27 September 2018

Notes on the Nude : A Year of Debate

This year has seen a number of arts institutions embroiled in heated debate over the exhibition ( or removal) of art featuring nude or naked bodies.

We take a look at some of the issues that have come to the fore, and muse on the surprisingly precarious position of 'the Nude' in contemporary discourse...

The 'Nude Police' turn gallery-goers away from a Rubens Painting, in a spoof video for Flanders Tourism Board

The first sign that 2018 might be a troubling year for the posed and partially clothed was the furore that greeted Manchester Art Gallery in January.

The Gallery decided to remove the popular Pre-Raphaelite painting 'Hylas and the Nymphs', (depicting several sensual, partially clothed female bodies) from it's walls.

The galleries action was not a permanent curatorial move, but rather a deliberate provocation and invitation to debate.

The temporary removal was part of a participatory exhibition in which visitors were invited to leave their thoughts on the painting (and its absence) on post-it notes in the blank space of the gallery wall.

The move prompted a furious backlash, with anger and derision moving from post-it notes to twitter to national news networks. Many believed the removal amounted to censorship, with the gallery accused of both Victorian prudishness and patronising political-correctness.

Whatever you may think of the decision - a debate was certainly begun , and the painting is now back on permanent display.

 As many social media platforms, including Facebook, have placed bans or restrictions on posts containing the artistic nude, users have reacted with confusion and fury.

In July, a canny PR team at the Flanders Tourism Board decided to capitalise on the multiple debates and disagreements that had played out over social media during the year.

The tourism board created a humorous video  of  'Nude Police' approaching and escorting away gallery-goers at Ruben's House in Antwerp to prevent them from gazing at the morally compromising figures of Ruben's famous nude figures.

The video and the subsequent tourism campaign , declaring 'Social Media Doesn't Want You To See Ruben's Paintings' was playful in tone, but raised some serious questions.

Debates over the nude in public exhibitions continue to rumble on in the UK press. This week The Royal Academy's planned exhibition on Renaissance Nudes was accused by The Telegraph of having 'a strict gender quota' on naked figures in response to the #metoo and #timesup movements.

Curators of the exhibition have denied any such influence, and have pointed to the widespread use of the male nude in art of the Renaissance.

The nude in art , particularly art on public display, has sparked debate throughout history. The social and political mores of the time have always been brought to bear on the discussion of these objects. It seems as if 2018 may be a critical and intriguing flash point in the reception of the artistic nude in our own time.

We've picked out some of the finest artistic examples of the nude in art objects currently both on display and on sale at here at Grays...

Detail from Yuri Klevtsov 'Nude' Oil on Canvas, 1970s. Available at Tabunov Antiques

Nikolay Kasevich 'Female Nude' Oil on Canvas, 1934.  Available at Tabunov Antiques

Silver and Enamel Mounted Jasper Box. German, c1680. Available at Peter Szuhay

Agate Cameo, Italian. Probably a 16th Century Copy of an Ancient Design. Available at Peter Szhuay 
Frederico Carasso 'Standing Nude' 1966. Bronze. Available at David Horton

Follower of Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Chalk on Paper, c1900. Available at Patrick Boyd Carpenter Fine Art

Anders Zorn 'The Two' Etching c1916. Available at Anita Gray

Meissen Vase with Two Panels of Cupid, c1880. Available at Serhat Ahmet 

20 September 2018

London Fashion Week Special: Bring on the Bows !

Models walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week 2018 for Emilia Wickstead (Left) and Erdem (Right)

Last week at London Fashion Week we saw various re- inventions of the classic bow. We saw rebellious edged feminine designs in jewellery and big couture houses like Chanel, Garrard, Gucci and Tiffany’s providing their own twist on the trend.

The bow motif is associated with the Rococo period : a lady clad in bows and lace epitomises traditional feminine elegance. The Rococo bow was a faithful and enduring adornment of women’s dress as fashion moved from stiff and formal, to loose and playful. It's ubiquity disappeared somewhat following the French Revolution, possibly because of it's association with the frivolity and excesses of the Ancien Regime.

The bow made something of a fashion comeback in the Victorian era as a representation of romantic feeling, and as part of growing sentimental yearnings for a vanished past. A past of chivalry and courtly romance seemed a long way from the smoke and smog of the industrial revolution. Perhaps it is not too hard to imagine the humble bow as a badge of protection against a rapidly changing social landscape.

With advances in jewellery making techniques the bow developed in the Edwardian period into a more elaborate and intricate style inspired by lace making and silk trailing ribbons. Geometric or fluid designs appeared as signature jewellery and personalised pieces.

In the 20th century the bow motif became a perennial favourite. Bows are constantly re-introduced and re-invented as classic pieces worn in alternative and imaginative ways.

The overt association of the bow with the feminine and the frivolous is a playful concept for the modern designer : they may lean in to it's traditional connotations , or subvert them in new and exciting ways .

Want to buy in to the bow ? We've picked up some breathtaking beauties available now at Grays...

