Now and again an inspirational auction comes along which really grabs you. Step forward last year’s Bunny Mellon sale at Sotheby’s. Oak Spring was her understated- and relatively modest- Virginian 50’s farmhouse. Wonderful collections of eighteenth century English porcelain, country furniture, equestrian mezzotints, antique silver, and a stunning museum of historic antiquarian gardening books in the grounds.
Considering the Mellons are one of the richest families in America, Oak Spring seems to be the antithesis of modernist bling (yawn) and the horror of today’s celebrity culture. Until you remember that within the estate there was, I gather, a private airport, with a jet sitting on the runway, on stand-by. Not that I disapprove, God forbid; four cheers for Marie Antoinette and the Petit Trianon.
Have a close look at the top of this Louis XV fruitwood table, circa 1745 (Lot 367). Looks like Bunny left the window open, doesn’t it? It’s faded, splattered, stained and patterned with acidic rain-water.
But how many of us would be tempted to have this restored, re-varnished and otherwise re-juvenated? I hope that whoever bought it left it exactly ‘as is’. Antiques often have a story to tell. It’s what makes them so fascinating- and human. There’s also a beauty in imperfection. And above all, antiques should be used.