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Demons and Dragons

 

The Animalia theme of this year's San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show is by no means limited to the scientifically documented real world. Darwin may not agree but mankind's imagination is responsible for some of the most gorgeous and fascinating creatures to populate the world of the decorative arts. It is no coincidence that almost every culture, style or period has produced its own version of a demon, dragon, or other monstrous beast.
Whether these depictions were actual early efforts at documenting fossilized remains of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals, or symbolic expressions of evil (i.e. satan) or one's own heroism (i.e. the great warrior that slays the dragon) meant to strike fear into the hearts of enemies, we can all agree on the continuing fascination we have with these mythological beasts. Case in point: they remain a fixture in our world of entertainment to this day. Here are some examples from the past:

From Janice Paull:
One of a pair Mason's Ironstone China Alcove Vases, decorated in the Table & Flower Pot & Scroll patterns, circa 1815-20. Mason’s often used dragons and hydras – a giant snake-like monster, with its origins in Greek mythology -  on their ware.

 

 

From Lang Antiques:
This gorgeous Art Nouveau enamel and freshwater pearl pin and/or pendant, circa 1900, shimmers with a sizable freshwater pearl (13.86 by 11.5 millimeters) closely guarded left and right by a pair of vigilant griffins (or dragons), and crowned - with a pearly crown.

 

 

From Peter Finer:
A Brescian engraved and gilt cuirass for use by the papal Swiss Guard, circa 1623-44. Look closely and you will notice that the bold symmetrical pattern of scrollwork streams from the mouth of a demon mask below the neck. This distinguishing grotesque mask and arabesques engraved onto the blued steel of this cuirass characterize a series of decorated half-armours made for the Papal Swiss guard in the first half of the seventeenth century.

 

 

From Patrick & Ondine Mestdagh:
A pair of wooden corbels (one illustrated) representing Baku (mythical tiger elephants), early Edo Period. Japanese, 17th century.
Provenance: Spink & Son, London, old collection.

 

 

The Baku, otherwise known as the dream eater, is a mythological being or spirit in Chinese and Japanese folklore which is said to devour nightmares. The Baku cannot be summoned without caution, however, as ancient legends say that if the Baku is not satisfied after consuming the nightmare, he may also devour one’s hopes and dreams..... Good night!:)

 

 

 

 

Lee Bontecou at Hackett Mill

 

The Animalia theme for the 2016 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show was chosen because it is fanciful, and playful, intriguing and timeless - and includes the kingdom of all animals. It is a subject that has been interpreted in just about every discipline, technique, and material throughout time and it is relatable to everyone - modern and traditional, antiquities to contemporary. Mankind has always been fascinated with the beauty and mystery of the animal kingdom, creating symbolism and meaning, and the Latin word Animalis literally means “Having Soul”. 

An excellent example of this soul – however fierce, powerful and dark it may be – is Cruel Bird (1957/2005), a brazed and welded copper, terra cotta, cement and steel sculpture by Lee Bontecou at Hackett | Mill, a first-time exhibitor at the show.

 

 

Lee Bontecou is an abstract sculptor best known for her reconciliation of sculpture and painting. She studied at the Art Students League in New York and made a prolonged visit to Rome from 1956-1958 on a Fulbright Scholarship. While in Rome, Bontecou experimented with sculptural materials and techniques including welded steel and terra cotta. When Bontecou returned to New York she established her reputation through the creation of sculptural reliefs that challenged the artistic conventions of both materials and presentation. She is best known for her web-like constructions of found objects (including recycled canvas, conveyor belts and mail sacks, among other objects) attached to a welded steel frame around a central oval void, which were then hung on the wall like paintings.

 

Working in a style of abstracted figuration, Bontecou created a number of animal forms in terra cotta in her early career. These animals, many of them birds, are highly cubistic. Cruel Bird (1957/2005) is constructed from industrial materials that challenge its subject matter. Bontecou mixes and manipulates unexpected materials, resulting in a work that is at once mechanistic and organic, imposing and elegant.

 

 

In 2010 the MOMA presented a retrospective of Bontecou's work. Bontecou is collected by major museums worldwide including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art and many others.

