The TEFAF art fair is back in Maastricht in the Netherlands after a hiatus of more than two years. The previous edition of the show notably took place in March 2020 as countries around the world began to lock down one by one at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fair itself was forced to close early due to the outbreak.
Now, amid wider shake-ups in the global art fair calendar, TEFAF is back in its original home for the first time since the pandemic, but in a revised timeslot from the usual March run (until June 30). The June dates certainly resulted in higher than usual temperatures in the halls of the Maastricht Congress Center. But other than that, the crowds were back on VIP preview days, the familiar extravagant floral displays were in full bloom, and the cocktails, canapes and famous oysters were flowing.
The atmosphere on opening day, June 24, was lively and enthusiastic as merchants welcomed throngs of well-heeled shoppers, who perused the plethora of offerings ranging from old masters, antiques, jewelry and china to modern and contemporary art. A total of 242 exhibitors attended, including 21 first-time resellers, down slightly from the last in-person edition which had 280 exhibitors and 25 newcomers.
Some may be surprised to learn that the fair offers items for as little as four figures. Artnet News scoured the aisles and found treasures ranging from €100,000 to over €2 million. Here are some of the highlights.
Pair of Chinese Export ‘Nodding Head’ Figures
(Probably Canton, circa 1780)
Stand: Thomas Coulborn & Sons, Sutton Coldfield, UK
What it costs: €100,000
Why it’s special: The gallery showcased Chinese export furniture and artwork under the “East Meets West” banner, noting how the fashion for chinoiserie or The “Chinese taste” swept Europe in the 18th century.
Chinese “nodding head” figures such as these have been found in many royal palaces, including the Chinese Pavilion at Drottningholm Palace near Stockholm and the Royal Pavilion at Brighton in the United Kingdom, reflecting the passion of its owner, King George IV. The gallery has even recreated some of Brighton’s furniture displays in the stand. Chinese figures were so integral to the decoration of the Royal Pavilion that some ‘nodding’ figures are described as being ‘Brighton Pavilion style’, said Jonathan Coulborn.
This pair of polychrome terracotta figures of a Mandarin and his consort is even rarer because the figures are seated, Coulborn said. For example, the UK’s Royal Collection has a painting by Johann Zoffany, ca. 1765, from Queen Charlotte to her dressing table. Queen Charlotte is pictured with the young Prince of Wales and Prince Frederick; in the background are two Chinese Mandarins, similar to the Mandarin in the pair above, though standing rather than seated.
Stand: Stoppenbach & Delestre, London
What it costs: €300,000
Why it’s special: This is one of the small group of floral still lifes created by the French painter, who was most famous for his embrace of realism and the often controversial scenes of everyday life that led him to battle with the Salon .
This particular work was painted during a stay in Saintonge near Bordeaux from May 1862 to April 1863, which Courbet called one of the most rewarding and productive periods of his life. Gallery director Adrien Delestre said Courbet’s flower paintings retain his realistic sensibilities while having a poetic, almost melancholic undertone.
The visit to Saintonge was motivated by an invitation to stay with the collector Étienne Baudry, whom Courbet had met through the critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary. Although Courbet only planned to stay for two weeks, the warm celebrity welcome he received encouraged him to stay much longer. The artist featured the series of works in an exhibition held in the town of Saintes in 1863 and was aware of their market appeal. In a letter to a friend at the time, the artist conceded: “Flowers make me mint.
Stand: Xavier Eeckhout, Paris
What it costs: 1 million euro
Why it’s special: This small hippopotamus sculpture, carved from pure Carrara marble, featured prominently in a brightly lit “stand within a stand” at Parisian dealer Xavier Eeckhout, and was also the perfect complement to several other animal sculptures. nearby, including works by the famous duo Les Lalanne.
But the hippo has a unique story of its own. It was “ordered” by Anita Baron Supervielle in July 1929 at the Galerie Duchemin in Paris and delivered to her in Argentina in January of the following year. The sculpture remained in the family until it was recently discovered by Eeckhout.
Pompon is considered to be the most sought-after workshop assistant in Paris at the end of the 19th century. century, carving marble for Rodin and Camille Claudel until he “emancipated himself” himself in 1905 and abandoned the human figure to devote himself to animal art. Pompon was recognized much later in life, at age 67, when he presented his White Bear at the 1922 Salon d’Automne.
In this particular figure, which reflects the artist’s fascination with movement, “the hippo’s roar propels it backwards”, according to a press release, an imbalance which is accentuated by “the position of the rear- train in a vacuum”.
Portrait of Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp (1653)
Stand: Christopher Bishop Fine Arts, New York
What it costs: €1.35 million
Why it’s special: This discovery of a first-time exhibitor thrilled the whole show on the day of the VIP preview. First, the subject of the revered portrait is “Deceive,” with a “y.” When New York dealer Christopher Bishop first saw the “drawing of a nobleman” in an online sale organized by a small Massachusetts auction house, Marion Antique Auctions, he was immediately struck.
He was tagged as bearing the initials “IL” Upon closer examination, Bishop saw the initials read “JL”. He knew it was a major job and worth way more than the $200-300 estimate. He expected to have competition on the phone from Europe and he was right. “It looks like we underestimated this one,” the auctioneer said when the price hit $200,000. The hammer fell to $514,800 to an anonymous bidder, who is now known to be Bishop.
The Dutch Golden Age masterpiece depicts war hero Admiral Maarten Harpertszoon Tromp. The drawn portrait has been lost since 1888 and was known only from later prints and painted versions.
A contemporary and rival of Rembrandt, Lievens is considered one of the great Dutch artists of the 17th century. This black chalk portrait of Admiral Tromp shows the naval hero months after his death at the hands of a sniper in the rigging of an enemy English ship.
“When we looked at the design on the light table, the proof was there: the watermark is the same as you see in Rembrandt prints from the 1650s,” Bishop said in a statement, adding that Rembrandt and Lievens shared a studio earlier in their career and had the same paper supplier.
A watermark is “like the papermaker’s fingerprint and this watermark is special, because before 1650 it did not exist, and after 1660 paper begins to change with the introduction of mechanization”, Bishop continued. “Because this is the same paper that Rembrandt used for his prints, we know more about this paper than any other paper in history. So we have absolute confirmation of the date and monogram on the drawing.
Ceremonial saddlery of an Ottoman emperor (18th century)
Stand: Kent Antiques, London
What it costs: 2 million euros
Why it’s special: This massive and striking set was draped over a life-size model of a horse in the stand of the first exhibitor Kent Antiques. Director Mehmet Keskiner told Artnet News that the equestrian trim was commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Selim III and consists of a saddle, caparison, bridle and trappings. It is the only surviving set of 18th-century Ottoman imperial horse furniture, Keskiner said.
Six decades after its commissioning, it was presented to Prince Albert via Queen Victoria by Sultan Abdülmecid I, in thanks for British support at the Paris Congress in 1856.
In another fascinating trick, 30 years later Queen Victoria presented Saddlery to the Marquess of Lothian. It was kept in the family home of Newbattle Abbey, where it remained even after the house was given to the Scottish nation in 1930. That’s where Keskiner and Kent Antiques came in. When the trim surfaced recently it was worn and dirty from neglect, but nearly a year of conservation and cleaning has restored the old historic treasure to its original glory.
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