History

18th Century Room Heaters - From Post-WWII Vienna to Brooklyn

Antique dealing has changed completely in the last 10-20 years. That’s not news. But recently, we were fortunate enough to be reunited with a large, Louis XVI style Room Heater, which we had in fact previously owned and sold in the 1970’s. These large, sculptural works of art are perhaps what I find most engaging about antiques - works of art which offer a window into how people used to live, created with knowledge and craftsmanship that usually doesn’t exist any longer. Its acquisition also prompted my Father to share the following story with me regarding his and my Grandfather’s love for these anachronistic objects. And besides being a great story, it also exemplifies the sort of antique dealing that doesn’t seem to be possible any longer - one of discovery, and the physical process of discovery, of rare and forgotten things (beyond rediscovering a long forgotten Pinterest Board). As recounted to me by Tony Victoria:

“After the war my Dad [Frederick Victoria] went to Vienna during the period when it was divided between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. I am not sure of what led him there, but one attraction was what could be found in the Soviet sector. There was, for example, the warehouse containing the collection of Count Potocki’s Lancut Castle. Potocki was closely related to the Russian Czars and through machinations I am not entirely familiar with, he was able to get permission from Hitler’s regime to take his possessions out of Poland to Vienna by train. There this vast horde sat after the war - you just had to find a way into the Soviet Sector! Yet my Dad, along with his good friend, Albert Nesle, would somehow manage to gain entrance to it and buy, buy, buy. I am sure it was an antique dealer’s dream.

Another attraction may have been his love of the decoratively monumental  heating stoves which were used in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. I am sure that he had been bitten by this bug in France where he must have been captivated by the Louis XVI examples he encountered with their commode like fireboxes and palm form flues. In fact, I also remember being struck by the first in-situ example I saw at the chateau built by the Marquis de Contades in the Loire valley at his Chateau de Montgeoffroy (image below). There, in what was reputed to be the first dedicated dining room in France, the Louis XVI period dining table was paired with a heating stove of that commode/palm flue design which was positioned behind a protective iron railing.

Anyway… back in Vienna after the War, my Father came upon the more baroque examples which were produced in southern Germany and which not infrequently incorporated color into their designs, something not seen for the most part in France where these heaters were pretty uniformly white. My Dad’s visits to his favorite dealers for these things yielded, in addition to a collection of stoves which he dealt in for their unique decorative and architectural character, a large number of photos which he took or was given to keep on file.

These records turned out to be especially useful once in the 1990’s when, out of the blue, I [Anthony Victoria] took a call from someone in Brooklyn who said they had a stove they wanted to sell. I am not sure of what led me to follow up on this call. I mean: Brooklyn, Viennese heating stove: who would have thought? Anyway, in a relatively small apartment I ended up finding a wonderful, probably 8’+ tall white example whose baroque design resembled the swirling shape of a Dairy Queen soft serve cone. What it was doing in that apartment, I have no clue. But, not only did I end up making it the center piece of one of my last exhibits at the Winter Antique Show, but I was also able to sell it with documentation which I found in those files that my Dad had created in the late 1940’s! He had seen and photographed this same stove on one of his visits to Vienna. It just took 40+ years for it to surface in Brooklyn and for me to close the link of its acquisition.

Montgeoffroy Dining Room, showing a Louis XVI style room heater on the left with a Palm-form flue and commode-style firebox.

Montgeoffroy Dining Room, showing a Louis XVI style room heater on the left with a Palm-form flue and commode-style firebox.

Our recently acquired Louis XVI style Room Heater example with Terracotta Putti figures adorning the Palm-form flue.

Our recently acquired Louis XVI style Room Heater example with Terracotta Putti figures adorning the Palm-form flue.

