some of Manhattan's greatest monuments were erected through the brawn—and the profits—of Pittsburgh's early industry. The term "Yinz" is the Pittsburgh equivalent of "Y'all"—though it's more regionally concentrated than that favorite Southern term (which has widespread geographic usage). And the cowboy...

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An In-Door Cat

This friendly kitty is not hissing—he's arching his back, ready for a rub. He's also patiently waiting to hold-open your door. He was modeled and made of cast iron in the 1910's - 1920's, probably by Hubley (founded in 1894 in Lancaster, PA). While I find cast iron dog doorstops quite frequently, cats are far less common. In deference to my LEO sunsign (and general affection for cats), I couldn't pass her up! You'll find her for sale in our on-line shop. Click on the photo above to learn more about this handsome piece.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell...

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Epiphany

An "epiphany" is a life-changing realization—one which has the power to alter the course of one's future. An epiphany usually strikes suddenly and dramatically but it also can evolve over time with thought. These bronze-clad "Thinker" bookends, modeled after Rodin's "Le Penseur" (1902), seem well on their way to an epiphany. Click on the photo above to learn more about them. In Western Christianity, "The Feast of The Epiphany" is celebrated on (or about) the 6th of January. It represents the manifestation of the Christ Child to the Gentiles—usually symbolized by the Three Magi (the Gentiles) recognizing Jesus as God Incarnate and prostrating themselves before him.  The Twelve Days of Christmas end the night before (5 January, sometimes called "Twelfth...

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Clean & White - part II

Ol' Jack Frost could not have conjured a more wint'ry wonder than this artglass sculpture made in Sweden in the Seventies. A swirl of bubbles and a snowy white flurry twists skyward in this piece, made by Färe-Marcolin in idyllic Ronneby (in Southern Sweden, not far from the Baltic Sea). It would look good in either a traditional, period or Modernist interior—and it will always remind you those crisp, clean and cold days of early January. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in...

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Another Christmas Eve

In 1494, nineteen year old Florentine sculptor Michelangelo Buonarotti contributed the male angel (and candlebearer) to the tomb of Saint Dominic in Bologna, Italy. The female partner had been carved by the late Niccolo dell'Arca, who had intended to complete the pair. Michelangelo was hired to finish the male half of the couple. By now, the tomb—inside the Basilica of San Domenico—was already in its 230th year of construction. Many artists contributed to the work which took 500 years to complete. The angels above are a late Twentieth Century recreation based on the Michelangelo (and Niccolo dell'Arca) originals. In 1995, during my first Holiday season at LEO Design, I purchased this pair of Italian painted terra-cotta angels. I received them the week before...

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Bright Hanukkah Wishes!

In the darkest time of the year we celebrate the Jewish "Festival of Lights." The Talmud tells of a miracle whereby a single jar of oil—which should have lasted one night—continued to burn for eight days. Thus, the holiday lasts eight nights. Our bronze Modernist Hanukkah Menorah has eight candles (one for each night) plus the shammash ("helper" or "attendant"), which is used to light the other candles and which is placed just a little higher than the other candles. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it. And a Happy Hanukkah to all!   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we...

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Something for the Stocking - part X

How does one know that this little bronze lion is brave? He has the word "courage" impressed into his full little belly. Give your favorite LEO (perhaps yourself) a little extra encouragement. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Something for the Stocking - part VIII

This highly-polished pig is made of hand-shaped brass in Japan. He makes a stylish paperweight, a handsome companion, or a satisfying object to jiggle in the hand. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More stocking stuffers in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Something for the Stocking - part V

In the Northern reaches of Northern Europe—where complete winter darkness might last 20 hours a day—every ray of light is precious. This explains the Scandinavian affection for blonde woods, white walls and lots of colorful home furnishings. It also helps explain the allure of this Swedish Pine Christmas Tree glass sculpture by Kosta Boda. Let it bring a little extra light into your home this Holiday. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More stocking stuffers in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District"...

