The YSL effect at TEFAF

Brooke Mason Art

Some of the good news from TEFAF is all about the YSL effect. Like Christie’s acclaimed sale of the collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, TEFAF is a virtual cabinet of curiosities where superlative antiques, rare objects of vertu, and antiquities have been selling well. Over one hundred dealers specializing in this area exhibit at the fair, which runs until March 22. Here we offer some highlights.

Turbo shell presented to Admiral Piet Hein by the Dutch West India Company, Netherlands, c. 1629. Turbo marmoratus, and silver-gilt mounts; height 4 7/8, width 6 11/16, depth 5 1/8 inches. Courtesy of Galerie J. Kugel, Paris.

At Galerie J. Kugel of Paris, where Saint Laurent used to shop for 17th century silver-gilt works, brothers Nicolas and Alexis Kugel represent the fifth generation of their family’s gallery. In their booth a dazzling turbo shell with ornate silver gilt mounts in the shape of sea monsters and stylized fish offers a rich provenance-the drinking cup was presented by the Dutch West India Company to Piet Hein in recognition of his capture of a fleet of Spanish ships filled with gold and silver in 1649. It had been lost for 227 years until Nicolas recently rediscovered it.

Figure of an Angel, Paris or Burgundy, 14th century. Marble; height 13 3/4 inches. Courtesy of Blumka Gallery, New York.

The New York-based Blumka Gallery, specialists in Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque works of art, is showing a rare, small-scale marble angel from the 14th century, possibly Burgundian or Parisian, which came from a tomb or an altar. “It still retains its original patination,” says dealer Tony Blumka. “I have never seen another one like it.”

Casket by Gottfried Wolffram, c. 1695. Amber, ivory, velvet with gold borders,and brass fire gilt and engraved; height 4 11/16, width 11 13/16, depth 7 7/8 inches. Courtesy of Kunstkammer Georg Laue, Munich.

The Munich dealer Kunstkammer Georg Laue is showing a 1695 amber box with intricately carved ivory panels by Gottfried Wolffram who worked on the famed amber room in the St. Petersburg palace.  “All my clients know the YSL sale was proof that the financial crisis does not affect kunstkammer objects,” says Laue, who sold a rare southern German Renaissance clock, circa 1580-90 comprised of copper and bronze gilt to a private collector from France. 

The Barberini Tyche, Rome, 1st century AD. Marble, and alabaster; overall height 23 1/2 inches. Courtesy of Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London.

Antiquities also have a strong presence at the fair, and London dealer Rupert Wace Ancient Art reported healthy sales yesterday. Of interest in his booth is the Barberini Tyche, a Roman marble head of a goddess from the 1st century AD on a 17th century bust of alabaster and marble. It had belonged to Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) whose family owned the Palazzo Barberini.

London-based specialists in Chinese antiques Ben Janssens Oriental Art had sold around fifty objects by Tuesday’s close, ranging in price from 3,000 Euros to 300,000 Euros. Janssesn says, “I feel that the YSL effect is definitely noticeable and is giving many people the encouragement and confidence to invest in works of art here.”