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London Eye: February 2011

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Written by Tom Flynn   
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 13:34
An exterior view of Mas St. Estève, a restored farmhouse in the Vaucluse region of Provençe, the contents of which Duke’s will disperse from their Dorchester rooms on March 3 in a sale entitled ‘A Provençal Dream.’ Image courtesy of Duke’s. The portering scandal currently swirling around Paris’s central auction hub, the famous Hôtel Drouot, is giving a welcome boost to the commercial fortunes of Sotheby’s and Christie’s. The two international auction houses have been competing for business in France for decades, but only since 2001 when French government restrictions were relaxed have they been permitted to conduct sales in France. As a result they now enjoy the lion’s share of French auction revenues, with French firm Artcurial in third place.

However, it is not only the two big beasts who are making inroads into the French art market, for Dorchester-based auctioneers Duke’s are also building their brand on French soil. Recently they were hired to disperse the contents of Mas St. Estève, a beautifully restored old Provençal farmhouse near L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue in the Vaucluse region of Provençe, recently on the market at 2.35 million euros ($3.7 million).

Although other auction houses were invited to cast an eye over the contents — an extraordinarily eclectic collection put together over many years by Thomas Kerr, a retired English antique dealer and decorator — it was only Duke’s who chose not to cherry-pick, but to offer a full catalog service. In deference to the British infatuation with French country living — and to the UK’s healthy decorator trade — Duke’s are cleverly marketing the sale as ‘A Provençal Dream.’

It must have been tempting to pack the gavel, head south, and hold the sale in situ against a dreamy backdrop of olive trees, with the aromatic scent of lavender and wild rosemary wafting past the rostrum. Instead, Duke’s chose to shift the contents back to Dorchester where already their clients are responding to the alluring catalog presentation in which the paintings, painted furniture and a wealth of decorative objets are presented in Thomas Kerr’s stylish Provençal scheme.

This was Duke’s masterstroke. They realized that an Italian baroque painted side cabinet is one thing when seen in isolation in a UK saleroom, but quite another when photographed on a quarry tiled floor in Provence with the right picture above. It is expected to fetch around £3,000-£6,000 ($4,800-$9,700) on March 3.

Yet although this is very much a sale for the decorator trade and for those private collectors with sophisticated taste and a flair for chic design, many objects are of connoisseurial interest too.

Assembled by former antique dealer and decorator Thomas Kerr, the stylish contents of Mas St. Estève are already attracting interest from decorators ahead of Duke’s sale on March 3. Image courtesy of Duke’s. The Italian Baroque side cabinet with painted decoration (shown at back on the left), which is estimated to make £3,000-£6,000 ($4,800-$9,700) at Duke’s sale of the contents of a Provençal farmhouse on March 3. Image courtesy of Duke’s.

A group of three 17th-century French School Gallice family portraits in oils on canvas, in period frames (Figs 4 & 5), are expected to make £8,000-£16,000 ($13,000-$25,800), while an oval carved marble profile portrait of a gentleman wearing a long wig, enclosed in a later octagonal wooden frame and cataloged as “manner of Antoine Coysevox” is expected to make around £5,000-£10,000 ($8,000-$16,100). Meanwhile, the 17th-century Flemish School painting of a woman standing behind a table loaded with faience dishes, game and vegetables is the sort of still life picture that would not be out of place at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. It is forecast to make around £8,000-£16,000 ($13,000-$25,800).

One of a group of three 17th-century French School Gallice family portraits in oils on canvas, estimated at £8,000-£16,000 ($13,000-$25,800) at Duke’s in Dorchester on March 3. Image courtesy of Duke’s. The three 17th-century French School family portraits seen in situ in their original Provençal setting. They will be offered by Duke’s in Dorchester on March 3 estimated at £8,000-£16,000 ($13,000-$25,800). Image courtesy of Duke’s. Duke’s ‘Provençal Dream’ sale on March 3 includes this 17th-century Flemish School still life painting, forecast to make around £8,000-£16,000 ($13,000-$25,800). Image courtesy of Duke’s.