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Something for the Stocking - part IV

Following closely on the trail of her little cub (yesterday's Journal entry), this Mama Bear ceramic ornament is also handmade in Russia.  It can hang or stand as shown. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More stocking stuffers in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Something for the Stocking - part III

Having spent a week in Moscow last month, this little Russian handmade ceramic bear is even more precious to me. Meant to hang on a tree, he can also stand on a flat surface, keeping you company in the kitchen, office or living room. Watch for his mother, who is bound to show-up tomorrow. Click on the photo above to learn more about this sculpture. More stocking stuffers in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique...

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Something for the Stocking - part I

Over the next several days, we'll be sharing some of our favorite "little gifts"—perfect stuffers for the stocking. We start with this cast pewter ornament. Though you may hang it from the tree, it would look good sitting on a windowsill or could be used as a holiday candle snuffer. This bit of folk craft will help ensure a Merry Merry Christmas. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More stocking stuffers in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla &...

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A Gentleman in Moscow - Part Seven

I am a sucker for Late Nineteenth Century "Gothic Revival" terra-cotta buildings like Saint Pancras Station in London or the Potter Building in downtown Manhattan. Their aesthetics please me, yes; but, what really excites me, is the idea of using mass production methods to crank-out tasteful, well-designed and beautifully made component parts which could be assembled to create a handsome whole. As long as one starts with a beautifully-crafted prototype (and insists upon quality manufacturing), mass production can be a wonderful way of bringing good taste to the public in an affordable manner. So it's not surprising that I spent more than a few minutes inspecting, photographing and appreciating this building in Revolution Square, which now houses the "Museum of the Patriotic...

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A Gentleman in Moscow - Part Six

Russia's love of classical music is well known, both the music they made and the music they played. Chopin was very popular—revered even—in Russia after the 1830's. Tchaikovsky, for one, was quite familiar with the Polish composer and Chopin may have influenced the Russian's work yet to come. It is no surprise, then, that the Polish maestro would be commemorated at the Muzeon Park of Arts, an attractive sculpture garden sited along the Moskva River's Southbank. Chopin, on the other hand, had a more complicated feeling about the Russians (or "Moskali" as they were known in Poland). The Invasion of Warsaw (sometimes called "The Uprising") ended the Polish-Russian War of 1830 - 1831. During the two day siege, Poland collapsed and evacuated...

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A Gentleman in Moscow - Part Four

Reigning over the Moskva River, at the Northern foot of the Patriarshiy Bridge (and not far from the Kremlin), stands the regal white marble Cathedral of Christ the Savior. It looks like it's stood here for a century—but has it? Actually, no.  The Cathedral was commissioned in 1812 by Tsar Alexander I to commemorate Napoleon's empty-handed retreat from Moscow.  It was to be an expression of "our gratitude to Divine Providence for protecting Russia" and a memorial to those who died in the war. After a change of site, change of architect, change of design and a change of tsar (to Nicholas I), construction finally began in 1839.  Interestingly, in 1882, Tchaikovsky premiered his brand new 1812 Overture at the...

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Russian Off

As you read this, I will be landing at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport for a weeklong holiday. My partner, a stage designer, has designed the new Giselle for the Bolshoi Ballet, and it premiers this week. I am not sure if I will find many appropriate (or affordable) antiques while in Russia—and I am not even certain if I am allowed to remove them from the country. I will be taking plenty of pictures, however, and I will share them with you in the coming days.  Keep checking this Journal and monitor my visit. By the way, the Bolshoi will be broadcasting worldwide a performance of this Giselle on 26 January 2020. Click this link to find-out if this broadcast will be shown...

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Sundays Have Never Been the Same Since

On this day in 1939, NBC broadcast the first American Football game ever—to a total of 1000 television sets. The game pitted the Fordham University Rams (in the Bronx) against the Waynesburg University Yellow Jackets (near Pittsburgh, PA). The game was played at (and televised from) the Triborough Stadium on Randall's Island, New York City. One camera and one announcer covered the match, won by Fordham (34 to 7). The Japanese crystal football, shown above, was made by Sasaki in the 1980's. It bears no team name or other branding and would make a nice paperweight or "conversation piece" on your desk or bookshelf. Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village...

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World Heart Day

Today is World Heart Day—a day when we should stop to consider how important our hearts are and to learn how we can better care for them. Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in America and Worldwide. And how can we pamper our hearts? See your doctor. Participate in vigorous activity (commensurate with your age and fitness level). Eat healthy foods (especially fruits and vegetables). Don't smoke or vape. Lose weight. Simple, yes (though not easy). The hearts above are cast of pewter and finished with a brassy finish. They are "punched and ringed" to be used as a keying. Perhaps it would be a nice "love token" to one's beloved. Or a reminder to care for our hearts—which...

