Antique Dealers, ‘Period Rooms’ and Museums

Following my short and pithy Tweet re the dealer Seligmann and the maquette for a period room, now on display at Minneapolis Institute of Art we have, thanks to Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Curator of Decorative Art, Textiles and Sculpture at MIA, discovered more about the maquette.  And it’s an unexpected, and fascinating history, and one that draws further attention to the significance of social and cultural networks in the circulation and consumption of ‘antiques’ – something that the ‘Antique Dealers’ research project is keen to explore.

seligmann model MIA

Maquette of the Grand Salon of the Hotel de la Bouexiere. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Photo MW 2015.

The maquette itself, (13in x 23in x 16 ins high) was a model for the Grand Salon of the Hotel de la Bouexiere, from Paris, which was designed 1731-1733, for Jean Gaillard de la Bouexiere (1676-1759), who grew wealthy as a tax collector for the Royal Crown in the 1st half of the 18th century. Here’s one end of the room as you see it at MIA –

hotel bouexiere

Grand Salon, Hotel de la Bouexiere, (c.1731-33). Minneapolis Institute of Art. Photo Wikicommons.

What is interesting about the room (for us), and the maquette specifically, is the ‘trade’ history of it. It seems that the maquette was made by the antique architectural salvage dealer and interior decorator and furniture manufacturer, Robert Carlhian, sometime in the early 1920s.

I was interested to note that the business records of Carlhian (est 1867, and closed c.1988) had been acquired by The Getty (ref 930092 if you’re interested). Carlhian were mainly based in Paris, but had branches in New York, Buenos Aires and Cannes; and during the period 1945-1966 they had a branch in London, in conjunction with the art dealer Wildenstein….so I guess they qualify to be included in the current ‘Antique Dealer’ research project (if we accept the broad definition of ‘antique dealer’ – you’ll need to re=read some of the earlier blog posts to follow the umbra and penumbra of what constitutes ‘antique dealers’ to follow this line of thought).

It seems that the room was sold to the Metropolitan Museum in New York, before being purchased by Minneapolis Institute of Art in 1983.  John Harris, in his excellent survey of the trade in architectural elements – Moving Rooms: the trade in architectural Salvage (Yale, 2007), suggests that the room was acquired by the dealers Dalva Brothers and sold to MIA in 1978 (see Harris, (2007), p.169). Dalva Brothers traded in New York and were established by 1933, but, as far as I know did not have a branch in Britain? The maquette was a gift to MIA from Leon and David Dalva – I guess as part of the purchase.

I also understand that at some stage Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co also had some dealings with the circulation of the Grand Salon from Hotel de la Bouexiere. What is interesting (to us, as investigators of the history of the Antique Trade) is the networks and connections in these transactions – it’s not so surprising I guess, but no less significant, that the ‘antique trade’ play such a key role in the eventual presentation of this historical object in the public domain.



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