Tag Archives: collecting artifacts

Excerpts from ” Treasures From The Lant Collection” Vol. 1 “They caw their lamentations in the eerie trees”

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Book Series

Excerpts from ” Treasures From The Lant Collection” Vol. 1

“They caw their lamentations in the eerie trees”. A pair of Russian ormolu and patinated-bronze twin branch candelabra circa 1810.

I asked the Christie’s representative when I saw these items in London, to tell me just what figures appeared on these startlingly bold candelabra.

Now remember, representatives of the auction houses are not history

specialists. Their knowledge is usually skin deep, or not even that. Thus, I was not at all surprised by the feeble answer I received. “Umm, Dr. Lant, it’s some kind of a winged creature.” This, of course, wasn’t any help whatsoever, since I could see that for myself.

I wanted to test my hypothesis that the winged creatures in question were some of my favorite creatures of all, Harpies. Now you may be of the generation that calls your mother-in-law an old Harpy, but even then you probably had no idea what they were, or what you had shouted at your little loved relation, for whom any insult was sufficient.

But in fact, some of the most frightening of classical creatures fall under the rubric of Harpies, and I for one was ecstatic to find their pernicious aspect on a pair of graceful Russian candelabra.

First, a word on Harpies

Harpies appear in Greek and Roman mythology, having cameo spots in Homer and Hesiod, who, however, do not agree in their conclusions. Homer says they were the most repellant of creatures, vicious, cruel, and violent, the personification of the destructive nature of wind. Hesiod carried a torch for them, thinking them “lovely haired”. Chacun a son gout.

Most classical writers insisted there were just two Harpies, sisters. Their names were “Storm Swift” and “the Swift Wing”. Roman writer Virgil added a third Harpy, called “the Dark”. Homer said that there was at least one more, and so the classicists argued and argued, and never agreed; typical of academics.

To begin at the beginning, almost everyone agreed, except Hesiod, that Harpies were female monsters in the form of a predatory bird with a human face. Their daily occupations consisted of killing evil-doers, particularly those who had killed their families, and shredding various victims limb from limb, enjoying the flesh of their bones as a delicacy few besides Harpies have ever tasted.

Of course Hesiod, often contrary, does not agree. He called them “lovely haired” creatures. Thus, to the confusion of today’s puzzled classicists, there is no general agreement on whether Harpies were lovely or not, grim menacing predators or not, but where would classical scholars be without such topics for their Ph.D. dissertations?

I, for one, have no qualms whatsoever in telling you they were stern visaged, frightening of face and feature, altogether a creature you wouldn’t want to invite home for dinner, especially if your guests requested their favorite dish, the flesh of suicides. Oh, my, that must have been an acquired taste.

Perhaps the most famous story about Harpies was that concerning King Phineus of Thrace. He had been given the gift of prophecy by Zeus, though if that is true, one wonders why he didn’t use it on his own behalf when the need arose. In any event, Zeus became angry with him when Phineus blabbed that he had received this special power, and was now one of the beloved of Zeus, a position often filled, but never for very long.

Zeus was angry, a situation in which he often found himself, for his was a most imperial temperament. Irritated, he blinded King Phineus, and put him on an offshore island known to none but illegal gamblers. There, his minions set a table of such magnificence that even a vegan would be tempted.

He plucked a morsel from the heap of delicacies, and just before it hit his lips, the Harpies flew in with such precision flying as the Navy’s Blue Angels, perhaps even better. In short, Phineus was in perpetual despair. Something must be done, or what’s the point of being a King anyway?

In this, as in so many other classical tales, a handsome young man appears with the solution, as he so often does throughout the classics. “Harpies,” he said, “What the hell is going on here?” Then, Phineus pointed to the black sockets where his eyes had once been, and the fact that he never had a single morsel to eat, though the repast was sumptuous, not to mention, bird feathers everywhere.

