Archive for month July, 2018

The Gypsy Girl is a beautiful small puzzle that the company Fernand Nathan published in 1973. The name of Fernand Nathan still appeared in the boxes of Nathan puzzles manufactured in the 70’s. It was a publishing company that Fernand Nathan started in 1881 and continued to be a family business until 1979. After that, the name Nathan remained, but the company passed to other hands.

We tend to repeat too often that past times were better. However, this is quite true with regards to the choices that jigsaw puzzle companies are making these days when they select their images for their catalogs. For that reason, it is so refreshing to find these old little gems. It seems that Nathan had much better taste 40 years ago than today.

Image of the puzzle 500, Nathan, The Gipsy Girl, by Frans Hals, Puzzle Assembled

A refreshing Gypsy Girl

Frans Hals was a master of portrait. For that reason, it is no surprise that this portrait is a masterpiece. Hals was a master of the technique of painting with a visible brushstroke (something previously seen as a flaw). Vincent van Gogh admired his technique, and in the 19th century, many artists would follow it, particularly among the Impressionists. So, we can say that Hals introduced in the 17th century a refreshing innovation. His style was bold and very unconventional for the public of his time. Although he didn’t leave any followers, he was very influential two centuries later.

Although Hals painted many portraits of grave personages, and meetings of brotherhoods or societies, he was also fond of painting the rubicund faces of drinkers and the open faces of hostel servants. This painting is refreshing because Hals captures a joyful, healthy and alive woman.

A refreshing puzzle

Image of the puzzle 500, Nathan, The Gypsy Girl, by Frans Hals, Puzzle Assembled, Close-up of the piecesHowever, there is another reason to find this puzzle refreshing: the cut of the pieces. I have never seen such a variety in the piece cut in a jigsaw puzzle. Most contemporary jigsaw puzzles have a quite standard cut. The pieces are mostly uniform and there is little room for variety. But in this puzzle from 1973 not two pieces are alike, as you can see in the photograph with the close-up. When I verified the puzzle I counted 499 pieces and I realized I would have to put it together to be sure whether it was complete or not. With such piece cut, any number might have been possible.

So, putting together a 40 year old puzzle with the pieces in excellent condition due to the good quality, with such variety in the forms of the pieces, and with such beautiful portrait is an absolute and refreshing delight.

The puzzle appears now for sale in our online store, but it is worth keeping. However, you can always enjoy the original painting at the Louvre Museum.

500, Nathan, The Gypsy Girl, by Frans Hals, 49.5 x 36 cm, Reference number 551 111.

Image of the puzzle 500, Nathan, The Gipsy Girl, by Frans Hals, Puzzle Assembled, Picture of the box

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The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, is not one of my favorite puzzles. That doesn’t mean it is not a nice and entertaining puzzle, which it is. Besides, it is always a pleasure to complete a Ravensburger puzzle due to the good quality of their pieces. However, I don’t think I would have chosen it in the first place if I had had a choice.

Image of the puzzle assembled 1500, Ravensburger, The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris

We are all human and we all make mistakes. I sold this puzzle to a customer in Poland, complete and with the pieces in excellent condition. However, when my customer finished the puzzle, he discovered that there was a foreign piece. That meant that the puzzle was actually incomplete. Ops! I think I can always detect foreign pieces, but I couldn’t detect this one.

I found and bought another copy of the puzzle, hoping that it would be compatible with my customer’s copy. That way, I could get a replacement piece for him. However, the copy was not compatible. Then, I assembled the puzzle and sent it to my customer in layers. Eventually he had the whole puzzle replaced and his work putting it together was not lost.

At home at the Hotel Ritz

Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset wrote about the Hotel Ritz in one of his articles. He basically stated that no matter where you travelled around the world, if you stayed at a Ritz Hotel, you always had the feeling that you were staying at the same place, like at home. All these hotels have a tradition of refinement and elegance, particularly the one in Paris. For that reason, if you were at the Ritz, you were always at the same hotel.

Marcel Proust said something similar. In the 2nd volume of his masterpiece In Search of Lost Time, the protagonist and his grandmother travel to a similar luxury hotel in the fictional city of Balbec, where the aristocratic patrons felt “at home” the moment they climbed the marble-imitating stairs of the hotel.

Precisely the Hotel Ritz in Paris had a guest that felt at home: Coco Chanel, who lived in the hotel for 34 years, routinely using the staff entrance on Rue Cambon. She was intimately linked to the Ritz Paris and she decorated her Suite herself. Although she started to live in the hotel at the beginning of World War II, she was 21 years old when Pierre-Georges Jeanniot completed this painting, so she could have been one of the ladies in white having dinner.

You can stay at the Coco Chanel Suite in the Hotel Ritz in Paris for just 18000 euros per night.

1500, Ravensburger, The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, 84 x 60 cm, Reference number 16 258 1.

Image of the puzzle 1500, Ravensburger, The Dinner at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, Picture of the box

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When I verify an incomplete puzzle, I always hope that I made a mistake, but that never happens. The Hunting near Fontainebleau had two missing pieces when I verified it, and it had two missing pieces when I completed it. It’s a shame, because it is a small beautiful puzzle that now will be added to the Missing Pieces repository.

Image of the puzzle 750, Nathan, Hunting Near Fontainebleau, Carle Vernet, Assembled Puzzle, Blog Post

Hunting at Fontainebleau Today

Carle Vernet lived and worked between the 18th and the 19th century. The hunting scene that he captured might look like something from the past. It is difficult to imagine that the artist could have painted it just last Winter.

The Forest of Fontainebleau, which is only 60 km. away from Paris, is a very popular location for tourists. However, it has also been a hunting place for around 1000 years. They still hunt deer with horses and hounds, although following certain restrictions (only Tuesdays and Saturdays, from October to February). Apart from that, there is no major difference between the scene that Vernet painted two hundred years ago. We could see that same scene at the Forest of Fontainebleau in the present.

These smaller puzzles are a good relief when you have been working for some time on a large or challenging puzzle. It is possible to finish in a couple of days and you have the feeling that you are making consistent progress. That compensates the frustration of hours without finding any piece when you are facing a bigger challenge.

Hunting near Fontainebleau was a small and delightful puzzle. Although Nathan produced it in 1976, I was surprised to see how well the pieces have endured the passing of time. After 40 years, the pieces are in excellent condition, which is something that collectors appreciate very much.

Ravensburger produced in 1978 a 1000 pieces version of this puzzle, which surely will also have great quality. If I am correct, there is a 1000 pieces version by Educa as well, but I have never found one yet.

The puzzle will be part of the replacements section from now on.

750, Nathan, Hunting Near Fontainebleau, Carle Vernet, 58.5 x 42.5 cm, Reference number 551 174.

Image of the puzzle 750, Nathan, Hunting Near Fontainebleau, Carle Vernet, Box, Blog Post

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