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Saturday, November 27, 2010

everything has a story: the tortoiseshell frame

antique tortoiseshell frames containing old mirrors in the entry

a close-up
(all photos will enlarge when clicked)
this frame, the largest, hangs on the bottom. it was found at an antiques shop in Jackson, Mississippi

this frame, which hangs in the center, was found on our first trip to Paris and our first trip to the Paris Flea Market at Porte de Clignancourt/ Marche aux Puces

the top tortoiseshell frame, the one with the story

the story
I was an antiques dealer for ten years while living in Dallas. We made several trips to France to buy. Dan was my silent partner, okay sometimes not so silent;) partner who moved, restored, waxed furniture; made lamps; shopped with me; etc, etc... so when I refer to "we" you'll know I'm referring to me and Dan!
We would travel to France with other antiques dealers, and the dealers would share a container to ship back all of our finds to the states.

It was a Saturday afternoon, and we had been at the Paris Flea Market since dawn. Shops were closing and our van had arrived to take us back to our hotel. As we drove out narrow Rue de Rosiers with shops lining the drive we became stopped in traffic. Not wanting to miss a second of shopping I was "window shopping" from my seat in the van, and spied an antique tortoiseshell frame holding an antique painting in the window of a closed shop. I knew instantly that I wasn't interested in the painting, but was very (heart skipping beats) interested in the frame, and wondered if the dealer would sell it without the painting. I don't think I slept all night fantasizing about the frame: would it still be there the next day, would the dealer sell it without the painting, could I afford it even if he would???
The next day was Sunday, and was our only day on this trip to go to the Louvre, as we were leaving for Avignon that night. And, I love the Louvre.... love, love, love! Our favorite part being the fabulous paintings on the second floor of the Richelieu wing. (We are also known to enjoy the Sully wing, and know how to embarrass ourselves in a foreign country... here!) So, I had a dilemma, a big dilemma... go to the Louvre or be at the flea market at opening to try to buy "my" frame. I knew that if I wasn't there at opening, it would be gone.

I chose the Louvre.

While at the Louvre that Sunday morning we saw several frames almost identical to my frame at the flea market proudly framing stunning pieces of art.... I was heartsick. I was now starting to regret my choice!
So, late in the afternoon we made our way back to Marche aux Puce. Sure enough, I walk up to the shop and the painting/frame is gone from the front window. I walk into the shop hoping it has just been moved. I carefully look all over the tiny shop several times, and it is nowhere to be seen. Now, I am really heartsick. I leave the shop only to come back 5 minutes later to have one more look, just to make sure!
I leave once again, but turn around down the block and go back one more time...
(You know how you do that, when you find a great find and you always go back to that exact same spot where you originally found the object. always go back to the exact same spot of the one thing that you went back to buy and it was now sold... like it was going to magically reappear.)
Once again, inch by inch I scan the tiny shop and there waaaaaaay up on top of a cabinet (almost as if intentionally hidden) sits my frame. No painting, just my frame!! I literally squealed! I can hardly breathe at this point, and manage to express to the dealer (could have been me jumping up and down, with arms flailing wildly that helped him know I was interested!) that I would like to look at the frame; the dealer gets it down- no price.
The dealer spoke no English, and while I, sadly, do not speak French usually we each (the dealer and I) know just enough words/phrases between us that we can figure things out. Not in this case. There was zero communication going on. As it happened, on this trip our group had hired a translator who was at the market and via walkie-talkies could help us out in just such a situation.
We had our translator speak to the dealer. The dealer explained that just that morning someone came in and wanted to purchase only the painting!!
Can you believe it?!!!
The price was a steal, and I almost kicked Dan in the shin;) as he tried to wheel and deal for an even better price, as I happily grunted "JUST BUY IT"!!!!!! I then ran out of the store afraid the dealer would change his mind, or realize that he could have charged me about 10 times what I paid!
I looked something like this, my all-time favorite Ikea commercial depicting me and Dan on many antique shopping forays!! I can not watch this without laughing until I cry..... here!


  1. beautiful story, joan. meant to be for sure...

    I don't think I have ever seen one of these frames before. I hope I do one day, and when I do - I will surely think of you!


  2. Great story! Great- no - not great- AMAZING story with a wonderful ending. I love it when that small voice of intuition says "go back!" It's always right.

    Thank you for the close-ups. All three mirrors and very beautiful. And their placement is elegance itself.

    So happy for you!


  3. Fun story...and the IKEA commercial was the perfect exclamation point!

    Lovely lovely tortoise shell

  4. I loved this story and the commercial! Do you still go antiquing in Paris even though your no longer a dealer? It's something I dream of doing someday!

