24 October 2018

Something Wicked: How the Imagery of Macbeth Shaped Our Halloween Traditions

What better way to prepare for the seasonal festival of Halloween than to revisit Shakespeare's darkest tragedy: we take a look at the enduring imagery of Macbeth ...

19th Century Watercolour by George Cattermole 1800-1868. "Macbeth."

Halloween (also known as 'All Hallows Eve') is a yearly festival on the 31st of October, the eve of All Hallows' Day.

The Gaelic Pagans  held the yearly festival to be a time when the walls between our world and the next became thin and porous, allowing spirits to pass through. These pagan traditions were particularly strong in Ireland and Scotland : which may have been one of the reasons William Shakespeare chose to set his darkest supernatural tragedy Macbeth (1604) in the Scottish Isles.

The sense of a 'curse' or evil energy attached to the prose and performance of Macbeth has led to the infamous tradition that bad luck will befall those who speak it's name aloud. Actors in the theatre are instead encouraged to refer to 'The Scottish Play'.

The wild and windswept Highland setting was also chosen by Shakespeare to appeal to the new King James I of England, also King of Scotland, who ascended to the throne in 1603, uniting the English, Irish and Scottish Crowns for the first time.

King James was a patron of the arts , but also curiously preoccupied with the supernatural (even for the seventeenth century!) The King had published his own treatise on witchcraft, Daemonologie (1597) in which he reveals a highly developed fear of black magic and the power of sorcery.

James' fears were symptomatic of an age in which bitter struggles between Catholics and Protestants across Europe created a climate of religious mania and political paranoia. One of Shakespeare's greatest strengths was his ability to tap into the psyche of his contemporary audience: yet Macbeth's  famous witches, ghosts and wild hallucinations have maintained their intensity for over four centuries.

Many of the most recognisable and well-worn Halloween tropes come straight from Macbeth: an eye of newt, a bubbling cauldron...Of course Shakespeare drew on old traditions, but his 'Song of the Witches'  has amplified the image of The Witch in popular culture like no other single piece of art or literature.

Both the Gaelic pagans and Shakespeare's Jacobean audience would have believed that the period surrounding 'All Hallows' was the time when spirits were most likely to appear: and the power of the witch was at it's strongest. It is during this annual festival that we allow ourselves to be a little less skeptical and take a little more seriously the power of charms and spells- if only for fun !

With this in mind, we've found some ingredients from Grays for our very own witches cauldron to summon up the spirit of the season ...

Sterling Silver 'Witch' Salt and Pepper Pots, Available at Marina Oriental Art 

Toe of Frog : Vienna Bronze Frog, 1890, Available at Maraid Antiques 

Fenny Snake and Adders Fork : A Contemporary Enamel and Diamond Snake Bangle Available at Moira Fine Jewellery, A Georgian Ourobos Bangle Available at Rowan and Rowan 
Lizards Leg: Silver and Paste Lizard Brooch c1890, Available at Peter Szuhay 
Wool of Bat: Deco gold Bat Brooch With Ruby Eyes, available at Alfred Toro 

Charm: Victorian Charm Bracelet, Available at Spectrum 

Tongue of Dog: Vienna Bronze Miniature Daschund Pair, c1890, Available at Maraid Antiques 

Owlet's Wing : Owl Carved in Amber, 20th Century, Available at Amber Fortuna 

Cauldron: Burmese Silver Bowl, 19th century, Available at Joseph Cohen 

18 October 2018

Marina Oriental Art : The Dealer Behind The Objects

Marina Oriental Art is one of the finest and most well established Asian Art specialists in London...

The dealership is run by Marina Kokhan, a trained classical historian well versed in the visual cultures of (to name a few !) Japan, China, India and Ancient Greece

Working for many years as a museum curator in Moscow, Marina became particularity passionate about Japanese Art. Her specialism is the Meiji period; world renowned for it's beautiful intricacies, and of which she holds some of the rarest and finest pieces in existence.

Marina, please tell us what is so special about Japanese Meiji?

Japanese Meiji is highly collectable. And there’s good reason for it. First of all, it encompasses a very short historical period. It refers to objects made during the Meiji Period which lasted between 1868 and 1912. Everything was carefully hand made by incredibly skilled craftsmen. During that time there was no copying, and only a limited amount of objects were created. At the same time there’s huge variety in terms of materials used because it encompasses art work from every field; bronze sculpture, miniatures like netsuke and inro, metalwork, armour, lacquer, ceramics, silver, porcelain and enamel objects. Beyond technical virtuosity, of course, stylistically the art and design of the Meiji Period is hugely desirable because it's so elegant. And that’s why prices are quite high. But it’s a very specialised and a very niche market.

