• The Antique Renaissance Fireplace...A short narrative...January 2010.

    Posted 18 January 2010

    The Antique Renaissance Fireplace...A short narrative...January 2010.

    THE EXPRESSION "RENAISSANCE" …meaning in French “Rebirth” , was coined in the 19th century and variously covers a period from the 14th to the 17th century…different schools of thought give different dates.

    It originated in Florence in Italy and was a broad cultural movement including style and design which drew inspiration from Classical Antiquity…Ancient Greece and Rome and the Etruscans in between….and spread through all of Europe, where it gained further impetus …the French even claimed it as their original creation at one point.

    9902...An antique Marble Renaissance Revival Fireplace Mantel , 19th century...typical of the genre...Available.

    ELEMENTS OF THE RENAISSANCE STYLE of design in fireplace mantels were again revived at later periods …notably the 19th century in Europe and North America, and called Renaissance Revival or Neo Renaissance..... 10837 is another typical example of a Venetian Renaissance Revival Inglenook fireplace mantel in this case it is richly carved in oak and was recently removed from what had been Sir Walter Raleighs still existant 15th century house in Ireland....Sold.

    RENAISSANCE , HIGH RENAISSANCE and NEO RENAISSANCE style fireplaces and design generally were and are mostly found in prestigious buildings of Grand Scale…both Palaces…. Palazzo ...Chateaux…. Castles and more recently in Municipal and State administration institutions…even Railway stations.

    9856 on the right is a very early 16th Century Antique Italian Period Renaissance chimneypiece from the North East Venetto ...Verona / Venice region of Italy and was possibly the work of Jacopo Sansovino , 1486 -1570...and carved from intensly rich Fossilised Lumachella Bigia ...translates to Snails....marble....Sold.

    THE STYLE IS BEST DESCRIBED AS RICH AND INTRICATE , and while not appealing to all tastes or suitable for all locations or decors it is universally appreciated for its sophistication and quality of craftsmanship and materials essential to its proper execution.... incorporating as it does linear and geometric shapes and forms scrolled and intertwined with motifs from the natural world…frequently symbolic plants Vines , Palmettes, Oak & Laurel leaves , Acanthus etc….And floral … Anthymion / Honeysuckle , Fleur de Lys , Roses….. also Mythological, and Heraldic Animal forms…Griffins , serpents ,Dragons, Lions ,Panthers Unicorns and so on.....many of these motifs are to be seen on 7030 a period Italian Renaissance fireplace mantel in richly carved white marbleon the left ......Sold.

    APART FROM THE MANY EXAMPLES OF RENAISSANCE Chimneypieces in Florence…home of the Medicis and their rivals the Strozzis … L’Alberti …L’Albizzi , many Renaissance fireplaces are to be found in Venice…in the Palazzo Ducale in Piazza San Marco of course , and in many waterside Palazzos and Villas in that great former Maritime City State....4721 on the right being another very rare example of a period Italian , Venetian antique fireplace mantel finely carved in Pietra D' attractive hard limestone...also considered to be a marble... which has sculpted characteristics from the 15th century Dalmatian Sculptor Giorgio de Sebenico who carved very comparable high profile imagery on the facade of Il Duomo D'Ancona....Ancona's Cathedral.....Available.

    IN ENGLAND THE RENAISSANCE ERA STARTED much later than and was mostly different from the Italian ...being heavily influenced by the Flemish and German...the evolving Northern Renaissance Architectural style.

    It included the Elizabethan Tudor and Jacobean eras and other examples in the preceeding reign of Henry VIII... during which Hans Holbein from Augsburg in Bavaria was gainfully employed at the court doing highly acclaimed portraits of the King and Thomas More, and actually produced a design for a large Chimneypiece in the style.

    Fine examples are to still to be seen in the Great houses or Palaces even, of Hampton Court, Hatfield House , Hardwick Hall and Burghley House….9061 ..this superb antique English fireplace mantel removed by us with the partly 17th century panelled room from a great house in Yorkshire , is an exact 19th century Renaissance Revival replica of a large English Jacobean Renaissance mantelpiece now in the Victoria & Albert Museum…but originally from the Hunting Lodge of King James Bromley by Bow…Sold...

