We are delighted to announce the launch of our holiday catalogue, Flora & Fauna: The National World in Antique Furniture & the Decorative Arts.
Since the earliest cave paintings from 25,000 BCE, men chose animals as their first subjects for cave paintings. From then on, the world of flora and fauna has often dominated artistic depictions in paintings, sculpture, and the decorative arts.
The 18th century led way to a new wave of fascination with the natural world. Advances in science and the emergence of the Enlightenment movement offered more opportunities to study nature in greater detail and with greater accuracy. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and director of the Jardin des Plantes, published his first volume of Histoire Naturelle in 1749, and this monumental project would end up filling forty-four volumes in total and offered a catalogue of plant and animal life forms of the scale which had never been achieved before. Although stylistic trends in art changed throughout the 18th century, one constant in each movement was that nature reigned supreme.
Furniture and the decorative arts intersect with nature in a particularly powerful way: many pieces incorporate natural materials directly into the art itself. The catalogue features a group of shellwork from the early 19th century, and other examples in the catalogue include taxidermy and tortoiseshell. The rest of the catalogue highlights the depiction of nature through carving, textiles, painted decoration, and marquetry inlay. These pieces reflect art from Europe as well as from Asia, where the exotic pieces were highly treasured and collected by European nobility.
It is easy to forget or overlook the rich symbolism that natural life has held for different cultures throughout time. What may appear to us as a simple depiction of a flower or a shell may hold a great deal of cultural significance and additional meaning. As we present each piece in this catalogue, we will explore these hidden meanings and look at the broader significance that these symbols held at the time.
We hope you will enjoy seeing our collection through the lens of nature: it is an appropriate and fitting way to celebrate man’s artistic achievement alongside the beauty of nature itself. You can read the catalogue on our website here, or have a flip through below. In addition to our regular posts each week, we will be highlighting individual pieces in the catalogue throughout the holiday season with an exploration of their connection to the natural world.