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If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
collected by Mark Golodetz

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Even though I had been told before I left for TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) in Maastricht, The Netherlands, that it was arguably the premier antiques show in the world, nothing prepared me for what I saw when I arrived the first day, jet lagged and grumpy. I was immediately enthralled by the row upon row of booths with quite literally the finest objects available on the marketplace today. About 275 dealers had gathered in the town of Maastricht (two and a half hours from Amsterdam, a little closer to Brussels). They brought with them their treasures, many of which had been set aside for the show. The range was extraordinary; if you wanted a picture, you could choose anything from an Old Master to a work on which the paint was barely dry. And there was plenty to choose from within the specialties; one afternoon I counted no less than six paintings by the Dutch Old Master Jan van Goyen.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
The quest was similar to previous “If I had $1Million” articles, except this time the budget was a million euros (approximately $1.35 million). As before, the ground rules—not always strictly followed, were: two of the four objects chosen had to be outside the participants’ expertise and one object had to be in a more affordable range, in this case, €25,000 or less. Over the next four days, the team uncovered such treasures as a rare fifteenth-century Japanese helmet, a Picasso vase, a fifteenth-century scroll depicting the history of the world, and a pair of Amsterdam School chairs. The hardest part was whittling down the selections to just four.

Michel Witmer is a collector of modern art based in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is also on the board of TEFAF.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Auguste Herbin (1882–1960), Composition Cubiste, 1917. Watercolor and gouache on paper, 33 x 50.5 cm. Signed and dated lower right: A Herbin août 17. Courtesy of Galerie Berès, Paris. Priced at €130,000.

TEFAF remains unquestionably the world’s greatest venue for art collectors, and I go there knowing that I will have opportunities for both learning and acquiring. I learned to collect as a child, and attended art auctions with my parents constantly. The previews were more important than the actual auctions; there we studied, learned, and planned our collecting strategies. Fortunately, it was instilled in me that I can never really be an owner of great art, only its caretaker.

Every year at TEFAF, Galerie Berès showcases the finest paintings of the French Cubists. This year they had a vibrant watercolor by Auguste Herbin (1882–1960), a true Cubist gem. The Paris studio of Herbin was next to those of Picasso and Braque, whose Cubist paintings now fetch millions of euros, while the works of Herbin earn a fraction of that. In 1913, Herbin began painting pure analytic Cubism, the grandfather of abstract art, and by 1917, he had moved to his geometric phase. The work on sale at Galerie Berès, priced at €130,000, was one of his earliest 1917 geometric abstractions, and demonstrates his easy mastery of the genre in the challenging medium of watercolor.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), Vase Deux Anses Hautes, 1953. Ceramic, H.15 in. Courtesy of Galerie Thomas, Munich. Priced at €19,800.

I grew up with a colorful Pablo Picasso drawing in my room, and always enjoy seeing the Picasso works available for purchase at TEFAF. Picasso (1881–1973) experimented with all mediums. He personally produced over a thousand works in ceramic. His legendary fondness for the female form was conveyed in a robust vase seen at the Galerie Thomas booth. I liked his use of the classical two-handled vase to portray the form of a woman. Her petite facial features and voluptuous body were subtly seductive. The bold brushstrokes that defined her pretty face and nude body gave this ceramic work the quality of a great Picasso painting but at a cost of only €19,800.

The Birth of Mary offered by Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel, was a tour de force of seventeenth-century carving. Setting this scene in an opulent Baroque interior, the anonymous artist skillfully carved swags of fabrics, wood, fur, food, architectural elements, fire, and more. Dainty fingers point out from smooth hands and arms clothed in flowing fabric so deftly carved that it seems unimaginable that it is actually wood. Even with its overwrought Baroque sensibility, each element is balanced by another like an abstract composition. The animated dog pulling the tablecloth and the recoiling cat add a whimsical character. The carving was priced at €350,000.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
The Birth of Mary, 1600s. Carved and gilded wood. Courtesy of Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel, Bamberg, Germany. Priced at around €350,000.

One of my favorite galleries to visit at TEFAF is Rudigier Gallery from Munich because of their fascinating array of unusual objects from courtly palaces. The royal courts of Milan and Prague commissioned some of the finest works of decorative arts during the eighteenth century. A small nativity scene painted by an unknown master artist on rose rock quartz crystal sparkled like a magnificent jewel [not illustrated]. An elegant cast of characters dressed in exotic costumes leans gracefully forward to gaze at the newborn Jesus. Spectacular in its opulence, yet small and refined, it was painted in reverse, a challenging technique, with tiny details and a tasteful palette that included gold leaf and black. Priced at about €265,000.

Ron Bricke is the owner of Ronald Bricke and Associates, one of New York’s top design firms.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
A Chinese terracotta camel, Tang Dynasty, circa A.D. 618–907. H. 34, L. 69cm. Courtesy of Vanderven & Vanderven Oriental Art, Hertogenbosch, Holland. Priced at €130,000.