Hackett | Mill, founded by Michael Hackett and Francis Mill, presents rare works from the 1950s and 1960s by important American, European, and Asian artists. The gallery focuses on historical movements that took place in the mid- twentieth century including American Modern, Post-War Abstract Expressionism and California/Bay Area Figurative Art. Michael Hackett and Francis Mill each bring over twenty years of expertise and education in fine arts. Through their shared passion, Hackett | Mill represents a unique experience with art that is both scholarly and inspirational.

Claws, paws and hooves

 

Furniture based on the anatomy of wildlife dates back 3,000 years to the animal-worshiping Egyptians, whose beds stood on carved bull legs, gazelle hooves or lion feet. Four-legged beasts also influenced the design of chairs and tables of the Greeks and Romans, who used them for strength as well as decorative detail. The hoof or pied-de-biche foot, carved to reflect the natural appearance of an animal such as a deer or horse, appeared in fine furniture at the end of the 1600s.
The ball & claw design on the other hand was most likely derived from the Chinese: a dragon’s claw grasping a crystal ball, or a pearl, or sometimes a sacred, flaming jewel. In Chinese mythology, the dragon (Emperor) would be guarding (with the triple claw foot) the symbol (ball – for wisdom, or purity) from evil forces trying to steal it. Another interpretation is that the ball symbolizes a polished river stone being held firmly by a crane, who stands diligently over her nest. English cabinetmakers are credited with transforming the dragon’s claw into a bird’s talon or a lion’s paw; the lion representing English authority. Here are a few examples of various claws, paws and hooves that can be be seen at the upcoming show.

From epoca:
An elegant French Maison Baguès 1940's gilt-bronze coffee/cocktail table with ram's head caps ending in hoofed feet and Carrara marble top.

 

 

From Yew Tree House Antiques:
An impressive 19th century English country house entrance hall table standing on hairy lion paw feet, with a striking green-veined marble top.

 

 

From Clinton Howell Antiques:
A superb set of eight George II carved mahogany dining chairs with carved cabriole legs terminating in ball and claw feet. English, Circa 1750.

 

 

From Daniel Stein Antiques:
A fine Regency mahogany and ebony inlaid serving table, featuring columnar fluted supports headed with superbly carved lions masks and terminating in paw feet, circa 1825. 

 

 

From Roberto Freitas American Antiques:
A Massachusetts Chippendale carved mahogany serpentine-front chest of drawers with cabriole legs ending in ball-and-claw feet, circa 1780-1785.

 

Man's Best Friend

 

A dog is a man's best friend? Well, if the animal's popularity is anything to go by, perhaps that's true; according to the American Kennel Club, there are more pet dogs in the USA than there are people in Britain.

The statement that Dog is man's best friend was first recorded as being made by Frederick, King of Prussia in 1789. Frederick referred to one of his Italian greyhounds as his best friend. The earliest citation in the U.S. is traced to a poem printed in the The New York Literary Journal, Volume 4, 1821:

The faithful dog - why should I strive
To speak his merits, while they live
In every breast, and man's best friend
Does often at his heels attend.

The 2016 San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show is a great place to make few new such friends.

From Antonio's Bella Casa
Left: Pair of rare circa 1840 Roman Carrara marble hounds. 
Right: Pair of  19th century hand-thrown English terracotta poodles on raised bases, from the East Hampton estate of Lee Radziwill

 

 

From Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge
Left: English  Berlin wool needlework picture of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, circa 1840-60
Right: Bradley and Hubbard Company, Meriden CT cast iron Boston Terrier  doorstop, circa 1920

 

 

From Lang Antiques and Estate Jewelry:
14K golden-coated Irish Setter pin

 

 

From Peter Fetterman Gallery:
Elliott Erwitt (United States, b. 1928)
New York, [Great Dane, Chihuahau & Boots], 1954
©Elliott Erwitt/Courtesy Peter Fetterman Gallery

 

Georg Jensen silver at Gallery 925

 

San Francisco's Gallery 925 offers a finely curated collection of pieces by Georg Jensen, fine antique and 20th century silver.

