Decorative Arts & Design

Furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass and more Decorative Arts & Design

Handling objects which are both beautiful and useful, a marriage of form and function, from fresh, modern design pieces, to classic ornaments and tableware.

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About the Decorative Arts & Design Department

The Decorative Arts & Design department deals in objects both beautiful and useful, and especially those which are both. This can range from the purely decorative, such as ceramic ornaments and porcelain figurines, to crystal glass services and designer furniture which may be used every day. Alexander Fahl and his team personally look after the acquisition of everything from individual objects to large collections, appraising art alongside market conditions. With years of experience, they are available to travel both at home and abroad upon request, in order to visit and evaluate your items or collections.

Form + Function

The decorative arts and design are concerned with objects which are both beautiful and useful, a marriage of form and function. Traditionally there had been no split between decorative arts and the so-called ‘fine arts’, but beginning in the Renaissance, artistic imagination began to be valued more highly than skilled craftsmanship. This was primarily an issue in the West however; other cultures saw little distinction between decorative and fine arts.

Quality is key

The decorative arts have always placed a high value on materials, working with substances such as ceramic, glass (particularly crystal glass), silver and other precious metals, and textiles. This has led to a great diversity of work considered decorative art, from silver tableware and designer desks, to Murano glassware and porcelain figures.

Though Europe had been importing ceramic art from China since the 13th century, it was not until the 18th century that the first European hard-paste porcelain was developed. Meissen porcelain quickly became one of the most sought-after products throughout Europe, and the company continues to manufacture and trade its porcelain figures and tableware to this day.

Art Nouveau

The arts and crafts movement of the second half of the 19th century led to a greater appreciation of the decorative arts and design, and a renewed focus on them. A number of great stylistic movements followed on from this, beginning with Art Nouveau in the late 19th century. This style was characterized by dynamic, flowing lines in an often asymmetrical shape, showing influences from forms and shapes found in nature. Art Nouveau is considered a “total” art style, covering a number of different artistic disciplines, but with a particular focus on the decorative arts.


Taking a slightly more utilitarian view of design, the Bauhaus movement also saw no distinction between decorative art and fine art. The Bauhaus art school in Germany operated from 1919-1933, and attempted to combine crafts and the fine arts to create a “total” work of art (Gesamtkunstwerk). The Bauhaus style is an attempt to find harmony between the form and function of an object, to find a symmetry between use and design, and was incredibly influential in the field of modern furniture design.

Other decorative arts have longer and more storied histories. Glass has been used for decorative purposes and as an ornament since the second millennium BC, with the Venetian island of Murano forming the center of glass-working in Europe since the 16th century AD. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these centuries-old techniques, using crystal and colored glass to craft everything from figurines to chandeliers and vases. Glass painting is a technique which has also been around for centuries, and is particularly common outside Europe in the art of Asia.