Once Upon A Time: S. van Leeuwen
Once upon a time, in a land made not-so-far away due to transatlantic flights criss-crossing the globe, making anywhere you want to go a mere hop, skip, and airline ticket away, there was the most interesting of antiques shop located in the “Kingdom of Orange”. Just a stone’s throw away from Holland’s Royal Palace, within waving distance of Queen Bea, S. van Leeuwen Antiques dwells in a charming 18th C mansion complete with a Jugendstil store-front and an original tiled entryway. This shop has been handed down within the “Lion Family” from generation to generation, landing in the capable hands of the stores current proprietor, Alexander van Leeuwen.
For nearly 100 years, S. van Leeuwen Antiques has reigned as a protector of Dutch heritage. Within the walls of the building (which is a national monument in its own right), you’ll find one of my favorite collections of 17th- 19th Century Dutch antiques for sale in the whole of Holland.
S. Van Leeuwen Antiques – The Hague
It’s a funny fact that finding Dutch antiques to buy in The Netherlands is downright difficult. You can roam antique shop after antique shop with varied inventory from around the world without finding nary a Dutch antique one. Though the Dutch have a history for excellence in engraved chests, embossed cabinets, Friesian clocks, heavy brass fittings, Biedermeier and Empire styles with dark colors, heavy furnishings and wood paneling, these locally made items are quite difficult to find. Rarely does an antique shop in Holland stock an extensive collection of locally made furniture, which is why the inventory at S. van Leeuwen first stood out to me as an exceptional exception among its peers.
Alexander showing Diva Clients the inside of a Dutch Armoire
Perhaps this lack of antique shops specializing in strictly Dutch antiques owes to Holland’s seafaring past. You see, even before online boarding passes were being printed on your home computer, Holland had a global perspective. Knowing their country was small and their own language limiting, the Dutch studied languages for centuries, becoming polyglots gobbling up the world’s languages and absorbing its cultures in its seafaring past chocked full of global trade.
Not only did the Dutch explore the world, but Holland also became a refuge to a multitude of a global residents seeking protection from persecution. It was a cultural melting pot long before America claimed that title for its own.
The Empire Commode I coveted at S Van Leeuwen
Over the centuries with new residents from far away countries making their Home in Holland, came foreign furniture styles & designs (as well as an influx of immigrant furniture makers to help fuel the fire). As Holland kept its eye on the world, they were able to pick and choose among the best the world had on offer, designing their own furnishings, borrowing a taste of this and a touch of that to their own well-established traditions.
Wandering through S. van Leeuwen Antiques, I pause before an Empire Commode, “Are you sure it’s not French?” I inquire and Lex laughs as he shakes his head, “No, it was made right here in Holland…” and he goes into a wonderful story, detailing the past of this particular piece.
He tells stories of Dutch furniture makers and points out the various woods, names foreign-sounding villages in the northern most reaches of The Netherlands and as he talks he brings the past to life! “Once upon a time” is indeed a reality!
Pointing to a beautiful blue & white porcelain piece sitting on a ledge, he inquires, “Do you know where this is from?” My immediate response, given that we are in Holland after all, is that “The piece is clearly Delft.” As he shakes his head in the negative he responds, “Before there was Delft, the Dutch conquered the sea, founding the Dutch East India Company, ushering in the great Golden Age. Dutch traders roamed the sea, bringing home porcelain from China and Japan – it was these patterns upon which Delftware was based.”
He lifts a precious piece from a perch and begins to explain the difference between Asian porcelain and Delftware, showing how Chinese & Japanese antique porcelain became true immigrants to Holland, having spawned high-quality Delft reproductions over the years.
To listen to him speak is to obtain a verbal “Masters in the History of Dutch Antiques”. He drops names and dates and you can read his passion on his face as if it were a book with large-print. As he shares his knowledge, my desire to own a piece of the mighty Dutch past grows and as I look about his shop, I’m overwhelmed with choices – much as I’m certain the Dutch have been throughout the generations. They say “the world is your oyster”, but rarely have I seen a country – to mix metaphors here – “suck the marrow from life” as well as the Dutch have… and in S. van Leeuwen Antiques, this jewel of a shop, you find the proverbial pearl in the oyster.
A few of my favorite pieces include:
A Louis XVI Mahogany Buffet with tin sink, made in Holland’s province Zeeland.
Dutch Mahogany Empire Commode, circa 1810
And I’ve saved my favorite 2 pieces for last!
Kruisvoetkabinet (apologies I don’t know the name in English) made in Holland between 1690-1720. Note the strong English influence of this period marked by the marriage of the Dutch Head of State Willem III and the English Queen Mary.
And, last but not least, the piece I want to bring home!
Dutch Renaissance-Style Cupboard, end 19th C
Visit S. van Leeuwen Antiques in The Hague – Antiques Diva Tested, Antiques Diva Approved!
Happily Ever After,
The Antiques Diva™