Now, you will know of course that nothing fazed Jason, a man who went off with his Argonauts to fight a dragon wearing a cute outfit from Brooks Brothers Athens division that left nothing to the imagination. But more than cute legs, he had craft.

Thus, he inflicted upon the Harpies a withering defeat. It reminds me of when a bat flew into my condominium, and I was forced to open the front door and go after it with a butterfly net, wearing nothing but a smile. I looked cute, too, as my neighbors informed me. So did the candelabra in question.

Lot 106

To achieve a noteworthy and eye-catching collection, you must know everything, know everyone, have gone everywhere, and listened, listened, listened, to every kind of expert on every kind of subject. There is no such thing as an expiration date on learning.

In this case, I knew at once that this particular design was rare or quite possibly unique. I had never before seen Harpies pictured on any piece of neo-classical furniture or any objet d’art of the period. Yes, they were very likely unique.

The bare facts are these:

They are designed in the manner of Friedrich Bergenfeldt (1768-1822). Each with two candle-sockets on winged masks issuing from a winged sphinx on a tapering plinth with classical mounts.

Friedrich Bergenfeldt was the celebrated bronzier who worked in St. Petersburg in the late 1790’s. His work was influenced by the designs executed by Andrei Voronikhin. Together, both gentlemen particularly liked designs featuring winged dragons, tritons, and other fanciful features, and perhaps, a Harpy or two. Such work always excites my interest.

Thus, I was front and center for the actual auction, where the low estimate was a shade over $10,000 dollars, but, as I was not surprised to see, sold for nearly $15,000 dollars, the high estimate. As usual, I sent them on after acquisition to Roddy McVittie in Kent, England, to be brought up to date and to have the annoying holes for electricity filled in and returned to their original condition. I will not drill any of my works for electricity, and certainly not these beauties.

Now they reside on dark green marble columns supporting the arch leading to my Red Drawing Room, where I recite Dante’s “Inferno”, X111. For this, I assume an Attic disposition. I point to the Harpies ready for their day’s flight of destructiveness, and recite Dante as if I were Florentine; the way Pietro Pezzati, the painter of my portrait, taught me how to do.

“Here the repellant Harpies make their nests…

They have broad wings with razor sharp talons and

a human neck and face,

Clawed feet, and swollen feathered bellies; they caw

Their lamentations in the eerie trees.”

They are condemned to reside in the seventh ring of Hell, where their punishment is grim and eternal, not at all what they’re used to in the Red Drawing Room.

Musical notes

To accompany this article, I have selected the theme music from the 1963 film “Jason and the Argonauts”. It is, admittedly, a cheesy production, some of it downright embarrassing.

Curiously enough, the section dealing with the Harpies is one of the best aspects of the whole film, for the Harpies are made to measure, squawking, screeching, shredding vulnerable flesh with invulnerable talons. Oh, yes, they make quite a good show as they grab the food right out of King Phineus’ mouth. And there’s nothing quite so disgusting as a Harpy’s sharp talon in your mouth, not that I know

personally, of course.

Nonetheless, the music is chipper and upbeat, the kind of thing heroes would appreciate, particularly when Jason, that comely lad, is near at hand. You can find it in any search engine where it’s ready for your deeds of derring–do.

Make sure you run it in tandem with this article. Here’s the link:

Before signing off, please be sure to join my Monarchy & Royalty Forum. King Phineus did, and he is enjoying himself amongst his royal peers and relations, having at last got a good meal.

Windsor book coverHe also received a free copy of my book, “Happy and Glorious. Encounters with the Windsors”, and so will you. Here’s the link:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/293520900979423/

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four university degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities and is quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 30 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com

 

His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” has garnered eight literary prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now at www.writerssecrets.co

 

A George Quacker Production

Division of Jeffrey Lant Associates,Inc.

All Rights Reserved

‘You’re lovely, absolutely lovely.’ Connoisseurs, the objects of their desire, the gnawing obsession.