    REFLECTING ON THE ABOVE AND IMPORTANT to acknowledge….the Antique Renaissance Fireplace mantel….especially the typical Italian example.. can be said to frequently embody the Sophistication, the style , prestige , opulence and.. not least..the symbolised nature which when stylistically portrayed epitomised the emergence of civilised society from the gloom, ignorance…and repression of the aptly named Dark Ages…revealing the joy , beauty and fascination with the planet…the heavens…the liberated human mind and body……the rediscovery of the facts and exotic wonders of life and the Universe… such as Perspective in the Graphic arts… and the spirit... known to the Ancient Romans and Greeks but squirreled away theretofore by those Latin Scribes the Know.

    10321 is another 19th century Renaissance Revival Fireplace mantel in polished Namur Black Marble.... architectural , smart and imposing…with a Palladian element in the design.

    11233. AN EXTREMELY LARGE AND RARE INGLENOOK CHIMNEYPIECE OF THE TUD0R RENAISSANCE PERIOD.The richly carved limestone detail on the top frieze depicting mythic deities, oak leaves and birds interspersed with drapes and floral decoration. A Wood Nymph or Dryad is carved on the left and a Dolphin on the right spandrel. Bead and reel, Bellflower and lambs tongue decoration are carved around the perimeters. The very broad arch has three central Joggled Voussoirs or keystones.

    PROVENANCE : Removed from a 19th century hostelry in North London, original provenance not known, but probably from the Great Hall.....rather than the kitchen....see the Jack and the Beanstalk one at Hampton Court Palace below...of a large Tudor / Jacobean Manor House or Priory. English circa 1600. SCALE : Immense.

    10419. A RARE & LARGE PERIOD VENETIAN RENAISSANCE Camino in carved limestone. The substantial top section with a stop-fluted gallery over the Vitruvian scrolled carved Lintol supported on scrolled brackets over fluted jambs with lion paw feet on baluster footblocks. Italian circa 1660.

    9807. A RARE, PERIOD VENETIAN RENAISSANCE CHIMNEYPIECE richly carved in Istrian Stone. The carved detail on the frieze centered by a Stemma Nobilare or Family Crest as yet not identified, flanked by a profusion of sharply defined scrolled foliage, urns of fruit and winged birds symbolising Peace and Abundance. The upper part sits on two typical scrolled Venetian Capitals and the supporting jambs are carved with flaming urns over ears of wheat on their leaved stalks in tall planters below.

    Italian 16th to 17th century. Photo before restoration.

    COMMENTS : Renaissance Venice, The Lion City, The floating Republic, Imperial Venice where commerce ruled, which challenged the Pope and Islam but absorbed qualities from both. The City of Titian and Palladio...

    9123.CAMINO IN LEGNO DI NOCE, STILO SCOLPTORI SALVATORE VALENTI , PALERMO , SICILIA... : A richly carved Neo Renaissance Walnut chimneypiece in the manner of Salvatore Valenti , an Italian sculptor active in Palermo, Sicily 1835-1903.The boldly scaled decorative features of florally scrolled Griffin panels either side of the central coat of arms under a seated male griffin, with Bacchanalian Satyr masks on either end over maidenheaded scrolled caryatids.

    Italian late 19th century, ( photo before restoration). CAMINO IN LEGNO DI NOCE SCOLPITO A MOTIVI FLOREALI

    11217. A large carved oak Italian Renaissance chimneypiece richly carved in oak. Of typical North Italian / Venetian format, the frieze centered with a mask of Bachus the Roman wine god, within a scrolled cartouche flanked by foliate / fish tailed amorini and scrolling foliage on the side panels , and bearded horned Satyr masks within draped cartouches on the endblocks. This is supported on Ionic capitals over male and female Atlanteans, with further grinning Bacchic horned masks centerfield. Images before restoration, and fitted with 11135, steel brass and copper insert altered to fit. Italian 19th century.

    4721. A rare Venetian Gothic Renaissance antique fireplace mantel from the fifteenth century. This extremely rare chimneypiece is carved in Pietra d’Istria marble from the Istrian Peninsula near Venice and is attributed to Giorgio da Sebenico, sculptor of the Duomo San Francesco, Cathedral of Ancona, which features nearly identical images on the portale.

    Italy, circa 1460.

    Scale : Large

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  • Bulletin - March 2009 - The Demise of Wedgwood

    Posted 26 March 2009

    Bulletin - March 2009 - The Demise of Wedgwood

    THE DEMISE OF WEDGWOOD : It is upsetting to view the downturn in the fortunes of this once remarkable company from its mid 18th century origins as one of the first World class commercial quality industrial creative companies, to being taken over by Waterford Glass in Ireland, transferring production…. to the Far East , and now in free fall waiting for a “White Knight”.

