The Magazine Antiques tour of TEFAF

Editorial Staff Exhibitions

Our sharp-eyed correspondent Marisa Bartolucci has been in Maastricht, prowling the aisles at The European Fine Art Fair—the premier selling exhibition best known as TEFAF. Here are a few of the most provocative works of art and design she encountered:

  • Few art lovers in the States get to see great works of early European religious statuary, paintings, and reliquaries outside museums. In Europe, such work has many enthusiastic private collectors. When wandering through the halls of TEFAF, one can see why: the work retains so much conviction and emotion. One of the most poignant pieces is this exquisite Virgin of the Annunciation in carved, gilded wood by Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Vecchietta, made c.1455–70, at Longari Arte Milano.

  • At the glittering booth of J. Kugel, the venerable Paris dealer, a fabled pair of sculptures by the last Florentine master of bronze, Massimiliano Soldani-Benzi, are prominently on display, revealing no hint of the controversy they caused just a few years ago. Commissioned by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, around 1709, the casts had been exhibited at Blenheim Palace since 1712. An uproar from historic preservationists ensued when the statues left Britain in 2014 to be sold.

  • Daniel Katz’s dramatic booth brims with exceptional art, like this plaster cast of Auguste Préault’s masterpiece Silence. Of the ten plaster replicas the artist made of an original funeral medallion for the tomb of Jacob Roblès, at least five are in museums, including the Louvre, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s priced at $194,706.

  • H. Blairman presents works of art and design, spanning from the early nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Among the highlights: a handsome white marble bust of the novelist Mary Shelley by Camillo Pistrucci, made in Rome in 1843.

  • Also at H. Blairman: a 1932 prototype of Alvar Aalto’s hallway chair 51 for the Paimio Sanatorium, stripped down to its original red paint. The commercial production version of the chair is slightly different with the stretcher moved up for greater strength and easy stacking.

  • There are many imposing Chinese porcelain pots and vases on view, both antique and contemporary—a surprise, as it is extremely difficult to create such large vessels even today. These circa 1710 double gourd jars at Van der Ven Oriental Art, standing over 43 inches high, are assumed to have been commissions by the Dutch East India Company. Only four others of comparable size and decoration are known. This pair is believed to be the only example that has come on the market in 30 years.

  • The “tribal” section of the fair has grown substantially in recent years. One of the most beautiful booths, not only in this section but throughout TEFAF, is the Paris-based Galerie 1492.

  • Among the treasures on show in Galerie 1492’s booth is this magnificent Olmec shaman carved from serpentine who is about to transform into a jaguar.

  • Donald Ellis, the New York expert in Native American art, makes his debut at Maastricht with a booth filled with rare and striking treasures, such as this Moon Mask by the Yup’ik peoples from Kuskokwim River, Alaska, c. 1880. Made of wood, paint, and vegetal fibers, it is priced at four-hundred fifty thousand dollars.

  • Johnny Van Haeften specializes in Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings, and among the prizes he has on view are these two portraits of twin sisters.

  • Although inscribed with the date 1635, the portraits aren’t signed, but it is believed they may be the work of the Amsterdam painter Dirck Dircksz Santvoort.

  • This delightful girl on show at Ben Janssens Oriental Art is actually a funerary figurine. The work can be dated to the Tang Dynasty when this type of glaze called sancai, or three-color type, was perfected. The use of cobalt blue in her dress, which had to be imported from Iran, reveals the wealth of the family who commissioned her. Judging by the high waist of her dress and slender silhouette, experts believe the work was made in the mid-seventh century, when such dresses and silhouettes were in fashion.

  • You wouldn’t necessarily expect antiquaires to be political at a fair like TEFAF, but Daniel Crouch, the London dealer in rare books and maps, took a stand against the rising nationalism in Europe, by titling his exhibit The Myth of the European Nation State. His tour de force is a gorgeous, still radiant planisphere on vellum by Vesconte Maggiolo, made in Genoa in 1531. Crouch believes it was made as a political tool to help the French and Spanish sort out their colonial possessions.

  • Weiss is celebrated for its extraordinary Tudor, Stuart, and Northern European Old Master portraits. Its booth this year does not disappoint. One of the standouts is this intriguing portrait of the “grand dame” Jeanne De Bourdeille and one of her daughters, by François Quesnel, c. 1593. The amazingly modern composition of the picture documents the past and present of the twice widowed De Bourdeille, showing a smaller portrait of her in her first widowhood, and a miniature portrait of her second, deceased husband, the father of her daughter. The painting is so rich in symbolism that a whole article could be written about it and why it was painted.

  • Nearly every one of the sophisticated attendees does a double take when spying this sumptuous polished steel, copper, and brass bed at Galerie Perrin. Eye-catching as it is, an air of mystery surrounded for whom it was made and when. But it is believed to have been crafted in Italy around 1800.

  • Collecting curiosities is again à la mode, and there is no better destination for such precious works than New York’s A La Vieille Russie. A star among its many gems is a 1910 Fabergé miniature sedan chair in the Louis Quinze-style, mounted with engraved three-color gold and enameled a translucent pink, with engraved rock crystal windows, which was crafted for one of history’s greatest collectors Baron Leopold de Rothschild.

  • One of the Indian miniatures Polak Works of Art has on view is this Portrait of a Princess, circa 1750–1800, which had once belonged to the great British painter Howard Hodgkin, a renowned collector of Indian art, who died the opening day of the fair.

  • Lowell Libson offers a work of utter decorative enchantment: a series of six panels painted by Martin Battersby to decorate Lady Diana Cooper’s drawing room at the Chateau St-Firmin in Chantilly. Each celebrates a period in her life, and the life of her husband Duff (who became the 1st Viscount Norwich), and of their son, the writer John Julius.