Monday, January 24, 2011

Waiting in Line for Oscar

Today is the final day of a hugely successful exhibit tracing the over sixty-year-long career of an artist who was known to his family as Oscar.

We know him as Claude…Claude Monet…and the event at Paris’ Grand Palais celebrates his life (1840-1926) and his accomplishments as one of the founders of French Impressionist painting.

The sign shown above warns those in the line outside the Grand Palais that they still had another six hours before they would be able to even begin viewing the two hundred Monet paintings inside…many from Paris’ Musée d’Orsay (which is currently being renovated), as well as others from collections in Brazil, Russia, the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States. It is the first such gathering of Monet’s art since 1980 and as the exhibit encompasses paintings representing his entire range of work, it was a must-see event. Today is the very last day…the exhibit opened on September 22, 2010 and since then some 889,200 visitors have braved long lines…some waiting for over seven hours! Since this last Friday, it’s been a Monet marathon…with the museum being open 24 hours a day. Tonight at 9pm, the final closing bell will toll.

We lug our cameras around with us at all times, but unfortunately…and understandably…photographs were not allowed to be taken within the exhibit.


Just a brief stroll away is the Musée de l’Orangerie…where eight Monet paintings that were too large to be transported gracefully are on display. No line at the entrance…and not too many people to get in our way as we take…with permission…some images for you to enjoy.

monet14 The paintings are enormous…garden scenes…some with nympheas…French for water lily…while others feature saules…French for willow trees. This photo will give you an idea of the size of the paintings. They are all two meters high and range in width from six meters to over twelve meters. Monet first came up with the idea for the series in 1897, with the actual work beginning in 1914 as France was in the midst of World War I.  Later, Monet signed an agreement giving the works to France as his way of honoring the fallen French soldiers. The Impressionists strove to capture the effect of light, often painting outdoors using quick brushstrokes and blocks of color; due to their size, these were painted in a specially-created studio at his home in Giverny.

And now I’ll shut up and let you enjoy Oscar Claude Monet’s message for peace…

Reflets Verts…Green Reflections

monet1 Matin…Morning

monet2 Soleil Couchant…Setting Sun


Les Nuages…Clouds

monet7Le Matin aux Saules…Morning at the Willows

monet9   Le Matin Clair aux Saules…Morning Light at the Willows

 monet8 Les Deux Saules…Two Willows
(Unfortunately, I couldn’t get back far enough to include the second willow, but it’s there!)


Reflets d’Arbres…Reflections of Trees

Those are the eight…and for fun, here are a couple of detail views of Reflets Verts:
monet13Note: Speaking of fun…this posting is the first in a series of our own…the “all-work-and-no-play-is-no-fun” series of posts that will be included from time to time…enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bacchus...the Roman God of Wine and Merrymaking

Some of you have noticed the band of small photographs of vintage objects that runs across the top of the blog…so I guess that now is as good a time as any to begin to explain what they are and why they are there. They represent a particular type of antique or vintage decorative art that seems to jump out at us from its hiding place in the corner of a dusty old brocante and instantly makes our hearts flutter. They are shown above in no particular order,…but I’ll begin with the photo on the top left…
Sometimes we come across something that we have no clue whatsoever what it was originally meant to be…such is the case with this piece. Silvered metal and almost eleven inches wide, it has a well-executed three-dimensional motif…but where and how it was used is a mystery. What isn’t a mystery is its decorative value…it’s fabulous!silverbacchussd2It was a long, long time ago, and consequently, I’ve forgotten most of what I learned about classical mythology…but since one of our specialties is antique and vintage wine-related objects, I do remember that Bacchus was one of the gods of the Roman Empire…the Greeks called him Dionysus. By either name, he was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and wine. His side jobs included serving as the god of ecstasy, intoxication, merrymaking, and theatre arts.
On one side is Bacchus…
silverbacchussd2dtl…to him we owe the term “Bacchanalia”…referring to a wild party with much revelry. Bacchus’ mission was to end care and worry. He certainly doesn’t look too worried here.

The other side features a Bacchante…
silverbacchussd1  …what the Romans called the female followers of Bacchus; the Greeks called them Maenads which means “raving”. Well, she’s certainly beautiful…
silverbacchussd1dtl…perhaps that’s the origin of the phrase “raving beauty”!

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes adventures of The Meadows Collection…or check out the results at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One of My Favorite Mystery Pieces

Some antiques dealers “just sell the stuff” and others spend countless hours researching and trying as best they can to find out everything possible about what they sell.

We fall into the latter category.

Some buyers seek out items from people who “didn’t know what they had” and others prefer the security of dealing with a knowledgeable seller.

We attract the latter.

To each his own…there’s no way to persuade the “they didn’t know what they had” crowd, even though, in truth, one is far more likely to fare better dealing with a seller who knows his or her stuff.

Of course, one can not know everything and as hard as one tries, an antiques dealer’s life is full of mysteries and mystery pieces.

This¨French faïence tile is just such a piece…mystery piece lachenalIt’s one of my favorite mystery pieces. The mystery is not a total “who dunnit” as the tile is signed…
mystery piece lachenal back So we know that Lachenal is the creator…but which Lachenal?