How did you find yourself here at Grays?

All of us who have an expertise in the field know each other; collectors, dealers, designers and historians. That’s why it is important to be based at Grays. It’s a place with tradition and reputation. Trust is very important in our work because we are trading with authentic objects. It is also marvellously well- located in Mayfair. There is a waiting list for dealers to be given a shop at Grays- I was on that waiting list once!

How does Japanese Meiji Art relate to you?

I worked for many years at the State Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow. It’s a museum in an incredible building with an astonishing collection. I loved my role there and as it was life changing: it focused my energy and knowledge on the Meiji Period. I admire the creativity and quality of Meiji art. And it’s a great privilege to work with such fine pieces. That's where my expertise lies and it will continue to be my life's work. I started working in the private sector, as many of us did, during the Perestroika movement. In 1992 we opened the first Gallery of Oriental Art in the centre of Moscow, just down the road from the Kremlin. We were based within a section of the vast State Museum building and the Gallery still exists today. It was my personal life that brought me to London.

How do you find trading from Grays?

I am very happy here. People know me and I am well established. I have lots of new customers and I still keep in touch with designers and collectors I used to work with in Moscow. I get a lot of compliments about my stock which gives me confidence in my work. I have my regular customers and others who come to Grays to look for something special. Today I sold a particularly fine piece of silver and enamel Meiji art...

Interviewed Thursday 13 October 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou

Although it's hard to select only a few: here are some of our favourite pieces now available at Marina Oriental Art,  Grays...

Meiji Period Silver Shibayama Carving and Encrustation Small Decorative Tray in the Shape of a Fan, late 19th century, Japan.

Meiji Period Satsuma Painted Ceramic Vase, late 19th century, Japan

Meiji Period Shibayama  and Enamel Metal Box, Late 19th – Early 20th century, Japan

Meiji Period Metalwork and Enamel Tray signed Kinza, late 19th century, Japan

Meiji Period Metalwork and Enamel Tray (underside) signed Kinza, late 19th century, Japan

One of a Pair of Ceramic Vases, 19th century, China

Meiji Period Metalwork and Enamel Miniature Pair of Vases, late 19th century, Japan

Meiji Period Metalwork and Enamel Large Vase, Late 19th century Japan

Left: Boxwood and Lacquer Netsuke Dog, late 19th century, Japan
Right: Boxwood and Lacquer Netsuke Sleeping Boy, late 19th century, Japan

11 October 2018

Art Deco: A Glamorous Pastiche

Ever- popular, evocative of an atmospheric age, glamorous, over -done, under appreciated: whatever you think of  'Art Deco' it is a style which refuses to stay quiet...

What would Zelda Fitzgerald, Fashion-forward author and Chronicler of the 1920's-wear today ? Imagined by Elle Magazine 

Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty first, interior designers, architects, fashion designers and stylists have consistently referenced and re-invented Art Deco- a characteristic style which first took off in the early 1920's.

Perhaps one of the reasons so many fall in love with Deco is it's nature as a style with a story : it crystallises the great changes in politics, aesthetics and society which were brewing before the start of the First World War.

Fundamentally a style of the mid-war period: Art Deco borrows ideas and methods of production from the Modernist movement. Fauvism, Cubism, De Stijl, Futurism and Contructivism . It appropriates serious elements from all of these styles without losing its sense of wit and characteristic self - consciousness.

As a style it embraced visual arts, architecture and design in its many forms. Luxury and function became its trademark. Folkloric traditions that had inspired earlier artistic movements were superseded for technological progress.

Faith was in the new and the exotic, so an extensive use of chrome, steel and new plastics as much as silver, platinum, diamonds and jade created a new sensibility which explored themes of luxury and modernity.

As with many things pre-war : Deco's  philosophy and application was challenged in the 1940's. It's strong character began to seem formulaic and it's values disingenuous.

The artistic style which had defined an age came back in fashion with a bang in the 1960's, and was  re-established as an enduring global design movement. It was in this period of re discovery that the term 'Art Deco' was in fact coined.

Dynamic, geometric, colourful and always glamorous remains suggestive and highly desirable today.

