Archive for July, 2014

July 27, 2014

Thomas Rohan, Dealer and Author – and ‘Quinney’

Some of you may be aware of the novels about an antique dealer called ‘Quinney’, in the writings of Horace Annesley Vachell – Vachell published a number of novels about the adventures of Quinney, starting in 1914, with the original novel, called ‘Quinneys’.  The novels are interesting period pieces and tell us a lot about the characterisations of the antique dealer in the first half of the 20th century – and part of the research for the current project will be focusing on an investigation of these literary constructions, and their meanings and influence on the characterisation of the antique dealer in the wider public domain.  One interesting result of the popularity of Vachell’s novels is the number of real dealerships called ‘Quinneys’ that emerged, right across the country – we’ve traced at least 11 so far; as far as I know there is only one dealership named ‘Quinnney’s’ left trading…in Warwick.


The novels themselves are fascinating, and contain lightly veiled characterisations of real dealers – a ‘Mr Pheasant’ is quite obviously an allusion to the well-known London dealer ‘Partridge’ for example – and there are several other fictional dealers that seem to relate to factual ones – ‘Primmer of Bath’ could only be Mallett I suppose, and ‘Gustavus Lark’, who ‘wore a cut-away coat, with an orchid in the lapel of it’….and was ‘smoking an imposing cigar’, in one scene from the original novel ‘Quinneys’…is this the infamous Duveen?….

One fact that is less well known is that Vachell based his character Quinney on the real dealer Thomas Rohan, who was trading in Bournemouth in the first quarter of the 20th century. Rohan was himself a very successful author, publishing many books on collecting and on the antique trade itself – most famously in ‘Confessions of a Dealer’ (1924)

Here’s a photograph of Thomas Rohan, and an image of his first shop: 100_3710100_3709Rohan, as I mentioned, was also a prolific author, publishing many books, mainly on collecting, such as ‘Old Beautiful’ (1926)…as well as writing novels – his novel ‘Billy Ditt, the Romance of a Chippendale Chair’ (1932) traces the fortunes of a chair, made by Thomas Chippendale in the 18th century, as it passed through various hands – I can’t say it’s a literary masterpiece, but it is an intriguing book, and of course, is crucial to our cultural understanding of the history of the antique trade itself.

One exciting development (for me anyway!) is that I recently managed to acquire this short manuscript from a book dealer: 100_3708

The MS is only a short document, entitled ‘People that I have met’; it is undated and unsigned, but seems to date from c.1920, and I am certain that this is part of the original writings of Thomas Rohan.  It contains musings on his life as a dealer, and on the collectors that he sold antique objects.  Quite apart from this being a lucky and serendipitous find, it’s also now a brilliant resource for the antique dealer project and will play a key role in the research into the literary characterisations of the dealer…watch this space!


July 16, 2014

Ramus Brothers, Dealers in Works of Art

Our friend and colleague Andy Ramus, great grandson of the famous Henry Ramus ‘Fine Art Dealer’, very kindly sent us a link to his latest blog entry on Ramus: see Andy’s blog here:

Andy Ramus Blog

I’ve had a series of very productive and convivial email exchanges with Andy over the last few years as part of my own research into the development of the 19th century antique and curiosity trade, and Andy very generously shared his own research into the Ramus family with me – Thank you again Andy!

Andy sketches out a fascinating story of the Ramus family of art dealers and their partners and art dealer colleagues in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Henry Ramus & Company, ‘Fine Art Dealers’ were trading at 68 Wardour Street, London in c.1900, after moving from Manchester where Ramus was a ‘picture-frame maker’ – for those of you that follow these things, the business move from ‘picture-frame maker’ to ‘art dealer’ is a familiar pathway for 19th century art dealers.

As far as the Antique Dealer project is concerned, Henry Ramus will regrettably not be included in our database for the project – his primary trading activities as a ‘Fine Art’ dealer will exclude him from the current project, which, as you’ll know, focuses on the ‘decorative art’ trade, and dealers in antiques. We’ll explain more about the structure of the research focus in our introductory essays on the (soon to be seen) interactive website – it is on it’s way by the way!….Henry’s cousin, Isaac Ramus (1827-1901), was a ‘Dealer in Works of Art’ at various addresses in London in the second half of the 19th century; his business eventually settled in Piccadilly, London, and in 1901, after his death, was continued by his sons Jacob and Albert as Ramus Brothers, Dealers in Works of Art’ – Isaac, Jacob and Albert WILL be in our project database.

