In conversation with Lucy Cleland.
WEDS 27th MARCH, 5 - 6.30pm
Easter Island, the remote Polynesian island located in the South Pacific, has always been steeped in mystery. The island of ‘Rapa Nui’ or ‘Easter Island’ as it is more commonly known earned its nickname thanks to Dutch explorers landing there on Easter Day in 1722.
This island’s most impressive claim to fame is an array of almost 900 minimalist monolithic human figures known as ‘Moai’ which were constructed between 1250 and 1500AD. The iconic moai have overly large heads with broad noses, strong chins and thin pouting lips. The statues have heavy torsos without legs and are usually portrayed as squatting. The oversized heads are thought to relate to the Polynesian belief in the sanctity of the head and represented both dead ancestors and powerful chiefs. Varying sizes of the statues directly related to the status of the chief who had commissioned it.
Originally the majority of the statues were located along the coast gazing inland overlooking the community as if to keep them safe. The exception to this was seven figures which looked out to sea, legend has it, to guide travellers to the island. There are a few inland ‘Easter Island Heads’ which are the most iconic of the moai which recent excavations have revealed to have full torsos buried beneath the earth.
Much has been made of how these monumental statues carved from a compressed volcanic ash which weigh on average 15 tons and are 13 feet high were moved around the island from the quarries to their final resting place. The most likely theories involved either rolling the statues on logs or ‘walking’ them into position using ropes.
Following on from the Moai era was the ‘Birdman Cult’ which was an annual competition to select a new leader. The competition comprised of a race to a nearby islet to collect the first egg of the season from the Sooty Tern bird. The first person to swim back to Easter Island and climb up the sheer cliffs with the egg intact to hand over to their sponsor was then declared ‘birdman’ for the year, an important position of status.
The demise of the island is still much debated amongst archaeologists with several leading arguments. It has long been thought that deforestation was the major cause along with the invasive Polynesian rat which devastated crops followed by the slave trade. The few survivors of the slave trade were vulnerable and as landing missionaries forced their religions onto the islanders the natives quickly lost their identity and were forced into living on a small portion of the island with much of their ancestral history lost or destroyed.
As of 1994 The Rapa Nui National Park and its Moai are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Bohemian glass, or Bohemia crystal is glass produced in the regions of Bohemia and Silesia (now the Czech Republic). For centuries it has been internationally recognised for its high quality, craftsmanship, and innovative designs and is highly collectable.
The main fashion for colours came in the 1830’s glass was then coloured by layering or by colour stains and lustres. Usual colours were cornflower-blue and emerald-green. In the 1840’s green and greenish yellow glass came into fashion, was coloured with uranium and yellow glass coloured with antimony or silver chloride. Ruby glass coloured with copper was used almost exclusively for over-laying clear glass. A cut decoration that exposed the transparent layer underneath gave the glass a richly decorative effect. Gold was used for colouring the pinkish Rosaline glass that was made around the middle of the 19th Century by both the Harrach and Meyr glassworks.
The traditional techniques of engraving remained artistically in the forefront in Bohemia. In the traditional refinery region of North Bohemia only naïve mythological and allegorical scenes were engraved in the first quarter of the 19th Century celebrating loyalty, love and friendship, the ages of man, etc. According to the latest research it seems that the high standard of engraving was preserved in the first place by the engravers in Nový Svĕt, such as both Franz and Johann Pohl (1764-1834) who like the Silesian engravers engraved seals. Both Pohls are cited as teachers of the most famous engraver of the first half of the 19th Century Dominik Biemann (1800-57). Biemann left a wide range of signed works in the first place excellent portraits on glass medallions and on Harrach beakers, which show his training in drawing at the Prague Academy of Painting. Biemann settled in Prague, but he seems still to have worked occasionally for the Harrach glassworks in Nový Svĕt.
Bohemian glass is shaped by the two principal activities of the region – deer hunting and health spas. The town of Carlsbad was established, according to legend, when King Charles IV's hunting party chased a deer over a cliff. In their pursuit, the hunters descended into the valley and found a bubbling hot spring. The king established a town there and a statue of a deer is one of its symbols. By the 19th century, aristocratic visitors from all over Europe combined hunting trips with a spell of detox, drinking the water and bathing in the health-giving spas.
Glassmakers in Bohemia, led by Friedrich Egermann, responded with endless experiments. The secret of ruby glass that had been made from gold a hundred years earlier was rediscovered, along with recipes for rich blue and green glass. Whilst solid coloured glass was exciting, it wasn't suitable for engraving as the carving didn't show up. In order to overcome this a thin layer of richly coloured glass was applied on the surface.
Lacca Povera, perhaps more commonly known as Arte Povera; which literally translates to poor art, is as term which you might be surprised to find associated with some of the beautiful European furniture of the 19th and 20th Century, such as these Venetian Consoles from Newel, left,
or our Italian Commodes right. Far from showing a lack of wealth, however, this was a actually an incredibly popular finishing technique, often taken up by amateur hobbyists as well as professionals, based on the Chinoiserie craze of the time. It involved taking Asian concept and aesthetic, to some extent 'westernising' it, and recreating it in a less expensive and time-consuming manner.
