Whitehall Blog

Archive for September, 2013

Anamalier Bronze by Masson

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

One of my favorite anamalier artists is Clovis-Edmond Masson and along with Cartier I am particularly enchanted with their animals placed on rough granite outcroppings rather than traditional bronze bases. This is, as we describe for our shop tag, a c. 1900 Animalier Bronze of a lioness drinking from a river – the clasic work of Clovis-Edmond Masson (France, 1838-1913) using the conceit of sculpted raw granite as the base. A pupil of Barye, Rouillard and Santiago, he exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1867-1909. Held by many museums and serious anamalier collectors, his cats are exquisite yet powerful and presage the coming style of Art Deco.  While there are anamalier artists of many nationalities–and while the tradition is very much alive today–the French “Anamalier Sculptors” from the mid-19 to early 20th centuries are a brilliant school unto themselves.  Whether encountering the exquisite table pieces or the monumental garden pieces, the entire genre is enchanting.

To judge sculptural quality, always look the animal in the eyes–it should seem to look right back and breath!  Watch out for the poor castings of fakes made in the last 50 years, often recognizable by several characteristics:  a slab of marble/granite attached under the bronze base to hide the modern casting;  a lack of detail in the chiseling; a muddy bronze finish.

Enjoy these photos of a wonderful Masson example!

What a tongue–wonderful power in every muscle–and note the care in the chiseling (the fine details created by hand with chisels once the bronze has cooled and before it receives its final finish.

Regency Here, There and Everywhere

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

It is always fascinating when we review our buying after 10 days in England and France.  Most remarkable is the incredible Regency, George IV and William IV (1815-1835) furniture found on this trip–a period dripping with sophisticated elegance.  It is a short period based on simple, elegant design, classical motifs and rich woods with minor but fine brass ornamentation.  This is a little tour of some of those pieces.

Signed c. 1835 Serving Cabinet

This exceptional side cabinet or breakfront cabinet dates to c. 1835 and is made so stunning by an architectural simplicity enhanced by luxurious rosewood veneers, reflective mirrored door panels, and pilasters adding vertical interest.  It is quite massive at 72″ wide, yet it does not have a massive impact.  I find this true of much English furniture reflective of the international classical movement.  It is, I believe, based on a long cabinetmaking tradition that created design on harmonious geometric and mathematical relationships.  While accepting always of new design influences, the English cabinetmaker constantly based his designs on the geometric relationships at the heart of their design tradition from the beginning of the 18th century.  This is a very rare piece of signed English furniture–the right drawer with the stamp of the cabinetmaker  Thomas Treherne, 39 Oxford St., London, 1835-39. See Beard & Gilbert “The Dictionary of Furniture Makers, 1660-1840″, p.903.

Made perhaps ten years earlier is this rosewood chiffonier with turned feet that are a bit more bold than the preceding years.  Not only does it also luxuriate in the finest wood of the period–rosewood–but that luminous wood is enhanced by splendid and delicate brass columns, a fine brass screen behind the brass grill door panels and even a fine pierced brass gallery.  Again the piece, only 44.25″ but 54.25″ high, has a highly architectural feel with a perfect harmony of relationship proportions and the use of pilasters with upward movement.  Like the large cabinet, this piece has Bramah patent locks which were the latest in design and technology at this time.

The highly popular butler’s etagere–a new form invented in the beginning of the Regency period–is represented by this very delicate example.  Again this employs rosewood with some mahogany as well. The proportions are again unusually harmonious–essentially 36″ wide by 18″ deep by 40″ high (the form tends to be wide and heavy).  The unusual features are the useful drawer creating a bold, supportive line across the bottom and the champhered edge of every gallery.  The turnings are delicate and the piece has the beloved English touch always raising one’s eyes upward achieved by the noted drawer and the positioning of the shelves.  Yet again the Bramah lock has been used by a cabinetmaker with a clientele willing to pay for the latest and best.



“Chippendale” Style Bench

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

This is a little story of a bench that at first glance might be thought to be a Colonial Revival (American term) or Chippendale Revival (English term).  Revivalism in England was in full swing by about 1835 including a new publication of The Chippendale Director which was only about 70 years after the original first volume of The Director.  In America it was all about the newest designs and the use of the newest machinery until about 1885, a bit after the American Centennial which helped propel interest in antiques but had zero impact on the revivalism movement.  Rather it was the inability to supply the newfound interest in antiques that led to the Colonial Revival Movement (see my book for a much more exhaustive discussion of all of this movement, the major players and the relative values–Colonial Revival Furniture With Prices).

The story of all revival styles is a story of quality work versus poor craftsmanship–with vast amounts of modern machinery added to the mix.  From 20 feet this seems like a pleasant little bench that might have a bit of age:

"Chippendale" Style Bench

A cursory glance displays a useful piece for a dressing table or a spot to put on slippers in the bedroom.  It appears to be mahogany, it is raised on blocked feet with blind fretwork on the square legs and blind fret on the leg returns — the little corner braces.  It also has a pleasing X-stretcher.  The closer look reveals something quite different.

Not only would we find dowelled joints if we knocked it apart, but when I lifted it a foot fell off!  The block to save mahogany was separately made and dowelled into place.  While there was a desire to save fine wood in the 18th century, no cabinetmaker ever did this!

Block Foot loose and sitting on the stretcher

Note too how colorless is this mahogany–very low quality wood, probably from the Philippines.   Such wood replaced the fine, dense mahoganies in the 19th century as the best wood was exhausted by 18th century cabinetmakers.

The next thing to notice is the blind fret return–a really cheap touch that one would find in neither period nor revival furniture of any quality–the return was really decorative and always open on little pieces such as this.  One might find such returns on a chair where they are serving to strengthen the chair joints.

Blind Fret Return

In this detail shot and the next photos the most interesting low quality aspect of the construction of the bench is revealed.  The fret on the legs is machine cut and laid into a channel down the leg prepared for this purpose.

Note also the speckle of black added to the finish to make the piece appear to have age!  This is the favored trick of the post-World War II factory.

This is not a serious issue–none of us would likely be fooled by such a piece.  But it is instructive that the casual glance can cause us to pause and look more closely–always a very good thing in my book!

New Shipment and New Blogs

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

My camera temporarily refused to let me access photos–but problem is now solved and new articles on antiques will be forthcoming!

Tomorrow we unload our most recent container from our July buying trip to England and France–those pictures are also coming soon!

And watch our website as Elizabeth starts showing lots of the new items!