Dear Diva Readers,
hen clients come on tour to source antiques, it’s important that they do a little homework before crossing the pond. While we’re always happy to share our knowledge knowing for yourself what you’re looking for and what you’re looking at are important as you embark on the hunt – this knowledge will give you confidence in buying overseas whether our Diva Guide is taking you to the countryside to visit antique warehouses, city flea markets, or both. In Italy, Diva Guide Susan often takes clients all over Tuscany, scouring shops, markets, warehouses, and private residences for everything from ancient pieces to Mid-century modern. When looking at typical Tuscan antiques from the 18th and 19th century however, there are really three main styles to recognize. I asked Susan to explain a bit about those styles here on the blog.
Italy, as a peninsula, is an ancient country but in fact it was only united as one country in 1861. Up until that time is was ruled by various dominions, including those of neighbouring countries; France, Austria, Spain and naturally the customs and styles of these dominions were influenced by their rulers.
Even though Tuscany is a central region of Italy, Lucca, Florence and Siena each have distinct regional styles of furniture, in particular those of the 18th and 19th century. Nobel families dating back many generations were prominent in each province but there was also a burgeoning wealth from the textile industry in Lucca, banking in Siena and foreigners in Florence which further influenced the demand for important pieces.
The Lucchese Style
With the growth of the affluent middle classes large villas were built during the 18th and 19th century around the Lucca area, and many of these were silk and textile merchants. With new grand homes being built, the demand of larger proportioned and more elaborate furniture grew. More exotic woods were also available such as mahogany and fruit woods. Much of the 19th century Lucchese style was influenced by Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca crowned in 1805. At the time, in fact, to adapt their homes to the evolution of the Empire style, the family commissioned local artisans to create furnishings in the main inspired by the French style, though suitable to the local taste. These “corrections ” in effect created a new style, best in features and lighter in the forms. While making clear reference to the Empire, still the variation is recognized as Lucchese style.
The Siena Style
Siena did not fall under the same influences or dominations that Lucca or Florence did, being that it is a little further south. From ancient Roman times as a city, it has always enjoyed wealth, with large agricultural estates and summer houses for the wealthy city dwellers. Much of Siena was built on banking; in fact the first banks were introduced in the medieval period, as lending institutions along the old pilgrim’s path. Little has changed in Siena since that period, which is still strongly felt. The Palio horse race which takes place twice a year has changed little since its introduction. It was then that the city was divided into what are known as contradas, and it remains so to this day which has kept it a closed society. More local woods were used for furniture, such as cherry, chestnut and oak. The pieces, although large in proportion to the house or room were more functional than decorative. Furniture from Siena was a little heavier in style to that of Lucca.
The Florentine Style
Florence too has been influenced by many rulers and styles. Although there is much wooden furniture, perhaps one thing to look out for is its beautiful decoration. These Florentine artisans are still appreciated today for their delicate handwork, finely painted pieces and gilding. The latter a much softer colour with the gesso beneath than its southern counterparts. Decoration and colours tend to be more neutral and softer than those in Venice, but no less lovely and are most sought after.
As you make your way through Tuscany, you will be able to pick up on the different styles of furniture and decoration. With a keen eye, you will know exactly what you are looking at and be able to speak intelligently to dealers about their inventory. As anyone in the antiques industry knows, part of the joy of antiquing is knowing the story and history behind each piece. Hopefully this blog helps you distinguish between Italian styles!
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
hen clients come on an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, they often want to purchase items that will add to a collection and pieces that they can decorate their homes with. Whether we’re whisking them from shop to shop or perusing an outdoor flea market, we often come across intaglios in Italy as well as France and Belgium – they can be a wonderful collector’s item as well as decorative!
While they can be made in a variety of materials—including plastic— the most popular antique intaglios are fashioned from stone, coral, shell, fine metals, and glass. They were created when artists carved down into the material to hollow out a recessed image. Just as form meets function with many antiques, intaglios once served a practical purpose. When brushed with wax or ink, the intaglio was used as a seal, identifying the sender of a letter or document.
In ancient times, intaglios were made from gems. The word “glyptic” refers to the art of carving small gem stones which could be mounted in rings. When a letter was being sent, the sender would dip their glyptic-intaglio in wax, acting as a distinctive personal signature once the wax hardened. A finely carved intaglio meant that forgery would be more difficult. The recessed cut surfaces of these intaglio gems are often very well preserved and reveal that artificial methods such as heat, sugar, and dyes were used to achieve varying colors in the gemstones.