    Founded in 1759 by Josiah Wedgewood, an invalid with vision and zeal, whose daughter was the mother of Charles Darwin, Wedgwood was one of the first commercial manufacturers to affordably satisfy the ascent of the new Gentry’s consumer requirement for elegance , simplicity ,and serene pastel beauty. Such creations must be credited with calming the mood, tempering the tempo, flashing gracious idylls before the beholder …promoting a feeling that all is well with the moment…...surely one of the arch talents.

    The point was it was made laboriously and expensively and can be made cheaper elsewhere..but these are the anchors of our present connecting to our important, worthwhile formative past. There is a need for our civilization not to trash and rationalise everything. Once the soul departs from a concern and it is viewed solely as a “ brand” or “product” and left to the blinkered herd of fiscal & other professionals the game is over. There was a whole issue of Life magazine at the Dawning of 1970..The Age of Aquarius…where one paragraph pops up in the memory…" War is too important to leave to the Generals , Money is too important for the Bankers, Business too important for the businessmen." ....That was hindsight regarding previous blinding calamities.

    Wedgwood is a representative of so many other wasted worthwhile Icons... fearlessly using this hi-jacked word…Another National Treasure…French would call Champion… on the brink

    What we are as a nation, a people, is what we do…what we think …what we save…what we discard . We are simply rejoining the Natural World if we try…if we up our game…because we are 60 millions, and a little more faith and sustained positive intent from enough of us will sort things out. Thriving UK quality enterprises like Martin-Baker …World leader in Military Aircraft ejector seats…JCBarling earth movers…Rolls Royce World No 2 Aircraft Engine manufacturer..Most of the Formula 1 racing teams are British based and manned , literally a World Class Cottage industry… are all National Gems and although would not be preserved regardless their souls have not departed they survive and thrive . All in niche markets ..what market isn’t / can’t be ?..Not conglomerate but man sized , steerable , good roadholding , good looking…like Bentley and Mini Motor Cars..recognized and appreciated by our German cousins if not by our fellows. Wake up England.

    There were many fine Chimneypieces, chimney furniture, lighting and other items decorated with Wedgwood Jasperware plaques in many fine important houses here and abroad. a pair of siverplated firedogs with green Wedgwood plaques…9858 is a beautiful chimneypiece in the manner of Robert Adam featuring fine Jasperware blue plaques…7794 is a pair of Robert Adam style wall lights / sconces again with green Jasperware…7755 is an elegant Georgian fireplace mantel with green Wedgwood decorative plaques…3212…is another.

  • Bulletin - September 2008

    Posted 10 September 2008

    Bulletin - September 2008

    Terms of reference for antique fireplaces include mantelpiece, or chimneypiece... kamine, cheminee or chiminea …to mention just some of the European titles alone.

    In the layout of principal interior living spaces the antique chimneypiece is an important prominent architectural as well as decorative feature in not just the traditional home. Essentially it either sets the style or complements the existing setting of the room, entrance hall or of the building itself…. providing focus, gravitas, charm and delight , even benign presence.

    Why Antique?

    For many people there is a simple but deep seated satisfaction…even Mystique...felt in the presence of an antique mantelpiece that is in many configurations in fact an Edifice in miniature itself. ….A structure that has endured the years ...or centuries...silent witness to bygone events and routines, dramatic and prosaic... of personages both notable and ordinary, poignant and joyful.

    Importantly, the presence of an antique Fireplace in an environment... grand or modest, formal or understated affirms the unconscious human need for connection with the positive, distant past. Visible evidence is presented of the validity and quality of age old crafts and skills, concepts of eternal design and beautifully worked natural materials ...all combining in silent testament to the continuity and harmony of the ascent of Man's Civilisation.


    For the owner of a period home or a property of a particular period and style the preference would normally be to choose antique fireplace that matches or complements the period features. Alternatively you may wish to create an antique or period environmental style in a modern or neutral interior...either completely with furniture and fittings and chimneypiece blending to that effect...or in a completely plain or hi tech décor positioning the one major traditional antique element, the chimneypiece in its inevitably prominent location.