Proudly presented from www.writerssecrets.com Article Series.

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

Author’s program note. One of the loveliest songs ever written, short though it is, was composed by Stephen Sondheim for his 1962 musical “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.” It’s called “Lovely”, and he wrote both book and music.

The song only lasts for 2 minutes and 28 captivating seconds… but once you’ve heard it even a single time it will circulate throughout your brain for life. It’s the kind of song that forces you to create situations where you can sing it, use it. For instance, I have recommended singing it to your Significant Other the very minute you come home this evening… always accompanying your admittedly croaky voice with flowers, candies, and ardent declarations delivered on one arthritic knee. That Significant Other will no doubt gibe, giggle, and give every indication of busting a gut laughing, but they’ll be touched to the core. And Sondheim, a master in every way, wrote it for just that.

Go now to any search engine and let the music frolic around you. You cannot be anything other than happy, for you see you are the person Songheim celebrated in this tune…

… You that is and every object desired by every single connoisseur and collector on earth. And that, given the incessant collectors we are, is just about everyone.

“You’re lovely”.

I am what is called a connoisseur, that is a master of matters artistic and of taste… the kind of person who can say with credibility of any object on earth just what is, and even more important, what is not of value to civilization. It is back breaking work, what with millions of artifacts to find, subject to minute scrutiny, and, the object passing the most stringent of tests, arranging the contortions, financial and otherwise, which lead to acquisition and a lifetime of unadulterated love (with dollops of shrewdness and cleverness to sweeten the mix.)

This process, for me, begins with a catalog from any of the great auction houses on earth… with names like Sothebys! Christie’s! The Dorotheum! Et al, great and small. These produce the siren songs that capture my attention and cause me endless nights of torment and insistent cogitation… these are the places, the very holiest of holies for connoisseurs, that wreck havoc in the minds and pocket books of even the most well heeled on earth. And of course these long-standing institutions with instantly recognizable names (at least to connoisseurs) are expert at catching their fish (that would be you and me, dear friend) and keeping them on their gilded hook c. 1250 A.D. once the property of the Queen of Bohemia. Look at yourself in the mirror and remember: you are about to go fishing in the most teeming waters on earth where your expertise will be tested against the very best… whose skills, wiles, courtesies and insights have been honed over centuries… all designed to capture you… the unceasing object of their potent desires.

Catalogs you pay for, versus catalogs hand endorsed and wafted to you.

When I began collecting so many years ago, the Internet was not dreamed of, much less a universal factor of life. And so collectors like me had to rely on the sales catalogs produced by the many divisions of the major houses. If you have never seen such a catalog you will not understand that these in no way resemble the short and flimsy cousins produced by, say, companies selling roasted meats. No indeed. These companies share a word… but nothing more. For the auction house catalogs are nothing short of the erudite and lavishly photographed “coffee table” books of yore, with only one difference: in these catalogs every single thing is for sale, could be yours, and which you are allowed, indeed encouraged to want… fervently, wildly, devotedly. Yes anything, everything could be yours… for a price.

In the beginning of course, when these long-established houses (with the grandest dating from the 18th century) do not know you, you must pay for the privilege of getting a catalog. And, as if to warn you about what is to follow, even these catalogs are steeply priced, at $50 or more each.

But when you are that all-important entity — a demonstrated connoisseur — you may request any catalog for free… or, when you are more well-known, too, specialists will send you their latest, a card enclosed with their compliments. One such specialist so beguiled yesterday sent me the latest sales catalog from Sotheby’s Amsterdam, for they have sales from noble and royal houses which beguile me, and regularly seduce me from the thrifty ways of my plain-living, luxury abhoring Puritan ancestors. They look down on me now with disdain and disapproval… But that is their problem, not mine.

“I’m lovely. All I am is lovely.”

