Yesterday, Lorne took me to my first country auction. It was great! I have a feeling auctions are going to be one of my new favorite things to do. When I was young, I was frequently taken to antique malls and consignment shops by my mom; we would spend hours slowly sifting through the items and hunting for something unique. I remember my mom leaning over to me whispering tips and good bargaining techniques; “At antique malls the cheaper items are always in the back” “You must try to bargain. Never accept the stated price” (This one I’m stilling trying to get the hang of) and lastly “when shops mix new collectibles with antiques… don’t bother going in. Only go to true antique stores.” Whenever I am out shopping for new treasures today, I still follow her advice and when I’m shopping with friends, I lean over and share my mom’s advice to them. While shopping with mom, I was constantly learning new things such as the names for antique nautical bits and kitchen gadgets, soaking it all up like a sponge.
This is perhaps partly where my love of antiquarian books comes from; the hunt for a good book amongst a dozen bad and the desire to learn new tidbits of information.
Lorne and I arrived a half an hour before the auction to register. Already the place was full of people mingling about, scouting for items to bid on. Lorne and I made one final sweep of the selections, finalizing what items we were going to bid on and what our price limits were. As I walked around the room, I noticed one determined woman camped out with a cooler filled with food and a cushion for her chair; she was ready to stake out the whole day. I also happened to notice that I was the youngest one in the room by far…this seems to be happening to me a lot lately.
I chose to bid on a set of copper canisters, needing them for my new apartment; and a particularly enchanting item for my mother whose true nature will not be disclosed in this blog since she might read it. Lorne decided to bid on two pieces of artwork; a beautiful etching entitled “Le montage du Dragon sur le Beffroi de Gand” by De Bruycker and a wood print by Jean MacKay.
Headley, the auctioneer, had a melodious voice and rhythm. Lorne and I took pleasure in guessing how much an item would go for before it was bid on.
The lovely copper canisters I wanted sadly surpassed my top bid and went to someone else. But the gift for my mom was a success. The wood print was also won.
As it came time to bid on the most desirable item for us, the etching, Lorne instructed me to bid. As it started, I waited to bid until someone else had placed a bid on the item first as instructed by Lorne and then the bidding was off… 150…nod…160…nod…200… nod…250… nod. I was nodding my head so frequently I felt slightly silly. But all the while my pace was racing and I was nervous and excited all at once. At last, we won the item for a great price! We slightly suspected that we got the etching at such a price because no one wanted to outbid a “young and innocent” bidder such as I. Being the youngest one in the room does have many benefits. No one suspects that you may just be knowledgeable, leading them to be easily charmed and fooled. Antiquarian book dealers beware.
Here is an image of the etching we purchased. It is a lovely piece of art by Jules De Bruycker entitled Le Montage du Dragon sur le Beffroi de Gand. It is definitely something I would like to own.
Jules de Bruycker (1870-1945) was one of the great Flemish etchers at the turn of the 20th century. Known for his architectural and socialist themes, De Bruycker drew inspiration from open air markets, theaters and grand buildings.
In 1913, De Bruycker’s home town of Ghent renovated the Ghent Belfry in preparation for the World’s Fair. Cast in the ominous shadow of the belfry, the workers in the foreground are straining to hoist a fierce bronze dragon to the top of the towering belfry. This foreboding and incredibly detailed scene captures Belgium and the rest of Europe on the cusp of WWI and De Bruycker’s subsequent flight to London.