Today we've narrowed down the wonderful and fabulous world of Deco in the visual arts to a few carefully chosen luxury Jewelled pieces, now available at Grays

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou
Deco Emerald and Diamond Clip, Available at Moira Fine Jewellery

Deco Sapphire and Deco Ruby Bracelets, Available at Moira Fine Jewellery 
Deco Diamond and Sapphie Drop Earrings, Available at Saul Greenstein 

Deco Onyx and Diamond Ring and Deco-style Diamond Domed Ring, Available at Wimpole

Deco French Lacquered Japanese Style Bracelet, Available at Pushkin Antiques 

Deco French Aquamarine Pendant, Available at Boris Sosna 

Deco Long- Chain Necklace with Fire Opal and Platinum, Available at Matthew Foster 

6 October 2018

Patrick Boyd Carpenter: ' It’s a Proper Old Fashioned Antique Shop...'

When Patrick Boyd Carpenter moved to Grays Antiques, it was 1986 and he was only 19 years old. Previously, he was running a successful business dealing in contemporary art in The Church Gallery on Bryanston Street, Marble Arch. Obsessed with art and antiques; he bought his first antique object, a case of taxidermy birds, when he was just six years old. We paid a visit to his shop at Grays to find out more ...

Clockwise from top left : Mid 19th.Century Victorian Watercolour Portrait of a Young Scholar: 19th Century Victorian Watercolour of a scene from Hamlet, attributed to Philip Francis Stephanoff : 18th Century German Wax Relief Portait of Karl Anselm : 1970's Acrylic on Panel 'Three Dancing Figures' by Jessica Gwynne. 


Patrick, please tell us:  why Grays ? 

Well, Grays is the best place for antiques! In those days there were still several antique markets of course. But Grays was always the best, and there was a waiting list to get in. I was interviewed by Bennie Gray. He asked me if I had reserve stock before considering me for a space, because stock was selling so fast. And it was very busy. The antiques business has changed a lot over the years.

In what way would you say the business has changed ?

I moved from dealing in contemporary art to antiques early on following the closure of The Church Gallery in 1988. You have to follow the market; today I deal in a completely different type of item than I used to. I used to specialise in antique prints and English watercolours. They fell out of fashion, though I have noticed that the watercolours are beginning to rise. Items I sold years ago, I am happy to buy back. Luckily, I have many private collectors who are often willing to part with choice items. I also make a good living by buying ‘auctioneers mistakes’. Mis- catalogued items. Just between you and me, many auction houses are not the experts they pretend to be!

That’s very exciting!  What do you like to buy ?

I buy anything I like that’s handmade and good quality from the last five hundred years. And I travel everywhere, though nowadays the items tend to come to me. I just bought an amazing collection of Eduardo Paolozzi sculptures. He was an extraordinary figure within British art. He was a Scottish artist of Italian heritage, who lived in Paris, and was established in Chelsea. Influenced by Giacometti and the Surrealists, now much of his work is exhibited at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It’s a remarkable addition to my stock I am very happy about.

How would you describe your collection ?

I buy from the gut. I buy what I like and what I can afford. That way you don’t lose. In terms of stock, I’ve got a good selection, Master drawings, sculptures, oils, textile, and prints. I am one of the last of the general high quality antique dealers.  I sell in my Grays shop and on social media.  Everybody comes to W1 and people know that I am here.  Whenever I have new stock come in – my customers are quick to pick up on it and it usually sells quickly. But you’ve got to put a bit of yourself into the business. Some of the time I am a therapist to customers. I know people come here to talk to me. And maybe they buy the item they are interested in too!

Tell us what do you personally most like?

My collection is British and European art, and I particularly like drawings. I feel it’s the brain on paper. I like the immediacy. The preparatory drawing is often more spontaneous than the finished work.

May I say that I really like this owl painting, would you tell me something more about it ?

It’s a 1920s oil painting of a Tawny Owl by Lodewijk Van Der Steen 1891-1954, circa 1928. A really unusual subject. I like to have something for everyone in the shop. No one should leave empty handed, and this is one great painting of an owl!

Interviewed Tuesday 25th September 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou

Feast your eyes on some of the fabulous, fascinating and eclectic items available right now at Patrick Boyd Carpenter Fine Art...

Emma Raimbach 1810-1882 Watercolour double portrait Signed and Dated

Eleazar Albin Hand Coloured Copper Engravings Early 18th Century From The Natural History of Birds. 1st Edition

George Thomas Paice 1854-1925. Oil on Canvas "Zebba" 1913

16th Century Carved Limewood Madonna by Franconia, Follower of Tillman Reimenschneider

Sir Eduardo Paolozzi Maquette for 'Camera' c.1878

Medieval Manuscript Page.14th.Century. Calligraphy on Vellum

Denis William Reed R.W.A 1917-1979. Oil on canvas. The Minstrel.

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