I entered Brafa to admire first rate animal sculptures and I got out impressed with the variety of schools and styles you can find in our Brussels Antiques Fair.
Univers du Bronze. Manta Ray by Umberto.
Victor Werner. Diana by Johann Robert Korn.
I began with the stand 3 of Victor Werner, very appropriately just by the entrance. This Antwerp antiquarian deals mainly with nineteenth century paintings, furniture and sculptures. There predominate Germanic neoclassical animal sculptures, with names such as Wera Von Bartels, Max Esser and Johann Robert Korn. These sculptures have very pure lines—the connection between the neoclassical tradition of the nineteenth century with the art noveau is well integrated. The animals, though wild, look tamed.
Victor Werner. Panther by Wera Von Bartels.
Univers du Bronze. Monkey on a wildebeest by Barye.
Then, I dove into the Univers du bronze, in the stand 54. The owners, specialized in animaliers, have a huge collection which includes all the great masters of the French animaliers, from rediscoverers of the genre in the nineteenth century such as Barye or Mene, to the great figures of the twentieth century (Pompon, Bugatti, Sandoz, to name just a few). I realised that they also deal with some contemporary sculptors of great talent, such as Umberto, which proves that the animaliers are still alive and kicking, although the owners of Univers declare that the golden century of animal sculpture passed away a long time ago (1830-1930).
Univers du Bronze. Spitfire by Umberto.
Finally, I visited a great expert and gallerist of the French animal sculpture of the first half of the twentieth century, Xavier Eeckhout. He is very specialised in that period, which he considers the real golden age of animal sculpture, where the “Antwerp school” (Collin, Rijswijck, Bugatti) occupies an outstanding position. He confessed me that Brafa is very international and successful—he has already sold during the weekend to Englishmen and to an Ukrainian. He has not felt the crisis in his sector. He defends the advantages of pieces in terracotta, which are unique and where you can feel the direct hand of the artist on the surface, whereas bronzes come usually in series of ten or twelve and are more expensive.
Xavier Eeckhout. Tiger by Rijswijck.
Xavier Eeckhout. Cheetah terracotta by Collin.