1. Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664)
Saint Francis in Ecstasy Adoring the Cross
Oil on Canvas - 193 x 129 cm
The Matthiesen Gallery
Photo : The Matthiesen Gallery
The TEFAF in Maastricht, year after year, continues to live up to its reputation as the most important art fair in the world. This is quite obvious for old masters, and even the 20th century (also contemporary art) is very well represented if we are to believe our fellow journalists, specialized in these fields.
Although the Paper section continues to struggle in its attempt to establish itself as a major reference for old master drawings (there are some major offerings, but they are rare), visitors will notice that more and more dealers on the ground floor are also showing graphic arts. A look at the first floor is nevertheless a must as the Van Gogh Museum has lent, for the occasion, some of its most beautiful sheets by the artist.
Listing an ever increasing number of works can at times be a bit tiresome. We will therefore look only at a few paintings and sculptures here, in a wholly arbitrary manner . This will be compensated by greater attention than in previous years to decorative arts which we had mostly overlooked until now. In any case, this article aims above all to encourage our readers to get on the train  or a plane and visit this exceptional grouping of art objects which lasts only one week, until 24 March.
2. Rutilio Manetti (1571-1639)
Elias Resuscitating the Son of the Widow from Sarepta
Oil on Canvas - 174 x 154 cm
Photo : Caylus
We have already spoken on another occasion of TEFAF 2013 when mentioning an acquisition made by the Rijksmuseum. Dutch museums, despite the crisis, appear to be active since the Mauritshuis also acquired a painting (to be discussed in an upcoming article). As for the large Isabey painting which we included in our selection, it was purchased on opening day, or almost, by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal and we will also look at it in a specific news item.
Two 17th century Italian canvases are particularly impressive due to their size and quality. The first, at Matthiesen’s, is an altarpiece by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (ill. 1). A work such as this is extremely rare since we know of only one other religious work by Castiglione of the same size, residing at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The former provenance of this Saint Francis in Ecstasy before the Cross is not documented. The gallery had already sold it a first time in 1981 to the Barbara Johnson Foundation which then parted with it.
The second is on offer at the Madrid gallery, Caylus : this is a painting with a Caravaggesque influence by the Siennese artist, Rutilio Manetti (ill. 2). We could of course also have chosen, at this same gallery, a Vision of Saint Anthony of Padua by Alonso Cano.
3. Attributed to Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630)
and Trapani, Sicily, c. 1745
Joshua Crossing the Jordan River
Marble - 44.5 x 103.5 cm
Sicilian Jasper, Gilt and Silverplated Copper,
Silver, Mother of Pearl, Coral and Glass
117 x 138 cm (frame)
Photo : Galerie Kugel
4. Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)
Spring, the Julienne Seasons, c. 1710-1711
Oil on Canvas - 44 x 54 cm
Photo : Galerie Coatalem
Amid paintings, decorative arts and sculptures, the Kugel gallery presented its centerpiece on a stand, a painting on marble attributed to Antonio Tempesta, with a luxurious frame of a later date produced in Trapani, Sicily, around 1745 (ill. 3). Made up of Sicilian jasper, gilt and silverplated copper, silver, mother of pearl, coral and glass, this object was indeed worthy of a royal commission. It was probably offered as a present by the king of Naples Charles III to Pope Benedict XIV (his arms appear on the pediment). Still in the 18th century, before returning to the previous one, we would point out at Eric Coatalem’s, a painting by Antoine Watteau, the only one of the Julienne Seasons (ill. 4) to have resurfaced.
5. Emmanuel de Witte (c. 1617-1692)
The Interior of a Catholic Church
Oil on Canvas - 171.3 x 136.8 cm
Otto Naumann, Ltd
Photo : Otto Naumann, Ltd
6. Balthasar van der Ast (1593/94-1657)
Still Life of Fruit, Shells with a Rose and Insects
Oil on Panel - 36.5 x 50.5 cm
Koetser Gallery Ltd.
Photo : Koetser Gallery Ltd.
Unlike previous years, 17th century French painting was a bit disappointing, with no really spectacular works. This is however not the case for Northern European painting of this period. Jean-Luc Baroni presented a large cartoon for a tapestry by Jacob Jordaens (Ulysses and Nausicaa). Otto Naumann displayed the biggest and no doubt one of the most beautiful paintings by Emmanuel de Witte (ill. 5), a true marvel in which the spectator is at a loss in determining what is most beautiful, from the transparency of the stained-glass windows to the light playing on the recumbant funerary figure in the foreground.
Another masterpiece, this time a still-life, by Balthasar van der Ast, can be found at the Koetser gallery from Zurich (ill. 6).
7. Matthias Steinl (1643/44-1727)
Pluto and Proserpina, c. 1690-1700
Ivory – H. 26 cm
Photo : Blumka Gallery
8. From the circle of Germain Pilon
Head of Christ
Terracotta with polychrome marks
Galerie Longari Arte Milano
The Blumka Gallery had already exhibited the superb ivory statuette by Matthias Steini representing Pluto and Proserpina (ill. 7) last year. These serpentine figures sculpted in marble reflect his virtuosity but few ivory works by this major figure of the Austrian Baroque remain .