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Good Night, Sweet Prince - part V

Frogs and toads don't hold the copyright on being mis-judged. At least one swan baby (a "cygnet") has been bullied—and called "an ugly duckling." And we all know how that story ends. This little swan, cast in bronze, is well-past his awkward age. Let him skim the surface of your desk—or sit atop a stack of papers. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call...

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Good Night, Sweet Prince - part IV

This solid bronze tree frog is beautifully sculpted. His feet and finish suggest a clammy viscosity on this climber's clinging surfaces. He'd make an intriguing paperweight on your desk or credenza—or a clever accent in your planter pot. Click on the photo above to learn more about him. Another "hidden prince" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Good Night, Sweet Prince - part III

This resolute little toad seems to be "over it." Perhaps he struggled to climb upon his rock? He's cast in brass and finished with a verdigris bronze patina. He would abide an outdoor location, though his finish will age and weather much more quickly. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.  Another "hidden prince" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private...

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Good Night, Sweet Prince - part II

This "Prince-in-Waiting"—warts and all—is, indeed, rather handsome. He is silver-plated and plays "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Though intended as a baby gift, he will be just as popular sitting on an adult's desk. Click on the photo above to learn more about him. Another "hidden prince" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Good Night, Sweet Prince - part I

Literature is replete with stories of beautiful creatures hidden behind an ugly mask. Toads are often cast in this role; a spell-bound prince is trapped in the warty skin of a repulsive toad—and he only needs a kiss to break the spell. This toad—admittedly more repugnant than charming—was made of cast iron in Japan. I promise he'll make a loyal companion on your desk; I cannot ensure that he'll turn into a charming prince. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. Another "hidden prince" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found...

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Welcome, Fall!

Early this morning—at 3:50 am Eastern Time—the Earth will experience the "Autumnal Equinox" which marks the first day of Fall.  "Equinox" means "equal night" and it refers to the moment when the center of the sun is right over the Earth's Equator. All around the world, night and day will be approximately equal in length. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, going forward, the nights will begin to be longer than the day. In the Southern Hemisphere, days will begin to be longer than the nights. The golden leaf, shown above, is a little plate, sculpted in the form of a maple leaf. It is finished with a brassy wash and would make a perfect place for you to...

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Heavy Hearted

This is a heavy heart—in the best sense of those words. Rustically modeled and cast in pewter, it is a sculptural paperweight or a substantial token to the object of one's affection. It is also available in a brassy finish. Please click the photo above to learn more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Puppy Eyes

Who can resist a pair of "Puppy Eyes"? This little fella will be picked-up a lot—delighting the curious with his wind-up musicality. This little spaniel pup plays "Brahms's Lullaby" and looks adorable while playing it. Though a baby gift, adults seem helpless under his spell. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248

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Pre-Easter Parade - part III

Easter is about seven months away—yet our collection of cuddly bunnies already are awaiting their cue. Let's end our three day parade of rabbits and hares—all ready to hop your way—with this adorable little creature. Our precious silver-plated baby bunny is actually a wind-up music box which plays "Rock-a-Bye Baby." Though intended as a baby gift, he is better left in the hands of a careful adult. But his classic tune may help a little one drift-off at bedtime. He'd also be a favorite plaything on an executive desk or coffee table. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit...

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Pre-Easter Parade - part II

Easter is about seven months away—yet our collection of cuddly bunnies already are awaiting their cue. We're in the middle of our three-day parade of rabbits and hares—all ready to hop your way. The brass hare, shown above, is finished with a verdigris bronze patina which gives him an aged, outdoorsy look.  In fact, he can stand living out-of-doors—although it will expedite his weathered look. His sculptor captured the tentative energy and slightly skittish nature of a watchful rabbit, ready-to-flee. Learn more about him by clicking on the photo above. Another rabbit tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com). ...

