Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Time to get excited.

Here's an antique term that's not only impossible to pronounce, it's impossible to spell, and also impossibly obscure. It's the perfect trifecta (pronounced try FEK tuh)--which is not our word for the day but (in case you're curious) means when a bettor at the track wins by selecting the first three finishers of a race in the correct order of finish.

But trifecta is not our word of the day. It's oeil-de-boeuf (pronounced "er-duh-BURF" and sounds like something you'd say "excuse me" after you did it at a dinner table). But it's actually not a bodily function at all.

It's a term for a small circular or oval zinc window that you see all over Paris, like this one:

Literally, the term oeil-de-bouf means "eye of the bull" and it looks kind of like that, huh?

And here's a pair that we at C. Mariani Antiques fitted with antiqued mirror plates--they make wonderful and architecturally striking mirrors, don't you think?

And while we're on the topic of "burffing," let's also cover "sang de boeuf", pronounced "sahn duh BURF."

This term in French means "blood of the bull" (ick) and describes a deep red color that you often see on porcelain pottery, both new and antique pieces (made in China during the K'ang Hsi period, 1662-1722 and thereafter). It's also sometimes called Lang Yao (oddly, also the name of a girl I dated in high school....).

Here's a sang de boeuf vase:

And here's another example of sang de boeuf, this one a porcelain longneck bottle vase:

And for you really astute Type A people out there (like me) who are wondering "How come oeil-de-boeuf is hyphenated but sang de boeuf isn't?" I have no idea. But if you find out, lemme know.


the.neo.lifestyle said...

Like them both, don't care how they are written ;-)

No really, i love them. I have a big sang de boeuf vase, already.


TQ said...

Hello Buzz,

Your blog is a blog of genuine substance, tickled with your lovely quirky humour, wit and great story telling; BRAVO !!!

Thank you for sharing; it has been a joy to read your posts ... which I will continue to do.

And P.S. All your beautiful antiques, just make me drool!

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La Petite Gallery said...

Dear Buzz,
I am so happy to see your site. Wish you were around in the 70's
love education, Thank God for this post. God Bless you..
loved it.
Yeah!! I had 8 race horses so know that term. Liked the word WINNER!!!
Warm season greetings

Greet Lefèvre said...

Very interesting post!!! You are really an antiques teacher to all of us bloggers!

Thank you for all of your posts!!!

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!!


Unknown said...

Thank you Greet and everyone else who've been kind enough to post comments and read "The Buzz." Wishing you all Happy Holidays and the best for the New Year!


La Petite Gallery said...

Checking it out again.
Hope you had a great Christmas.
Enjoy the weekend.

columnist said...

I really do like the oeil-de-beuf, with mirrors inserted. Saw one yonks ago in London, and always thought I should have bought it then - Interiors Biz - Rabih Hage. If people struggle with the French then Bull's Eye and Ox Blood are perfectly fine, even if they don't sound quite as elegant!

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