Sunday, January 31, 2010

A family gift

Last year was a banner year for meeting new family members. I thought for a long time on how to further connect these family members to our collective heritage. How about an etching? Not any old etching mind you.

I am fortunate to have access to a number of etching plates that my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Philippe de Büren created in the 1780s. One is of the family crest, and I thought about giving original prints to de Büren family members around the world. I first tried a local print house in San Francisco, but the results were not what I had in mind.

Upon hearing of my vision, my cousin Bill Harsh came to the rescue, a skilled artist, printmaker and all-around great guy. I ventured over to his studio in Benicia and after a lengthy tutorial I was off and running; inking the etching plate, cleaning it, giving it a good "coup de main" and cranking it ever so deliberately through the press. To make the gift more authentic, the prints are made on Swiss linen paper from the 1730s.

Let's recap. An etching printed in 2010 by the great-great-great-great-grandson of the artist from a 230 year-old plate on 280 year-old paper. It was a good day, I have the black fingernails to prove it.

Inking the plate

The skilled hands of the master craftsman helping me along

Removing excess ink

The final products drying

Monday, January 25, 2010


In the early 1930s, Natalie de Büren received a letter from her brother-in-law, Georges Reinbold, a major coffee exporter in Port-au-Prince and asked that she come to Haiti to visit her sister Jeanne. Jeanne was feeling a bit isolated and needed to see her family.

Jeanne and Georges

Natalie de Büren

Natalie was a very talented artist and while she went to be close to here sister she was clearly inspired by her extended time in Port-au-Prince. The following examples are a small sampling of her work from that time period.

I recently found a review of her work where her art from Haiti is mentioned. It speaks of her rich and dense use of color, evoking the Caribbean.

Monday, January 11, 2010

17th Century Armor

Within a larger set or source materials, details and patterns often emerge. The more I looked at de Büren family portraits from the 17th century, the more I was struck but the similarities in armor style. The style seems to be that of the Cuirassier worn by the mounted cavalry of the era.

17th century Cuirassier replica

I am including numerous paintings from the time period below.

David de Büren 1661-1729

Gabriel de Büren 1669-1694

François Louis de Büren 1638-1657

Victor de Büren 1641-1708

Victor de Büren 1641-1708

Albert de Büren 1644-1685

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Elisabeth Marguerite de Büren 1736-1805

Elisabeth Marguerite de Büren was the first daughter of Victor de Büren (1703-1753) and Anna Maria Tillier (1716-1794). Not much is know about her life apart from the fact that she was not very judicious with her father's personal papers. However, much is known about whom she married and the part he would play at the end of the Ancien Régime of Bern.

Anna Maria Tillier, Elisabeth Marguerite's mother painted by Johann Dälliker in 1742.

In 1756 Elisabeth would marry Nicolas Frédéric de Steiger, who would become the last Mayor of pre-revolutionary Bern.

Nicolas Frédéric de Steiger (1729-1799) by Johann Mottet in 1802

Nicolas held several minor government offices, served as cantonal emissary to Neuchâtel, Aarau, and Geneva, and finally was elected in 1787 Schultheiss (Mayor) of Bern, a position he retained until the fall of the confederation in 1798.

A bitter enemy of the French Revolution, Steiger headed the Swiss party that favored resistance against the French Revolutionary armies, for which purpose he allowed English, Spanish, and Sardinian recruitment of Swiss mercenaries in 1793 and 1795. The French defeat of the Bernese at Grauholz in 1798 ensured the demise of the confederation, and he fled to Bavaria. In exile he continued to lead a party of Swiss émigrés in plotting the overthrow, with Austrian support, of the French-protected Helvetic Republic and the restoration of the old confederation.

He would die in exile in 1799. After the death of Elisabeth in 1805, Nicolas’ mortal remains would be returned to Switzerland, where he would buried to great pomp in the cathedral of Bern.

The Funeral for Nicolas in 1805.

The tomb of Nicolas and Elisabeth in the cathedral.


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