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Pre-Easter Parade - part I

Easter is about seven months away—yet our collection of cuddly bunnies already are awaiting their cue. Over the next three days, we'll share a trio of rabbits and hares, all ready to hop your way. Shown above, a heavy solid-bronze standing rabbit. He was made in Canada and his modest size belies his hefty weight. Let him keep you company on your desk (as a paperweight) or watch over the proceedings from your windowsill. Click on the photo above to learn more about him. More rabbits in days to come.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also...

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Addio, il Sommo Poeta - part I

On this day in 1321 (or was it tomorrow?), Italy's greatest writer, Dante Alighieri, died in-exile in Ravenna, Italy. Banished from his beloved Florence, il Sommo Poeta ("The Supreme Poet") perished—but not before changing the history of Western literature. Before Dante, serious Italian literature was written in Latin, a language accessible only to the educated elite. Dante wrote in the vulgate, Italian, using the local Tuscan dialect of his home town, Florence. Additionally, Dante's depiction of the afterlife in his signature work, the Divine Comedy, affected artists' portrayals of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell for centuries to come. Of course, those of us who have looked at that artwork have been affected by Dante, too. Even future writers have credited Dante with...

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Winter "On the Ice"

Up North, we're enjoying these last, gentle days of Summer—and beginning to brace ourselves for the cold season to come. Down "on the ice," in Antarctica, it's still winter. Penguins huddle against the cold, keeping eggs warm in very harsh conditions. This little penguin, made in Japan, seems to be a little more carefree. He's cast in bronze—so finely, in fact, that one can see his feathers!—and then cold-painted in the tradition of the best Viennese bronzes. He's perky, winning and a very nice companion on your desk or bookshelf. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line...

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Celebrating America's Workers

Today we pause to thank those who have made America great by the sweat, muscle and strain of their bodies. Labor Day reminds us that the country was built-up with labor—and that laborers should be built-up by their country. The working man, shown above, is a Danish blacksmith sculpture by Axel Thilson Locher for Bing & Grøndahl. He was made in the 1950's or 1960's.  Learn more about him by clicking on the photo above.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania...

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Ready for the Bell - part 6

Little "Billiken"—"the god of things as they ought to be"—would be a good luck charm wherever one goes to school.  It's most effective, however, at Saint Louis University in Saint Louis, Missouri. Created by Florence Pretz in 1908, this little bank was made of cast iron in the 1910's or 1920's. Click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com). Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh...

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Dog Days of Summer - part VII

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. Let's end our "Dog Days" parade with this happy chap, a "Slouchy Puppy" sculpture cast in brass and finished with a verdigris bronze patina. Large enough for a bookend or doorstop, he's the perfect combination of physical relaxation and attentive energy. Please click on the photo above to learn more about him.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We...

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Dog Days of Summer - part VI

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. Whether you remember Donny Osmond or not ("Someone help me!—help me!—help me p-l-e-a-s-e!"), you probably remember your first Puppy Love. And this delightful little chap will help soothe the memory. He's made of cast bronze, sculpted and crafted in California, and he bears the letters L, O, V & E on each of his four paws. A lovely gift for your Puppy Love—right now or from years ago. Click on the photo to learn more about him. To hear the song,...

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Dog Days of Summer - part IV

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. This sculpted brass "Slouchy Puppy" captures the relaxed—yet attentive—energy of a handsome and beloved pup. He'll loyally await your time and attention, never getting older nor chewing your favorite Italian leather shoes. Click on the photo above to learn more about him. And look for his larger sibling, also on-line in the LEO Design store. More "Dogs of Summer" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store...

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Dog Days of Summer - part II

While we sweat through The Dog Days of Summer, let's not forget: the Fall will be upon us shortly. Here are a few handsome canines—now in-stock at LEO Design—which will bring a little cool for the next few weeks. This winsome fellow, sculpted in California and cast in bronze, hides a little secret: each paw is marked with the letters L, I, F & E. Perhaps he'll be a loyal talisman, keeping-away misery & misfortune. Click on the photo above to learn more about it. More "Dogs of Summer" tomorrow.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also...

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We Need a Little Christmas!

I don't know about you, but I need a little Christmas right now! And, so, it was fortuitous that I happened to unpack another box of merchandise from our Village shop—and out-popped this cast pewter Christmas ornament! It will happily hang on your tree (or window latch), it could stand on your desk (or mantelpiece) and it could even be pressed into service as a jolly candlesnuffer. Click on the photo above to learn a bit more about it.   Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).  We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla &...

