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10 Picks from The European Fine Art Fair

Paul Gauguin, Pair of Carved Wooden Shoes, 1890

Since TEFAF takes place in Holland, it's only appropriate that Dickinson Fine Art showed a pair of wooden shoes. These, though, are carved clogs from Brittany by Paul Gauguin, made in 1890 shortly before his trip to Tahiti. He was inspired by clogs worn by local Breton people. In fact, on the right shoe, you can see an image of a Breton woman; and on the left shoe, a flock of geese. A similar pair of clogs appear in several of his paintings after 1886. He wore this pair in Paris and Pont-aven, where he apparently caused a sensation. 



Vincent van Gogh, Moulin de la Galette, 1887

Dickinson, a gallery in London and New York brought a signed van Gogh painting, the 1887 Moulin de la Galette. “This is a painting that has everything,” said James Roundell, who works for Dickinson. Painted in Paris during the artist's transition from painting somber Dutch peasant scenes to brilliantly-colored post-Impressionist landscapes, this piece features a windmill in Montmartre. Shades of lime greens, yellows, and earthy browns surround a blue windmill, which matches the color of a shirt worn by a man bent over working slightly to the bottom right of the frame.

At the time it was painted, van Gogh (1853 - 1890) had just moved to Paris to live with his brother Theo, who encouraged him to emulate Impressionism. This was painted at the height of this conversion. Vincent van Gogh would end up painting a series of windmills in Montmartre. 

Presidential Pocketwatch, 1919

Something we'd buy if we could: the 18-carat gold, Presidential pocketwatch brought by Somlo Antiques. Made in Massachusetts in 1919 by the company Waltham, which provided similar watches to Abraham Lincoln, this watch is a symbol of gratitude. Presidents during the 19th and 20th century, usually upon the recommendation of the Secretary of State, would often recognize foreigners who saved an American's life at sea by rewarding them with a gold pocket watch, such as this one. Many times, these watches featured the seal of the president and an engraving with the recipient's name, and the reason for the award.

This particular golden watch was presented to the Captain of the Tug-Boat 'Champion', Henry William Webster, by President Thomas Woodrow Wilson. Apparently Webster assisted the US vessel of "Piave."


Edvard Munch, Two Reclining Women, c. 1818

Galerie Thomas of Germany brought a lovely Edvard Munch oil painting called Two Reclining Women. Created around 1918 or 1919, this intimate scene shows two women talking and resting beside one another on a bed. Munch (1863 – 1944) was comissioned by a university to make this painting, along with others, just shortly after he bought an estate in Ekely, where he lived basically until his death. 



Life-Size Busts of Moors, 17th century

Piva & Carl of Milan brought two sculptures of life-size busts representing Moors. Each stands a little less than 40 inches. Made by Santi Casarini, who was active in Venice in the late 17th century, these very well preserved, colorful marble Moors have ebony faces and wear pomp costumes of verona pink and yellow marble. Busts of Moors in these sorts of clothes and headdresses carved from colored marbles and other materials became increasingly popular during the 17th century and continued to decorate homes through the 18th and 19th centuries, showing one's sense of culture and travel. They make a great set and can be positioned to look just past one another. 



Marc Chagall, La Parade au Cirque (The Circus Parade), 1980

The William Weston Gallery of London brought a colorful lithograph by Marc Chagall (1887-1985) numbered 14 from an edition of 50. Marc Chagall was often inspired by the circus, which is apparent in both the composition and color of this piece. A man stands holding a violin on the top center. Below him, Chagall has arranged a circle of orange and green animals, and various figures dancing and flying, holding ropes of sorts. Behind the man with the violin, a faint audience washed with colors looks out towards us.  


Charles Nègre, La Tailleur de Pierre, 1853

Hans P. Kraus, who has been coming to this fair since its inception—and has historically up until a few years represented one of the only photo dealers—never fails to show the most exquisite photographs. This year, he has Le Tailleur de Pierre by the 19th century French painter and photographer Charles Nègre. It shows a man in a circular frame hamering away at something next to a ladder, with the edges slightly out of focus. 

Nègre's sense of composition makes this photograph beautiful, the way the latter comes down just slightly at an angle from the top left of the circular frame. Because it is a salt print made of collodion on a glass negative, or a handmade negative on glass, the photograph is particularly special and made with a sense of craftsmanship that barely survives in this generation of Instagrammers.

Schembart Book, 16th century

TEFAF has sculptures, drawings, paintings, silver objects, clocks, and antique furniture. It also has beautiful manuscripts that have been preserved since the 16th century.

Les Enluminures, which has galleries in Chicago, Paris, and New York's upper east side, brought a Schembart Book in its original binding, an illustrated manuscript on paper with 64 watercolor illustrations and 20 pen-and-ink drawings of minstrels and various medieval scenes. The book is almost 500 years old, and yet the reds, greens, and blues appear quite bright, with evidence of beautiful brush strokes washed across the back of outlined figures. There are only about 80 examples known of these Schembart Books, which marked some of the earliest records of costumes and floats of great medieval carnivals in Nuremburg.  




Blue dish from the Yuan Dynasty, c. 14th century

Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art Ltd. of Hong Kong and London brought a rare foliate rim dish decorated with a white relief dragon and three white clouds in a beautiful cobalt-blue glaze. Made during the Yuan Dynasty (1279 - 1368), this is one of three large dishes of its kind to exist and the only one on the market (the other two are in museums). The blue is what makes this dish so special. 



Johannes Verkolje, Merry Company in an Interior, c. 1670

Merry Company in an Interior
 is the best example of a Dutch Golden Age painting by Johannes Verkolje (1650 – 1693), who was known for his genre scenes, like this one. Born in Amstedam, though he later moved to Delft, Verkolje came from a family of artists and continued to pass that tradition onto his two sons.

This painting shows a scene of six rather happy people surrounded by a table in a fully furnished room: a soldier with his back to us tickling a sleeping woman with his plucked hat feather, a woman holding a small dog, a man about to pick up the dog from behind her, and another man holding a woman in the center. The woman is offering him wine, holding a small tankard with the lid open in his direction, a symbol of her sexual "openness." No one is looking at us. In fact, no one is looking at anyone else.  They look instead in the direction of the composition, some to the left, others to the right, and others down and diagonal. Everyone, even the sleeping woman, is smiling.

According to the Otto Naumann gallery, which is providing the painting, "Verkolje here employed common iconographic conventions that would have been immediately understood by his viewers for their moralizing overtones."  In the back right of the painting, for example, there is an overturned chair, which represents a "subtle warning against profligate behavior," such as the "commingling of young partners."