The Winter Show 2019

As we rapidly head towards the end of the year, we are busy planning our stand at the Winter Show. The image you have clicked on was taken of our stand in 2016 when it won best of show.  That being the benchmark we try to aspire to every year, we are of course working hard to come up with a fresh idea for the show next year.  We wouldnt want to give the game away but rest assured, we have a few ideas!

 

What is it for?

Delightful & Usefull but what was the top used for?

In the eighteenth century many of the pieces made were done so on a commission basis. On occasion, this now results in us buying a piece whose purpose has been obscured by time.

Just in and looking as pretty as a picture, is this unusual satinwood table from about 1780. Whilst it is obviously a table, it has what appears to be a game board inlaid into the top.  It looks a little like a board for a game of Morris but it would be nice to know whether it is for a game or has some other purpose. If anyone out there knows, we would be delighted to hear from you.

In the meantime, it is for sale and its details may be found on the relevant page on our website.

Masterpiece 2018: Our Stand

A serene moment before the crowds arrive!  Stand C6 is looking magnificent on Day 2, be sure to come and see us!

Opening Hours:

Friday 29 June 11.00 – 21.00
Saturday 30 June 11.00 – 19.00
Sunday 1 July 11.00 – 19.00
Monday 2 July 11.00 – 19.00
Tuesday 3 July 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday 4 July 11.00 – 21.00

 

 

 

150 Years of Furniture in 900 Words and 7 pictures

By Guy Apter

 

1700 to 1850: one hundred and fifty years of furniture manufacture in England. Yet we blithely describe ourselves as dealers in 18th & early 19th century antiques with no mention of the monumental changes that took place in both the design of, and the materials used, in furniture making during this period.

The furniture of the 1700s was generally made of native woods like oak, elm, ash and walnut, and looked entirely different to the furniture made out of a multitude of imported woods in the 1800s.  And between those years there were two neo classical periods, a rococo period, and smattering of Egyptian, Greek, Chinese and French influence to say the least

Gesso Table c. 1710

Gesso Table c. 1710

With the exception of farming, the furniture making industry employed more people than any other occupation at this time.  It was big business. It was dynamic and it was driven by a clientele who were exacting, educated and wealthy.  Like today, there was the desire for the latest trend, the newest material, the one of a kind and, of course, the showing off.

It is hard to imagine how shocking it must have been to have entered a room in the first quarter of the eighteenth century and to see for the first time a table entirely covered in gold. Where before there was dark wood in a candlelit house, now there was a ‘reflecting beacon’.  I imagine as many people would have been repulsed by this as liked it, but it certainly prevailed.

Chest on Stand c. 1720

Chest on Stand c. 1720

Furniture went from utilitarian to decorative in a very short length of time. The chest of drawers is a marvellous example. Originally a trunk, it moved from that to a chest, but a chest with little ornamentation until the very end of the 17th century.  Then in the eighteenth century,  its status had so improved that it was quite literally “elevated” – given legs – and thus became a focal point in the room.

 

Walnut Bookcase c. 1735

Walnut Bookcase c. 1735

By the late 1730s indigenous walnut furniture began to be superseded by imported mahogany, a dark rich red wood.  Whilst walnut was soft and structurally weak, mahogany was the antithesis and changes in style were certainly assisted if not partly led by this stronger timber allowing for lighter designs to be made.  Put simply, friezes and even legs could be pierced with fretwork and still be structurally sound.

By the 1740s classicism was all the rage due to the clients, architects and artists returning from their Grand Tours. The ancient world had captivated not just England but the whole of Europe. However, these were early days and the language and motifs brought back by the likes of Lord Burlington and William Kent were not fully understood.

Neo-Classical Side Table c. 1735-40

Neo-Classical Side Table c. 1735-40

The resulting furniture was of a bolder and grander scale than we would see in the second wave of neo classicism some twenty years later – so superbly displayed at Spencer House for example, and in the work of architects like James Wyatt and Robert Adam.

By the third quarter of the eighteenth century, under the reign of King George III, one could say that furniture making in England had reached its zenith.

Detail of Settee with fretwork c. 1760

Detail of Settee with fretwork c. 1760

The work of famous cabinet makers such as Thomas Chippendale, Mayhew & Ince and Vile & Cobb includes many of the greatest pieces of furniture ever made in this country. However, within the oeuvre of Chippendale and his contemporaries, their work and style changed dramatically over the years from carved mahogany furniture of the 1750s to inlaid and ormolu mounted furniture of the 1780s.