Intaglios have been used for thousands of years and in ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. In the 8th and 7th centuries BC, carved gems in Greece often depicted geometric animal poses. By the 6th century BC, gem carvings incorporated more human and divine figures, always very detailed. In the 5th century relief carvings—similar to cameos– became popular and people began wearing them as jewelry. However intaglios have had many renaissances throughout the world, and are often associated with Italy, France, and England. From the 14th century to the early 1900’s intaglios were widely used through Europe. Many of the collections found today have been mounted and framed and are used as decorative items.
Today intaglios can be used as decoration or even to make one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. However you choose to use them, owning a piece of history is exhilarating! The story behind each unique intaglio shows just how fascinating antiques can be. If you would like information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, email us at email@example.com.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
hen antiquing throughout Europe, one often comes across curious pieces of furniture. While many pieces are beautiful to look at, they frequently have interesting characteristics that one can discover with further inspection. One such item is the Savonarola chair. You’ve probably seen this type of chair before, known for its unique X-frame. Having been around for centuries, this style of chair was made for a specific purpose and its construction, consisting of multiple slats in the legs which cross each other and rise to form the arms is quite interesting. It is this crossing of the legs that creates the X shape.
Developed in the late 15th century in Italy, the Savonarola chair was originally created to be foldable, and thus a more portable, version of the ancient Roman curule chair. The Savonarola however had more angular legs and the addition of a low back and though the basic construction of the chair was simple, there are many variations in armrest, backrest, and feet, as well as the type of wood used. The woodward was often covered with silk or velvet and the seat would have had a cushion. Typically the Savonarola chair had a wavy-shaped X, similar to the Dante chair, another X shaped style of seating.
Of course as time went on, the style and features of the chair were adapted and in the 19th century during the Renaissance Revival, versions of the chair featured iron pins for folding, higher backs, and more ornate details such as carving and inlay. The more ornate and larger they became, the more difficult they were to transport, thus altering their original purpose. These Renaissance Revival remakes began to look more like thrones!
The Savonarola didn’t get its name until the 19th century when homage was paid to a famous Renaissance Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola, who led Florence during the late 15th century. This moralistic religious leader is best known for his Bonfire of the Vanities, and it is quite possible that Friar Savonarola did possess a chair like this, since monks typically used folding chairs in their small rooms.
Today this style of chair still holds much of its aesthetic value. While we have much more portable folding chairs made of plastic, the Savonarola chair remains a favorite decorative piece for interior designers and those with a love of Renaissance style. In Italy you can often find these lovely examples of ingenuity from a bygone age at antique warehouses, second hand stores, and even house clearings.
If you would like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Tour in Italy or any of our other tour countries—France, England, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Germany— email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
ne thing I love about antiques is the fact that they connect us to the past. And while some pieces of furniture are no longer necessary due to today’s technology, they are still beautiful and can be adapted for new uses in modern life.Take for example the Amadia, an Italian piece of furniture that once graced the kitchens of every Tuscan home, great and small. Originally it was pressed into service while preparing dough for bread-making—a daily activity in each household 100 years ago. Today you can still see amadias in Tuscan country kitchens, but more often than not, they are used for storage rather than a place to store and knead dough.
Bread is a staple food in all cultures, and has been for centuries. Each corner of the world seems to have its own take on this ever present food, offering diverse shapes and flavors. The preparation of dough was once a common task that relied heavily on traditional methods, always involving water, flour, yeast, and of course strong hands to knead the mixture. Today as you travel in India and Asia you often still see this bread making ritual a part of daily life in their households. If you’ve ever tasted Tuscan bread you’ll know it’s unique in the fact that it is prepared without salt. Legend has it that around the year 1100, the salt trade was interrupted due to a war between Pisa and Florence, resulting in a very high cost for salt. In turn, Florentines adapted by making bread without salt, gradually adjusting to this new taste, referred to as “sciocco,” (without salt), and thus what should have only been a temporary fix has evolved into tradition. (Plus it happens to taste fabulous when dipped in Olive Oil with fat salt and fresh pepper!)