We will check back with Duke’s in March for a report on their interesting foray into the French countryside.

Duke’s Provençal sale provides a perfect opening to a busy March calendar, the central focus of which is the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht from March 18-27. While TEFAF provides a glimpse into the rarefied world of high-ticket collecting, the British Antique Dealers’ Fair, also in March (23-29) offers a more accessible entry point for recession-insulated collectors with disposable income.

Appropriately enough, this year’s fair includes a loan exhibition sponsored by leading art insurers AON, which is devoted to the role played by private collectors in preserving the past for future generations. This is an interesting choice of theme, not least because it comes at a time when collectors in some fields, most notably antiquities, are attracting criticism for their collecting activities. However, few will find anything remotely controversial about the medals on show from the collection of businessman Lord Ashcroft KCMG, which include an unrivalled group of 168 Victoria Crosses, plus gallantry medals won by the SAS and other British Special Forces personnel.

This Distinguished Conduct Medal, won by Fijian-born SAS hero Sekonaia Takavesi, who took part in the heroic defence of Mirbat in Oman against a much larger force of Communist insurgents in 1972, is on display at the British Antique Dealers’ Fair at the Duke of York Square in Chelsea from March 23-29. Photo courtesy BADA.

Alongside the medals will be a display of silver, bronzes, maiolica and other objects from the Schroder Collection, originally put together in the late 19th century by Baron Sir John Henry Schroder, of the eponymous merchant bank in the City of London. Although much of Sir John’s collection was dispersed after his death in 1910, some of it was bequeathed to his nephew, Bruno Schroder. Certain other items, particularly gold boxes and engraved gems, were retained by the family. The current exhibition features material from the collection of Baron Bruno and his wife Baroness Emma, which includes superb 18th-century snuff boxes, a late 16th-century bronze Florentine table fountain, and a fine maiolica dish from the Fontana workshop in Urbino, circa 1550.

A maiolica dish painted with Pluto and Proserpine, probably from the Fontana workshop in Urbino, circa 1550 — part of the Schroder Collection loan exhibition at the BADA Fair on March 23-29. Photo courtesy BADA.

And so to other news. The trend toward showing modern and contemporary art in period settings continues this year at Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, the English home of the storied Rothschild dynasty. To accompany the opening of a new philanthropic research and archive centre for the Rothschild Foundation at Windmill Hill on the Waddesdon Estate in 2011, the Rothschild Collection will be staging an exhibition of works by Andy Warhol and celebrated British sculptor Anish Kapoor on March 30.

Opening in June is this new philanthropic research and archive center for the Rothschild Foundation at Windmill Hill on the Waddesdon Estate in Buckinghamshire. Designed by Stephen Marshall Architects, it reuses 19th-century vernacular farm buildings to create a reading room, office spaces and archival stores. Image courtesy National Trust, Waddesdon Manor.

On loan from a private collection provided by the Blavatnik Family, Andy Warhol’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century will be on view alongside Mountain, a monumental work of 2001 by Anish Kapoor, which will be installed in the Aviary at the Manor.

Other exhibitions at Waddesdon this year include "Fantasy from the Fire" — a display of 16th-century Italian maiolica, part of the Renaissance Kunstkammer assembled by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 19th century; an archival exhibition charting the history of the Waddesdon Estate through maps, account books and historic photographs; an exhibition of prints about the French Revolution, acquired by Baron Ferdinand, and an exhibition of 17th- and 18th-century books and bindings from the Waddesdon collection, many with a royal provenance.

Andy Warhol, ‘Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century: Marx Brothers, 1980.’ Polymer paint on silkscreen ink on canvas. To be shown at Waddesdon Manor from March 30. Image courtesy Rothschild Collection, National Trust, Waddesdon Manor. A selection of objects from the Maiolica Collection at Waddesdon Manor, home of the Rothschild Collection (The National Trust). Photo: Mike Fear. © The National Trust, Waddesdon Manor.



Last Updated on Thursday, 17 February 2011 09:59

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