The decorative arts have been defined as art meant to be useful as well as aesthetically beautiful. This includes categories such as ceramics, furniture, jewelry, glass and textiles.
Forming collections of precious possessions is a matter for the heart, not the head. Often it needs some inspiration or significant event to trigger off what for many becomes a lifelong, and often very emotional obsession.
In the west the ancient societies of Greece and Rome are at the foundation of the stylistic traditions in the visual and performance arts.
The stories attached to the evolution of art, design and style will be reflected in the decorative arts showcased at the Australian Antique & Art Dealers Association (AA&ADA) 2015 Sydney Antiques Fair held in the Kensington Room at Royal Randwick, 9 – 13th September.
A delightful palette of colours was used for painting this soft-paste porcelain figural group of Jason and Medea at the Altar of Diana, made at Derby in England around 1775.
The Goddess is defined by her crescent moon hair ornament and is offered by the appropriately named Etruria Antiques Gallery. A classic name, Etruria was revived in the nineteenth century and applied to a region in Northern Italy inhabited by those who had built their towns on several Tuscan hills.
The Etruscans were the dominant culture in the north by 650 BC and lived in what is now known as Tuscany, Lazio and Umbria.
They traded with the Greeks and colonies in Sicily and Ionia and their passion for Greek art was so great it is said the tombs of Etruria yielded more Greek vases than Greece itself
In England during the eighteenth century such objects were required to fit out your new, classically inspired country house, reflecting that you had correct taste (correct the key, taken from the correctness of classical architecture).
If it wasn’t in correct taste, whether it was in good or bad taste, became entirely irrelevant and something not really worth considering at all.
If you are wishing to become a collector in the world of either antiques or art, there is a golden rule.
Endeavour to collect only quality examples from any period of your choice and the category you are passionate about and have an interest in expanding your knowledge.
Ceramics in France had been produced in Normandy since the Middle Ages from clay found in its sedimentary riverbanks and where the plentiful forests were harvested to fire the kilns.
The Norman’s preference for superb craftsmanship are apparent in their faience whose charm is undeniable.
This rare French faience chocolate pot from Moorabool Antique Galleries in Victoria with its original wooden stirring stick is an appealing item dating from 1770 at the height of the neoclassical style.
The eighteenth century chocolate pot has a ‘baluster form’ with motifs from antiquity and a landscape painted in puce, a new shade of purplish brown, a colour made fashionable by France’s Queen Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) to which a couturier gave the affected name of ‘Honest Compromise’.
King Louis VI (1754-1793) laughingly noted ‘puce’ was the colour of a flea, and various sub shades called fleas belly, fleas back and fleas thigh became the rage at a time when the French or Italian cut of your clothes, with perhaps a partiality for prose or poetry, was enough to provide evidence of your enlightenment.
A very rare piece of Australiana, a Prattware pearlware plaque depicting Captain Cook c1790, will be on offer from ‘enlightened’ dealer Alan Landis Antiques, one of Australia’s foremost authorities on English Ceramics (1750-1950) and Australian Decorative Arts.
Fenton in England was where Prattware was produced 1780 – 1840. It was a cream tinted earthenware with relief decoration painted under the glaze with brilliant orange, green, cobalt blue black or brown colours. Greek classical acanthus borders abounded. Works were rarely marked as modellers worked in earnest to produce pieces with ready appeal.
Westbury Antiques also has an English Prattware oval bowl and cover in the customary palette. Its design appears in a Leeds Drawing book of designs c 1800.
Ceramics are always appealing and an English Sunderland lustre bowl also from Westbury reveals the sad story of the fateful ‘Star of Tasmania’ a wooden clipper ship built in Aberdeen Scotland in 1856 by Alexander Hall & Sons.
She sailed regularly between Aberdeen and New Zealand until 1868 when she became a wreck, driven south owing to a succession of gales losing the lives of two crewmen, two little children (3 and 5) placed in the forecastle by their mother for safety and her cargo of 2100 bales of wool.
Back in my day as an interior designer from the early 1970’s to the early years of this century, to furnish the many different homes I was decorating for clients, and myself, I purchased wonderful objects, gorgeous textiles, glass and fine furniture across the considerable range available.
Many had been made during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century and my own favourite period 1900 – 1930. Then there were items brought into Europe, England, America and Australia through the burgeoning China Trade.
Judith Rutherford who specializes in Chinese textiles is offering a rare Velvet Panel with three-eyed dragons from the Wanli period of Ming Dynasty, China 1573 – 1620). When Emperor Wan Li, last ruler of the Ming Dynasty was sitting on the Throne of Heaven between 1573 and 1620 Elizabeth 1st in England was contending with Mary Queen of Scots and other thorny issues.
Spectacular textiles made of silk, which were for centuries so valuable and precious a commodity that you could pay your state taxes with them in China has recently been the subject of an important exhibition at The Met New York, exploring their cultural significance. Textiles of this age are harder to secure and interest in this lovely work with lively decoration is evidence of an expanding interest by the Chinese in their own works of decorative art exported to the west for centuries.
As a young woman one of the local furniture makers who had gained a reputation for contemporary pieces was Grant Featherston an Australian designer whose designs from the 1950’s had already gained iconic status.
Interestingly at the Sydney Antiques Fair one of his original now iconic wing chairs based on an antique model will be on offer from Mooney Collectables.
Precious possessions sourced either internationally in London or locally through dealer members of the Australian Antique and Art Dealer’s Association (AA&ADA) of which I was a founding director are contributing to our age of recycling when it makes more sense to reuse and enjoy old furniture than ever before.
Through careful planning and clever purchase you too can have precious possessions, that will not only suit your needs, both emotional and physical, but also move with you from first flat to manor house, to cottage, and from youth into middle and old age.
Nineteenth century English poet John Keats (1795-1821) tells us, ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness’.
Simply irresistible…the arts, in all their forms, enliven our experiences, inspire our endeavour, expand our enterprise, shape our identity and contribute to our cultural well being.
See you at the Fair.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Thursday 10th September 11 am–7 pm
Friday 11th September 11 am–7 pm
Saturday 12th September 11 am–6 pm
Sunday 13th September 11 am–5 pm