Prepared once or twice a week, Tuscan bread would be made with locally produced flour, and once baked, would keep for about a week. Every kitchen would have had an amadia, a sort of dough trough, where the dough was kneaded. The amadia was equipped with a board to grind the flour, a rolling pin to roll out the dough, and a storage area. Once the dough had risen, breads were placed on a prepared canvas, the fabric making a fold between each loaf. In the mean time a fire would be made in the oven, and once its flames had died down, the embers would be set aside while most of the ash was removed. Then came the time to bake the bread! Of course, if there was stale bread still left in the amadia after a week, it would not go to waste. Instead it would be used to prepare a list of exquisite dishes which utilized stale bread such as ribollita, panzanella, aqua cotta, pappa al pomodoro, fettunta, and black cabbage soup.
Today you can find several different styles of amadias dating from the 19th century up to the 1950’s, each with their own unique patina and style. Clients that take our Antiques Diva Tuscany Tour often remark on these pieces, as they can be found in second hand stores, antique shops, and warehouses. And while their function is no longer necessary, they can still add to the look of a kitchen and act as extra storage or prep space, proving that objects from the past can still be made relevant, even in new ways!
If you’d like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Tour in any of our 8 tour countries—Italy, France, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, or The Netherlands— email us at email@example.com.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
amma Mia! If Heaven were a place on earth, I’m certain it would look like a Tuscany! Who hasn’t dreamed of taking a trip to Tuscany? From sipping gorgeous Tuscan reds to soaking in the vistas and villas – it sounds like perfection! Add hunting for antiques into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect holiday! But if you’re want to find vintage and antiques treasures where should you focus your energies to find diva worthy treasures and what sorts of pieces will you find once you get there? Our Tuscan Diva Guide Susan gives us her top 5 types of places to go antiquing in Italy!
1. Architectural Salvage
With so many large and lovely villas set in sprawling parks and gardens coupled with abandoned Tuscan farmhouses dotted across the landscape, it’s little wonder that there is a wealth of Architectural Salvage materials to be found. Regal marble bathtubs and delicately carved sinks (just perfect for a powder room), old weather worn barn doors… still complete with original locks and hardware, soft grey ‘pietra serena’ stone fireplaces impregnated with decades, if not centuries of smoke, garden statuary, terracotta tiles and worn stair treads… each piece has a story to tell.
2. The consignment stores
For the die hard flea marketer and bargain hunter there is no better place than the consignment stores. The thrill of uncovering hidden treasure and the satisfaction of getting a bargain to tuck into your suitcase is exhilarating. Often old estates are cleared and you can really find some gems buried under the clutter; from signed oil paintings and watercolours for less than €50, mid century glass going for a song, crystal drop chandeliers (as well as extra crystals so no need to worry when you find a great pieces with missing ones) and furniture too. Once we had someone find the most delightful ‘Murphy bed’ that folded out of a gorgeous carved wood cabinet… it weighed a ton!
3. Little stores along the road
Of course the beautifully decorated antique stores filled with elegant pieces of 17th century furniture, old master paintings and richly gilded mirrors are intoxicating, but we like to get off the beaten track and explore the Tuscan countryside, climbing ladders in barns stacked sky high, picking our way through private collections and visiting restorers who always seem to have something hidden away. We’ve unearthered some real treasures; huge terracotta oil urns, bread chests (every home should have one!) and rustic painted furniture… just to whet the appetite.
4. Flea markets
The weekend flea markets are a must, usually held once a month, each falling on a different weekend, old books, textiles, religious artefacts and great agricultural pieces to repurpose. Depending on weekend we might hit Lucca, Florence or Arezzo. It’s fun meeting all the characters and really are the perfect place to find small pieces too to take home to friends as unique gifts or to keep and use as house gifts, though I have to confess we have found some pretty big ones too… a 5 foot high shield for one.
… it’s impossible not to have it on the list, a renaissance city with precious works of art and fine antiques. But really what I enjoy are the vintage stores full of designer fashion, Gucci, Ferragamo, Pucci to name just a few. But perhaps rather unexpectedly it’s also a great source for mid century pieces with amazing prices as it’s still not fully appreciated in Tuscany. There’s nothing better than spending an afternoon in the Oltrarno browsing… and trying hard to be restrained at the irresistible.
If you would like information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in Italy, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to help you source antiques in Tuscany!
The Antiques Diva® with help from her locally-based Tuscan Guide La Dolce Diva – Susan!
