Owner of Miguel Meirelles Antiques
“I love collecting and trading antiques, particularly in finding pieces in its original state. I love to show people what I discovered and in the exact condition I discovered it. It’s about restoration and doing the right thing by the furniture.”
Aphrodite promised us ‘Love conquers all’. In the case of Miguel Meirelles – Love moved mountains, or at least, an antique business across continents.
Born in Mozambique, Miguel Meirelles studied under master craftsmen at the Institute of Art and Restoration in Florence. He operated an antique and restoration workshop in the bustling hub of Florence for 11 years.
In the spring of 1989 Miguel met Anna, an Australian girl holidaying in Florence. “I immediately knew she was the one, and still is, 28 years later,” he shares dreamily.
In a heartbeat, he moved his entire operation to Melbourne, Victoria. Trained in antique conservation and restoration, Miguel set up shop, first in Hawksburn and then Malvern, specialising in French and European antiques. His clients are the National Gallery of Victoria, museums, top French antique dealers and private collectors.
“We like to bring buyers and collectors into the whole process of discovery and conservation methods for them to experience the joy of bringing something back to life. That’s the spirit of the shop,” he enthuses.
As an expert and devout restorer, he says, “We will lovingly restore antiques but never lose its historical character. As temporary owners, it is our responsibility to pass it on to our future generation.”
“Sadly, a lot of these pieces cannot be made today because the skill is gone in our high technological era. The artisans are gone,” he laments.
On the artistic and cultural barometer, Melbourne is the antithesis of Florence, according to this master of French antiques. “Florence is a splendid city but things can get quite stuffy.
“The Europeans are more passionate about the historical value of antiques whereas Australian buyers and collectors focus more on aesthetics and pragmatism.”
Miguel has also seen major trends shift in the realm of arts and antiquities. “Over 27 years I have seen interests sparked from English, Georgian or French, to American chic and industrial vintage before ending up with what I would call ‘hotel lobby furniture’ which reminds me of Soviet era items where everything is clean and formal, devoid of character. But I think the pendulum has swung as far as it would go.”
“Today successful Melbournians with nice houses are mixing contemporary with classical. For example, a baroque mirror might hang amidst a set of stark furniture. Then the antique mirror will transcend from being a mirror to an enviable work of art. The pieces that leave my shop double in personality and presence when displayed in its destination house where they shine as the centre of attention and conversational pieces.”
Even more sacred than his business, is his beautiful family. A devoted husband, a loving father to two boys and a girl, family and friends declare that he is an exemplary son-in-law too, when they observe Miguel in action – fielding business calls and personal ones from his mother-in-law, juggling professional and love-spun matters with natural ease and tenderness.
Advice to new buyers and collectors? “Select with your heart. Close your eyes and let your heart speak, rather than be led by someone or superficial trends. People know and can sense what they want but are often scared to develop that instinct. At Miguel Meirelles we work and draw from our clients’ intuition and perspicacity,” he concludes.
by Sloane Patterson