The Finery of the Fair
Collectors, dealers and curators gather at Maastricht each year to peruse and acquire the best art on the market. Apollo profiles some of the most notable acquisitions made at TEFAF over the last 25 years
Monique Kent, Thursday, 1st March 2012
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht has an unrivalled position as the most important event for art and antiques in the international calendar. But when TEFAF started out in 1988 few people had heard of either the fair or of Maastricht, and visitors to that first edition came mostly from a small radius around the city. Today, it is not only private collectors from around the world who flock to Maastricht – over 200 museums and galleries send their directors and curators. Many reserve works on the spot, beginning what can often be a lengthy acquisition process.
The success of the fair is in large part due to the commitment and energy of the select group of dealers who serve as the fair’s trustees and executive committee members. TEFAF prides itself on being run by exhibitors for other exhibitors, with surplus funds raised each year ploughed back into a not-for-profit organisation that reinvests in future editions of the fair. This results in the lavish attention to detail for which TEFAF is famed: in 2008, for example, 150,000 anemones were shipped to the fair, accounting for 50 to 60 per cent of the worldwide production of the flower in the first half of March.
A programme of special exhibitions has also helped to establish the profile of the fair.
In 1994 TEFAF hosted ‘Treasures from The Hermitage’, a loan exhibition of 60 works from the Russian museum, which saw attendance figures jump that year by 52 per cent to 61,452. In addition, the importance attached to exacting vetting standards – carried out by a panel of museum experts – has ensured the fair’s reputation for being an event at which the world’s best dealers show the cream of their stock. Some 260 galleries from 16 countries exhibit at TEFAF, which in recent years has expanded to include new sections dedicated to design and works on paper.
TEFAF’s 25-year history is adorned with notable museum acquisitions, many of which have been profiled over the years in the pages of Apollo. In 2007, for example, Noortman Fine Art sold Jacob Ruisdael’s View of Amsterdam (c. 1680) to the Amsterdam Historical Museum; in 2004 the Blumka Gallery, New York, and Julius Böhler, Munich, sold an Austrian chalk-stone Pietà of c. 1415 to Compton Verney in Warwickshire. These, and the works highlighted in the following pages, are testament to TEFAF’s role in expanding public and private collections.
Portrait of a Young Man, 1632
Rembrandt van Rijn
Oil on wood, 64347cm
The first painting by Rembrandt sold at TEFAF, this oval portrait was exhibited in 1997 by Otto Naumann of New York, and priced at $4.8m. It was bought by the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation, which has subsequently placed the portrait on perma-nent loan to the Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum in Aachen, Germany. Painted in 1632, the year after Rembrandt located to Amsterdam from Leiden, the identity of the sitter in this small oil is unknown. It is signed with the monogram RHL (Rembrandt Harmensz. Leidensis), one of the artist’s final experi-mentations with his signature before opting for ‘Rembrandt’ the following year, which he used for the rest of his life.
Desk with prayer bench (prie-dieu),
Lower Franconia, Bavaria
Walnut veneered on pinewood inlaid with marquetry in various woods and ivory; crucifixion group in limewood, brass and bronze mounts, 1783126378cm
Originating from the Main River area of Lower Franconia, this baroque secrétaire and prie-dieu is exceptionally rare. Exhibited at TEFAF in 2008 by Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel, it was priced at €1.2m and purchased by the Bayerische Nationalmuseum in Munich. The museum already has a strong collection of Bavarian furniture from the 18th and 19th century, with a particular focus on devotional pieces produced by cabinetmakers across the state’s different regions.
Femme Cueillant des Fleurs or L’Ombrelle Renversée, c. 1874
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)
Oil on canvas, 65.5354.4cm
Presented by Dickinson last year, Renoir’s pastoral oil had an asking price of $15m and was bought by a European private collector. Painted during the pioneering early days of Impressionism, the subject of the work is Monet’s first wife Camille Doncieux (Monet’s depiction of Camille on her death-bed is discussed on pp. 130–136). Renoir was frequently a guest at Monet’s rented house in Argenteuil, and painted Camille on 15 occasions. Previously, the work was dated to 1872, but the looseness of the brushstrokes has led to experts recently suggesting the later date of 1874–75.
Saint Anthony Abbot, c. 1415–20
Lorenzo Monaco (c. 1365–c. 1425)
Presented by Moretti of London, Florence and New York and sold at TEFAF in 2009, this panel would have been part of a triptych, though its original context is hard to determine since the fragment is thinned at the edges and cropped. Rediscovered in an English private collection, it has been attributed to the 15th-century Florentine painter Piero di Giovanni, known as Lorenzo Monaco after he entered the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in 1391. Dating to the Camaldolese master’s mature period, the panel has been stripped of its heavy retouching to reveal original gilding, which would have formed the ground of the painting, still intact around the saint’s head.
The ‘West Lake’ Garniture, c. 1700
Qing dynasty, Kangxi period
Chinese porcelain; ht of covered baluster vases 102.5cm and 103.5cm; ht of beaker vases 93 and 93.4cm
This garniture of five Chinese porcelain vases is one of only two sets known to exist, and was exhibited at Maastricht in 2007 by Jorge Welsh of Lisbon and London. Mr Welsh initially secured the beakers on the open market, before discovering the covered vases that complete the garniture in a private collection. Decorated in underglaze cobalt blue and featuring scenes of loose-robed figures at leisure on the West Lake, near Hangzhou, these large Kangxi pieces were produced for the export market, and sold at TEFAF to a private collector for an undisclosed amount.
Jupiter (illustrated) and Juno
Giuseppe Piamontini (1664–1742)
Marble, ht 100cm
This pair of recently rediscovered marbles, exhibited at TEFAF during 2011, are an important addition to the oeuvre of the Florentine sculptor Giuseppe Piamontini (1664–1742). They are remarkable examples of Piamontini’s taste for mythological subjects, and are carved with subtle refinement. Before their rediscovery, the composition was known only through two pairs of smaller bronze versions (one pair in the Ashmolean, Oxford, the second in the Philadelphia Museum of Art). The sculptor is known to have produced in his youth a large model for a Jupiter on an eagle, but these marbles of Jupiter and Juno are thought to have been created in Florence during the late 1680s. The pair were sold to an American private collector by Daniel Katz of London for a price in the region of $2m.
Fish Pendant, c. 1902–05
René Lalique (1869–1954)
Gold, enamel, glass, aquamarine, diamond, ht 5.8cm
One of the most exceptional pieces of Art Nouveau jewellery to be sold at TEFAF Maastricht was René Lalique’s fish pendant. The piece exemplifies Lalique’s unique talent for capturing the forms of the natural world. The shape of the pendant is created by two symmetrical pairs of interloping fish, suspending between them a pear-shaped acquamarine enamel. The fish heads are cast in opalescent glass, the bodies in green enamel. Two marquise-shaped diamonds are claw-set between the entwined bodies, and between the open jaws of the larger fish sits a cushion-shaped aquamarine. Signed by Lalique and just 5.8cm high, the piece was produced in Paris and is a superb example of turn-of-the-century design. The pendant was sold in 2006 to an American private collector for an undisclosed sum by Epoque Fine Jewels of Kortrijk, Belgium.
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