At Longari Arte, Milan, a terracotta head of the dead Christ (ill. 8), no doubt a project for a sculpted group, recalls the art of Germain Pilon : notably, the Louvre holds several works which might be associated with it including Christ, Resurrected for the Valois chapel, a study for the recumbent funerary figure of Henri II as well as a Christ in the Tomb attributed to the artist’s circle with less refined facial traits than those found here.
9. Cabinet painted by Isaac van Oosten (1613 - 1661)
Antwerp, c. 1640
Ebony - 66 x 86 x 40 cm (closed)
Lowet de Wotrenge Fine Art - KD Art
Photo : Lowet de Wotrenge Fine Art - KD Art
10. Franz Egidius Artz
Beethoven’s secretaire, c. 1815
191 x 108 x 61 cm
Pelham Galleries Ltd
Photo : Pelham Galleries Ltd
11. Franz Egidius Artz
Beethoven’s secretaire, c. 1815
191 x 108 x 61 cm
Pelham Galleries Ltd
Photo : Pelham Galleries Ltd
Maastricht also draws the local public, and the dealers have it in mind, thus explaining the offerings of several 17th century Antwerp cabinets, whose exterior severity only heightens the pleasure of the viewer when opening them. The one offered at Lowet de Wotrenge Fine Art - KD Art reveals landscapes by Isaac van Oosten, calm and silent, barely enlivened by a few human figures (ill. 9). On occasion, the art market offers some of the artist’s compositions on copper, in the vein of Jan Brueghel de Velours.
As for the Neo-Classic Viennese desk on show at the Pelham gallery (ill. 10 and 11), it conceals musical pieces, not paintings. This secretaire, known as "Beethoven’s", plays an abridged version of his The Battle of Vitoria, composed by Beethoven for Johann Nepomuk Maelzel on request to celebrate the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon’s army on 21 June 1813 ; the mechanism is identical to the one at the Panharmonicon invented by no other than Maelzel and of which there is unfortunately no example. Other musical pieces include notably Rule Britannia and God Save the Queen. The designer of this furniture piece was Franz Egidius Arzt, born in Vienna in 1756 where he is documented as being a clockmaker. There are two other known desks bearing his signature, one at the University Museum in Leipzig and the other at the Musée des Automates Seewen in Switzerland.
12. Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806)
Bureau plat Belonging to Prince Murat
Mahogany, Gilt Bronze, Leather - 70.5 x 179 x 95.5 cm
Photo : Galerie Perrin
13. Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967)
Judge table et Reader’s table, c. 1960
Teck – 29.2 x 127 x 54.2 cm
Galerie Axel Vervoordt
Photo : Galerie Axel Vervoordt
Walking through the stands, visitors looking for furniture will be sure to appreciate the contrasts, ranging from a Riesener flat desk or bureau to another by Pierre Jeanneret ; from the refinement of Louis XVI to the functionality of Chandigarh.
At the Galerie Perrin, we duly admired the elegance of Oeben’s student and successor, who in the second half of the 18th century, lightened the bronzes on his furniture and abandoned marquetrie for a more understated mahogany veneer. This bureau (ill. 12), more sober than the one the cabinetmaker produced for Louis XVI, stands out however due to its particularly large size, its provenance as well, since it belonged to Prince Murat whose collection was sold in 1961. The château in Versailles holds a bureau which, though it no longer has its bronzes, shows many similarities to this one.
At the Axel Vervoordt gallery, an immense table was produced at Chandigarh (ill. 13), a modern city built by Le Corbusier as of 1951, after Indian independence in 1947. He worked in collaboration with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret who lived there from 1951 to 1966 and designed buildings as well as furniture adapted to the architecture, which was supposed to be functional and affordable, produced by local craftsmen with materials found in the region, essentially teakwood. Care was not always taken in preserving this furniture, consequently many pieces show signs of deterioration, others have resurfaced on the art market and Chandigarh has still not been included as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
14. Meissen, c. 1724-1725
Decor by Johann Gregorius Höroldt (1696-1775)
Photo : Galerie Röbbig
15. Augsbourg, 1751-1753
Gottlieb Satzger (master 1746-1783)
Toiletry set Belonging to Johann Friedrich Karl von Ostein,
archbishop and prince-elector of Mayence
Photo : Galerie Neuse
In the case of art objects, the 18th century expresses itself here in all its facets and materials : bronze, vermeil, porcelain. At Robbig’s, a travel set in Meissen porcelain, packed in a leather case is made up of six cups - two of which are not original - and their saucers, a teapot, a coffeepot, a finger-bowl, a tea box and a sugar bowl (ill. 14). The ensemble presents a Chinese décor produced no doubt between 1724-1725 from models assembled by Johann Gregorius Höroldt (1696-1775) in a valuable collection known today under the name of "Schulz Codex" and held at the Museum für Kunsthandwerk in Leipzig. The teapot and sugar bowl bear the mark "KPM" (Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur) used in Meissen after December 1722. Elsewhere, the Augsburg mark for the years 1722-1726 and the master craftsman "EA" for Elias Adam reminds us that starting in the 1710’s, the Meissen factory was in touch with the Augsburg goldsmiths which it commissioned to produce settings for its porcelain pieces.
