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A Filipino Discovery

PI-Valley-Forge1I know just the perfect place where I can get myself enmeshed in culture, art, antiques and history of the Art and Culture of South East Asia. It is at the warehouse of the Richard Gervais Collection on Custer Avenue off Third Street in San Francisco.

Enjoying its environs has always been a conspiracy of my pocketbook, my sweeping and discerning artistic eye, and my persistence to finding the historical value of common and high culture artifacts. And of course, at Richard Gervais Collection warehouse, I can submerge myself in the historical moment of Asian Art. He has got items upon items of precious art pieces stacked up to the ceiling, onto rafters, and spilling out into the yard.

I came in and had an eye for a kind of gouache painting hanging up on the walls. I had always looked at it from afar every time I come. I was attracted to the sedate smile, lugubrious eyes, thin lips, and sartorial elegance of the portrait of a man.  Who was he?  How did his picture portrait get into Richard's warehouse? I had to see this portrait at closer range, so my Richard, ever the gentleman and great connoisseur of Art in Asia, took the item down.

PI-Valley-Forge6thWhat met my eye was an incredible find! When the frame was dusted off, an Art-Deco beautiful hand carved Narra wood frame emerged from the shadows of such exceptional workmanship! Every corner of the frame had a different design.  The wood frame showed various carved surfaces and no two surfaces are the same. What a treasure! Richard said he was attracted to the frame

However, for me, I wanted to know the subject. The portrait is heavily waterlogged, but the painter's brush strokes can still be seen. Is it oil? Watercolor? Gouache? I could see it was not painted on canvas, but I can be mistaken. It was signed in 1930, by a C. Rivera, but the mat and frame said 1932. Richard said, he'd research it further.

My mind went clicking fast forward and back. What historical event happened in 1930 that precipitated this subject to sit for a formal portrait? Was he a man of means?  Was he a part of the newly formed Philippine government that appointed Filipinos in higher offices?  That was at the height of the Philippine Commonwealth period under the US administration. Or, was he perhaps a wastrel who traveled to California, spent his father's money, dressed in a fancy tuxedo and sat for a starving artist friend from San Francisco?  My aim is to seek for historical answers in selected art pieces. This is what makes this place so appealing and compelling. I could write pages and pages of historical fiction just from Richard's fabulous collection of items.

I was offered a glass of red wine while tarried long in Richard Gervais Collection warehouse the whole afternoon of Saturday until it was time to close shop. I am really enamored of this place. If you have the opportunity to visit, you'll not be disappointed.

Penélope V. Flores, Ph.D.
Artist and Historian
Docent - Asian Art Museum
Professor of Education (Emeritus)
San Francisco State University

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The Richard Gervais Collection is home based in San Francisco, California and is a long standing reliable resource for unique collectibles and art, available to the public and the wholesale trade community of interior designers, decorators, landscape architects, gardeners and collectors. The collection consists of a myriad of country, ethnic, primitive and folk art, antiquities, artifacts and decorative home accessories and furniture from many international ports of call.

Richard Gervais is the hands on owner and founder and travels extensively through Asia concentrating his travels to the countries of Bali, Brazil, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Macau, the Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam in constant search of unique, interesting and the unusual in antiquities, art and artifacts. His collection is featured in several leading design showrooms on both coasts.


Jonathan E. French Ph.D. - San Francisco

Richard Gervais, proprietor of the Richard Gervais Collection located in San Francisco, is a dealer in ethnic and folk art from S.E. Asia, whom I have known for many years. I have found Richard to be a most generous, even gracious fellow who not only makes the world’s artistic bounty both available and affordable, but who spends most of his waking hours pursuing these items with an admirable degree of reverence for the old traditions from which they spring. As a forensic psychologist and old Philippine hand myself, I sometimes cast a jaundiced eye upon the doings of certain dealers who are blinded by money or ego, often both. Richard does not fit into this category by any means. I have likewise had the pleasure of encountering him on the road in Southeast Asia, where he certainly knows how to enjoy himself as he goes about his business. And even though the number of bona fide tribal artifacts is fading away in many parts of the world, one can always find among Richard’s extensive inventory that special item, be it decorative or ethnographic, that will warm the cockles of someone’s heart. It is a pleasure to engage with him, be it for business or for pleasure. He is, need I add, a gentleman and a scholar and a peach of a guy.

Jonathan E. French, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist


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