Andy’s blog also very usefully directs attention to the dealer practice of the ‘ring’ or ”knockout’ (see Andy’s blog for more details) – the history of which is also something we’ll be investigating as part of the antique dealer project… keep your eye on the outputs!

Thanks again Andy!


July 4, 2014

Antique Dealer archives – Stair and Andrew c.1910-1915

We have also recently discovered 2 volumes clippings and photographs of antique furniture, ceramics, glass and silver etc that came from the antique dealers Stair & Andrew.  The volumes appear to have been visual resources for the directors of Stair & Andrew, and bear several stamps ‘Stair and Andrew Ltd., Director’. The volumes are undated, but appear to date from the period around 1910-1915.

100_2914 This volume, titled, ‘Furniture, 21 Manchester Square, Vol.1.’ contains a whole range of clippings from publications such as Country Life, and Connoisseur. They appear to have been used by the Directors of Stair & Andrew to identify and date objects. The earliest date recorded in the clippings in the volumes is 1904.








We’re also doing further research on this album….!


July 4, 2014

Antique Dealer photograph album 1940s, 1950s

As part of the research project we’re looking at a whole range of dealer material in national and regional archives, and we have been working through material in various locations.  We are always on the look out for interesting antique dealer related archive materials that also occasionally come onto the market –  and recently, at Mellors & Kirk’s auction sale in Nottingham, I managed to acquire this fascinating photograph album. Greenwood archive cover

The album appears to date from the 1940s and into the 1950s (one of the photograph captions in the first few pages is dated 1949) and is full of B&W photographs of ceramics, all, apparently antique dealer stock.  Greenwood archive photo 1They provide a fascinating insight into dealer practices in the 1940s and 1950s – with, as is usual practice, prices (probably prices paid?) in code penciled in next to the descriptions.  This page (above), shows a ‘Staffordshire double tea caddy, screw caps, decorated in underglaze high temperature pigments, Blue , Orange, Yellow, Green,and Maganese.’

Dated ‘c.1775’, with a pencil code Y/-/-. Obviously pounds, shillings and pence. The right-hand photograph has a range of English ceramics.

Many of the photographs have the stamp of ‘Will Acton A.R.P.S. Photographer, 3 Kings Sq. York’. One photograph has a pencil inscription ‘W.E.(sic) Greenwood’  and another is stamped verso with the dealer stamp of W.F. Greenwood and Sons, Stonegate, York. The photographs certainly appear to be one of the stock books of W.F. Greenwood & Sons, the very well known antique dealers trading from York and Harrogate in Yorkshire throughout the 20th century. Greenwood was established in the mid 19th century, initially as cabinetmakers and gradually moved to trading in antique furniture and other objects. The firm ceased trading in antiques about 10 years ago, but their Stonegate shop still exists in York – with a framed photograph of a visit by Queen Mary fixed to the exteriors of the shop!

I’m aware of some other archive material from Greenwood and Sons, located in Yorkshire and will soon be checking this present album with the photo archive already located.

Greenwood archive photo 2 Some of the photographs, such as this one (above) also record the prices the object was sold for – the photograph on the left here, ‘Rare Bow Group of the Sailors Farewell…c.1760’, with pencil code ‘QL/C/-, was recorded as ‘sold for £185’ – the caption is dated 1956.  Greenwood archive photo 4






We will be doing some more detailed investigation of this album over the coming months, and will post a summary of the results on the project blog…so watch this space!


Home Subjects

a working group dedicated to the display of art in the private interior, c. 1715-1914

The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience

An International Conference hosted by The Bowes Museum and The University of Leeds

H. Blairman & Sons Ltd

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 19th & 20th centuries

Museum Studies Now?

'Museum Studies Now?' is an event which aims to discuss and debate museum and heritage studies education provision.

The Burlington Magazine Index Blog

art writing * art works * art market

East India Company at Home, 1757-1857

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 19th & 20th centuries