Owner Rachel Prater was introduced to Georg Jensen silver at the age of 11 when her mother took her to the Georg Jensen store on Madison Avenue in New York: 
“My vivid recollection was of being awestruck over the fantastic unique jewelry, modern sleek lines in silver with bold stones as well as the naturalistic designs of the Arts and Crafts era. Seeing the holloware with its "moonlight" glow just made my eyes glisten with joy. As we were leaving, my mother said, "This is not just silver to wear, use and enjoy: it is an art form, like fine sculpture." How right she was!”

Here are a few pieces currently on offer at Gallery 925:

Left: Georg Jensen sterling silver centerpiece bowl by Allan Scharff
Right: Georg Jensen modernist sterling silver candelabra by Soren Georg Jensen 1960

 

 

Left: Georg Jensen 830 silver large keepsake box from 1918
Middle: Georg Jensen sterling silver rose bonbonnière from 1919
Right: Georg Jensen 830 silver keepsake box with amber finial from 1918

 

Fabulous Felines

 

Felines in all shapes and sizes have been a popular object of adoration and fascination long before the internet came along. In ancient Egypt, cats were celebrated in hieroglyphic paintings, ceremonial objects, and famous monuments such as the Great Sphinx of Giza. They were even worshipped as deities with figurine images. In Greek and Roman art, cats were symbols of freedom and independence. They were commonly represented in mosaics, statues, paintings and tombstones.
Things took a turn for the worse in the Middle Ages, when cats (especially black ones) were often seen as symbols of evil or witchcraft in Europe and Colonial America. Their bad reputation did not travel to the East however: cats in China and Japan were happily portrayed in scenes of nature and daily life as woodblock prints. The Renaissance and Enlightenment brought hope for these elegant creatures, as well as eternal life - renowned masters such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Albrecht Durer, and Rembrandt included cats in their work.
In the 21st Century, it is clear that our fascination with the feline family endures. From the humble house cat to the roaring lion, from the fierce panther to the imposing tiger, cats large and small have been interpreted in just about every style and medium. Here are a few examples from the upcoming show:

From Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge:
A charming Dutch tin-glazed earthenware tile Picture of a cat, Makkum, 20th century. The six tile picture depicts a cat seated on its hind-quarters with its tail curled through its looking forward. 

 

 

From Antonio's Bella Casa:
A superb early 1600's Florentine Carrara marble lion fountain head, mounted on a custom iron stand.

 

 

From Antonio's Bella Casa:
A circa 1815 Roman wood sculpture of a lion on a faux-stone plinth, with a beautifully carved face and mane with vibrant 22k gold gilding. 

 

 

From Arader Galleries:
From left to right:
Felis Jaguarondi (The Yaguarundi), 1883
Felis Javanesis (the little red-spotted cat), 1883
Felis Viverrina (the fishing cat),1883
These magnificent cats are from one of the finest color plate works on mammals, one that describes and illustrates all the species of Cats known at the time of publication - Daniel Elliot’s work entitled A Monograph of the Felidae or Family of Cats.

 

 

From Los Angeles Fine Art Gallery:
Leopard Cubs by Cuthbert Edmund Swan, English School 1870-1931, oil on canvas, signed.

 

 

 

The Los Angeles Fine Art Gallery highlights early 20th century Belgian Art

 

Established in Los Angeles in 1979, the Los Angeles Fine Art Gallery has grown into one of the West Coast's premier art galleries. Its curators are specialists in Lowlands paintings with a specific interest in Belgian Art 1880-1930. Here are a few choice examples:

Jean Van Den Eeckhoudt (1875-1946) was a Belgian Realist, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist painter of portraits, figures, landscapes and still lifes. Van Den Eeckhoudt traveled numerous times to the South of France in 1905 and met with the French Fauvist painter Henri Matisse. This meeting meant the beginning of an evolution to Impressionism and later onto Fauvism with vibrant colors. 

Arbre devant la mer à Rocquebrune
Oil on canvas, signed. 24” x 29.5”, 35” x 40” framed.

 

 

Frans Gailliard (1861-1932) can be placed among the masters of Luminism alongside Emile Claus and Théo Van Rysselberghe. Early on in his career, Gailliard’s works were exhibited internationally, including in Paris, Venice, London and Barcelona. It was thanks to these experiences that he developed an intense friendship with Renoir. Fascinated by Renoir’s work, Gailliard departed from the Brussels academic style and adopted Impressionism.

