Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bits and Pieces: Collecting Fragments

Why collect fragments?  Well, there are works of art that can no longer be found on the market such as Medieval objects.  There are others that are too expensive for our pocketbook, and still others that are made up of too many pieces to collect.

For instance, you might admire a porcelain service such as the Meissen Swan Service which was originally made in 1736 for Heinrich Count von Brühl, Director of the Meissen porcelain factory in Dresden.  It was comprised of over 2,200 pieces.   Even though these services were made with many pieces you cannot find a full service for 12 today.  If you could, it would cost such a fortune you wouldn’t want to actually use it… and forget about the dishwasher!

At about the same time another service was made at Meissen.  It was known as the Sulkowski Service and was the first privately commissioned Meissen service made for one of the Ministers of Augustus III.  Each piece included the Sulkowski armorial.  I have had several decedents of that family living in North America who wanted a souvenir from their heritage.   One woman in Canada wanted to buy a plate for each of her 3 sons so that they could own a piece of their birthright.

From the concept of owning a piece from a porcelain service it is not a large leap to collecting parts of an object.  Years ago my firm, Rosenberg & Stiebel, bought a clock and stand.  This was before my time so I am not sure what happened, but either the collector of the clock was not interested in or did not have the place for the stand, or it is possible that it was decided that the stand was not original to the clock.  Thus we found it in our storage bins.   In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we did a series of exhibitions and one was called “Elements of Style”. It was about the gilded bronze mounts that were used on French 18th and 19th century furniture.  Though not exactly a mount the clock base was a prime example of a secondary gilt bronze that conveyed the style of an object.

There is a small bronze figure made in Nuremburg around 1550 that is coming up for sale at Christies in May.  It is a Venus Marina that clearly was part of a larger piece, probably a table fountain popular in the 16th century.  You can see the marks along her side where she separated from the whole and someone placed the wiry serpent in her hand after she lost her raison d’être as a fountain.

Finally, something that I own personally and I hasten to add it is not for sale , a pair of gilt bronze lions.  They were the feet of a clock or small piece of case furniture from the late 17th century.  Quite possibly there were 4 lions as feet and one might have been lost when the object was moved, so at least one had to be removed.  A small piece of bronze was added to cover the hole on the lions backs where they were attached to the piece.  But what wonderful objects these are, so beautifully cast and chased.  A cabinet in the Bayerrisches Nationalmuseum in Munich has a cabinet with just such lion feet.

One man’s trash is another’s treasure they say.  The market is one thing, art is something else.  Sometimes it is not necessary to spend a fortune to live with a beautiful object that is part of history.

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