We can thank Emperor Franz Joseph for Vienna’s Greek classical architecture, I think he was drawn to its symmetry and order. He surely was rejecting Empress Maria Theresa’s unbound rococo, all that fussy gilt and asymmetrical flourishes. When Franz commissioned the Parliament building, he ordered that columns, capitals, pediments, and statues of the ancient Greek and Roman gods dominate its design. These details reinforced Hapsburg imperial authority, and made his realm seem grounded.
Vienna’s porcelain manufacturers also appropriated classical motifs. They decorated vases, plates, cups and other porcelain goods with scenes of the gods and harmonious classical architectural patterns. There is a lovely example of this at LR Antiques, a pair of circa 1890 Vienna Porcelain Vases with Classical scenes, rendered in green and enhanced by gold decorative patterns. The green is similar to the “Royal” green on some of the porcelain in Vienna’s imperial collection. Read more
Don’t let the word “country” fool you into thinking this antique cabinet is rustic or inelegant. To the contrary, LR Antiques’ circa 1800 Louis XV style walnut Provincial Deux Corps Cupboard Buffet is utterly refined. Antiques dealers use the term “country” or “provincial” to denote a piece of furniture manufactured in the French provinces. The French words “Deux Corps” translate simply to two bodies, the top and bottom cabinet sections.
My eye was immediately drawn to the ornamental brass hardware which surrounds its keyholes. Flat decorative metal of this type is known as “escutcheon,” a fancy word with a Latin origin that means a shield or an emblem with a coat of arms. Antique cabinets typically had many locks with individual keys for the doors and drawers. Numerous locks were necessary, how else could you stop the damn servants from pilfering your stuff?
For fun, I pulled Flaubert’s 1857 “Madame Bovary” from my library to see the novelist’s literary reference to servant-theft in the French provinces. Since Emma Bovary was in the habit of leaving her key in the buffet, Flaubert tells us, her girl Félicité used to steal a bit of sugar every night to take upstairs and eat after she said her prayers. Poor Emma would never have known that her provincial life was dreary and intolerable if she had not seen the parquet floors and fine linens in a low ranking nobleman’s chateau.
“You have never seen my store, and I know you would appreciate my antiques,” Lora Levin told me occasionally through the years, but I was distracted, and self-absorbedly blew her off. The loss of my bloody oil and gas job then opened up new opportunities. So I went to LR Antiques at 2230 Bissonnet Street in Houston to see Lora’s collection, which she owns in partnership with Rachel Bley and Larry Levin, and felt an instant attachment, as if I had found a partner or guide in my penetration of aesthetics. My short visit turned into four and a half hours of questions about each items’ origin, era, style and rarity. Lora’s passion and intellectual excitement moved me, and her irreverence made me want to get drunk on Smirnoff with her.
She told me about her childhood in Bendery in Russia, and a couple of internet images of Bendery’s historical landmarks were sufficient for me to understand the complicated history of that tiny place. In one I saw a fortress built by Suleiman the Magnificent and his conquering Ottomans, in the other a monument to Holocaust atrocities. Lora completed her education in Saint Petersburg, before emigrating to the states, and it’s interesting to think that the university at which she studied, Russia’s oldest institution of higher learning, took back its imperial (and saintly) name in the same manner in which Leningrad reverted to Saint Petersburg, this would have happened in 1991.
LR Antiques’ entrance and façade are modest, deceiving, but upon entering the 1930s two-level house one realizes how spacious it is, and how sizeable is the collection. It reminded me of certain New Orleans French Quarter antique stores in which one realizes scale only after entering.
When you go, check out the elaborate carving on the Louis XV style Provincial Deux Corps Cupboard Buffet in walnut, circa 1800, you’ll find it upstairs. And look for the breathtaking pair of 1890’s green tone Vienna porcelain vases decorated with classical scenes. I’ll have more to say about these pieces.
I couldn’t stop myself from buying a pair of silk damask sofa cushions trimmed with antique tassels.LR Antiques Store Address: 2230 BISSONNET, HOUSTON, TX 77005, USA
Phone Number : 713-524-3272, www.lrantiques.com
By Virginia Billeaud Anderson