Getting to Maastricht from Paris is enjoyable and fast. A departure from Gare de Nord, a swift comfortable ride on the TGV, and two and half hours later I’m in Liege, just a short taxi ride from TEFAF. In the taxi I had trepidations—I only had €1 million to spend at the best antiques show in Europe and perhaps the most expensive show in the world. Would I be able to afford my choices?

Walking into the vast hall drenched in white tulips, the first turn brought me to Vanderven & Vanderven Oriental Art, and a Tang Dynasty kneeling camel, circa 618–907. This terracotta “Ship of the Desert,” retaining a few traces of paint, sported a small monkey sitting on the saddlebag and shielding his eyes from the sun on the Silk Road. The smooth, languid form of the camel was offset by the articulation of the monkey’s fur and gesture. It was mine for €130,000.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Aesthetic movement drop-leaf table by E. W. Goodwin, circa 1872. Courtesy of the Fine Art Society, London. Priced at €225,000.

I’d covered a third of the show’s booths before I found the next piece. At the entry to the Rupert Wace Ancient Art booth was an Eastern Roman Empire acanthus leaf capital, almost abstract in form and highly organic, yet organized [not illustrated]. The capital’s profile resembled an impossibly stylized headdress. Here I spent €25,000.

At the PaceWildenstein Gallery, the smallest pieces of art in the booth commanded my attention. An assertive, dark, two-piece sculpture Maquette for Monumental Sculpture VII, 1977—was executed by and acquired from Russian-born American sculptor Louise Nevelson (1899–1988). I have always wanted a Nevelson, so, how could I resist this intimate, powerful example of her art. For €130,000, I “purchased” it.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), Maquette for Monumental Sculpture VII, 1977. Welded steel. 23-1/2 x 11-3/4 x 9-1/2 in. Courtesy of PaceWildenstein, New York. Priced at €130,000.

Near the end of my journey through the show I found the object for which I was looking. An Anglo-Japanese drop-leaf table by English aesthetic movement architect and designer E. W. Goodwin, circa 1872. The lightness of this table is overwhelming. It seems to exist in the imagination, not substantial enough to hold together; its fragile fittings, thin wood, delicate latticework, and the refinement of its gilt brass braces, supports, and shoes, create a total harmony. Until recently, it had been used as a telephone table in a house in the English countryside. After the death of its owner it came up at a small country auction with an estimate of around €800. Experts quickly recognized it and bidding was fierce before the Fine Art Society purchased it for a lot more than its original estimate. Another example is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum in New York. This one was worth its €225,000 price tag.

Even with €1 million the choices were difficult, but what a nice dilemma!

Mark Schaffer is a director of A La Vieille Russie, antique dealers founded in Kiev in 1851 and specializing in European and American antique jewelry, Russian works of art, and Fabergé.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Chronique universelle (universal chronicle), French, circa 1450, with illuminations by the Master of Etienne Sauderat. Parchment scroll. 60 ft. 4 in. x 21-3/4 in. Courtesy of Dr. Jörn Günther Antiquariat, Hamburg, Germany. Priced at €280,000.

The challenge to spend a million euros at TEFAF Maastricht was twofold—the obvious one of choosing four items from such an incredible selection, and the added twist of finding two pieces from outside my field. For a dozen years now, A La Vieille Russie has been exhibiting here, and each year the fair has presented not only a range of antiques rarely seen back home, but also dazzling Old Master pictures and modern art. As I made my selections, I tried to choose antiques that both reflected what our European hosts had to offer and mirrored the artistic diversity available. Of course, as a dealer, my purchases must ultimately appeal to someone else as well.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Gold and diamond cross. Spain, 1600s. L: approx. 1-3/4 in. Courtesy of Deborah Elvira, Castellón, Spain. €20,000.

The sight of a large scroll drew me into Dr. Jörn Günther’s booth. On examination it turned out to be even more fascinating; it was a sixty-foot long fifteenth-century French chronique universelle on parchment recounting the history of the world from the Creation to the reign of King Charles VI of France (1368–1422), supplemented with a description of the reign of Charles VII. The narrative was illustrated with sixty-five illuminated miniatures, including Noah’s Ark, The Last Supper, and various royal portraits. The basic text was not unique, but a version this richly illuminated can only be found in library collections. Although not easy to display, it did not seem excessively priced at €280,000.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Seven-piece porcelain garniture of Kashmir palette. Delft, circa 1700. Heights: 25-3/4 in., 25 in., and 23-1/8 in. Courtesy of Aronson Antiquairs, Amsterdam, Holland. €480,000.

Secreted in the back of the venerable Aronson Antiquairs’ booth was a luscious Delft porcelain garniture made around 1700. These seven pieces of various shapes, recently reunited, would provide impressive decoration for a sideboard or mantel. The red and blue Kashmir palette, used to portray the beautiful floral and bird decoration, particularly attracted me. A significant investment at €480,000, but worth it for something with such extraordinary visual impact.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Gilt leather wall hanging (detail). Workshop of Nicolaas Blankert. Amsterdam, 1735–1740. 11 ft. 11 in. x: 4 ft. 7 in. Courtesy of Kunsthandel Glass, Essen, Germany. 47,000.