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Born To Sculpt

John Ruhl (1873-1940) always knew he wanted to be an artist. His hardworking German father—who ran a shoe shop—discouraged his son's dream at every turn. Instead, 14 year old John was compelled to take a clerkship in an insurance office. The next year, John began taking art classes at the Metropolitan Museum where he entered an art competition (unbeknownst to his parents). When John's sculpture won, his father was impressed with seeing his son's name in the newspaper as well as the $100 prize—more than a month's earnings in his shoe shop. Ruhl was allowed to quit his job at the insurance company and apprentice himself to a prominent NY sculptor. He later joined the Piccirilli Brothers—one of the foremost...

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"...One Giant Leap for Mankind."

"The Eagle has landed." With these words, the Apollo 11 Lunar Module touched-down in the Mare Tranquillitatis ("The Sea of Tranquility") on the moon's grey and dusty surface. NASA was meticulously ticking another box—each step a milestone in American (and Humanity's) history, science and knowledge. It happened fifty years ago today. After 76 hours en route to the moon (some 240,000 miles), three astronauts were just hours away from completing their historic mission: to set human foot upon the moon. Astronaut Michael Collins stayed behind, manning the Command Module "mothership", while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the moon in the Lunar Module (the Eagle) which would spend some 21 hours on the moon's surface. Like the rest of the multi-segment...

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"Lift Off! We Have a Lift Off!"

"Lift off!  We have a liftoff!" With these words, the world watched as Apollo 11 slowly struggled to hoist its massive body skyward—and the world moved into a new age of science, technology and understanding. Sitting on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Apollo 11 was actually a "stack" of different parts, each section to be disposed of after use, starting from the bottom. Only the very top of the rocket, the part that held the three astronauts, would (hopefully) return to Earth eight days later. Indeed, most of what we saw on the launch pad were the fuel segments to get the spacecraft off the ground and away from the Earth's enormous gravitational pull. It...

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Dante Presto!

When it comes to the decorative arts, I have a soft spot for themes of literature and music—and I have an especially hard time passing-by a nice Dante Alighieri bust. After once tendering my respects at his handsome tomb in Ravenna, Italy, I feel like he's even more of a friend or family member now. Thus, I fell in love with this Italian bronze bust (c. 1920's - 1930's) the moment I saw it. I purchased it and spirited him home, intending to let him preside over my newly-finished library for a few months (at least).  Well, Dante is moving-on!  No sooner had I snapped a photo of him (and shared it with a like-minded collector), a sale was consummated—and Dante is...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  I see sculpture all around me: in carved-stone buildings, in carved-stone fountains and in carved-stone monuments. Let's end our Summer Roman Holiday with one of the oldest surviving buildings in Rome, with the fountain in its piazza, and with the ancient obelisk which punctuates that fountain. The Pantheon was built around 120 AD under the Roman Emperor Hadrian and it was used to honor the pantheon— that is, all of the many Roman gods. One enters through a classical "portico" (like a front porch) and into a large, circular room. It is topped with an enormous rounded...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXIV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Change is eternal—and in The Eternal City, that change has been happening for a long, long time. The building of the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva was begun by the Dominicans in 1280. They thought that they were building over the ruins of an earlier (50 BC) pagan temple to the Roman goddess Minerva, therefore the name "sopra (over) Minerva." In truth, they were building over an ancient temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis, a fact archaeologists did not discover until the name "Minerva" had become firmly-rooted in the minds of Romans. The original Gothic church had...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  There are thirteen ancient obelisks decorating Rome—eight Egyptian, five Roman. Procuring them was quite a feat, no doubt. First they had to be taken (Looted? Purchased? Spoils of war?). Then they had to me moved up river on barges and sailed across the Mediterranean Sea in larger vessels (ever so carefully, lest they break or sink the vessel). Once in Italy, they had to be transported inland (even harder than sailing!) to the Roman capital. Imperial Rome had a great fascination with the symbolism of the earlier Egyptian Empire—and they spared no expense to acquire, transport and mount these...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Between the Piazza del Popolo and the Scalinata di Spagna stands an unassuming church with a very interesting history: Sant'Andrea della Fratte ("St. Andrew of the Woods"). The first church was built on this site in 1192 when this area was the wooded outskirts of Medieval Rome. The basilica minor which stands there today was built between 1604 and 1826. For a time, it was designated as Rome's church for Scotsmen as it was nearby the Scots College (a seminary for Scottish priests). Eventually the Scots embraced Protestantism and abandoned their formal relationship with Rome. On 20 January...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XXI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Rome is full of fountains—some grand, some quite plain—and it is important to remember that they were not strictly decorative.  They carried fresh water into the city and were intended to be used by residents as their water source. Even today, they carry fresh water which (some people say) may be drunk. But, in true Italian style, even a pedestrian utility can be elevated to the beautiful. The Piazza dell Popolo literally means "The Plaza of the People" although the square was originally named for the poplar trees which lined a part of the piazza. The square...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XX

