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Antiques Budapest (Budapest)

Budapest’s street of galleries first began to coalesce just off Margaret Bridge around 10 years ago. A stroll down just two blocks of Falk Miksa Street reveals more than 20 shops and galleries stuffed with bric-abrac, curios and objets d’art. (As an interesting aside, politician and publicist Miksa Falk has gone down in history books as the person who taught Queen Elizabeth, wife of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, to speak Hungarian.)

ANTIQUES STREET PACKED WITH TREASURES

 

Budapest’s street of galleries first began to coalesce just off Margaret Bridge around 10 years ago. A stroll down just two blocks of Falk Miksa Street reveals more than 20 shops and galleries stuffed with bric-abrac, curios and objets d’art. (As an interesting aside, politician and publicist Miksa Falk has gone down in history books as the person who taught Queen Elizabeth, wife of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, to speak Hungarian.)

The items on display (and the prices) are so tempting that not many have managed to walk from one end of the street to the other without at least seriously considering making an “investment”. Lace-like delicate porcelain, silken carpets, carved or inlaid furniture, all are handcrafted masterworks. In fact, the choice can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. It is as though each piece has its own story to tell and is just waiting to be discovered. One may be able to conjure up in the mind images of the artists who created the old crochet-work curtains and filigree-lace tablecloths, or even the superbly worked wardrobes and tables. But who was the little girl who played with the delightfully costumed doll over a century ago?

How many sat in this turn-of-the-century, squat swivel barber’s chair upholstered in leather. Who was the beauty captured so vividly by this deft-handed painter? Where could this charming landscape be that calls to us so evocatively? What convoluted route did this silver candlestick take finally to end up in this shop? Then again, it’s always pleasurable to mull over where such and such a piece would go in the house. A famous Hungarian writer once glimpsed a sugar bowl in one of the shops and bought it because it was the same as the one her family had when she was young.

The association sparked memories of bygone days, which finally grew into a novel and then a popular stage play. Among the 21 shops and galleries on Falk Miksa Street, some specialize in certain areas and some sell a kaleidoscope of antiques. Some are just 20 square metres of shop floor, others are three-storey emporiums. Most prop their doors open to entice in the curious, and many hold auctions of museumquality pictures, sculptures and other outstanding art objects. Among the bigger companies there are a couple who specialize in the works of a chosen artist or stage temporary exhibitions of the finest paintings by a particular school, thereby spreading the word and bringing to the attention of the general public the oeuvre of artists who have sunken into obscurity.

For example, the Kieselbach Gallery gives a comprehensive overview of modern Hungarian painting from 1919 to 1964. The street is often busy (and all the more so before the major holidays) with shoppers looking for something really special for a loved one: perhaps an Art Nouveau brooch or a cast iron wall-mounted sink (which, by the way, today has a new function as a plant-holder). This is truly the place for a “made- tomeasure” gift! However, even slow days in Falk Miksa Street are interesting. Collectors pop their heads around the doors to check out the ever changing displays, perhaps in the hope of finding that object that will complete a missing gap in the collection, before their eye is taken by something else...

Then there are others who just enjoy trawling through the shops, learning about the styles and periods, getting simple pleasure from handling old peasant faience kitchenware, ancient colanders, the thick green glass of soda siphons, pharmacy jars, Murano chandeliers, Pakistani or Afghan hand-knotted wool or silk rugs, glorious Herend porcelain and old horological timepieces, all the creations of skilled hands from bygone days.

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