Dear Diva Readers,
ere at The Antiques Diva & Co we love taking clients on buying tours, introducing them to places and people that can help them find exactly what they’re looking for. With tours operating in 8 European countries, our locally based guides stay busy taking both tourists and trade professionals on tour! But did you know we also offer Buying Services for clients who want to source antiques in Europe, but can’t come over due to scheduling issues? We act as the “man on the ground,” reaching out to our trusted vendors and dealers to find specific pieces that our clients want. And while buying online has made international shopping a bit easier, we offer the service of loyalty to our customers, ensuring that what we’re showing them via email is of quality and up to their standards because we’ve actually seen each piece in person!
Recently one of our long-term clients (who just so happens to be a big name in the hotel world) reached out to us wanting to incorporate more antique architectural items into the hotels he designs. So who better to source unique and special architectural salvage than The Antiques Diva & Co!? This certainly isn’t the first time we’ve sourced architectural salvage for a client. From antique gates to doors, to fireplaces to floors and even a cathedral ceiling, we’ve found it all. We adore the idea of creating new spaces using one-of-a-kind antique elements. Antique architectural salvage is often very well-designed and made of solid, quality material but yet it comes at a fraction of the price of producing the same thing nowadays.
So while I was visiting a dealer in Italy, I came across a very handsome semicircular walnut bookcase circa 1810 which had a fabulous price. And because we all love a good story, I asked the dealer for a bit more information. It was originally built for the Court of Appeals in Brescia, which is a city in Lombardy. It is composed of five elements; a central entrance (which probably concealed a secret passage), flanked by two bookcases on each side. With original patina, it is the perfect piece to design a room around. I could picture a chic hotel bar utilizing this circular bookcase.
This is just one example of gorgeous architectural elements that come out of important historical European buildings. From chateaus that are being torn down to governmental buildings that are being renovated, our sources have access to some pretty awesome pieces. Staircases, boisserie, windows, doors, flooring— you name it, we can find it. And for an antique lover like me, knowing that these pieces will have a new life for many years to come is quite a rewarding prospect!
If you would like information on our Buying Services or even an Architectural Salvage Buying Tour in Europe, email us at email@example.com. We’d love to help you find just what you’re looking for.
The Antiques Diva®
hen traveling in Venice one of my favorite things to do is wake early and walk to the Rialto Fish Market (Mercato del Pesce) to see the stallholders receiving their barge loads of seafood that feeds the locals and tourists for the week and the local chefs in town buying food they’ll be serving on that evening’s menu. But on Sunday the fish market closes and in its place a Venetian Flea Market (Mercato Della Pulci) pops up at the Fish Market!
Don’t you just love shopping for Fish & Fleas!
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
amma Mia… When an assignment to go to Venice to write about the local antiques scene arose, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And while I was looking forward to my trip – who wouldn’t be? – what I didn’t expect was the arsenal of antiques that awaited me. I was surprised to discover a varied inventory, ranging from museum quality antiques, statues and paintings to 16th, 17th and 18th C painted furniture, Venetian chandeliers and mirrors as well as gorgeous antique jewelry and antique textiles. And the kicker? I didn’t just find tourist prices. These pieces were selling at market value when you entered with a local. I shopped in private palazzos and in by-appointment-only antique stores deep on back canals and calles I’d never heard of in districts where you found quiet spots the tourists hadn’t discovered or wandered off the beaten path.
On the arm of 2 local antiques dealers – Chiara and Orseola, the latter of whom happens to be from one of the 6 noble families in Venice (and an ancestor of the doges) – I visited local antique dealers, friends of her family and was invited in as if I, too, were a friend of the family. I found myself surprised at every corner that this is not a city just for the tourists to shop – but that some of the top dealers in the world are sourcing at antique shops you’d never discover without an insider making an introduction. (Between you and me I’m utterly convinced I found more than one of Axel Vervoordt’s secret sources though the dealers had complete discretion).
While these ladies were helping me rediscover Venice for an article I was writing, I realized this discovery was too big for simply a magazine feature with a word count limited at 1000. This was my 6th trip to Venice – yet I had never felt so embraced by the city as I did when I visited it with insiders. I wanted to be able to share what Chiara and Orseola had taught me. It wasn’t just about sharing the antique address… but was about giving insider access to the Venice only a local knows about. Plus, when antiquing, Chiara and Orseola give the kind of access that happens when a local calls instead of one of the millions of tourists who come each year. You will show up in a tiny shop and be invited to the vendor’s home on the nearby campo to see more of the collections. Only a small part of the inventory in Venice is kept in store fronts where the space is limited.