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Can one have a favorite basilica in Rome? Can one choose a favorite child? I suppose Saint Peter's will always be my favorite (how could it not be?)—though the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano would have to be in second place. It is the cathedral seat of the Pope (as "The Bishop of Rome") and is the oldest and highest-ranking of the four basilicas major. And just look at that massive, deeply-coffered ceiling! Consecrated in 324 AD, it has been renovated and redecorated numerous times through the centuries. Francesco Borromini (1599-1667) reworked the main central space (the...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XIX

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  I have had a difficult time finding information about this lovely Twentieth Century marble sculpture in Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It was commissioned to commemorate the end of World War I (in 1918) and bears the title AVE-MARIA-PACIS ("Hail, Queen of Peace). She holds her son in her right arm while her left hand is elevated—is it a blessing or is she saying "Stop!"? Her serene face and the drape of her garments are reminiscent of Pre-Raphaelite or Belle Epoch (Art Nouveau) sculpture from the 1880's to the 1920's, which is very modern in a basilica begun...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  The great Baroque "Renaissance Man," Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was kept very, very busy by Pope Urban VIII, his great (and free-spending) patron. When that pope died in 1644, Bernini found his workshop strangely underemployed—for the new pope, Innocent X, did not favor him. Suddenly, mere cardinals could now jockey to engage the lauded artist (of course, for a princely sum). Venetian Cardinal Federico Cornaro jumped at the chance to hire Bernini to build his tomb (1647-1652) in the modest church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. What resulted is considered one of the great masterpieces of...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  A handsome—though somewhat overwhelmed—token of relaxation stands at the center of the hectic Piazza Barberini in Rome. It is Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) carved in travertine marble, a commission from Bernini's great patron, Pope Urban VIII (who was a member of the Barberini family). A kneeling "merman" kneels atop the uplifted tails of four dolphins—and he blows a stream of water through a conch shell. The pope's Papal Crest is centered beneath the muscular figure and the classic "Bernini Bees" alight upon the dolphins' tails. It was carved by Bernini in 1642-1643, and...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XVI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Not far from the tomb of Saint Peter—above which the Papal Altar, Bernini's baldacchino and Michelangelo's dome rise—sits this bronze sculpture of the first pope, Saint Peter, clutching the keys to the kingdom close to his breast and raising his right hand in blessing. For centuries, the faithful have venerated the sculpture; in the Middle Ages, pilgrims (on their months-long walk to Rome) would petition the saint to help them make it home from their journey. Christians have traditionally kissed or touched the sculpture's extended right foot—which is now worn-down to a nub. For years, it was...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  This animated dragon decorates the monument of Pope Gregory XIII in Saint Peter's Basilica. He died in 1585 and the monument was completed over 100 years later (1715 - 1723) by late Baroque sculptor Camillo Rusconi. Despite this delay of honor, Pope Gregory XIII had an illustrious reign—for example, replacing the inaccurate Julian calendar with the better Gregorian calendar (which we still use today). Gregory was a church reformer. Under him the papacy grew in strength at the expense of (a sometimes corrupt) College of Cardinals. He put into effect the Council of Trent, covened (1545 - 1563) to address the Protestant Reformation....