Sur le lac
Gouache, signed. 42” x 45”, 48” x 51” framed.

 

 

Frans van Holder (1881-1919) was born  in Brussels, Belgium. A Post-impressionist painter, he is known for portraits, genre and landscapes. He studied with his father, A. Cluysenaar, and at the Academy de Saint-Gilles. Van Holder traveled to Italy (1905), Spain (1906) and Switzerland. His work is in the musea of Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, and others.

A quiet corner of the garden
Oil on canvas, signed and dated 1918. 20” x 27.5”, 27” x 35” framed.

 

 

Maurice Wagemans (1877-1927) was a realist painter and draughtsman of landscapes, seascapes, still lifes and beach scenes. He received his artistic education at the Academy of Brussels from 1890 until 1895 under the tutorship of Jean Portaels and Jean Stallaert. He completed his studies in Paris together with Alfred Bastien and Frans Smeers, where he was influenced by the works of Henri Fantin-Latour and Edouard Manet. Wagemans debuted at the Salon of "Le Sillon" in 1900 and received his great breakthrough in 1902 at the "Salon of Ghent" for his work "La Dame en gris". He participated in the famous exhibition of Galerie Georges Giroux in Brussels in 1912. His painting evolved under the influence of Marcel Jefferys and Rik Wouters toward a more luminist Impressionism. 

Still-life with poppies
Oil on canvas, signed. 28” x 24”, 39” x 35” framed.

 

Joel Cooner presents The Inspiration

 

Painting in the style of the Old Renaissance Masters, Nova Scotia-based artist Lindee Climo's inspiration springs from the farm animals that she has always surrounded herself with and raised. The subjects are surrogates of well known religious or historic scenes in which animals take the place of the existing figures and the result becomes an often irresistible, sometimes humorous event.

The Joel Cooner Gallery is proud to bring to this year's show her work The Inspiration (After Nicolas Poussin, Inspiration of the Poet, 1630).
Year: 1995
Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 41 x 36 inches
In Joel's words: 
This is a terrific painting, heraldic and romantic, well exhibited in two museum shows and published in an exhibition catalogue by Salomon Grimberg (Current expert of Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington).

 

 

As the artist herself explains: “To my mind, there is not a lot of difference between growing a living thing and painting it, in terms of overall conscious plan, time, and the time after. Both undertakings always override the plan because creativity, nature, and accident exist, and they both demand time without limits if the project is from the heart. After a living thing is grown and after a living thing is painted, there is always the need to do it again just a little differently, or a lot differently, but always to do it again. For me, seeing growth makes life meaningful.”

Are Unicorns Real?

 

The unicorn is a legendary creature that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a large, pointed, spiraling horn projecting from its forehead. Unicorns are not found in Greek mythology, but rather in the accounts of natural history, for Greek writers of natural history were convinced of the reality of unicorns, which they located in India, a distant and fabulous realm for them.

In European folklore, the unicorn is often depicted as a white horse-like or goat-like animal with a long horn and cloven hooves (sometimes a goat's beard). In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it was commonly described as an extremely wild woodland creature, a symbol of purity and grace, which could only be captured by a virgin. In the encyclopedias its horn was said to have the power to render poisoned water potable and to heal sickness. In fact, in medieval and Renaissance times, the tusk of the narwhal was sometimes sold as unicorn horn.