The unusual medium for artistic expression offered at Kunsthandel Glass has long fascinated me. Who knew that gilt and polychromed leather was used so extensively for wall decoration? My eye fell on a Dutch example from the early eighteenth century, when this technique was already waning. The elaborate flowers and foliage, stunning against their gilt background, stopped me cold. Later I learned that my selection had been illustrated in the show catalogue—it’s always nice to have one’s taste endorsed by experts in the field! €47,000 sounded fair.

Finally, closer to my own field, in the category of under €25,000, the Elviras offered a seventeenth-century gold and diamond cross pendant. The style was clearly early Spanish, and closer examination revealed the typical diamond cut and settings that owe a debt to earlier Renaissance jewels. The piece is pretty and wearable, and, importantly, at €20,000 offers a wide audience the opportunity to own a charming example of jewelry from the 1600s.

Mark Golodetz is a regular contributor to Antiques & Fine Art. He writes about furniture and his first love, wine, for the Wine Enthusiast magazine.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Jean-Jacques Feuchère (French, 1807–1852), Mephistopheles, ca. 1830s. Signed Feuchère. Bronze. H: 31-1/2 in. Courtesy Robert Bowman Gallery, London. Priced at €280,000.

Some pieces draw you in the moment you lay eyes on them, and you know you want them; others sneak up on you, and slip insidiously into your consciousness, where they niggle away at you until you give in and make the purchase. My four pieces were evenly divided between the two, and interestingly, all four were outside my field of expertise—English furniture. Booth after booth offered such goodies, I happily trotted around the fair enjoying its incredible diversity. But I did have a job to do, and so, armed with plenty of coffee, I set out to find my first piece.

I saw it almost immediately in Robert Bowman’s booth; a magnificent bronze of Mephistopheles by French sculptor, Jean Jacques Feuchère (1807–1852), conceived by him in the early 1830s. This is a bigger version of his 1834 Salon plaster of Satan, its larger size contributes to its impact. I fell for its extraordinary power and the vulnerability conveyed in this figure lost in self-pity and regret. His heavy wings have been transformed into a shell refuge and form a backdrop for Feuchère’s exquisite modeling that captures the poignancy of the fallen angel. The psychological power of the work clearly moved Rodin thirty years later. Early sketches of his Thinker all hearken back to this figure, and only his final sketches did he transpose the limbs into the now familiar pose. An immediate purchase at €280,000.

If I had ¬1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Henri Le Sidaner (1862–1939). Le Palais Blanc-Automne, Venise. 13-1/4 x 16 inches. Courtesy of Richard Green Gallery, London. Priced at €115,000.

On my way out, I stopped at Richard Green’s booth and saw hanging there a small but stunning sketch of Le Palais Blanc-Automne, Venise by Henri Le Sidaner. It haunted me for four days before I succumbed and put it on my list. The colors glow on the paper, a shimmering mélange of blues, apricots, beiges, and pinks. The delicacy of the medium seems perfectly suited to Le Sidaner’s gentle style, and deftly captures the shimmer of trees, water and their reflections. Not a blockbuster, but a subtle, beautiful painting that I was happy to take for €115,000.

A couple of years ago, for the inaugural “If I had $1 million” article, I chose a Corinthian helmet, won over by it’s slightly alien, sculptural presence. Good as it was, it did not begin to have the impact of the incredibly rare Japanese samurai helmet I found at Peter Finer’s booth. Dated to around the beginning of the seventeenth century, a time when weapon makers were experimenting both with foreign designs and decoration, this particular helmet was a happy combination of the two. The design is based on a Portuguese hat, embossed with gilded (and to its wearer, auspicious) flying dragons swirling through clouds. It was in extraordinary condition, still bearing traces of the original lacquering, an unusual green. An object rare and special enough to have pride of place in a museum collection. Priced at €330,000.

If I had €1 Million collected by Mark Golodetz
Japanese helmet, circa 1590–1640. Courtesy of Peter Finer Gallery, London. Priced at €330,000.

Finally, I searched for my sub €25,000 piece. One would think it might be hard to find much at TEFAF in that range, but high quality does not always need to be expensive. I toyed with some pieces of Dutch miniature silver and a Chinese dragon that was making goo-goo eyes at me before I settled on an ancient Chinese vase [not pictured] from Dries Blitz’ booth, seduced by the proportions, the wonderful old surface, and the Art Deco feel to the decoration created a mere couple of thousand years before Art Deco. The vase originated in Sichuan, and at one time was considered quite rare, but a series of recent finds made it, if not exactly common, at least affordable. This vase is a top example as it was slightly larger than normal, and the surface was especially fine. At €7,500. I even toyed with the idea of actually bringing it home.

Mark Golodetz is a contributing editor to The Wine Enthusiast and also consults for corporate and private cellars. He can be reached at MarkGolodetz@aol.com. He is a regular contributor to Antiques & Fine Art Magazine.


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