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XIV

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Once the "new" Saint Peter's Basilica was constructed, it became time to design and install a fitting marker over the Papal Altar and tomb of Saint Peter, the Church's first pope. Enter architect and sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, engaged by then Pope Urban VIII of the wealthy and influential Barberini family. The canopy over the altar is technically called a ciborium—although the broader decorative term baldacchino is more commonly used instead. Bernini designed and oversaw its production between 1623 and 1634. It is a massive form, assembled of individually cast bronze pieces, stands some 95 feet high, and...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  At the age of 23, Michelangelo Buonarotti was hired to carve a funerary sculpture for the eventual tomb of French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères. What the young artist created—between 1498 and 1499—is amongst the most beautiful of all sculptures ever carved. In the 1700's, it was moved from the Cardinal's tomb and given pride-of-place in the first side chapel on the right as one enters Saint Peter's Basilica.  Pietà means "The Pity," and this arrangement—of Jesus in his mother's lap—was previously unknown in Italian sculpture. The idealized yet naturalistic composition conveys the sensation of weight and substance. It...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  While Michelangelo is my all time favorite artist, perhaps Gian Lorenzo Bernini is my second-favorite sculptor. He was born 34 years after Michelangelo's death and his work defines the motion (and emotion) of Italian Baroque marble sculpting. But Bernini was also an architect. He is responsible for creating the "welcoming arms" of the Piazza San Pietro—the two colonnades which line the sides (and define the shape of) the Basilica's massive front square. A church has been maintained on this site since the early 300's AD. From 1506 to 1626, Saint Peter's Basilica as we know it was...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part XI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  The bridge crossing the Tevere (or Tiber River), shown above, is called Ponte Sisto. It connects the Jewish Quarter (where I stay) to Trastevere, the new "Williamsburg of Rome."  It was commissioned by Pope Sixtus (hence the name), and was built from 1473 to 1479.  What's most important about the photo, however, is the beautiful dome glimmering in the background. It was designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti—the world's greatest sculptor—in 1547 and work was begun under his supervision. At the time of Michelangelo's death (in 1564), the lower "drum" had been completed. Pope Sixtus assigned Giacomo della Porta to...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part X

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Saint Michael, the protector, is one of the three Archangels recognized by the Catholic Church (alongside Saints Gabriel and Raphael). An enormous bronze statue of him stands guard above his namesake Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome—a fortress overlooking the River Tiber. The sculpture was modeled by Flemish artist Peter Anton von Verschaffelt and installed in 1753. He is shown sheathing his signature sword, commemorating the end of the plague in 590 AD. The Castel itself has a much older history. It was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family (between 134...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VIII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  Lucca is a handsome, human-scaled Tuscan city, still encircled by its original Renaissance era brick wall. It is also the birthplace of composer Giaccomo Puccini (1858-1924) who wrote popular operas including La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Turandot. Puccini was one of nine children and he was raised in a family with music in its blood.  His father (and grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather) was the "Maestro di Capella" at Lucca's Cathedral of San Martino (since the Middle Ages, an important stop for pilgrims working their way to Rome). Little Giaccomo probably would have followed in his forefathers' footsteps...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VII

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  My time is Genova was wonderful—a surprisingly interesting time in a city bustling with a rich, muscular energy. Although the city is not one of Italy's "top draws" for tourists, there is certainly plenty to see: a generous helping of "aesthetic evidence" of Genova's multiple centuries as a top player in the international world of shipping, finance and trade. Walking the streets of the city, one realizes that Genova did not develop itself through high-minded callings like academics, religion or artistic patronage. Genova built itself through hard work and industry. As a visitor, I felt like I...

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An Italian Sculptural Pilgrimage - part VI

Join me on my summer holiday as I travel (mostly) through Italy—as always, in search of beautiful sites, sculpture and all things sculpture-ish.  If ever sculpture and architecture were to marry, an "Atlas" would be their progeny. An atlas is an architectural support structure—like a column, pier or pilaster—presented in the form of the male figure (usually his top half). In Greek mythology, Atlas is the character who was required to forever hold-up the sky on his shoulders. The plural form is "Atlantes" and Romans called them "Telemon." They were first utilized in Greek Sicily and Southern Italy. Later, during the late Renaissance, they were revived, this time with Mannerist (twisting) or Baroque attitudes. Atlantes were almost always at least...

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