These lovely creatures – real or not – are beautifully represented on the center panel of this Pennsylvania German dower chest, dated 1778. 
Dealer Roberto Freitas describes:
This chest was made for Johannes, or "Hannes", Derr, one of Berks County's earliest pewterers, and was passed to his son Peter Derr, who worked in iron, brass and copper. James F. Spears first recorded this chest and the other furnishings of the Derr family house in Berks County in his book “The House of Derr”. In that volume, Spears interpreted the numerous religious and mythological symbols of the chest. He suggested that the five panels represent the fifth Sunday following Epiphany; Matthew, 17th chapter states "Let us make here three tabernacles, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias." The center panel depicts unicorns rearing up for battle in front of an "olaf baum" or olive tree, the symbol of peace. Most other chests of this period substitute a tulip tree for the olive tree. Spears notes that the painting of the outer front panels depicts tulip trees supporting the orange-crimson flowery crowns of royalty, and that in this detail the chest is "peculiarly singular, for unlike any other known chests, it very definitely links Germanic Pennsylvania with the House of Orange and Brunswick" (p. 84). The date of 1778 is also pertinent to the painted decoration, as this was the year the coat-of-arms of the State of Pennsylvania, designed by Caleb Lownes, was adopted. The motifs are very similar, and the state seal depicts two horses rearing up against a shield with an olive branch and corn stalk.
Close parallels to the symbols and painted motifs are found in other area decorative arts, including stove plates, textiles, and other dower chests. This chest relates closely to several other chests found in the vicinity of the Derr house and of Belleman's Church in Tulpehocken Township. 

 

 

From Lang Antique and Estate Jewelry, we see fine jewelry depictions of this legendary animal.
On the left: a magical mythical unicorn brooch crafted in rich 18 karat yellow gold. The unicorn is serenely seated with a luxurious textured coat. A small diamond adds a little sparkle as well as tiny ruby eyes.
One the right: a richly detailed and beautifully crafted whimsical unicorn pin sparkling with 2.00 carats of round brilliant-cut diamonds and an emerald eye. 

 

 

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Applied Sciences proves that unicorns did actually exist — though, not as pretty horses with pearly white manes, wings, and horns. Thanks to a newly discovered skull fossil found in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan, we now know that the unicorn - or "Elasmotherium sibiricum" - roamed the planet roughly 29,000 years ago and looked more like a rhinoceros than a horse. Bottom line? Unicorns are real!

 

Birds of a Feather...

 

Birds of a feather flock together – at least at The San Francisco Fall Art & Antiques Show they do, as there will be bird depictions in just about every art, medium and style. From the wise owl, sacred to the Greek goddess of learning Athena and a symbol of status, intelligence and wealth, to the statuesque eagle, representing freedom, victory and spiritual quest, there's something here for just about every budding ornithologist. Here's just a few examples:

From epoca:
A well-executed circa 1980 American bronze head of an eagle, signed Charles Beecham (1922- 2012), with listed works in the Smithsonian Art Museums. The turned head and regal gaze with forceful curved bill above a well delineated plumed body along with the warm patination to the surface make for an excellent and iconic piece.

 

From Lebreton Gallery:
A selection of pieces by renowned French artists François-Xavier Lalanne (1927–2008).
On the left: Oiseau d'Argent, a lighted brushed aluminum table with folding wings. circa 1990. Signed. Edited by Artcurial, Paris. 
In the middle: Pigeons, a pair of brushed aluminum candle holder birds, circa 1990. Signed, Edited by Artcurial - Paris.
On the right:
Grande Cocotte and Petite Cocotte, black stoneware cache-pots, circa 1990.

 

From American Garage:
A late 19th century exceptional one-of-a-kind folky full-bodied hand-formed tin cockerel rooster weathervane with a cookie cutter crown, exaggerated beak and flamboyant tail, all in original red, white and blue surface. 

 

From Antonio's Bella Casa:
A signed 1964 Modernist bronze sculpture of a crow by German-born American artist Bruno Groth (1905-1992). Exceptional patina and tremendously expressive. 

 

 

From Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelry: 
On the left is a delightful owl brooch, a gorgeous example of French fin-de-siècle jewelry. Its nuanced design deftly balances naturalism and sleek stylistic interpretation. Finely fashioned, each of the huge eyes is a brilliant white 1.0 carat diamond.
On the right is a one-of-a-kind 1950's Cazzaniga brooch featuring a whimsical bird sitting on a flowering branch set with a 12.5 carat cabochon sapphire as its body and a 2.0 carat cabochon ruby as its head. Superb hand-work combining four different colors of gold in varied textures and finishes demonstrate the sophistication of Cazzaniga’s metal work. Four pear-shaped rubies accented by fine white diamonds make up the floral elements on the branch, and additional brilliant diamonds adorn the plumage. 

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