An old inventory photo of available ceramic room heaters taken by Frederick Victoria in Vienna circa 1948

An old inventory photo of available ceramic room heaters taken by Frederick Victoria in Vienna circa 1948

Original file photo of the “Soft Serve” Room heater as seen by Frederick Victoria in Vienna circa 1948

Original file photo of the “Soft Serve” Room heater as seen by Frederick Victoria in Vienna circa 1948

The “Soft Serve” Room heater filling up a Brooklyn apartment and discovered by Anthony Victoria in the early 1990’s

The “Soft Serve” Room heater filling up a Brooklyn apartment and discovered by Anthony Victoria in the early 1990’s

Frederick P. Victoria & Son, Inc.’s booth at the Winter Antique Show circa 1995

Frederick P. Victoria & Son, Inc.’s booth at the Winter Antique Show circa 1995

“Soft Serve” Viennese Room Heater discovered in Brooklyn and presented at Frederick P. Victoria & Son’s Winter Antique show booth circa 1995

“Soft Serve” Viennese Room Heater discovered in Brooklyn and presented at Frederick P. Victoria & Son’s Winter Antique show booth circa 1995

New Year's Resolutions - from 1950

I know New Years feels like eons ago, but it is only January 20th and not too late for some resolutions. We found an old xeroxed print out of these resolutions written by my grandfather, Frederick Victoria and published in Town & Country January 1950! Enjoy this time-capsule (transcribed below the image)!

Town & Country 1950

A Decorator's New Year's Resolutions, by Frederick Victoria - Town & Country 1950

It is January first and the holidaze is over at last. But the festive season has left its mark. The scars go deeper than the tinsel shreds imbedded in the carpet and the tack holes in the mantel that tell where once the Christmas stockings hung. There may be a crack in the overmantel plaster that appeared the day you decided to burn all the Christmas wrappings at once and there are probably a few too-permanent reminders of that frightfully gay eggnog party that, somehow, got out of hand. Christmas was fun while it lasted but you and your house are ready for a good going-over. And January is the perfect month in which to face the temporary cataclysm that comes with refurbishing. You can go South and let George do it, or supervise the work yourself in unthreatened privacy. (If you did gie a part in January, nobody would come to it.) So take stock of your tired surroundings. Perhaps a lick and a promise, or bright accent here and there will do the trick or, as is often the case, it may be that nothing short of a complete from-the-skin-out reconstruction of your domestic setting will do. 

In any case, it is well to begin with a list of ironclad New Year's resolutions. Here are some suggestions, culled from years of experience with the pitfalls of my trade.

I resolve:

One. To consult my decorator. Not just any decorator but the one whose taste, judged by his previous work, seems closest to mine - or if there is room for improvement, whose taste I aspire to. If I were ill, I would certainly not attempt to cure myself, any more than I would call in a physician whom I knew to be antipathetic to me. 

Two. Having chosen my decorator, I will abide by his decisions and hold his advice in higher esteem than that of well meaning friends or relatives - just as I would, having chosen a specialist to ease a malady, eschew the medication recommended by local witch doctors. 

Three. I will bless my decorator for insisting that I get rid of the oversized chimney piece that came with the house and I will welcome his suggestion that I replace  it with a well-proportioned mantel, low enough to bring my lovely mantel garniture into the line of vision.

Four. I will rid myself of overscaled pieces, which are usually hand-me-downs anyway.

Five. I will cast all economic considerations to the winds and ruthlessly exile the oriental rug that grandfather brought from the Far East. (I've always hated the thing, anyway.) 

Six. If a figured rug or carpet is substituted for it I will resist the temptation to cover the furniture in rich, figured fabrics that would make my room look "busy."

Seven. I will re-cover the man-of-the-house's favorite leather armchair in a fabric which conforms to the new scheme, in spite of all opposition. It will be just as comfortable and much, much better looking. 

Eight. I will remove the electric wiring, fake candles, and imitation-flame bulbs form all my appliques, and substitute real candles for their flattering effect. 

Nine. I will strive valiantly to strip my gaze of sentiment when I look at my pictures. If they are not in sympathy with the rest of the room, out with them!

Ten. I will not try to replace them with bargains.I will remember that there is no such thing as a bargain in art. 

Eleven. I will never, never no matter whether I'm expecting guest or not, forget to keep fresh flowers in my rooms. 

Twelve. Above all, in my house I will strive to create and maintain a lived-in look. I will remember that nothing is less inviting than a gaunt, sparsely furnished museum. 

Project for Howard Slatkin

We recently found a file of in-situ photos from a wonderful project of Howard Slatkin's which we were a part of. The project was in New Jersey and completed in the late 1990's, one of the last major projects we produced from our old 55th street location. Hope you enjoy them!

