How better suited to this Blog than the appearance of a show that defines it’s very name: Art Antiques and Design! The confluence of these allied arts in one place illustrates how a marriage between them can be at once successful and engaging. What struck me as interesting was the quality of dealers represented and the passionate appreciation they have of their work. As Alan Stone of Hill-Stone so succinctly notes, “Behind all of this must lie a sincere belief in the value of the object, not only in terms of money, but finally in existential terms. Real value resides in works which enlarge your experience of the world in visual and human terms.”
This humanistic appeal to the public is what I found so warm and inviting. The slightest interest in a piece would provoke a splendid tale or two about it. To hear Clinton Howell of Clinton Howell Antiques speaking with conviction about a beautiful Neo-Classical side table is comforting to the potential buyer, reassuring them that this expert really knows his trade. And, indeed, he does. As an interior designer, having a coterie of experts at hand, such as Mr. Howell and Mr. Dalva of Dalva Brothers, who can enlighten me is essential. My clients depend on my having professional and knowledgeable trades people behind me.
I know that when my clients buy from dealers such as these, they are getting both art and value. As for these three pieces about which I chose to write, I felt that there was a strong humanistic pull to them. Lawrence Steigrad’s Fine Arts work “The Dandy” added an element of glee and style, Leon Dalva’s Dauphin’s sleigh, a bit of history speeding into the present, and Hill-Stone’s red chalk Furini, an introspective glance into the workings of the mind and heart. As to placement, as a designer, I would place “The Dandy” on a large mirror.
Seriously, it would look swell in a library or study. Dalva’s “Sleigh” is so arresting a vision. I would place it in a rather large living room, at the end of an axis point, albeit it’s delicacy would warrant it’s being positioned in one’s private gallery. And, finally, the Furini feels right at home on a wall that proportionally frames it’s size. Perhaps, it is best fit in an entry foyer. These three works seem to have displayed a certain air of intelligence about them. The ponderous Furini, the amusing Dandy, the superbly elegant Sleigh all prompt one to probe further, to inquire what the artist behind each is trying to say. They all evoke a humanistic sensibility, something I find terribly appealing.
A Study in Contrast: Temporal and Spiritual What struck me about the Hill-Stone Gallery display was the quality of work displayed and the “elegance of beauty” of the drawings themselves. In particular, this rather ethereal red chalk drawing by Francesco Furini. While it is a study for the “training of the eye,” as noted, it is every bit a finished work of art. The portrait, itself, seems to suggest the musings of a man, one perhaps concerned with the travails of life displayed upon his face, albeit his young age.
But, his thoughts wander elsewhere, perhaps to a more spiritual plane – as the dialectic between “sensuous form and religious expression,” are thus expressed. Indeed, as the description explains, in 1640 Furini achieves that balance of spirit and realism by becoming a priest who continued to paint – a transcending of the physical plane to the immortal. Pure art.
Now, for a bit of irony: This sneering young man’s name is Giggle; I kid you not! Well, not exactly the same spelling, but the pronunciation, for sure. His name, rather that of the artist, is Ignaz-Marcel Gaugengigl. I felt compelled to write about “The Dandy,” the work’s name, as the work exudes charm and a lightness of heart.
Painted in 1905, this oil, albeit small, evokes a rather large presence. It’s refined caricature makes the observer smile in appreciation of a rather meticulously painted man poised as a fop! Yet, we smile with him, not at him. Sold by the Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts Gallery on 69th and Madison in NY, this quality portrait offers the buyer many hours of musings and enjoyment.
One could almost imagine this sleigh on the snowy streets of St. Petersburg. An image culled from my memories of Dr. Zhivago comes to view. While of French origin, not Russian, this sleigh is indeed of noble lineage. As Leon Dalva of Dalva Brothers Antiques, a most magnificent and reputable dealer, notes,” This very rare baroque wood and wrought iron sleigh was probably made for the Dauphin.”
The sleigh’s body is of a dragon-headed chimere with eagle wings and lion’s body that rears up on its hind legs. It is supported in front by dolphins with twisted tails – a metaphoric delight! The piece is small, as that appropriate for a child, with such intricate and meticulous detailing as befit a prince. The runners can be seen as stylized fleurs-de-lis, perhaps another indication of regal origin. Anyone for a spectacular ride?