Gilt and Gold and Jewels and Rarities and Masterpieces. The treasures combine into a wondrous pop-up museum, the best part being that all these wonders are for sale.
Every year I put together my wish list and every year the sums just don’t add up. So if I can’t afford the real thing I’ll have to make do with the book.
Coupelle a l’Oiseau by Diego Giacometti - On the stand of L’Arc en Seine, a gallery in New York and Paris specialising in decorative arts of the 20th century, there was a charming bronze by Diego Giacometti. A delightful bird perches on a simple tea-bowl shaped vessel. Is it about to take flight? Is it searching for water? At just a few inches high it is an object of exquisite beauty and desirability; a miniature masterpiece of ironwork.
The bird graces the cover of one of the definitive monographs on the artist, Diego Giacometti by Christian Boutonnet and Rafael Ortiz (Editions de l’Amateur, Paris, 2003). This book was actually co-published with L’Arc en Seine, clearly your first port of call for a Giacometti sculpture.
You can take a virtual tour of the gallery’s stand on the Maastricht website. Scroll to the right and the little bird sits patiently in the second niche from the bottom.
Photo - Pelham Galleries
La Visite de Louis XIV au Château de Juvisy by Pierre-Denis Martin – One of the most exciting exhibits on display graced the walls of antique-dealer Pelham Galleries. Thought lost and not exhibited for over 60 years this remarkable topographical landscape measuring 165 x 265cm was painted by Pierre-Dennis Martin in circa 1700. Martin was a peintre du roi and painted many of the great palaces of France during his life-time, including Trianon and Fontainebleau. The painting shows the visit of Louis XIV to the Château du Juvisy, a vast house and garden a short distance from Paris (the capital is just visible in the far distance).
Pelhams have produced a fascinating and well-researched pamphlet to document the history of the painting and the subject it depicts. Sadly the chateau was destroyed by bombs in the Second World War and the gardens have been subsumed by the Parisian suburbs. Only the curving sweep of the once magnificent fountain remains. There is no firm evidence as to whom the architects of the palace and grounds were, but the painting does offer some clues to back-up established theories. Jean Thiriot built the chateau, André Le Nôtre planned the formal gardens and Nicolas-François Blondel designed the Fer à Cheval fountain and exquisite Pavilion.
(A la Recherche d’un Paysage Perdu. La Visite de Louis XIV au Château de Juvisy. A painting by Pierre-Denis Martin, by Alan Rubin & Dennis Harrington, Pelham, London, 2010)
Photo - Leslie Smith Gallery
Roses in a Glass by Henri Fantin-Latour (1872) – This is a painting I would never tire of. It’s not bold, it doesn’t challenge but it does have a serenity that reaches into you and calms the soul. Its simplicity of colour and subject belies a complexity of texture, composition and tonal resonance.
Fantin-Latour’s floral still-lifes, in the realist tradition of the Old Masters, were hugely admired by the artistic circles of the 19th century. This led me to search inside Paintings of Proust by Eric Karpeles (Thames & Hudson, London, 2008). Subtitled A Visual Companion to In Search of Lost Time this delightful book illustrates and references every work of art alluded to by the author. Proust was a fan of Fantin-Latour and in the Guermantes Way he ridicules the upper-class socialites for their ‘negation of true taste’ – ‘And he asked her whether she had seen the flower paintings by Fantin-Latour which had recently been exhibited.
“They are first class, the work, as they say nowadays, of a fine painter, one of the masters of the palette,” declared M. de Norpois. “Nevertheless, in my opinion, they cannot stand comparison with those of Mme de Villeparisis, which give a better idea of the colour of the flower.”’ (pages 158-9).
Now I suspect that Mme de Villeparisis flower studies weren’t a patch on Roses in a Glass!
The painting can be seen at the Leslie Smith Gallery in Amsterdam.