Our Collections

19th C Nymphenburg porcelain
Bustelli, Commedia dell 'Arte, "Capitano Spavento"

"Collectors are not born - they are taken hostage!"

For me, it was a convergence of my love for art and art history with the opportunities to live in Europe and Asia,
from which much later emerged a related interest in European antiques and historical architecture and gardens.
My love of art goes back to childhood with my grandfather, who was an artist;
and I have held a love for art history since a freshman in college.
It was these fields which I turned to, when I left my career in psychology, fairly burned out,
to find something positive to enrich my life.

When Tom and I arrived in Washington, I took a two-year "personal sabbatical," just to study art:
I took drawing and painting clases and art history studies at the National Art Gallery.
This activity later led me to study European antiques.

Tom was interested in many of these things too.
So, he took a course in "Connoisseurship" at the Smithsonian;
and, when opportunities presented themselves in Washington and New Jersey, we gradually started collecting.

Continental Porcelain

One does not live long in Germany, without hearing their pride in Meissen porcelain,
which is referred to as "white gold!"

But, it took me nearly 20 years, to have a chance to dig into the subject enough
to learn what all the excitement was about.

Click image to enlarge.

A 19th C Meissen plate, "Deutsche Blumen" (German Flowers)
We have a growing dinner service in this pattern now.

Inspired by a Meissen plate which was given to me as a farewell gift by a German woman, in 1969,
I began seriously studying antique porcelain while living in Washington, around 1986.
I soon began dragging Tom off to antique shows to see it, so I could learn about it first-hand.
On seeing and handling pieces of Meissen, he thought it was neat stuff and took an interest.
We were often accompanied by our friends the Sue and Bob, who had begun their own porcelain collection
during their earlier years in Germany. (See Friends section on the Index page.)
Their collection was also an inspiration for us.
A year or so later, Tom and I purchased our first piece of Meissen:
a humble plate was all we could afford, but, it was a start.
Real progress came with the arrival of eBay,
where prices were relatively low in the early years,
and much was available from collectors and dealers around the globe.

We have expanded our interest in porcelain over the years to include some other factories
in Germany and France, which rose to compete in quality in later years.

It would be another decade, before this would lead to my special interest in selling antique European ceramics.

We now find ourselves increasingly specializing in certain kinds of design and subject matter,
as you will see here. Our current collection of porcelain is primarily from
Meissen, Sevres (France) and Nymphenburg (Bavaria).
Each piece was originally hand-sculpted by a porcelain modeler and then painted by hand.

Click image to enlarge.
(Pardon the harsh lighting above! I took the photo at night with a strong light.)

The blue pot pourris on the top shelf is 18th century Chinese porcelain
with 19th century French bronze mounts...
a special interest of mine that uniquely combines my loves of things oriental and French!
The plates and small urns are a mixture of
18th and 19th C French porcelain by the Royal Sevres factory.

The tiny gardener couple (center of second shelf) is
by Meissen, 18th and 19th C.

She's the older one! Fitting, yes?!

For those who have never held a Meissen figure in their hands,
this is dense, heavy porcelain with a very solid feel. It is the whitest of porcelain.
The quality and detail of the modelling and painting are the best in the world.
Each figure is a fine sculpture in porcelain. The other figures are characters in the...

Italian Commedia dell' Arte

Tom and I have also long held an interest in the Italian Comedy.
Love of theatre was something that originally drew us together.
We even spent our honeymoon at the G.B. Shaw Festival in Canada.
This mutual interest has considerably effected our collecting.
One of our earliest goals as collectors was to acquire porcelain figures
of characters of the Commedia dell' Arte,
upon which many of the classical characters of theatre are based.

Commedia Dell'Arte is the ancient Italian improvisational masked comedy
born in the Renaissance and performed until the first half of the eighteenth century.
Troupes traveled city to city earning their living by performing comedies, farces, parodies and political satires in the streets, markets, and at carnivals and fairs. The performers drew from every day life material for their shows, harping on every class, custom, and law.
The stock characters were universally identified by their individual costumes and masks and never changed regardless of how the scenario developed. The masks, usually leather, were inseparable from the actor throughout the performance, even if the character changed costumes.
The mask is the driving force behind each character's unique movements and dialect.
The scenarios usually centered around the misfortunes of Pantalone, the senile old man, or a love triangle between the lovers and another character (Il Capitano, Arrlechino, or Il Dottore).

Reference: Doug Cummins, Professor, Department of Theatre Arts Furman University Greenville, SC

Most people are familiar with some of the best known commedia characters,
such as Harlequin (Arrlechino), Pierrot and Pulcinello.
Along with the stock characters of Greek tragedies, these Italian characters
are the basis for all, classical theatre roles.
Up-dated forms of the characters can be seen in modern theatre and film of today.

Most notably in recent times, Stephen Spielburg has acknowledged
that he based some of his films on the Commedia themes and characters.

Our Commedia Figures

All but one of the large figures on the shelves are 19th C creations,
based on the 18th century originals by Bustelli of the Royal Nymphenburg porcelain factory in Munich, Germany.

The Bustelli models are considered by art historians to have been the best of any:
unique and exquisite in the amount of movement and interaction displayed between them.

lla (right end on the upper shelf above) is by Italy's Capodimonte,
the rest are from the Nymphenburg series, which w
e are slowly collecting, one at a time.

Click images to enlarge.
Capitano, Harlequina, Dottore

Click images to enlarge.
Isabella and Pantalone (a pair), Pulcinella

In April 2005 we were able to see some of the original Bustelli commedia figures,
on display at museums in Munich and at the Nymphenburg palace,
which still houses the porcelain factory.

What a thrill!!
I'll try to get some photos posted of those one of these days.

Click images to enlarge.

Mezzetino (Mezzetin in France), shown left above on an 18th century Sevres plate,
was a wandering minstrel of the Commedia who, like all of the male characters,
often got into mischief. On the other plate (19th C. Sevres) is an amorous Pierrot.

Click images to enlarge.

We purchased the Capodimonte Pulcinella in Venice,
in memory of the wonderful frescos of him by Giandomenico Tiepolo
at Ca' Rezzonico in Venice
(left and center above) and at Villa Valmarana, Vicenza ,
which we were thrilled to see during our trip to Italy in 2001.
(Photos of Venice coming soon to our travel section!)

Below is his Minuette of Pantalone and Columbina.

Click image to enlarge.

Click images to enlarge.

The "Zannis" of the Commedia
are represented on this 18th-century-French faience plate above.
Here we have a Zanni with Isabella, taken from a 16th century engraving by Callot.

Zannis are the lowest in society and usually servant to the Vecchi.
A typical zanni is stupid, always falls asleep on the job, steals food, or is caught daydreaming. Their drive is sex and hunger. He or she assists the plot in moving along by confusing matters with whatever task they are assigned. But they do save the show from boredom by providing slapstick comedy, lazzi, when they encounter each other.
Reference: Doug Cummins (see above)

Above is an anonymous, 18th century Venetian painting of Zannis, after another Callot work.


As our love of the above frescoes might suggest, once we got into the Commedia,
it was a short leap to an interest in Venice Carnival and,
from there, to 18th century Venice and its art!

Click image to enlarge.

These are two of my favorites! They are very, very rare!
A large pair of 18th Venetian figures by the Nove factory in the Veneto.
Their masks and costumes are still seen at Venice Carnivals of today,
along with costumes of the Commedia characters.

The swan is a 19th C Kaendler model from Meissen.

For more about the Commedia dell' Arte
Click here
and here

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