A Platinum Mounted Bow brooch of Openwork Lace Design, Set with Brilliant and Rose Cut Diamonds. English c.1910. Available at Nigel Norman Fine Jewels 

Carter & Sons Geometric Bow Clip in Yellow and Red Tone Gold. American c.1940. Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 

Shaded Blue and Pink Sapphire bow Brooch Set in White Gold. Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 
A Pair of Amethyst and Diamond Earrings Topped with Miniature Bows Set in Gold. Victorian c.1870
Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 
Blue Enamel and Seed Pearl Brooch set in White Gold. Victorian.
Available at C & B Gems 

Natural Diamond and Sapphire Bow Pendant. Edwardian Period.
Available at Wimpole Antiques 


                                        Written by Titika Malkogeorgou September 2018

13 September 2018

Headbands, Tiaras & Hair Jewellery : The Grays Way

Designers and stylists have declared 2018 the year of  head and hair adornment...it’s time to shake off any shyness and invest in dazzling hair jewellery:  diadems, tiaras, and yes- crowns!

A Model at the Dolce & Gabbana Ready-to-Wear Fall 2018 Catwalk Show 

Contemporary crowns and tiaras have a different significance to the traditional royal adornment. Queens, empresses, and princesses of course regularly wear tiaras at formal evening occasions but the symbolism of the crown itself is more complex than you might think.

As symbols of betrothal, crowns can be thought of similarly to a wedding band in that their circular structure is a visual reminder of eternity and everlasting love.

Historically, headbands and hair jewellery offered a no-holds-barred approach to show of wealth and power. A lavish display is no more noticeable than when draped around the wearers head and hair, so the medium has historically been a splendid opportunity for the aristocracy to show off.

Tiaras were often given as wedding gifts, or to celebrate marital milestones and anniversaries. They are traditionally worn around the head or on the forehead as circlet. Tiaras can be standalone pieces, or part of a ‘Parure’.

A Parure is a group of two, three or more matching pieces of jewellery, such as a brooch, or earrings, bracelets and a necklace. The pieces can be worn all at once, or interchangeably.

The Parure became the leading embellishment in the courts of Europe in the 18th century. The French lead the extraordinary fashion for Parure at the court of Louis XIV. His artisans are credited with the most imaginatively conceived and highly skilled jewellery production.

Whether you are after a full Parure or a more low key head and hair adornment ; you will find a fascinating wealth of options at Grays!

Take a look at some of our favourites below …

Mid-Victorian Silver , Gold and Diamond Tiara Crown. Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 

Antique Diamond and Feather Tiara c.1906. available at Moira Fine Jewellery 

Diamond Floral Spray Hair Clip c1840. Available at Michael Longmore 

French Floral Spray Diamond and Blue Enamel Clip c1850. Available at Bellum 

Edwardian Gold and Diamond Tiara. Available at D B Gems 

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

6 September 2018

Travellers and Toddy Trees: A Vision of Colonial India

Guest & Gray are one of our most eclectic purveyors of fine antiques. Known primarily for their expertise in Chinese and European ceramics, their fascinating collection also holds a wealth of incredible works of art from around the world.

This week we're shining a spotlight on 14 Indian paintings on Mica (a transparent mineral resembling papyrus) dating from 19th century ...

'A Naatch, Girls Dancing before a Native of Rank', with seated figures at leisure, attendants, musicians and dancing girls all beneath a canopy in a palace courtyard

The Mica Paintings were originally part of a leather-bound volume produced by Indian artists for Europeans living and working in the sub-continent, particularly employees of the British East India Company. 

During the 19th Century The British Raj was at it's height of colonial power and influence, with historians estimating that up to 800,000 Britons resided during it's peak period. 

The paintings were produced by native Indian artists and so have some traditional elements of folk style, like the rich primary colours of native dyes and the expressive, almost geometric poses of the figures. These elements fuse with traditionally western modes of representation: note the focus on perspective, and the touches of classical style within the landscapes. 

The paintings are fascinating evidence of a hybrid culture at a very specific period in time. Whilst we may wish to draw conclusions about Indian traditions from the various scenes we see depicted here: we can never lose sight of the fact that they were produced for a western market. As such they may reveal more about how colonialists viewed India than India itself.

We've selected some of the most intriguing pieces from the collection below, the full 14 are available to view at Guest & Grays website.

 'The Hindoo Festival of the |Chut|', the foreground with figures carrying out rituals of holy bathing, accompanied by a crowd bearing baskets of prayer offerings along the riverbank

'A River Scene with Boats'

'A Dank Traveller', with four men carrying a figure in a litter, accompanied by a number of attendants

 'A Chouttaree, the Procession of an Offering Made to the Ganges on the Fourth Day after a Hindoo Marriage', the foreground with a procession of musicians on the left and a sword bearing figure leading a group of ladies on the right, with the walls and entrance to a palace in the background

'Toddy Trees and Female Patty Sellers' 

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