  5. Oh, what a wonderful story Joan! Especially since there was a happy ending and you got that gorgeous frame. Haha, I love the IKEA commercial. I can picture it!


  6. I watched the Ikea video and boy, did I chuckle (husband popped his head into the office to see if I had lost my mind!) I can just picture you with your 'bargain'!! It was fate, destiny, meant to be...

  7. What a lovely story, AND meant to be :-)
    That small voice is always right.
    I will for sure think of you if I see a frame like that!

  8. Hi Joan,
    I bet you have stories galore about all the beautiful treasures in your home...I'd love to pull up a chair and hear them all.
    I didn't know you were an antiques dealer...explains your fabulous taste!
    And I love the story. I believe it was absolutely meant to be yours. The row of frames looks stunning in your hallway.
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving ~

  9. Joan, you KNOW you made the right choice going to the Louvre....a lifetime would not be long enough to spend in that fabulous museum. That aside, like you, I have a hopeless love affair with objects. Shape, age and patina all speak to me and sleep has eluded me many a night thinking about a beautiful item I have seen somewhere. I still remember every missed opportunity, but the things I love best all arrived with a story, just as your frame did. Looking at your photos, I can see there are many happy endings in your home.


  10. hi joan,

    what a great, great story. that is the best part of being a 'hunter' don't you think? the story.

    the frames are very beautiful and they belong in your home.


  11. GREAT glad you got was imply meant to be:)

  12. What a wonderful story! Not to mention a lovely collection too! Enjoy the day, Kellie xx

  13. Hi Joan, I love this story about your frame! Persistence does pay off! All of the frames are beautiful.

  14. What a great story Joan, love the tortoiseshell frames! I used to collect small sewing boxes made from tortoiseshell and love them. Great finds!

  15. Nice story and I love your mirrors.

    Kind Regards,

  16. That's a great story Joan and not only do you have the beautiful frame, but a special memory too!

  17. I am a frameophile!!! And yours are to die for!!! K

  18. what a great story! it sounds like the frame was truly meant to be yours! :)

  19. Okay, I'm laughing so hard about the IKEA commercial that Mike wandered in to see what was up! SOOOO funny! And what a GREAT story behind the beautiful frame. It was totally meant to be. You had some major mojo energy going on to keep must have sensed it was still lingering there.
    Now I'm going to play the IKEA commercial for my Mom who has just returned home from a day of shopping - without me I'm afraid.

  20. I just showed the video to my Mom and she's like, "oh yeah, it's been on for over a year..."

    I wouldn't know this of course since we don't have TV - so it's brand new to me!!

    Still laughing....


  21. WOOOHOOO Joan!!! LOL that commercial was perfect and I could see you doing exactly that LOL! What a wonderful story and thank heavens for perseverance on your go girl! Thanks for sharing that with was worth the wait ;) Have a wonderful week. Maura :)

  22. Hi Joan & Dan: Thank you for sharing the story of the frames, along with one of my favorite commercials! Cindy

  23. Love the frames AND the amazing story!!

  24. Loved reading the story of how you acquired your treasured frame :o) Your foyer is absolutely stunning! I laughed and laughed after I played the IKEA commerical....I'm surprised I didn't wake my DH up with all the is totally us :o)

  25. A fabulous story from another avid " antiquer " ( at the Marche aux Puces also!)
    I never see American television/commercials anymore so I quite enjoyed this one lol ... very funny ... I can relate :D

  26. I love those kind of was meant to be. The ikea commercial has me in stitches. I know that feeling!!

  27. Such a lovely arrangement and story to go with it! It is comforting to know I am not alone in this type of quest...have been ' there' many times!
    Your are lucky to have a 'partner in crime'; my honing abilities (especially at places like Brimfield) are getting worse as I get older. But, my ability to forget about it is getting better...I can not decide if this is a good thing! A few girlfriends and i went to Paris last spring. Since we could not FIND the Flea Market (: I guess we MUST return. Thanks for your beautiful photos and blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading it!

  28. Such a great story! You must smile every time you walk by your frame/mirror. They look beautiful together. So happy to have the link to The Paris Flea market with all the information. Thank you!

  29. My congrats on the great deal you made in Paris.
    Somehow it seems the best deals we make are the ones, we expect the least.
    I bet it is a lot of fun and very interesting to shop for antiques in a country like France and especially in a city like Paris.
    The Flea Market in Paris is very popular all over the world. I heard people talking about it in Germany while I was there for a visit a couple years ago.
    Thanks for sharing this great story.
    Best Regards
    Paula Jo

  30. Hi Joan...loved your story! I have done that so many times...I call it stalking furniture!

    Love your frames too!


  31. Fabulous story Joan and love, love, love your gorgeous mirrors. Leigh

  32. Great story... I love when it's just meant to be!!


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