In fact, it was in Augsburg that the impressive toilettry set in vermeil by Johann Friedrich Karl von Ostein, archbishop and prince-elector of Mayence between 1743 and 1763, was produced (ill. 15). It has no less than thirty-nine pieces - ewer, basin, scissors, flasks, mirrors, flatware...- produced by specialized craftsmen, particularly Gottlieb Satzger, one of the city’s most famous goldsmiths.
16. Venise, Mastro Domenico
Spherical Vase, c. 1560
Majolica – H. 34 cm, D. 34 cm
Galerie Enrico Caviglia
Photo : Galerie Enrico Caviglia
17. Paris, c. 1350
Chest with Courtly Scenes
Cuir bouilli on Wood, Polychromed and Gilt,
Brass Hinge - 13 x 31 x 22 cm
Galerie Brimo de Laroussilhe
Photo : Galerie Brimo de Laroussilhe
Of particular note there is also at Enrico Caviglia’s a spherical vase, or boccia, a pharmacy object produced by the workshop of Domenico da Venezia, in majolica around 1560 which stands out for its décor (ill. 16) showing two figures, a reclining female nude and a Roman soldier on horseback, incorporated into the exuberant polychrome décor "a fiori", not isolated inside medalions nor presented as busts, as is generally the case.
From majolica we move on to a square leather chest at Brimo de Laroussilhe’s, produced around 1350 in an astonishingly fine state of preservation (ill. 17). The décor reveals a succession of couples elegantly standing under a three-lobed arcature between small columns, against a checkered diamond shaped background ; they present the different aspects of courtly love, the game of chess, gallant conversation, the lover’s crowning...all the scenes found on ivory chests while the minuteness of the copper work recalls that in illuminations. The very precious character of this object would indicate a prestigious patron behind the commission, perhaps the Duke de Berry. This chest is rather similar to the one residing at the Deutsches Ledermuseum in Offenbach.
18. Edgar Maxence (1871-1954)
Breton legend, 1906
Oil on Canvas - 150 x 221 cm
Jack Kilgore & Co., Inc.
Photo : Jack Kilgore & Co., Inc.
19. Pasko Vucetic (1871-1925) and
Viktor Kovacic (1874-1924)
Oil on Canvas - 49.6 x 50 cm
Frame : 88.5 x 88.5 cm
French & Co
Photo : French & Co
After this walk through the stands offering art objects, we return to paintings and sculptures with three particularly remarkable objects dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The first is an impressive canvas by Edgar Maxence (ill. 18). Painted in 1906 and exhibited that same year at the Salon des Artistes Français, this painting (it should be reproduced with its original frame) is one of the masterpieces here. The scene is probably drawn from an unidentified legend, unless the painter himself created an imaginary story. We see a field of standing stones, menhirs and dolmens, at night under a full moon and malevolent looking elves ; we recognize a woman as the Fairy Queen, talking to a young peasant girl from Brittany, visibly uncomfortable with the prediction she is hearing. We would very much like to see this painting join a museum collection in Brittany.
Another Symbolist painting, in combination with its sculpted frame, makes for a very fascinating though frightening object (ill. 19), and is presented by the New York gallery, French & Co. This a work by the Serb artist Pasko Vucetic (for the canvas) and the Croatian Victor Kovacic (for the frame), entitled Hate and Folly, inspired from a poem, Il Canto del Odio, published in 1877 by the Italian writer Olindo Guerrini, known under various noms de plume including that of Lorenzo Stecchetti. It represents a man who has become insane, after having dug up the skeleton of a woman (seen on the frame) he had spurned in life ; her skull in hand, he is screaming out in horror. The painting could no doubt have been included in the current exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay, L’Ange du bizarre.
20. Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Mask of Savage (Self-Portrait ?)
Patinated Plaster - 25 x 18.5 cm
Photo : Yates-Trebosc-van Lelyveld
We conclude this review with a less disturbing (then again...) sculpture by Paul Gauguin (ill. 20), probably a Self-portrait in plaster presented by the galleries Yates and Trebosc-van Lelyveld, showing in the shape of a mask a figure depicted in one of his paintings Hina Te Fatou, today at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The work, which was also produced in painted ceramics (Saint Denis de la Réunion, Musée Léon Dierx) was the only one Gauguin wished to see in bronze. There exist two casts today, one of which resides at the Musée d’Orsay.