A custom vanity based on a Louis XVI commode by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A custom vanity based on a Louis XVI commode by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A provincial Louis XV style desk with gold tooled leather fronted cartonier superstructure by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A provincial Louis XV style desk with gold tooled leather fronted cartonier superstructure by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A Directorie style mahogany bed with brass inlay details by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A Directorie style mahogany bed with brass inlay details by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A pair of Directorie style etageres with brass details and Georgian style coffee table with mosaic marble top by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A pair of Directorie style etageres with brass details and Georgian style coffee table with mosaic marble top by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A provincial French Bordelaise style vanity with superstructure by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A provincial French Bordelaise style vanity with superstructure by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A custom single pedestal extending dining table and French Empire-style chairs by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A custom single pedestal extending dining table and French Empire-style chairs by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A custom Louis XVI style bed and canopy by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A custom Louis XVI style bed and canopy by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A Regence style vanity by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A Regence style vanity by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A Russian style bar cabinet with crotch mahogany and brass details by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

A Russian style bar cabinet with crotch mahogany and brass details by Victoria & Son for Howard Slatkin

Desk for Lauren Bacall

Bonhams will be holding the estate sale for the late Lauren Bacall on March 31st, 2015 in New York City. You can find the complete catalog here. We were happy to find lot 116, which is a desk our founder, Frederick Victoria provided to his friend and client, Ms. Bacall. This is something Mr. Victoria would have called in the "chateau" taste; a provincial piece that reflected a bit more of the Parisian sophistication than your average provincial piece of furniture. The design is one of a few chateau-style desk designs with a superstructure from our archive. Some of these superstructures have open cubby-style openings, leather fronted "cartonnier" style drawers, or as in the case of this design, wooden drawers and doors. 

Image of Victoria & Son desk 38, from the Bacall estate sale at Bonhams, 3.31.2015

Image of Victoria & Son desk 38, from the Bacall estate sale at Bonhams, 3.31.2015

Victoria & Son file image of Desk 38 model

Victoria & Son file image of Desk 38 model

Blue print and reference sketches for Desk 38 from Victoria & Son design archive 

Blue print and reference sketches for Desk 38 from Victoria & Son design archive 

The unfinished brass mount used on the knees of the legs for Desk 38

The unfinished brass mount used on the knees of the legs for Desk 38

The raw brass mount used at the corners of the desk surface

The raw brass mount used at the corners of the desk surface

Desk 38 with a later mounted cabinet in Lauren Bacall's Dakota Apartment

Desk 38 with a later mounted cabinet in Lauren Bacall's Dakota Apartment


Source: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22741/lot/...

Original Baldwin-Porter Etagere Finial

We recently completed an etagere version of our Cole Porter model and had an occasion to use the original finial for this client’s project. As a model that has been made many times now, by many different hands, we thought this small detail might be intriguing.  When Frederick originally made the etageres for Billy Baldwin, we used a short, domed finial with radiating gadrooning.  We used these for all the etageres made in our shop at the time. However, as the model became more widely made, we ceased making the etageres around the mid-1960′s and, frankly, forgot about the finial model.

Raw and finished castings of our original finial model for the Cole Porter & Billy Baldwin etagere 

Raw and finished castings of our original finial model for the Cole Porter & Billy Baldwin etagere 

Catalog cover for the "Baltimore's Billy Baldwin" exhibit

Catalog cover for the "Baltimore's Billy Baldwin" exhibit

When Tony started producing the re-edited coffee table versions of the model in 2000, there was still no need for a finial on a coffee table.  But around 2009, as John Archer Abbott started putting together his exhibition “Baltimore’s Billy Baldwin” at John Hopkins (http://www.museums.jhu.edu/evergreen.php?section=exhibitions&exhibition=baldwin), he contacted Tony about anything we might be able to loan to exhibit.  Sure enough, we found the finial models (2 sizes) and sent them down for the exhibit along with some archival photos.

The 2 original variations for the finial

The 2 original variations for the finial

Needless to say we were thrilled our client agreed to use this original detail for their etagere and to see the model used again after a 50 year hiatus!