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SA MASTERPIECE (article first published : 2004-03-24)

The magnificent SA Masterpiece – The South African Manual for Antiques, Collectables, Fine Arts and Interiors 2004, published Amanda Cunningham Communications and distributed by Wild Dog Press, is truly a feast for the eye and includes hundreds of lavish colour photographs. Printed on the finest art paper, it is a book which is clearly targeted at the general collector of antiques and related objects.

Some 40 of South Africa’s most distinguished authorities in their respective fields, many of them members of the South African Antique Dealers’ Association, have joined forces to create this handbook for collectors.

The book is divided into chapters which deal individually with the various branches of collecting and, because there are so many said branches, each chapter is necessarily short. This is perhaps the only gripe I have with the book. The more serious collector will already know most of the information contained in these short chapters. For instance, the chapter on Furniture excludes any mention of English Victorian furniture which, in the light of prices achieved for these items in the marketplace, seems an oversight. In fairness, it should be said that each of these fields of collecting could fill volumes themselves so perhaps I am being unduly harsh. The chapter on ceramics is also disappointingly short.

However, there is much useful information in the form of a list of hallmarks on silver, as well as the most important marks on Meissen porcelain.

Apart from the chapters mentioned, there are also short explorations into the worlds of collecting fields such as: Jewellery; Clocks and Timepieces; Books, maps and prints; South African pottery; Glass; Art Nouveau and Art Deco; Cape furniture; Oriental ceramics and works of art; Interior design with antiques; South African art etc. Each chapter is written by renowned experts in their fields. Other useful information includes a list of auction houses and dealers countrywide, as well as the ever-popular antique fairs. Market trends are discussed and useful guides to establishing authenticity are given.

In my opinion, the appeal of this book lies in its visual presentation - it can be classed without disparagement as a "Coffee table book". I really enjoyed dipping into it at various times and, despite my reservations, I was generally always diverted. It would be an ideal gift for someone just starting out as an antique collector as it gives brief overviews of all the fields of collecting, which is all a beginner needs.

May the 2005 edition be as exciting as this one!!

SA Masterpiece – The South African Manual for Antiques, Collectables, Fine Arts and Interiors 2004 is available at leading bookstores at a cost of R295. - Andrew Warburton (Collector of furniture, ceramics, glass and oriental works of art, Durban)




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