Archive for March, 2015

March 30, 2015

Oral History Interview with Chris Jussel

Thanks to Chris Jussel, formerly of Vernay & Jussel, and J.J. Wolff Antiques in New York, for coming to meet me in Boston MA to do an oral history interview as part of the Antique Dealers research project. The interview with Chris will be part of the growing archive of oral history interviews with members of the antique trade that will be made available via the project websites soon. As well as being one of the most prominent antique dealers in America, Chris, as you probably know, was also formerly the presenter on the USA version of ‘Antiques Roadshow’, as well as Vice President of Sotheby’s Trust and Estates Division (1999-2003) and Vice President of Samuel T. Freeman & Co auctioneers between 2007-2009 – he is currently a private art and antiques consultant. Here’s Chris, in the little apartment I’ve rented for my short stay in Boston –

Chris Jussel March 2015

Chris Jussel, in Boston, March 2015.

Chris told us about the early beginnings of Arthur Vernay, who opened his antique gallery in New York in c.1906; by 1925 Vernay had a 5 storey building filled with antiques and was one of the most important dealers in New York in the period.  Vernay, was actually born in England, in Weymouth we believe, so the links to the British trade here are important.  Chris also allowed me to copy a set of fabulous B&W photographs of the interiors of Arthur Vernay’s house at 51 Berkeley Square, London, taken during the late 1920s – the images are a potent illustration of the taste for furnishing with antiques in the 1920s. Here’s some of the photographs –

Vernay 1927-29 7

Arthur Vernay, 51 Berkeley Square, London house interior, c.1929. Image courtesy of Chris Jussel.

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Arthur Vernay, 51 Berkeley Square, London house interior, c.1929. Image courtesy of Chris Jussel.

Vernay 1927-29 8

Arthur Vernay, 51 Berkeley Square, London house interior, c.1929. Image courtesy of Chris Jussel.

The interview with Chris was fascinating and wide ranging – he told us about the history of his father joining the firm of Arthur Vernay in 1928, and then how the business was continued by his father after Vernay retired in 1940 – before Chris joined the firm in 1972 and renamed the business Vernay & Jussel. Chris consolidated the business in 1978 with the purchase of the then well established dealership J.J. Wolff.  Chris closed the business in 1994 to develop other extensive business interests.

Amongst other antique dealers that Chris recalled were Partridge & Sons, French & co and Stair – some of the most important English furniture dealers in the history of the antique trade.  Chris also told us about the complex practices and processes of the antique trade in the period – including some fascinating anecdotes about dealers such as ‘Charles of London’ (Charles Duveen – see previous blog post for some further info on Charles) and many other characters in the trade. The interview will be a very valuable contribution to the evolving history of the antique trade!






March 29, 2015

More on early 20th century antique dealers in New York

Following the blog post on ‘searching for Duveen’ in the streets of New York I thought it would be interesting to find the former locations of some of the other antique dealers I encountered in the archives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – it’s also the opportunity to share some of the fascinating archive documents in the archives (thanks again to Melissa Bowling, one of the archivists at the Met Museum for helping with the research for the Antique Dealer project!) Most of the dealer galleries dating from the early part of the 20th century seem to have been demolished in the continual processes of renewal of the architectural landscape of New York city, (as you’ll see in the comments below) – but I did find one building that still remains (although no longer the premises of an antique dealer).

Some of you may know of the dealership ‘C.Charles’ – he was a brother of the famous Joseph Duveen; he was, apparently, not allowed to use the trading name of ‘Duveen’ (there’s only ONE Duveen I guess), so began trading as ‘C. Charles’ in London in the opening decades of the 20th century, and by the 1930s was trading as ‘Charles of London’ in the USA. Here’s a fascinating invoice from ‘Charles of London’ dated November 9th 1936, for an ‘Old 18th Century Mahogany Desk’, sold to the famous American collector Robert Lehman for $550 – (I couldn’t trace this object in the Met Museum collections….).

charles inv 9.11.36

Invoice ‘Charles of London’ November 9th, 1936. Box 37, Folder 12, Robert Lehman Papers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Archives.

In my walks around New York searching for the locations of former antique dealer galleries I found Charles Duveen’s gallery at 12 West 56th Street – a very elegant (as one might expect) building, designed in a similar vein to Joseph Duveen’s spectacular purpose built gallery on 5th Avenue (see previous blog post).

Charles 12 west 56th  st NY

Charles of London former gallery at 12 West 56th Street New York. Photo MW March 2015.

There were a few other letters and invoices from dealers I found in the archives, and I managed to find the former locations of the dealers – as I say, sadly the buildings themselves no longer exist. The location of the galleries of the famous antique dealers French & Co at 6 East 56th Street are now (maybe appropriately!) occupied by Armani –

former French and Co 6 East 56th st NY

Former location of French & Co (1916). Photo MW March 2015.

French and Co were at 6 East 56th Street, New York by 1916, as this invoice (again photographed by kind permission of the Metropolitan Museum Archives) demonstrates –

french invoice 7.9.15 det

Invoice, French & Co., 1916. Box 4, Folder 16, Durr Friedley Records, 1906-1918 (1917-1918) The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Archives.

(I’ll come back to the contents of the invoice itself in another blog post…).

