Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

July 23, 2021

New Oral History Interview – David Love

The various UK Government Lockdowns and Social Distancing requirements over the past 16 months or so have severely restricted our ability to continue with our Oral History of the Antique Trade project. But as we have started to move out of various restrictions we have ‘fired up’ the Oral History project again. And we’re pleased to announce that David Love, of David Love Antiques Limited in Harrogate, generously agreed to be our latest interviewee; we interviewed David in late June.

David Love, at his shop in Harrogate, 2021. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

David is perhaps one of the most experienced antique dealers in Britain, having been in the antiques trade for more than 50 years. He started in 1969 with his first shop, which he opened at Shipston-on-Stour in Warwickshire, but David had initially begun in the trade by helping out at the shop of his mother, Araxie Love, who had established her own antique dealing business in c.1960 in Richmond, North Yorkshire, acquiring the antique shop run by the dealer Kathleen Agar.

In this very engaging oral history interview David tells us about how he relocated his antique business to Swan Road in Harrogate in the early 1970s, before occupying the premises of the well-known dealer Walter Waddingham in Royal Parade in 1975, and remaining there for 45 years. David has fond memories of Walter, and many other well-known dealers in Harrogate and York and the Yorkshire area – dealers such as Frank and Basil Shaftoe and Reg Smith of ‘Smith’s the Rink’ in Harrogate and Charles Morrison in York – and in the interview he gives a real insight into the Northern antiques trade in the period from the 1970s until the decline of the trade across the UK in the late 1990s.

David was primarily an inter-dealer trader in the 1970s and 1980s, often supplying dealers in the South and in London with antique furniture and a wide range of objects. He recalls the numerous local auction sales that kept the supply chains running, and the extensive buying trips that he would make, starting in Newcastle, Sunderland and the North East of England, and extending to Coldstream, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and Glasgow in Scotland, before returning to Harrogate via Carlisle, Kendal and Barnard Castle – calling in at many well-known dealers such as the Sydneys (in Newcastle), Owen Humble (in Jesmond) and Bill Beaton (in Perth and Dundee). These were ‘fun days’ as David describes them, when one would not know what would be found in the various antique shops one visited.

David also tells us of some spectacular finds that he has made over the years, including spotting a previously ‘lost’ ormolu tea urn by the great 18th century manufacturer, businessman and designer Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), which he acquired whilst in the USA. He realised it was something special and this was confirmed when he got home and looked up Nicholas Goodison’s magnificent volume on the work of Matthew Boulton (1974) to find that it was listed in the book as ‘lost’.

In this fascinating interview David also reflects on the changes to the antique trade over the past 50 years and the reasons for those changes, as well as reflecting on the what the future might hold for the antiques trade. The interview will join the rest of the Oral History interviews as part of the archive of the history of the antique trade in Britain and will be made available to the public in due course. In the meantime, we have a few more oral history interviews planned, so do keep your eye on the antique dealers research blog and the project research pages.

Mark

July 20, 2021

Quinneys (2021)- the film!

As you may know, we have been making a film of the play ‘Quinneys’ (1915) at The Stage on campus at the University of Leeds as part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council funded ‘SOLD! The Year of the Dealer’ project. The filming was completed on 2nd July and we are now in the process of editing all the sections of film and creating the final version of Quinneys (2021). We are aiming to premiere the film later in the year, probably in November or December, at a cinema in Leeds, and, hopefully also in London – do keep you eye on the antique dealer blog and the project website for updates.

Thanks to our amazing director of the film, Dr. George Rodosthenous, all the student actors, Samuel Parmenter (as Joseph Quinney); Hannah Rooney (as Mrs Susan Quinney); Annabel Marlow (as Posy Quinney); Fergus Johnston (as James Miggott); India Walton (as Mable Dredge); Malcolm Webb (as Sam Tomlin); Stephenson Catney (as Cyrus P. Hunsaker); and Sebastian de Pury (as Dupont Jordan) – as well as Samantha Willetts (as Theatre Company Manager and lighting design); Andy Mills (as technician) – and our cameraman Patrick Bannon, we managed to get the film ‘in the can’ over an exhausting 5 days (9am-9pm!) – helped by delicious pizza! Here’s the full cast after filming, on the Quinneys (2021) ‘Sanctuary’ set, with George –