Corner Cupboard with inlay c. 1775

Corner Cupboard with inlay c. 1775

Detail of Corner Cupboard with inlay c. 1775

Detail of Corner Cupboard with inlay c. 1775

As the century drew to a close, so the foreign influences came thick and fast, sometimes in one project. Nothing illustrates this better than the Prince Regent’s Pavilion at Brighton. From the outside it has clearly been influenced by Indian architecture, whilst on the inside it is very strongly Chinese in style. Now whilst the Pavilion might be regarded as a rather extreme example, it is nevertheless fair to say that furniture in the Regency period drew inspiration from a multitude of sources. A French interpretation of classicism was propagated by one the most successful architects of the period, Henry Holland, but equally influential was the work of Thomas Hope and his Greek revivalist style.  The list could go on but suffice to say it was a fast moving designer or cabinet maker who could keep abreast of taste at this time.

A Regency Period Lacquer Centre Table

A Regency Period Lacquer Centre Table c. 1815

Our role is to guide clients and to explain the merits of one example from the period over another, which is distinct from selecting one style over another.  When I first joined the business I would wonder why my father had bought table A over table B, they seemed so similar and yet the difference of a half inch in the depth of the drawers would determine his decision.  That sort of eye for detail can be inherent, for others it can take time and guidance to develop. It is our role to help.

When it comes to what to buy, only our clients can decide which roads they want to go down.  All styles can be appreciated in their own right and crucially a plain table can be every bit as beautiful and artistically valuable as a highly ornate piece.  Thus one’s desire to own these two different forms might be poles apart, but one can appreciate both for the artistry involved throughout this fascinating period of furniture history.

 

 

 

From the Grosvenor House Fair to Masterpiece London

By Guy Apter

As I write this, so the 6th production of the spectacular Masterpiece Fair is fast approaching.  I use the word production intentionally.  When I started in this business in 1984, the premier fair in Britain, and some would say the world, was the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair.  This grand old lady had been going since 1934 and was held in the Great Room of the hotel of the same name.  It was relatively small, which limited both the number of dealers and the size of their stand, but was hugely successful.

 

The Grosvenor House Fair. Apter Fredericks exhibited at the fair from 1984 until 2009.Grosvenor House attracted visitors from across the world.  It drew in the very rich but it also attracted Mr & Mrs Averagely Wealthy who wished to buy beautiful things for their home – something with age, history and character – and it was a ‘must come to’ destination for collectors. The queue outside the hotel before the fair opened was astonishing and when the doors opened, so the collectors would come running into the fair.  It is no exaggeration to say that we could sell half our stand in the first hour and continue to sell the other half and more by the end of the fair.

 

Approximately ten years ago things were clearly changing. Visitor numbers were down at the Grosvenor House Fair and indeed at most other fairs. Then seven years ago it was very clear to the three of us who founded Masterpiece that the antiques fair of old was tired – very tired – and the market needed something new.

 

But it wasn’t just the fair that was tired, the market had changed. People do far more shopping online and are far more event oriented.  There are of course people who still collect but there has been a change here too.  Twenty years ago someone looking for an eighteenth century sideboard for their dining room might have toured the antiques shops of London and then selected the one that best suited their room, budget or style preference.  Nowadays, that customer is far more likely to be eclectic in their taste. The piece they buy could just as easily be Art Deco, turn of the century or modern, and be mixed with pieces from other periods.

 

It was abundantly clear that if a fair was to succeed it had to reflect these changes. It had to be re-invented and that is exactly what Masterpiece set out to achieve, and hence my using the word production at the beginning of this blog.  Masterpiece is designed to excite, impress and attract visitors and some of these visitors are people who would never normally visit a traditional antiques fair. To do this it had to include a broader range of disciplines and periods than would generally be found at other fairs, and it has to live up to its name – “Masterpiece”. The dealers who attend are amongst the best in their field and they bring their finest pieces to the fair, many of which may not have been on the market before.  They display these treasures with imagination and flair.    The restaurants are pop-up versions of London’s finest and you would never know that the fair is housed in a temporary building.

 

Naturally, we would encourage you to come and judge for yourselves but if you are still in any doubt let me leave you with this:  when visitors are asked why they came to fair,  the most frequent answer has been “because friends told us we had to.”