French & Co had moved to 210 East 57th Street by the 1930s, but again the building they occupied no longer remains…..

former French and co 210 East 57th st NY

Former location of French & Co, 210 East 57th Street, New York in the 1930s. Photo MW March 2015.

And here’s the former location of the dealer A.S. Drey, ‘Antique Paintings and Works of Art’, who, according to a note in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives moved to 680 5th Avenue, New York in 1929. The location is now occupied by shops and offices.

former Drey 680 5th Ave NY

Former location of A.S. Drey, 680 5th Avenue, New York in 1929. Photo MW March 2015.

And, just for the record, I also found the former New York locations at 6 West 56th Street for Frank Partridge & Sons (they were at this address from at least the early 1920s until at least the late 1960s – Partridge & Sons, like many of the dealers highlighted in this blog, are no longer trading).

former Partridge shop 6 West 56th st NY

Former location of Frank Partridge & Sons, 6 West 56th Street, New York. Photo MW March 2015.


And the locations of ‘Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Company Incorporated’ trading at 7 West 36th Street, New York in 1916, are now shops and offices….

former Seligmann shop 7 West 36th st NY

Former location of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., 7 West 36th Street, New York. Photo MW March 2015.

Likewise the former location of the antique dealer and interior decorators ‘White Allom’ (led by Sir Charles Allom) at 19 East 52nd Street, New York in 1914, are now occupied by an hotel.

former White Allom 19 East 52nd st NY

Former location of the galleries of White Allom, 19 East 52nd Street, New York in 1914. Photo MW March 2015.

As you can see, the archives at the Met Museum were a catalyst for a fruitful perambulation around a (very cold) New York….








March 24, 2015

Searching for Duveen in the USA

As many of those that have knowledge of and undertake research into the history of the art market will know, the art dealer Joseph Duveen (1869-1939) has been the subject of several books and essays. The archives of Duveen are located (predominantly) at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles – they have even been digitized and are available on-line at Duveen Archives and are a fantastic resource.  The ‘House of Duveen’ continues to fascinate researchers and writers – and here is not the place to rehearse those publications – but whilst I was in New York anyway, I thought it would be interesting to find the locations of Duveen Galleries (the Antique Dealer project is not called ‘a Cultural Geography’ for nothing!) Duveen’s original gallery (shown below), was located at 1 East 56th Street, on the junction with 5th Avenue, and was built in c.1913, designed by Horace Trumbauer and Rene Sergent. The gallery was demolished in 1953, and the location remains an open street space, with the stores of Cartier and Apple set back from 5th Avenue, occupying the block.

duveen 1953

Duveen Gallery, 1 East 56th Street, New York, in 1953.



Duveen location of 5th avenue shop

Location of the former Duveen Gallery (photo March 2015)

Duveen chose a very significant location for his New York gallery – right at the southern edge of Central Park, on 5th Avenue, the heart of the power of culture/culture of power in New York at the time that had the gallery constructed.  The art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (the subject of a major exhibition at the National Gallery in London at present) also located his gallery in this area, at 12 East 57th Street in 1913.

But what is interesting (to me, anyway) is where Duveen relocated the gallery during the following decades….just a 5 minute walk from the location at East 56th Street, to 18 East 79th Street. This new location, was right opposite the Metropolitan Museum.

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Duveen Gallery 18 East 79th Street, 1963,

Duveen 18 East 79th st

Former Duveen Gallery (now Acquauella Gallery). 2015.


Duveen’s new gallery, (shown left, in c.1964), still remains – it was acquired by the art dealers ‘Acquauella Gallery’ in the 1960s – (see image right, taken in March 2015).








I also did a little more research (isn’t the web a fabulous, and fabulously quick, research resource!) on Duveen’s private house in New York. His house was at 15 East 91st Street, further north up from the Metropolitan Museum. Duveen bought the house in 1923 – it was designed by F.J. Sterner in 1916 – and had it enlarged by no less architect than John Russell Pope, who apparently added a 2 storey art gallery to the building – suggesting that the home/business was a synchronic space? duveen's home in New York 15 east 92st St

Duveen Home 15 East 91st st

Former location of the private house of Joseph Duveen at 15 East 91st Street. (March 2015).

Duveen’s home was demolished in 1940 – and a large block of apartments now occupies the site.


March 22, 2015

Project Research in the USA

Just arrived in New York, for the first leg of a mammoth research field trip to the USA, as part of the AHRC Antique Dealer project. We’ll be investigating museum archives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, here in New York, before heading up to Boston Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday 28th March for similar research. From there I head to Philadelphia, then Wilmington, to The Winterthur on 31st March to look at the dealer archives held at The Winterthur (Vernay, Needham and Koopman – all British-related antique dealers of course). Then on Saturday 4th April off to Chicago, to look at the Chicago Institute of Art archives; then on Wednesday 8th April I’m heading across to Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Institute of Art for a few days to investigate their archives. And finally, on this exhausting tour, ending up in Los Angeles at the Getty Research Institute during 11th-18th April to consult the dealer archives there (French & Co and Durlacher…as well as Duveen of course).

The rationale for this extensive research trip to USA is to investigate the relationships between the British Antique trade and the development of public museums in America – the connections are considerable. We’re also planning do undertake some oral history interviews whilst we’re here in USA, and have some very significant figures in the history of the antique trade lined up for interview!

I’ll be posting updates on the blog on the discoveries (research-wise), so do keep an eye on the Blog!

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