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Paris Biennale

Themed shows in the Paris antique shops during the Biennale

Renaissance jewels (and a master faker revealed), maiolica, Empire and eighteenth-century French lacquer furniture, the life of women between Orient and Europe, Art Deco, Finnish painting, the Brueghels and art from Oceania

Two years after their successful “Treasures of the Czars” exhibition, which attracted 15,000 visitors to their gallery, the Frères Kugel are showing 200 pieces of Renaissance jewellery, most of it on public display for the first time: medallions, necklaces, bracelets, goblets in rock crystal, caskets and mirrors. Some of the objects belonged previously to great collectors such as the Rothschilds, Pierpont-Morgan, Thyssen and Arturo Lopez Willshaw. Particularly striking is a gold necklace in enamelled gold with rubies, made in Italy in about 1480-1500, and a cameo medallion with a head of Julius Caesar in diamonds, gold, enamel and a type of garnet.

For those seriously interested in the field, the great excitement of this exhibition is, however, that it will be the first time that the work of the nineteenth-century faker Alfred André will be made public. For some ten years, a very few scholars have known that this esteemed goldsmith, who died in 1919 with the Légion d’Honeur, was also an able imitator and inventor of “Renaissance” jewels, many in former Rothschild collections, and at least one in the collection of Baron Thyssen.

Top museums own numerous André pieces. Six jewels bequeathed to the National Gallery in Washington by the Philadelphia millionare, Peter Widener, are fakes. The British Museum has an André riding cherub and pendant formerly in Ferdinand de Rothschild’s collection. The Louvre owns a supposedly fourteenth-century chalice set with enamels, and the Metropolitan has three enamelled semi-precious stone cups, a jewelled altarpiece and numerous jewels.

The smoking gun was the archive of 400 casts, some of them painted, made of these fakes and kept by Maison André in their workshop on the boulevard Charonne. They were seen there by the Rudolph Distelberger, curator of the imperial jewels at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It was he who realised that the National Gallery pieces were by André, and he has now catalogued all the Maison André evidence, the book to be published by the Kugels to coincide with their gallery show. There will also be ten of the casts on display.

The Kugels have evidently decided that it is wisest to face head-on the vexed question of the many fakes of Renaissance jewels, which has depressed the market for the whole field over the last twenty years. They have also had the advice of Dr Distelberger over the authentic pieces in their exhibition.

Elisabeth Meyer and her daughters Célia and Maya have chosen maiolica from the Italian Renaissance to the seventeenth century in Europe. They are showing albarelli, plates and large dishes either with a hint of lustre or with narrative designs, pieces made in Florence, Rouen, Nîmes, Montpellier and Nevers.

Ariane Dandois is using her huge new gallery in place Beauvau to good advantage: she has organised an exhibition devoted to the Empire style in France, Spain, Italy, Russia and Sweden from 1800 to 1850. The style, used by famous cabinet makers such as Jacob-Desmalter, Bellangé and Marcion, and by bronziers such as Thomire, Galle and Feuchère, was the artistic legacy of the retreat of the Napoleonic armies.

Jean-Claude Hureau of La Galerie des Laques has recently opened a second gallery in rue de Miromesnil; here he has gathered together some unusual items to illustrate the daily life of women in Europe and Asia between 1730 and 1890 in an exhibition entitled “Théâtre intime de la femme”. The exhibits include a red lacquer bureau with Chinese decoration, a set of armchairs made for small girls by Chevigny, French and Japanese mirrors and small boxes to hold beauty-spots.

Galerie Etienne Lévy is also enjoying new premises: they will show a selection of lacquer furniture of the Louis XV-Louis XVI periods, decorated with priceless panels of Chinese lacquer. There is a Louis XV commode manufactured by Martin Criaerd.

Twentieth-century furniture is also occupying a prominent position, with two exhibitions devoted to French and American designers. The first is organised by Galerie Doria, re-opening after nine months’ closure for building work to be carried out. They are holding a retrospective of the work of Francis Jourdain (1876-1958), a founding member of the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM) and one of the precursors of the modern movement in France. Among the sober, streamlined pieces in the exhibition there is a spectacular desk designed in 1920 for the director of La Samaritaine, and a dining room designed in 1922.

Eric Philippe is showing the work of an American designer, Terence Harold Robsjohn-Gibbings (1905-76), whose harmonious pieces fall somewhere between exoticism and sobriety, reflecting their author’s classical inspiration from Greek and Rome as well as his interest in Egypt and the Far East. His furniture is made of golden or pale wood—sycamore, lime, ash or birch—and boasts admirably graceful proportions, as witness the pair of torchères in maple and sycamore made in 1937.

Florence de Voldère is showing three large paintings by three different members of the celebrated Brueghel dynasty in an exhibition in the Gare d’Auteuil. “The Creation of Adam” by Jan Brueghel the younger is part of a series of six paintings illustrating the first days of the Creation. “The Wedding procession” by Pieter “Hell” Brueghel exists in six different versions, one of them in the Musée Communal in Brussels. “Dance round the Maypole” by Pieter Brueghel III was inspired by a painting by the artist’s father, Pieter “Hell” Brueghel.

Modern paintings, particularly paintings belonging to the Northern School are being exhibited by Ingrid Fersing Ferreira; she is presenting a dozen paintings by Pekka Halonen (1865-1933) who, like other artists of the Finnish Golden Age, took his subjects from the landscape of his native land.

Finally, Anthony J.P. Meyer is celebrating his gallery’s twentieth anniversary with an exhibition of artifacts from Oceania: sculpture, masks, jewellery and weapons from New Zealand, New Guinea, New Ireland, New Britain, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and the Marquesas.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Themed shows'