Sunday, December 5, 2010

How About a Christmas Present?

Now, you may think it odd that anyone would come to a high end gallery to buy a Christmas Present for anyone but themselves or a spouse, but that is not necessarily the case.

We have had a collector come in Christmas eve and pick out a small Louis XV marquetry table. He then asked for it to be gift wrapped before it was delivered!

Another bought a small French 18th century painting for a business associate and yet another, an older woman, came in and bought a small 17th century Italian bronze snake for a friend.

Since this is the time of year that such thoughts go through one’s head I thought I would pick something from my inventory that might fit the bill. Should it be a piece of furniture? Probably too large in every sense? What about a painting? Probably too expensive. That leaves a small bronze, a piece of porcelain or a drawing or watercolor. Best to pick something I would like to take home because, in the private sector, I find those are the works of art that go first.

Even though we have many works on paper that are less expensive I picked an object that I thought would be popular in subject matter as well as an object that was at the top of its genre in quality.

My mother had a large collection of elephants, therefore my parents were always on the look out for fine examples. On a business trip to Paris, at a prominent gallery, Fabre et Fils, that we had been dealing with for 2 or 3 generations they found a bronze of a running elephant, a bit over 5 ½ inches high and 8 inches long bearing the signature Barye on the base.

Animals have always been a favorite subject for sculptors in bronze and Antoine-Louis Barye (Paris 1795 - 1875 Paris) was the master in this art during much of the 19th century. His range was phenomenal and while bronzes are rarely unique because they could be made in multiples this bronze, known as "Elephant du Senegal” is not as common.

An important aspect of any bronze is the finishing of the piece and our elephant has been superbly finished and it stands out in its class.

As I have discussed before, provenance can also be of great interest when making a purchase. Imagine my parents’ delight when they turned over the bronze and underneath found the inventory mark DW 2090, indicating that it had belonged to one of the greatest French collectors of the first half of the 20th century, David David-Weill (1871-1952) who was an extremely successful financier and a great patron of the arts. His son and grandson, years later became wonderful clients of Rosenberg & Stiebel.

I do not remember exactly when my parents found their treasure but it had pride of place and could be seen as soon as you walked into their apartment. It had given them many decades of enjoyment.

Why not take a look at our website,, and see what you would pick out as a Christmas present.