The Amsterdam Frides Laméris Kunst- en Antiekhandel, of mother Trudy (92) and the children Kitty (60), Anna (58) and Willem Laméris (52), has existed for 60 years and is going to the Tefaf for the first time. For the occasion, Trudy is relinquishing a 15th-century Vietnamese kendi that has been at her home since 1968. “There’s one in the British Museum too.”
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In front of the door you have had to triple-jump for some time – the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat has been broken up -, but it is now also necessary to watch out inside. Everywhere are boxes with fragile glassware, in one corner are two large, 17th-century paintings. On the large table in the middle of the shop is a thick pack of paper, which Kitty, Anna and Willem Laméris use routinely but with the utmost care to pack one glass after another that will be taken to the Tefaf, the leading art and antiques fair in Maastricht.
Together with their mother Trudy (92), the three are partners of Frides Laméris Kunst- en Antiekhandel VOF. Trudy and her husband Frides Laméris started the business in 1963 on the Prinsengracht, a stone’s throw away. Trudy was teaching French at the time, Frides worked at the Twentsche Bank, but his heart lay with ‘glass’ since he was captivated by so-called ‘garland glasses’ during his studies in Groningen.
He had met him during dinners at his best friend’s. It was customary there for guests to choose one of the family-owned 17th and 18th century drinking glasses for such an evening. The lady of the house then related the history of the chosen glass, which each guest held for the rest of the evening.
Trudy gave Frides the decisive push. “We were going to give it a chance for one year. We then moved to the attic, so that the basement could serve as a shop,” says Trudy, who has also joined us. “It went so well that after a year we moved to Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. In the beginning we were able to buy a number of glasses on Waterlooplein, but we soon also bought very expensive ones. They not only come from the Netherlands, but also from England, Italy – Venice in particular – and Germany, and we also have a few Spanish glasses.”
Museums as customers
The focus was – and still is – on glass and ceramics, such as tiles, Delftware and Chinese porcelain. Over the years, the number of important glasses and masterpieces grew; not only private collectors managed to find Laméris, but also renowned museums, including the Rijksmuseum and The British Museum. Frides and Trudy became welcome experts in Between Art and Kitsch (now Anna and Kitty are experts for glass and tiles).
When he was about seventy, Frides asked if one of the children wanted to take over the shop, but they were not immediately eager.
Kitty: “Our mother always said don’t.”
Trudy: “Is that true? Did I say that?”
Kitty: “Dad wanted us to continue with the case, but you said don’t, the work never ends.”
Anna: “You were right, we are always working.”
Trudy: “But I’ve always done it with great pleasure. Maybe it was because daddy hoped so much that you would do it too, because when you said you were going to do it, I only liked it.”
Anna: “It seemed like something, but with someone, with my brother or with my sister. Then Kitty hooked up.”
Trudy to Kitty: “You said before, and I think you forgot: I don’t.”
Kitty: “I haven’t forgotten that at all; I remember that very well. I absolutely didn’t want to. Anything but that. I was in Italy at the time. But I had often been in the shop on Saturdays and helped out at fairs, and I started to miss that. We grew up with this, didn’t we. When I couldn’t sleep when I was little, I went downstairs and Mum was always here working. Mum ‘did’ us and in the evening she made sure that everything looked great here and was priced right, so she gave me a cleaning cloth and I got to help.”
Willem: “Initially I didn’t want anything to do with it either. But then I got sick – I couldn’t do anything at all. After a year my mother said: you need structure. Then I started working in the business on Monday afternoons – that was always closed on Mondays. Everything fell into place: how to handle the glasses, how to deal with the customers… In my third week I sold a very large piece and then I was hooked.”
Until March 19, the family business Laméris will be present at the Tefaf for the first time in their sixty years of existence, and that is being celebrated. Trudy briefly disappears upstairs and then returns with a beautiful water jug in the shape of a dragon. “A Vietnamese kendi from the 15th century, used in rituals,” she explains.
“I bought on the street in Rotterdam in 1968. We had already bought a lot for the store and met a well-known trader. In the middle of the street he said: look what I have. My husband said: I have already spent so much money, I doesn’t want it. But I thought it was so special that I said: well then I’ll buy it privately. It has never been in the store. This morning I thought: oh, what an empty space on that shelf now. But if you go to the Tefaf, you have to take something special with you. Right? That head is so crazy, really like a dragon should look.” Proud: “There is also one in the British Museum in London.”
Surinamese decorative glass with the portrait of Egidius van den Bempden, who was mayor of Amsterdam in the 17th century. Photo: Dingena Mol
The kendi is not the only showpiece they show in Maastricht. A very heavy ‘Surinamese show glass’ is also included, with the engraved portrait of Egidius van den Bempden, who was mayor of Amsterdam in the 17th century. A large part of the ‘Collection Nikolaus Harnoncourt’, the Austrian conductor, who was known as a pioneer of the authentic performance practice of early music, has also been packed.
Anna: “He not only collected instruments with which that music was played at the time, but also special glasses. When he was in the Netherlands, he always came to our parents to buy a glass. After his death, we were able to buy his entire collection : all beautiful glasses.”
Fruit or fish?
Kitty puts some kind of ribbed bowl on one foot on the table. “This one goes too. It’s probably a fish bowl from the 16th or 17th century. It was always thought to be fruit bowls, but then we saw this painting – she points to a painting with an identical bowl filled with water in which several fish are swimming – and we discovered that fish were probably kept in it to keep them alive until just before they were prepared for dinner. We will also take that painting with us to Maastricht.”
Anna: “We’re taking over two hundred pieces.”
The passion with which they talk about their glasses, chalices, tazzas, rummers and other pieces suggests that they would rather not sell them, but that is not the case, all four claim.
Trudy: “No, when we bought something for the store, there was always some kind of wall that prevented it from being completely mine.”
Willem: “We once had an incredibly beautiful Venetian glass: very nice proportions, beautiful trunk… We all immediately knew who to send it to. But when the customer for whom we came up with it, I said that I found it difficult that it had the went out the door. Then he said: keep it for a while, but it is for me. Then we could look at it for a while and he came to pick it up three weeks later. Actually, your heart is not supposed to break But once in a while it happens.”
Trudy: “Sometimes I got tears in my eyes when something was sold. Then dad said: you should have said that earlier, then we would have kept it.”
Anna: “That makes it even worse.”
Trudy: “That only happened once.”
Willem: “You know that the pieces end up with the right people. They are always enthusiasts, people who take good care of them.”
Kitty: “That’s the beauty: that the next owner is so happy with it.”
Trudy, with a smile: “I don’t think the chances are that great, but I wouldn’t mind if the kendi didn’t sell.”
Frides Laméris Kunst- en Antiekhandel can be found at Tefdistance 189 until 19 March. During the fair, the business at Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 55 is open as usual.