As opposed to layer upon layer of lacquer being built up, along with labour intensive hand-painted designs that went into making pieces such as Coromandel screens, Lacca Povera was a much shorter process. It involved paper cut-outs, which were often purpose-made commercially printed images that might then have been hand-coloured, being applied using fish glue onto the already prepared surface. This was then varnished several times, making it difficult to distinguish the edges of the images from the surface of the object.
What once began as a less expensive, simpler version of chinese lacquer is now considered quite a rarity, often as or if not more valuable than some of the more readily available Chinoiserie pieces.
These Lacca Povera pieces lack the formality of traditional chinese decorative lacquerwork but retain the elegance of their inspirational counterparts.
Very late in the day but the after effects of the delicious brunch, as provided by the ever excellent Everyday Fabulous food, has just worn off, that and the bellini's.
About two weeks ago, Natasha, Dean and myself went on a magical mystical tour of Farley Hire. If we thought our showroom was big, we have been dwarfed and superseded to say the least.
We were lucky enough to be given a tour by none other than Mark Farley, and even though we thought we would be able to find our own way round I think we would never have found our way out, and also then we wouldn't have had the stories. Chandeliers that Kate Moss (among others) has swung from, a chair graced by Marilyn Monroe's derrière, not to mention all the Game of Thrones props (fan girl moment).
I can not express to you the tardis like nature of the building, and also the amount of items it stores. Reams and reams of paintings, crockery, furniture, fabric, EVERYTHING.
Mark has an exceptional eye with some pieces being reproduced as well as a vast quantity of antiques and originals. It is very interesting the difference between a prop hire and our showroom, everything is beautifully aged, and meant to be so. With even items that you may consider completely unusable such as this battered chair are requested.
As a girl who has always longed for a pony, the Indian section with its array of carved wooden horses really spoke to me.
Working at Guinevere for so many years I have been spoilt by looking at gorgeous items on a daily basis. Every now and then something new is purchased which really over exceeds all our expectations and excites the senses. This week we have a stunning Pair of Russian Malachite tables with Silver mounts and hoof feet. They ooze elegance and would work in a truly modern space or a traditional one.
I am currently working from a Large Louis XV style Bureau plat in Kingwood with Ormolu mounts. It has great scale and a wonderful old leather top, which really tells a story. Not many people are able to work from a desk with so much history and character. Lucky me!
We are always shopping for the un-usual. Yesterday it was a cheerful red 1950’s English cigarette box in snake skin with bone edges. In all my years I have not seen one this colour.
Today I have been playing with the Antique textiles in the conservatory. Fabulous Block printed, hand quilted bed covers in gorgeous Indigo . All shades of blue are always a winner.
Otherwise the coat to wear this winter is the FUN coat made from Indian ceremonial throws. They are embroidered with bright coloured flowers with little mirrors. While everyone one else was wearing Black to an opening of an Art Gallery I wore one of these coats and was the ONLY person looking bright and cheerful. If nothing else I was different.
Tomorrow is another day….
The antiques fair at Montpellier, which is a one day trade only event, happens around 5 times a year. I remember first going there about 30 years ago when the hangars seemed to me to be brimming with amazing pieces, and I wanted them all – I’ve calmed down a bit now, but the energy and enthusiasm generated by Montpellier continues to inspire the next generation of young dealers who are looking with open minds, not hampered by the blinkers of experience.
Montpellier is a lovely historic Provencal town, with a lively atmosphere helped by it’s young university population. As I had a walk round on Monday afternoon, checking the local antique shops for anything interesting and affordable, I couldn’t help but pick up on the subdued atmosphere after the horrific incidents in Paris a couple of weeks ago – the fountain of the three graces in the main square was festooned in floral tributes and candles to the fallen of Paris – but the French seemed determined to go on as usual, and the outside terraces were vibrant.
The fair starts at 8am at the sound of a klaxon as a couple of thousand eager buyers from over 50 countries rush into a series of empty hangars – empty, because the exhibiting dealers get in at the same time, so nothing is out yet. This doesn’t stop us all from rushing around like headless chickens, peering into the back of trucks as the exhibitors try to unload.
I like to find something worth buying in the first half hour or so – it’s like scoring an early goal – the pressure’s off, and I can slow down a bit. Luckily I spotted a lovely 50’s coffee table by Maison Jansen with a Chinoiserie lacquer top, after 20 minutes or so, did the deal, and was on my way.
My haul for the day ranged from a beautiful and classic Bureau Plat to a quirky beaded glass chandelier in the shape of a sailing ship – if you go to Montpellier with a shopping list, it’s probably better to throw it away before starting. Expect the unexpected.
It was a good opportunity to catch up with some French dealers, and they confirmed that the events in Paris had pretty much closed their businesses down, especially the Paris Flea market dealers – The Flea market is actually in the district of St.Denis – so prominent in the violent events as they unfolded.
But at the end of the day, antique dealers are quite resilient individuals, and they don’t stay inside waiting for things to improve – as an Italian dealer who had driven through the night from Venezia to set up her stand told me “You know, we are all addicts”, which is as good an explanation as any!