Masterpieces To Marvel Over

My next stop after seeing Ken Bull’s amazing collection of Mordan pencils was a darkened, quietly calm room where I met with a cool towel for my brow, more than one glass of something white and chilled, and a comfy chez longue. Once my equilibrium had been restored, it was back to Masterpiece to see the rest of the fair.
This time, I was accompanied by the banker, but I doubt that even he could afford anything that we looked at. The fair is truly a feast for the eyes, mind, and heart. It’s where the world’s top dealers come to display their world-class finds, and where the world’s wealthy come to buy something that is truly worthy of the title ‘masterpiece’.
At such an event, it’s impossible to choose any truly outstanding objects as there are simply too many contenders. However, some pieces took up residence in my mind for longer than I thought. I don’t wish to denigrate the importance and beauty of the items with my tawdry words, but here’s my shopping list of personal favourites along with a brief reason why I like it…

A highly important Russian guéridon made in 1803 by Heinrich Gambs after a design of Andrej Voronikhin. This opulent table was commissioned by Tsar Alexander I as as gift to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III and Queen Luise. It stood in the Royal Palace on Unter den Linden in Berlin.
Even though it almost shows Russia’s glitzy Francophilic tastes, the design of this is based more in Classical Antiquity. But, as with most Russian designs, it’s gorgeously over the top with the unnecessary combination of bat wings and cherub heads, and the crazy combination of elegantly slim elongated sabre legs and a heavy malachite top that required brass leg splints to support it! From Mallet Antiques, London, click here for more information – it’s quite a story!

This is quite simply, the most magnificent Georgian mirror I have ever seen, covering the entire chimney breast and fireplace. This almost looks as if it could grow, and if I owned it, I’d fall asleep in front of it dreaming about waking up to find it had. It’s like something out of a Peter Greenaway film. It’s also obviously of the finest quality, with incredibly detailed and balanced carving by one of Georgian Britain’s best designers. From Ronald Phillips, London, who, amongst other areas, specialise in antique mirrors of the finest quality. Click here to find out more.

A portrait of a Venetian admiral, possibly Francesco Duodo, painted in the early 1570s by Tiziano Vecellio, better known as Titian.
I’d like to have met this grand old sea dog. After studying art history at university, I’ve always wanted to own a Titian. But not one of his flattering and precise commissions. Instead, I’d love to own one of his later works where the brush strokes are free and expressive and he seemed to take more joy in the action of painting. It’s the same with Rembrandt, but I’d happily live forever with any of his paintings. From Philip Mould & Company, London, click here for more details.

A late 19thC Japanese ivory elephant sculpture, inset with carved mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones, made and signed by Masayuki. I love Japanese works of art, which usually demand extra work from us as their surface designs mean we have to move around and look at the whole thing to appreciate it fully. Exquisite and finely decorated pieces from the Meiji period just seem so under-rated right now, perhaps because the stunning intricacy they display is out of fashion currently. It’s also wonderfully pointless. Unless you’re a lottery-winning gypsy fortune teller, perhaps. If I owned this I would model myself after the Duc des Essientes in Huysman’s À Rebours, and the room that would contain this would be like the recluse’s secluded treasure-filled house. A jewel-inlaid tortoise couldn’t compare to my herd of these fantastic beasts. From Mallet Antiques, London, click here for more information.

‘The Dancers’, a Thomas Webb & Sons cameo glass charger, designed and cut by George Woodall in 1886.
Gallé and Daum are all very well, but my heart sings when I see a piece of figural work by Woodall. The undoubted master of British cameo glass, this is typical of the unparalleled quality of his work. The lightness of the dresses, the poses, the feel for weight and form, and the movement suggested are just sensational. Just imagine – all the white glass was cut away by hand to reveal the gentle white tones and deep purple ground. I would never tire of looking at it. I also enjoyed meeting Joshua and Raphael, and seeing their Fornasetti furniture which contrasted perfectly with their other objects that were suggestive of a core theme of nature. From Sinai & Sons, London, click here for more information.

What do you think? With only five, I think I’ve been quite restrained. I’d also have chosen a contemporary Colin Reid glass sculpture from Adrian Sassoon. However, as I was posting the image, I realised that, as with all these pieces, a photograph really doesn’t do the piece the justice it deserves. So go and see it, and them, for yourself!

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