Ob­jects of de­sire

Clas­sic fur­ni­ture and sculp­ture are a tes­ta­ment to the en­dur­ing power of crafts­man­ship, be­lieves sculp­ture spe­cial­ist Milo Dickinson

Country Life Every Week - - Future Heirlooms - An­dreas Pam­poulides, Lullo Pam­poulides (020–7494 2551; http://lul­lopam­poulides.com)

ANY­ONE in the mar­ket for qual­ity pieces of clas­sic sculp­ture and fur­ni­ture with a rich and vi­brant his­tory will be happy to know that they’re easy to find and rel­a­tively cheap to ac­quire. Made us­ing ex­tremely tech­ni­cal skills that aren’t prac­tised to­day by artists who trained in rig­or­ous work­shop sys­tems, they are works of art that have stood the test of time and been lov­ingly and pur­pose­fully passed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion.

The most im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent for ev­ery pur­chase is love: whether you re­ally want to live with that ob­ject for the rest of your life. Th­ese are pieces with many sto­ries to un­ravel, such as the 18th-cen­tury Prus­sian am­ber chess­board Christie’s sold from the ba­ro­nial Scot­tish cas­tle at Blair Atholl. I dis­cov­ered that the chess­board ar­rived at Blair Cas­tle in se­crecy, sent by the Duke of Atholl’s son, Lord Ge­orge Mur­ray, from his hide­out in the Nether­lands, fol­low­ing his un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to de­pose Ge­orge I in the Ja­co­bite up­ris­ing of 1719. Imag­ine play­ing chess with your chil­dren or par­ents, know­ing that the pieces you held had a role in such a cru­cial mo­ment in Euro­pean his­tory.

In the Euro­pean Courts of the 17th cen­tury, ex­otic and rare ma­te­ri­als were highly de­sired and in­cor­po­rated into lux­u­ri­ous works of art. Re­cently, we have seen a re­newed in­ter­est in such ob­jects from the Age of Ex­plo­ration as younger gen­er­a­tions have come to ad­mire the ex­tra­or­di­nary abil­ity th­ese crafts­man had in shap­ing nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, such as lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, crim­son coral from the Mediter­ranean at Tra­pani or por­phyry from the Egyp­tian moun­tains, into mag­nif­i­cent works.

In sculp­ture, mod­ern eyes ap­pre­ci­ate an in­sight into an artist’s cre­ative mind and so ter­ra­cotta fig­ures and groups, of­ten work­ing mod­els for a larger pro­ject, have be­come more sought af­ter. In th­ese mod­els, you can of­ten get the sense of the sculp- tor work­ing with his hands, ma­nip­u­lat­ing the clay into dif­fer­ent forms, his fin­gers work­ing in uni­son with his brain.

£5,000 at auc­tion

For this amount, you could buy a large, high-qual­ity bronze by one of the pi­o­neers of an­i­mal sculp­ture in 19th-cen­tury France. Sport­ing bronzes by artists such as Pierre-jules Mêne, Rosa Bon­heur and Christophe Fratin were highly sought af­ter by the aris­toc­racy of Vic­to­rian Bri­tain, but, since the 1970s, have been out of fash­ion and now rep­re­sent re­mark­ably good value.

Re­gency Blue John urns, made from a semi-pre­cious min­eral mined in Der­byshire, can be bought for as lit­tle as £5,000 , al­though a pair would cost more, to sit ei­ther side of your fire as they do in houses such as Chatsworth and Kedle­ston.

£5,000 to £20,000

At this level, it’s pos­si­ble to find finely worked or­molu ob­jets d’art, such as wall lights and can­dle­sticks by artists work­ing in the new Ro­coco style of Jac­ques Caffieri, who was de­sign­ing for the King at Ver­sailles and Fon­tainebleau.

£20,000 to £50,000

A quirky but won­der­ful heir­loom is a 15th-cen­tury Not­ting­ham al­abaster carv­ing. I have de­lighted in th­ese ec­cen­tric scenes of the lives of saints and sin­ners since my fa­ther came home with a de­pic­tion of a serenely am­biva­lent but de­cap­i­tated John the Bap­tist dur­ing my child­hood. Th­ese rare sur­vivals from pre-ref­or­ma­tion Eng­land have gained in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent years, but can still be picked up for about £20,000.

£50,000 and above

Re­nais­sance and Baroque bronzes were made by the finest sculp­tors of the day for the pri­vate plea­sure of royal and noble pa­trons. Artists such as Gi­ambologna, Barthélemy Prieur and Mas­simo Soldani-benzi cast small-scale bronzes, de­pict­ing sub­jects full of drama or of the beauty and grace of pa­gan goddesses. They were meant to be held in the hand and ad­mired. The au­thor­ship of th­ese un­signed mas­ter­pieces passed down by word of mouth. Many such works can be pur­chased for less than a Pi­casso ce­ramic or a draw­ing by Tracey Emin.

Closer to £50,000, it is pos­si­ble to buy a com­mode or writ­ing ta­ble by the world-fa­mous Martin Car­lin (one of MarieAn­toinette’s favourite cab­i­net­mak­ers) or a glis­ten­ing Limoges enamel made at the height

of the High Re­nais­sance by cel­e­brated enam­el­lists such as Pierre Rey­mond or Léonard Li­mosin. Th­ese are ob­jects that could grace any mu­seum in the world and not look out of place, but in to­day’s mar­ket cost less than a new BMW. I know which I’d pre­fer to have.

An­other view

A beau­ti­ful lit­tle ivory head of the Je­suit mis­sion­ary Saint Fran­cis Xavier was carved by an un­known Philip­pine artist in the 17th cen­tury.

It’s a sym­bol of Euro­pean cul­ture and her ap­petite for dis­cov­ery at the time it was cre­ated. The head was for­merly part of a larger wooded sculp­ture carved for a church in the Philip­pines by lo­cal artists work­ing with or un­der the command of, in this case, Span­ish mis­sion­ar­ies. It’s one of the finest His­pano-philip­pine ivory heads I have ever seen and, given its size (about 4in high), is some­thing that I of­ten hold in my hands, feel the weight of and re­flect upon the en­vi­ron­ment it was cre­ated in.

I would love to keep it in my fam­ily as an heir­loom and as a con­stant re­minder of the com­plex­ity of our so­ci­ety and of the of­ten dark his­tory that shaped the world we cur­rently live in.

French or­molu­mounted bois sa­tine and ama­ranth par­quetry bu­reau plat in the Louis XVI style, af­ter Jean-henri Riesener

A bust of Milo of Cro­ton af­ter the model by Puget was sold by Christie’s in 2016 for $40,000 (£32,000), $10,000 over es­ti­mate

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