Preserving ancient art in all its glory is a noble act as well as a big step toward unfolding the mystery around what life used to be like during those periods. In fact, one piece of art can bring us closer to the entire civilization. The artifacts tell stories about the artists and craftsmen who made them including the style of that particular moment they were inspired by and the materials and techniques they were bound by depending on their availability where they lived.
All in all, it’s an eye-opener. This is what’s exactly at the heart of Bruil & Brandsma Works of Art (art gallery) founded by Rob Bruil and Marieke Brandsma in the 1990s. They began their journey with the collection of Dutch folk art at first.
As time went by, their collections became more diverse keeping antiques from as far as the14th to the 18th century, ranging from applied arts and artifacts to unique works of art. One such great work of art it has in its collection is “a pottery figure of a boy holding a basket with two young birds” made by a famous German artist Johann Matthias Jansen between1780 and 1785 in Potsdam. Materials that he used in the making of this beautiful sculptural figure were terracotta, mother-of-pearl, glass, lime wood and shells.
Elegantly modeled in pottery, the figure is standing on a low and painted wooden stand. His coat, pants and the top part of the stand are adorned with mother-of-pearl and various types of shells. The boy has been shown holding a basket with two birds that are looking towards his right hand with which he feeds them fondly.
Born in 1751 in Potsdam, Jansen initially studied art under the tutelage of Andreas Ludwig Kruger. In 1770, he visited Vienna, and then passed through Rome before his travels coming to an end in Paris in 1773. However, he returned to Germany and started working in Berlin where he created a number of paintings, portraits and encaustic works whilst working on the interior decoration of the Dobbelsches Theater. As his prominence grew, he was appointed the Director of the School of Art and Design in 1790 in Konigsberg where he was handed over the baton to complete the interior decoration of the theater including the stage curtain. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was common practice that objects made with shells and paintings of shells were displayed in cabinets of curiosities and were highly prized by the princely courts.
Good news for the art connoisseurs is that they can see the sculptures (dating back to the 17th century) decorated with shells at the Museo degli Argenti in Florence. Back then, palaces were decorated with the costly and exotic material: For example, the Gottorf Palace in Schleswig had an entire room devoted to shell collections.
Mesmerized by the beauty of shells, Frederick the Great in 1751dedicated a grotto entirely festooned with shells to Neptune in his Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam.
The present figure is quite similar to the pair of relief panels depicting two music-making men which were sold with Christie’s Paris in 2009 (Christie’s Paris, Collection Yves Laurent et Pierre Berge, February 23-25, 2009, lot 646). The type of dress and the manner in which the shells and the small plaques of mother-of-pearl are applied in rows of overlapping fiches are, in fact, executed in the same fashion. Christie’s states that the two relief panels are part of a larger group of comparable works of which four were offered at auction: Two depict ‘the gardener’ and ‘the falconer’, and are described as virtually identical works to the pair sold at Christie’s. They were signed by Jansen and are thought to have been created for Frederick the Great. Later, they formed part of the collection of Christabel, Lady Aberconway and were sold with Sotheby’s Monaco in 1976 (Sotheby’s Monaco, June 23-24, 1976, lot 38).
Another facet of what they do is to find out what their customers want.
“We work closely with our customers and listen to their preferences regarding the design of their homes. Besides, we’ve a restoration studio where we preserve and restore objects of our own and those of collectors,”
2017 was a great year for them as they opened a new gallery specializing in Asian Art.
“The focus of it is mainly on spectacular Chinese sculptures and works of art from the early periods such as the Han, Tang and Sui dynasties,”
The art historical aspects and information about provenance of each object is extensively researched.
They are members of the “Koninklijke Vereniging van Handelaren in Oude Kunst Nederland” (Royal Association of Fine Art Dealers Holland) and the “Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst” (The Royal Asian Art Society in the Netherlands).
Bruil and Brandsma Works of Art