After antiquing in Venice several days with Chiara and Orseola I asked these ladies – the dealers who choreograph the amazing collection at O&C Antiques – to join my team as our newest The Antiques Diva & Co Guides leading antique buying tours in Venice and to my great pleasure they said “Si! Si! Si!”, delighted by the opportunity to share their world.
Thanks to a partnership between The Antiques Diva & Co and O&C Antiques, Venice – The Queen of the Adriatic – has just become Antiques Diva Territory! Stay tuned for more details as along with Chiara and Orseola we share more details on how you can bring Venetian Antiques home.
The Antiques Diva®
y Obsession du Jour? Northern Italian Cassapancas. They’re my own personal Casanova making me weak in my knees and my heart all a twitter each time I see them on one of our Italian Antiques Diva Tours. Almost always sold as a pair these carved benches from the Italian Renaissance typically flank the main public rooms in palazzo’s and are the precursor to the modern-day divan. Often with heraldic emblems reflecting the families origin finding these pieces are rarely up for sale because Palazzo owners typically wouldn’t sell these pieces. When it comes to Italian Palazzo Décor they’re considered the “immobile” – the unmovable – and typically would be left in a palace from generation to generation. They definitely make my #MustHaveAntiques List!
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
Modenus, asked me if we’d put together an Antiques Diva VIP experience for Blog Tour Milan I said “Si! Si! Si! Absolutely YES!” I’ve been fortunate enough to go on 2 blog tours in the past as a participant (in both NOLA and NYC) and so getting the opportunity to be a sponsor of the event gave me the chance to sit on the other side of the table to benefit from meeting a slew of fabulous bloggers and taking them on an Antiques Diva “experience”!hen Veronika Miller, proprietress of
I’ve called their “tour” an “experience” as it wasn’t a typical tour. We typically offer 1 on 1 private customized tours that last anywhere from a full day to a full week – but this group only had an afternoon to spare in their tightly packed scheduled and we wanted to make sure they saw some sites so we combined antiques with some diva lifestyle. In order to maximize their time we offered the lovely group of top design bloggers a bite sized taste of what The Antiques Diva® & Co does. We put together an afternoon walking tour of some of our favorite antiques and vintage vendors in the Brera district of Milan, once home to artists and bohemians and still full of color, character, and life. This is one of the most important arteries of the design district in the city, oozing style and creativity with beautiful stores and galleries that makes one feel like a child in a candy store. The narrow streets twist and turn, holding a surprise at every corner. We shared the creme de la creme of Milan’s antique and culture. One of our 1st stops was actually Cavalli and Nastri where vintage clothing reigns supreme, a tiny store bursting at the seams (excuse the pun) with stylish clothing and jewelry, a couple of seamstresses’ nimble fingers work diligently to hem and tuck. L’Oro dei Farlocchi just around the corner had a fascinating and eclectic collection of furniture and decorative arts. And Il Cirmolo tucked in Via Fiori Chiari was a labyrinth of repurposed, salvage and collections.
A tour of the Brera wouldn’t be complete without paying a visit to Roberta Tagliavini and at least one of her famed stores (she has three…at last count) at Robertaebasta one really need look no further for mid-century, she is the queen!
After a whirlwind antiques tour we took a sneak peek inside the world famous Scala Opera House. After all, we couldn’t let these design bloggers come to Milan and not see any of the traditional sites. Popping in to La Scala theatre is the perfect way to really get a feel for the fabulous culture in Milan. Being able to peek in and catch a few moments of ballet rehearsal on the main stage is a once in a lifetime bonus! A tour through the reception rooms with the plethora of gorgeous portraits makes one feel as though Maria Callas herself may step into the room at any moment.
All this was followed by an aperitivo we hosted in a private floor room in the original Campari Bar just a stone’s throw away from the renowned Duomo in Milan.
With a view of the Duomo, a selection of drinks including prosecco, martinis, and campari spritzers of course, and an appetizing spread of Italian treats, the aperitivo is anything but average. Of course every diva needs an opera mask while in Milan, so our guests are all sporting them at our cocktail hour!
We were so pleased to host the Blog Tour Milan group for an afternoon and evening of antiques, culture, and cocktails Diva style!
If you’d like to book a custom Antiques Diva & Co tour in Italy or anyone of our 8 tour countries – France, England, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Italy, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about your custom made private antiques buying tour.
Ciao for now!
The Antiques Diva®