Six Art Deco Motifs That Will Never Go Out of Style

From angular zigzags to sweeping curves, the defining motifs of Art Deco are immortalised in the architecture of the era. We look at six that remain in vogue.

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Living Between Tradition and Modernity

Saffronart is excited to announce its April auctions dedicated to two important lifestyle defining categories.

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Campaign Furniture: Historical Function and Design

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a brief introduction to campaign furniture anticipating the upcoming sale “Elegant Design”.

Upcoming Saffronart Sale "Elegant Design"

Upcoming Saffronart Sale “Elegant Design”

 

New York: Campaign furniture has a distinct role in history due to its unique blend of beautiful aesthetic and simple usability. Born out of necessity, the construction of these furniture pieces was revolutionary. It can be distinguished by its ability to breakdown and fold into an easy to transport state. This quality is typically constructed with the help of brass hinges or foldable legs and sides, while still maintaining a beautiful and high quality design motif.

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale "Elegant Design"

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale “Elegant Design”

Historically these pieces were made popular by the British Army in the 18th and 19th century and were typically used by travelers and military officials in the pursuit of colonial efforts. The British Army required pieces that represented the warm luxuries of home, but would not burden or weigh them down while on their campaign. As the call for these “knock-down” styles increased, the finest furniture and luggage makers began to compete over who could make the most opulent pieces while still maintaining a light and malleable design. They ranged from full-scale living furniture to carrying cases for food and toiletry items.

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale "Elegant Design"

A piece from the upcoming Saffronart sale “Elegant Design”

This piece of history represents a very distinct time of global expansion including major explorations in the east. “The administrators and armies of the British Empire in the Indian subcontinent were perhaps the largest consumer of campaign furniture leading to high quality local manufacturing of durable, practical and elegant ‘knock-down’ chairs, tables, desks, bookcases and beds” (J and R Guram). Furniture fit for the leaders of the British Army proved to be successful in popular culture and still remains in style today due to its durability and utilitarian beauty. A number of contemporary craftsman still continue this tradition and it is often seen in outdoor furniture, indoor furniture and high end collectible items alike. From an interior design perspective Campaign Furniture offers a balance of graceful antiquity with modern functionality that will continue to be sought after for decades to come. While this design technique began out of necessity, in present day it represents a historical golden age of travel and global expeditions. Campaign furniture will be honored in the upcoming sale “Elegant Design” featuring items such as a desks, tables, luggage and travel accessories. For more information on the sale and the items shown in this article please visit the auction website here.

The Charm of Ebony

Saffronart’s forthcoming auction ‘Elegant Design’ features some amazing ebony furniture. Elisabetta Marabotto unearths the fascination with one of the most enduring and sought-after of woods

A Stunning Anglo Indian Ebony Table for Special Occasions Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

A Stunning Anglo Indian Ebony Table for Special Occasions Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

 London: Our upcoming Elegant Design auction features a collection of stunning furniture, as well as silverware and other rare finds. Quite often, silver takes over other pieces, perhaps because of its sheen and value. What about the appeal of less lustrous objects—wood, anyone? I’ve decided to dedicate this post to ebony—a wood that we all know is valuable, yet doesn’t pop in to our heads while talking about valuable objects.

Have you ever wondered why ebony has been so popular and sought after?

Let’s begin with the basics. Ebony (diospyros ebenum or Ceylon ebony) is a native wood of southern India and Sri Lanka. Its hardness allows for beautiful intricate carvings. The wood acts as a natural insect repellent and its smoothness— once polished—produces a black lustre similar to that of Chinese or Japanese lacquer, giving it a beautiful radiance.

The production of ebony furniture in India seems to have first begun along India’s Coromandel Coast, a textile-producing region where a number of East India company trading factories were based. Turnery (the art of making objects using the lathe) was and still is one of the most fundamental and outstanding of Indian arts. European visitors have expressed their admiration for this art form since the sixteenth century. A Dutch traveller, Georg Rumphius, recorded that “the Coromandel Coast ‘is exceptionally richly provided of this [ebony] as the natives make from it all kinds of curious works, as chairs, benches and small tables, carving them out with foliage, and sculpture”(Victoria & Albert Museum Collection, London). Also Francisco Pelsaert , a Dutch merchant who worked for the Dutch East Indies Company, noted in 1626 that in Tatta, Sindh, “Ornamental desks, draught-boards, writing cases, and similar goods are manufactured locally in large quantities; they are very prettily inlaid with ivory and ebony, and used to be exported in large quantities to Goa and the coast towns.” Writing at the close of the seventeenth century, Captain Cope, an officer of the East India Company,  confirmed that at Tatta, ‘They make fine Cabinets, both lack’d and inlaid with ivory'( Victoria & Albert Museum Collection, London).

Luxury Relaxation, An Ebony Chaise Lounge, Featuring in the Elegant Design, Saffronart 25-26 March 2014

Luxury Relaxation, An Ebony Chaise Lounge, Featuring in the Elegant Design, Saffronart 25-26 March 2014

Europeans have, however, been acquainted with ebony since the Classical Age.  References to the wood can be traced to Marco Polo’s books. By the 17th century, ebony had become one of the most appreciated of Indian woods in Europe, and quickly grew to be the most highly priced wood of that century.  The first mention to Parisian cabinetmakers, ébénistes, dates to 1638, and, incidentally, the term finds its roots in “ebony”.   Many European merchants in India adapted to these local customs which were previously discussed but others brought furniture from home or commissioned Indian artists to create western style fur­niture for them. This made the production and exchange of furniture quite varied, since traditional objects were produced along with western style furniture made of Indian materials.

These kinds of pieces, such as the ones featuring in our auction, are extraordinary because they witness the merging of western and Indian motifs as well as materials which makes these objects unique and rich of history.

The Perfect Durability for Family Gatherings and Dinner Parties Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

The Perfect Durability for Family Gatherings and Dinner Parties Featuring in The Elegant Design, Saffronart, 25-26 March 2014

Colonial furniture, like the furniture in our catalogue, has been admired since the 16th century up to contemporary times for its versatility, elegance and practicality and it has the power of adding beauty, distinction and interest to any interior setting whether modern or traditional.

Now that you know a little about ebony, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity of owning one of these unique objects of art. Drop by the Mumbai gallery to view our lovely collection of ebony furniture, among other prized woods.

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