Fair  March 22, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

TEFAF Maastrict Dazzles with Old Masters, Gemstones, and Everything in Between

Tefaf, Photo: Loraine Bodewes

TEFAF Maastrict, 2023

Last week, TEFAF, The European Fine Arts Fair, opened its 36th edition in the quaint Dutch town of Maastrict. Just like any art fair, it was filled with celebrity shoppers, representatives of the top museums and galleries, and filled with thousands of artworks. What sets TEFAF apart is its stock of covetable jewels and antiques spanning nine thousand years of art history, mixed with contemporary artworks. And its insane abundance of…everything. From a flower wall (yes, an entire wall filled with roses, chrysanthemums, and baby’s breath), to servers shucking and proffering oysters with champagne, TEFAF was an elite affair with even more stunning artworks. 

TEFAF, Photo: Jitske Nap

TEFAF Maastrict 2023, Flower wall

This year, the fair was comprised of eight sections of specialists: paintings, antiques, La Haute Joaillerie, tribal art, modern art, ancient art, design, and works on paper. With 270 dealers from over twenty countries, the fair welcomed over 50,000 visitors, the majority of whom flew in for the affair. This was a great turnout for TEFAF, whose 2020 edition was the last of the in-person art fairs before Covid, and their 2022 edition was victim to a jewelry heist.

Art & Object spoke to a fairgoer, Brent Hubbard, of Hubbard & Hubbard, LLC, about what it was like to be at the fair again. “As ever, the atmosphere was subtly festive and lively. Of late, at most art fairs, all fairgoers know what’s around the next corner—they’ve likely seen it before, and they’ll see it again. But TEFAF Maastricht is fabled as the fair that showcases hidden gems and unfolds new ones. 

Brent Hubbard

 Vincenzo Castellini’s Virgine Orante, c 1700s, Alessandra di Castro at TEFAF

Dealers of all kinds went all out on their booths. For Alessandra di Castro, that meant panelling her booth with wood and Corten steel. Hubbard’s favorite piece of the fair was presented by di Castro, Vincenzo Castellini’s Virgine Orante mosaic. He said, “The piece was commissioned by the Vatican in the 1700s and is one of the more unique renderings I have seen. It even has its original frame intact!”

Hubbard also noted that R+V’s Group of Punchinelli (c.1730s) by Tiepolo was an underrated feature of the fair. This is one of at least thirty-six drawings of Punchinello, a character from the Commedia dell’Arte. In this iteration, Tiepolo’s Punchinelli cook and eat gnocchi, guzzle wine, expire from drunkeness, and, as R+V puts it, “suffer the digestive consequences of their excessive consumption.

Another Renaissance-era talk of the town work was at one of London’s leading art dealer’s booth, Agnews Gallery, where there was a portrait that was attributed to Rembrandt van Rijn, titled Head of a bearded man, (c. 1628). Because Rembrandt is known to be a target for forgeries, final analysis by experts on this work remains to be completed.

Brent Hubbard

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Group of Punchinelli, c. 1730s, oil on canvas, R+V booth at TEFAF 2023

And of course, it wouldn’t be TEFAF without some jewelry. At Wartski’s booth, a major bejeweled butterfly brooch was on view. Made by distinguished jeweller Jules Jean Francois Fossin, this gemstone encrusted butterfly was believed to be created for Caroline Fraser, a consort of Prince Lucien Murat, who was related to Napoleon I. Set with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and a pearl and set in gold, this butterfly was definitely fit for royalty. 

PHOTO: COURTESY WARTSKI

Jules Jean François Fossin, A rare gem-set butterfly, (c. 1850).

There was also plenty of contemporary art on view. At Galerie Karsten Greve’s booth, there were major works by Louise Bourgeois, Jean Dubuffet, Piero Manzoni, Cy Twombly, and many more. Their Bourgeois sculpture, Baroque (1970) was especially notable. Made of marble, this Bourgeois was part of her series of sculptures based on human anatomy, exploring forms of breasts and limbs. This work was a tribute to the 17th century master, Gian Lorezno Bernini, and can be interpreted as a metamorphosis and contemporary reinterpretation of his famous, Apollo and Daphne.

Photo: Christopher Burke © The Easton Foundation

Louise Bourgeois, Baroque, 1970, marble, Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve Cologne, Paris, St. Moritz,

TEFAF was founded in 1988 by a group of eight dealers, so the fair has always been focused on highlighting scholarly insight by these globally renowned specialists. The fair is successful in part due to its strict vetting process. Over 200 museum curators, directors, restorers, academics, and conservators along with a scientific analysis team all work together to assess every object for quality, condition and authenticity.

The next TEFAF fair with be its 8th edition of TEFAF New York, taking place at Park Avenue Armory from May 12th to the 16th, and featuring 91 dealers.

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