    Over the centuries building styles and decoration fashions evolved and changed. There were transition periods long and short when one style evolved into the next and then there were less gradual changes where the next style bore little or no relation to any previous…This was the case when the exotic Rococo style arrived all over Europe. It was considered a most radical, even risqué movement...In London the avant garde exponents were based around St Martins Lane. Then again many styles were revived in later centuries and referred to as Revival or Neo, mostly in the 18th and the 19th centuries...These included Neo Gothic, Gothic Revival . The same prefixes applied to... Jacobean, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Palladian, Georgian fireplaces, Regency Revivals. Therefore if you have a house of a particular period then a chimneypiece of the corresponding antique Revival or Neo period would serve well in the absence of an original "de l'epoque" as it also has a presence and patina, a history....a pedigree.

  • Bulletin - May 2008

    Posted 01 May 2008

    Bulletin - May 2008

    At 9am the doors are opened letting in a wonderful London spring morning and the muffled bustle of the day begins. The Classical and Retro music softly filters upwards into the 90 foot high interior, this Edifice of Victorian Pride & Piety , "Standing Four Square, East to West”… a hop skip and a jump from where stood the original gated City walls of Medieval London, The Square Mile… within a stones throw from the White Portland stone Oranges & Lemons Church of St. Leonard..." When I grow rich , said The Bells of Shoreditch "…. Rebuilt by George Dance in 1740 on the original 12th century site , within the churchyard where many Tudor actors including William Shakespeare’s friend and builder of the Curtain Theatre , Richard Burbage are buried . Nearby Curtain Road marks the site of “The Curtain” which was the second purpose built theatre after “The Theatre" and predated the original “Globe" theatre on the Southbank.

    “ Pop goes the weasel ” commemorates a Pawn Shop in the City Road and the hostelry The Eagle…in once bucolic Shepherdess Walk . This stretch of the City Road leading from the Moore-gate up to the great Angel Inn , mentioned in Oliver Twist and previously the Great North Road…. was infested with footpads and highwaymen until the early 19th century, who preyed on travellers and were duly tried by visiting Assize Circuit judges, and hung on a permanent Gibbet in the courtyard of the great Coaching Inn at the top of Pentonville Hill .

    Just round the corner The Wesleyan Chapel of the 18th century Methodist Religious reformer, John Wesley (1703 – 1791 ) nestles quietly behind its garden on the City Road facing Bunhill Fields … the burial ground , outside the city walls… of many religious Non-Conformists like Daniel Defoe , author of Robinson Crusoe , John Bunyan……. Pilgrims Progress , and William Blake, artist, sculptor and write of the hymn Jerusalem. Further down is the castellated “ fortress" of The Honourable Artillery Company formed by Henry VIII in 1530, with their vast grass parade ground behind and which housed German and Italian prisoners of war in the early 1940’s..
    This part of London was pretty much “ hammered" during that war by the German bombers following the Thames…Even in the late 1940's it was possible to see St Paul’s Cathedral from the City Road over the flattened landscape. As in diarist Samuel Pepy’s account of The Great Fire of 1666, “….the Conflagration was universal"…..every night.

    One realises how tiny and “local” London was ..way back then…. But now it’s the World that has shrunk.

  • Bulletin - April 2008

    Posted 26 April 2008

    Bulletin - April 2008

    Oriental Art and Western Art influenced by the Orient exerts an enigmatic, strong and subtle fascination which puts it into a world and class of its own. For the individual this can reveal itself when one focuses on a decorative piece or feature which previously was a familiar background everyday object such as Willow Pattern Design on crockery or the Chinese influence in European Rococo design as seen on carved antique wood fireplaces see stock nos… and 9605 the oil painted canvas screen which imitates..quite charmingly ..Japanese and Chinese lacquer work extending back into the millennium .

    Another example in our present stock is 9576, a delightful small red lacquered and gilded carved antique wood chimneypiece in the George II Manner , which again imitates Oriental lacquer work. ( Currently undergoing restoration ).

    The present emphasis on the Orient is nothing new…well predated by cross influences between the Portuguese, Spanish, the Dutch the French and the British from the 15th through to the 18th Centuries and was celebrated memorably in the early 19th century by the Brighton Pavilion and in the later 19th by Gilbert and Sullivan's Mikado inspired by exhibitions in Victorian London.

    Well chosen examples of even the most unacedemic but stylistically valid and honest quality products from or inspired by the Orient can give great pleasure and delight by the very different nature of their conception, and execution ……VIVE LA DIFFERENCE !

    Recently updated on our website :
    8273. An interesting pair of Japanese street entertainers in spelter . They would originally have supported acrobatic children as part of their act. Japanese 19th century from the much earlier bronze originals.