By Helen Costantino Fioratti
An Introduction to
Collecting French Furniture
By Helen Costantino Fioratti
Afraid of being vulgar, these people shun color. They love it, but are afraid to demand it of their decorators for fear it will spoil the quiet, dignified atmosphere they are seeking. So beige, white, and pastel tones are what they get, with an occasional "accent" (as it is called in decorator parlance) of color. They want to be refined at all costs. After spending so much money on carpets, draperies, and gadgets, there is not enough left to buy good furniture or paintings.
It takes another ten or fifteen years of prosperity for these people to learn the error of their ways, were they to sell out their entire possessions they would receive practically no money for them. If they then threw everything out and started over again, they may have learned a good deal and acquired a new approach to works of art. The second time around they might become real collectors.
One often hears people speak of a collector with pitying superiority because he has paid a high price for some picture or piece of furniture. Actually, instead of demonstrating his lack of acumen, it proves the reverse. A bargain in the antique field is generally an object of little or no real interest. It is possible to buy an object of ordinary or medium quality at less than its usual market value, but what interest can a collector of very fine pieces have in that sort of deal? Today's expensive pieces are probably tomorrow's best purchases, as the values of fine things rise in proportion to their rarity. A wise collector, such as J.P. Morgan, is not niggardly about price and can face with equanimity the fact that the seller is making a profit. Indeed, unless he is willing to do so, the dealer will not even show him his best pieces.
If young people furnishing on a budget say that a less nice piece will do or will answer their purpose, it is quite natural. But a collector who wants the best should never settle for less. If a man has the means to collect, what difference does it make to him if he pays more than he planned, if he gets the piece he really wants? If, through his keen business sense, he misses a piece which would give him infinite pleasure, he may never again find one as fine. The money saved will probably play no role at all in his position and he has deprived himself needlessly of an enduring pleasure.
The case of a society woman's deal with Cartier many years ago had been the subject of much talk. For a pearl necklace she longed to possess she traded a building on Fifth Avenue in New York which she did not need nor wish to use. The fact that the building's value rose, while that of the pearls decreased, has shocked many people. But why must a woman of great means make a profitable deal when satisfying a desire for some luxury she craves? And why are jewels and antiques purchased as assets or investments, when no other luxuries in the world are expected to increase in value?
This lady's attitude was right. She wanted the pearls; she did not want the house. So she made an exchange which gave her what she wanted at the time she wanted it. Since man is not immortal, how can one doubt his wisdom in satisfying an aesthetic craving during his short sojourn on earth?