Wednesday 22 November 2017

Hair-looms top bill for curio collectors

Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A rare collection of bizarre miniature portraits, landscapes and designs made from the hair of departed loved ones is among the unusual collectibles on display at the RDS today.

The collection of 10 pieces of "mourning jewellry" that was popular in Europe in the mid-17th century will be among the thousands of works of art and pieces of jewellry, furniture, china, silverwear, books and other antiques and curios on offer this weekend as part of the 45th Irish Antique Dealers Association Fair.

Ian Haslam, owner of The Silver Shop in Dublin, said the vaguely creepy but fascinating collection of hair 'miniatures' has been all but snapped up by a Dublin-based collector.

The woman, who is an avid collector of the art form, paid between €375 and €895 for each of eight pieces, he said.

The pieces were often used as brooches or necklaces and set in an ivory panel and embellished with mother of pearl, gold or tiny pearls, Mr Haslam said.

"In the early days some people would carry them around as a love token," he said.

"It was another way they kept parts of the departed people with them, so to speak," he added.

The art form was very popular in France, however, one of the masters of the genre was the Dublin-based painter Charles Robertson who first exhibited his work at the Dublin Society of Artists at the tender age of nine.

The work was very painstaking and intricate, using tiny tweezers to arrange the hairs as a painter would use paint on a canvass. The depictions were typically of the deceased person or their home. Some used hair to spell out their initials.

And with the advent of modern DNA profiling, the hair could conceivably be analysed to tell a lot more about the subject's life than they may want their ancestors to know, Mr Haslam added.

Other curiosities on display by the 40-odd exhibitors include a collection of priceless gowns worn by such style icons as Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy. The gowns are on loan from the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons.

Free tickets to the event can be downloaded from the association's website at www.iada.ie. Otherwise admission is €10 at the door. The fair runs from today through Sunday.

Irish Independent

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