March 13, 2015

A Sèvres porcelain artist 'discovered'....

Thanks to the interested  Sèvres connoisseurs who contacted me to point out the slight problem with the following 'revelation': some-one else has already made the same 'discovery'!
10 years ago, David Peters published 'Sèvres plates and services of the 18th century' (2005) , in which he clears up the previous discrepancies about this artist & his mark. I'm pleased to learn this; it's like being at University again, with a master supporting my hypothesis! 

The lesson here is : do not believe everything you read on the internet; there is a lot of 'junk' out there without academic support. I'm just pleased that this post, although incorrect in describing a 'new' discovery, is still accurate & a useful description of how a researcher can still discover fresh insights into this fascinating field. 

Maybe next time I will be first.....

Paul Rosenberg, April 2015.

February 27, 2015

Exhibition & Catalogue Update

Set of Meissen 'Seasons' busts, c. 1755
We’ve been burning the midnight oil at Moorabool….. literally. Our 2015 Exhibition is now scheduled for March 28, and the lavish catalogue is well underway - just an endless stream of photographs, research, and information to insert.

With over 500 items, spread out over 64 pages, there is a fantastic variety of quality items - for all budgets.

We delayed the catalogue to include an extensive collection of porcelain pickle dishes from an Australian collection. Amassed over many years, it is a comprehensive array with almost all known English pickle-dish makers represented.

Rare Limehouse pickle dish, circa 1747
There’s Limehouse, Isleworth, Vauxhall, Bow, Plymouth, Bristol, Liverpool (various….) Derby, Caughley - and of course, pleanty of Worcester!

We’re very pleased to be able to offer this collection, and they will have their own dedicated website in the very near future. If you’re interested in anything, make certain you are signed up to our mail list: we will let you know when the Pickle Collection is online, and of course there are the other 500 pieces of ‘Fresh Stock’ about to be launched….. 

January 22, 2015

A Remarkable Discovery

There’s ‘rare’ and then there’s ‘supremely rare’. These bottles illustrated here belong to the ‘Supremely Rare’ catagory, particularly the smaller engraved one.  

Brought in to Moorabool by a local, they were family pieces, handed down through several generations with origins in Holland, and the Dutch East Indies Company. 

These wine bottles are of typical mid-17th century form, although in a vivid emerald green colour rather than the more often-seen deep black/green. My assessment was: nice early pieces, a few thousand dollars worth. But something was nagging the back of my mind; looking back through some photos taken at the Victoria & Albert Museum ( late last century!) I realised why the engraving was familiar; I had admired & photographed one there. 

Theirs was signed & dated, and sure enough, this example bears a tiny engraved signature, “WillemVan Heemskerk” and the date - 26th February 1677!

Willem Jacobz. van Heemskerk (Leiden, 1616-93) was actually a cloth merchant, but in his spare time he practiced the art of caligraphy - using diamond-point engraving on glass vessels. His verses are described by the authorities as ‘pithy’ - often biblical, or drinking toasts, often with a touch of humour. "The lamp of life is but a vapor” reads one, while others appeal to the mercantile Dutch sensibilities: "Eat silently", i.e. keep quiet when making gain, and "He who brags about his success, often loses his gains” , both quotes from a Statesman of the time, Jacob Cats (1577-1660).

The bottle we have is a very charismatic piece, and needs to be handled to truly appreciate the beautiful (as yet un-translated) script. However, it has now been locked away in a very safe place, as I will explain:

The real shock came when I looked up auction prices…. they head into the 6-figure range!

Our example is comparable to this one, sold at Christies in 2013:

It seems there are only around 80 of these beautiful pieces known, and they are considered to be the most desirable of their kind. The Rijksmuseum has 25 of his works, while the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam has 8; the Getty has 1, the V&A has one, and our own National Gallery of Victoria here in Melbourne has a clear glass goblet by him, purchased in 1989.  

Moorabool is very excited to be able to offer this rarity, along with its simpler un-engraved relative, in our 2015 ‘Recent Acquisitions’ Exhibition.   

The best way to enjoy it is to have a look at the video I have posted on YouTube.


January 18, 2015

A Tournai Bacchus group, c.1765

A Large Tournai figure of Bacchus & his merry band, Circa 1765.

Measuring almost 40cm high, this is a very large piece of 18th century porcelain. Modelled in the round, it was intended as a table-piece, to be placed in the center of the table. Bacchus sits astride a barrel raising his cup, accompanied by several cherubs….. rather young to be drinking! One is raising a small glass, while the other is filling a bottle from the bung of the barrel. Moving around the figure, there is a semi-clad woman with a basket of pears….. what her significance is I am not sure, but she doesn’t appear to have a drink: another cherub is approaching her around the rock pile, holding up a bottle while riding a goat backwards; clearly under the influence!

The central Bacchus with the barrel & the child filling the bottle is a good recreation of a Meissen model, by Johann Joachim Kaendler, circa 1745. (Moorabool had one such group in the late 1990’s). The rest is the creation of the Tournai artists, who were particulary skilled at creating an ‘island’ of rocks on which the figures are placed, along with foliage to soften the composition; in this case, there are grapevines growing rampant. 

Unmarked, it links clearly to other pieces attributed to the porcelain works at Tournai, such as these examples in the Victoria & Albert Museum, South Kensington;

This amazing piece is a part of Moorabool Antique Galleries ‘Recent Acquisitions’ Exhibition, to be held in our Geelong premises in March 2015.