There’s Edmond (1855-1930), who began working with Théodore Deck at the tender age of fifteen and eventually started his own pottery studio in Malakoff, a Parisian suburb, in 1880. But Edmond had two sons, Raoul (1885-1956), who, after working with his father, opened a pottery of his own in 1904 in another Parisian suburb…what is now known as Boulogne-Billancourt and Jean-Jacques who also worked with his father and later, after returning from World War I, opened a studio in 1918 in yet another Paris suburb…Chantillon.

This signature is on a piece said to be by Edmond and it certainly looks very similar to the signature on ours…
lachenal mark said to be edmond




But in some cases, Edmond signed his pieces like so…
lachenal edmond mark
…with an E. in front…but those were later pieces…works that were very art nouveau in form and style. Our tile is more in keeping with Edmond’s earlier work with Deck…well before the birth of his sons…and thus, before he might have felt the need to differentiate between “Lachenals”.

Raoul used a backwards R in front of Lachenal on many of his pieces…and most of his work doesn’t correspond to the style of our tile…so he’s less likely to be the right answer.

Jean-Jacques’ pieces are maddeningly signed “Lachenal” in virtually identical lettering…but again, his designs reflect the more modern post-World War I motifs.

So we’re leaning towards an Edmond Lachenal attribution…and so do those we’ve asked…but until this tile starts talking…one will never be positive…and so, the mystery continues. 

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes adventures of The Meadows Collection…or check out the results at …and for more fun that is specifically related to French faïence…go to

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Provenance and Old Socks

jp stocking I seem to have come across a number of old socks last month…Christmas stockings for sure, but also other pairs of socks that were featured in two different expositions. The Christmas stocking to the right is both priceless and worthless, as it belongs to Jean-Pierre…the feline member of the family…after previously belonging to his predecessor, Porquier-Beau. But the other socks had wildly different estimates of value.

A lesson in provenance.

Provenance generally means place of origin…the word itself being derived from the Latin word originale. But when used in reference to an item that is vintage or antique, it has come to mean something else as well. Something that results in one pair of old socks that crossed my path last month being listed as having no monetary value whatsoever, while another sold for over forty thousand dollars…41,940.63 in U.S. dollars to be exact, including the buyers’ premium and converted from euros using that day’s exchange rate.

The officially worthless socks were part of the estate of a photographer known as Chim…the pseudonym of David Seymour. Visiting an exposition of his work in Brussels, we learned that David Seymour (1911-1956) was born Dawid Szymin in Poland and took up photography while studying in Paris. His early photo journalism career resulted in many poignant images, including scenes of the Spanish civil war and a series featuring children displaced by the ravages of that and other wars. Later, as an American citizen, he co-founded the Magnum photo agency and was soon sought after for portrait work…such as this one of Audrey Hepburn on the set of the movie Funny Face
napoleon audrey hepburn 
The image below was also shot during the filming of Funny Face
napoleon avedon astaire…it shows the photographer Richard Avedon coaching Fred Astaire on how to be convincing in his movie role as a photographer.

The socks in this exposition were featured on a list that detailed the belongings left behind in Chim’s hotel room after he was killed while covering the armistice of the Suez War…
napoleon seymour list
napoleon seymour list detail

Quite a contrast from these socks…which are really more like silk stockings or tights…napoleon silk socksHere’s where provenance comes into play…provenance in the expanded sense that means being connected with a famous previous owner. For these silk stockings were worn by none other than Napoléon Bonaparte while on exile on the island of Saint Helena. Discolored and with a few stains here and there, they also sported an embroidered crowned “N”.

I should hope so for over forty thousand dollars!
napoleon n 300 
The stockings were in an auction that we stumbled upon while visiting Fontainebleau, Napoléon’s favorite château…a special auction consisting of items that were related in some manner to the Emperor…either personally, as in the case of the stockings, or decorative items made during the period of his reign up to that of his nephew (and first wife’s grandson), Napoléon III.

We took some photographs so you could “join” us…
napoleon auction room During the preview, the auction room was set up in several vignettes…this one featured a table with a base that had been fashioned  from candelabra said to have been owned by Maréchal Ney…a hero of the Napoleonic Wars. Despite being a made up piece, the hint of provenance pushed its final hammer price to $36,907.75.

The bidding was fast and furious…
napoleon auction
…and the results were often mind-boggling…
napoleon empire bed  …an Empire bed that was too short for anyone in our family to sleep in comfortably sold for $58,716.88…

napoleon tapestry… a wool and silk Aubusson tapestry of Napoléon I was a mere $23,486.75…and eight plates previously owned by Napoléon’s brother, Jérôme, King of Westphalia…
napoleon jerome plates…were a downright bargain at $5,032.88. A pewter fork with a bent tine that had been used in the kitchens of the Tuileries Palace…
napoleon fork 
had an estimate of 600-800 euros, but the bidding did not meet its reserve price.

And then there were the chairs…$36,907.75 for this one…napoleon beige chair …described in the auction catalog as having upholstery that was usagée or worn…

…or this one…
napoleon green chair …where the pitiful state of the upholstery wasn’t even mentioned…and it sold for $41,940.63!

And to think that I bothered to make the effort to try to train Jean-Pierre to use his scratching post…

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes adventures of The Meadows Collection…or check out the results at