No one can aspire to being a connoisseur without the “eye”; that is the practiced ability to perceive, not just to see, an item. This is the work of a lifetime… for, you see, ages previous to ours did not have just or only masters; there were many lackluster crafts people… and, such is fate… they often survived where the superior productions of their more gifted brethren may not. Yes, Fate is fickle that way.

To develop your eye requires incessant labor… the willingness, indeed the desire, or better yet, the obsession… to examine, scrutinize, and, at all times, improve your ability to know what you are looking at, and why it either is or is not worthy of… you. This all starts when an item you see in a sales catalog, or on the Internet, looks at you (for the object most assuredly selects you, as much as being selected by you)… when, I say, that item looks at you and says without any modesty at all… “I’m lovely. All I am is lovely. Lovely is the one thing I can do…”

But is this claim true… or merely a ruse… to ensnare you? This is where you must have help… or you are on the way to a very expensive mistake, a mistake which is almost always avoidable if you do your homework; which entails finding, listening to, and following the advice of experts who have spent a lifetime perfecting skills and knowledge you don’t have but which you desperately need right now. Such experts can be acquired, first, from the auction houses themselves and then by referral from the auction houses.

Direct, candid, honest to a fault.

One of the most gratifying and unexpected things you’ll learn as you develop as a connoisseur is the honor and honesty of experts. Their candor is a by-word and rare in our world of mendacity and practiced deceits. In short they tell the truth. And no matter how thoroughly you mature as a connoisseur you will always rely on it… as I do. My chief support is London-based Simon Gillespie, conservator of paintings, friend, goad, willing ear, magnificent eye. Sometimes he brings possible acquisitions to me; sometimes I to him. In the case of the striking floral still life pictured above, by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699) it was, first, my find; then after Simon’s review, very much his as well. The song sung by this lovely painting by one of the greatest masters, had not been sung in vane. I had taken the bait… as how could I not… for I already knew the man and his work; one of his magnificent ouevres was mine already, hung here to enliven the gray winter days of Cambridge… and never anything other than winsome.

Thus the duet.

Each object, every artifact which could be collected must sing out about its merits, particularly when those merits are not immediately apparent and only as a result of some master conservator’s ministrations, the work of a Simon Gillespie, absolutely essential to the long-term value and preservation, for such necessary experts see below the damages, scarred surfaces and problems which accrue in these objects over time — and these were immense and challenging in the new Monnoyer. In short, they see the “lovely” in items anything but. And the lucky ones (for they are lucky indeed) are snapped up (often at bargain prices), about to be returned to their original condition, a thing of beauty, a joy forever.

And it is the connoisseur who makes that decision (always after soliciting the best advice) and makes the necessary investment of time, money, patience, and belief. And who then is more than qualified to sing back to the object of his affection these words by Sondheim:

“You’re lovely, Absolutely lovely. Who’d believe the loveliness of you?”

I would. I did. And now it is mine, “Radiant as in some dream come true.”

Your comments on this article are invited, post your comments below.

See a Connoisseur in action at: http://writerssecrets.com/a-connoisseurs-display/

About the Author

Dr. Jeffrey Lant is known worldwide. He started in the media business when he was 5 years old, a Kindergartner in Downers Grove, Illinois, publishing his first newspaper article. Since then Dr. Lant has earned four college degrees, including the PhD from Harvard. He has taught at over 40 colleges and universities, quite possibly the first to offer satellite courses. He has written over 20 books, thousands of articles and been a welcome guest on hundreds of radio and television programs. He has founded several successful corporations and businesses including his latest at …writerssecrets.com

 

His memoirs “A Connoisseur’s Journey” have garnered five prizes that ensure its classic status. Its subtitle is “Being the artful memoirs of a man of wit, discernment, pluck, and joy.” A good read by this man of so many letters. Such a man can offer you thousands of insights into the business of becoming a successful writer. Be sure to sign up now and get a copy of his memoir at http://writerssecrets.co

 

His new model at Writers Secrets.com helps people to get their messages and stories out to the world! Find out more at: http://writerssecrets.com

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