Cast of Quinneys in rehearsal with George Rodosthenous at The Stage, University of Leeds. Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

Rehearsals were a real challenge, with all the Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing etc. We had to wear masks when not actually on set and about to film – here’s the actors all masked up early on in the rehearsals:

Cast of Quinneys in rehearsal with George Rodosthenous at The Stage, University of Leeds. Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

Annabel Marlow, who plays Posy Quinney (Quinney’s daughter) in the film, was still self-isolating on the first day of filming, so we had to do the rehearsals with Annabel on Zoom via a laptop – a very surreal, J.G. Ballard-esque experience! Here’s Samantha Willetts (Company Manager) holding the laptop with Annabel (‘Posy’) on screen.

Samantha Willetts holding ‘Posy’ (Annabel Marlow) – rehearsals for Quinneys. Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

Filming Quinneys was a very complex operation, with some very sophisticated technical kit, and it required very detailed planning and execution – here’s a long shot of the setup for filming, with Patrick Bannon (far right) and the team manning the cameras.

Filming Quinneys. Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

And another photograph of Patrick checking the camera ready for filming another scene of Quinneys (2021) –

Filming Quinneys. Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

As well as the actors ‘starring’ in Quinneys the antiques on Set were also key characters in the film, as they were in the original staging of the play in 1915. All the objects on Set were genuine antiques, and, like the original versions of the play in 1915, were loaned by leading antique dealers. In 1915 dealers such as Walter & Ernest Thornton-Smith and M. Harris & Sons loaned antiques. And below is a photograph of the Set for Quinneys’ ‘Sanctuary’ in 2021.

The Set for Quinneys’ ‘Sanctuary’. Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

The antiques for Quinneys (2021) were very generously loaned by David Love Antiques, Harrogate, Simon Myers of R.N. Myers & Sons, Gargrave, and Tony Lumb of Charles Lumb & Sons, formerly of Harrogate. We were very lucky to have such wonderful antiques for the Set, and would like to say thank you again to David, Simon and Tony for all their help and support.

Here is a final photograph of all the cast of Quinneys (2021) on Set in Quinneys’ ‘Sanctuary’. We very much look forward to welcoming everyone to the premiere of Quinneys later in the year. Keep you eye on the project website for more details.

Mark

Cast of Quinneys (2021). Photograph, Year of the Dealer project, 2021.

May 28, 2021

Quinneys – re-booted – we’re making a film!

We are delighted to announce that the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded project, ‘Sold! The Year of the Dealer’ has emerged from hibernation and we have started rehearsals again for the restaging of the play ‘Quinneys’ (1915). Thanks to a further extension to the Year of the Dealer project from the AHRC we can now continue the project, which now ends on 31st December 2021. We will update you on the remaining proposed events and the museum trails later in the summer, but for now, we are all really excited to announce that Quinneys is alive and well.

Rehearsals are currently taking place online via TEAMS – which makes it an interesting if somewhat challenging experience, but our actors and George Rodosthenous, our Director, are doing brilliant work in this virtual space. Here’s a screen shot of the most recent rehearsal, with George (top left) directing the actors, and with Samantha Willetts (top middle) our new Theatre Company Manager and Lighting Designer. The actors are – Stephenson Catney (top right) who will be playing the part of the American millionaire collector Cyrus P. Hunsaker; Sebastian du Pury (bottom left) one of our new actors, playing the part of the American millionaire collector Dupont Jordan; India Walton (centre middle) playing the part of Mabel Dredge, Quinneys’ typist and a love interest of James Miggott in the play; Malcolm Webb (right middle) another of our new actors, playing the part of the antique dealer Sam Tomlin; Samuel Parmeter (left) and Fergus Johnston (right) (centre bottom), playing the parts of the antique dealer Joseph Quinney and James Miggott, Quinney’s workshop foreman, respectively; and Hannah Rooney (left bottom), playing the part of Mrs Susan Quinney. We are missing Annabel Marlow is this photograph (who plays Posy Quinney, the daughter of Susan and Joseph Quinney, and the other live interest of James Miggott) – and there’s a tiny image of me (Mark) in the bottom right corner, taking the photograph!

Quinneys rehearsal on TEAMS at the University of Leeds.

The pandemic has of course meant that we have had to rethink our plans to restage a performance of the play in a theatre – but the exciting news on the Quinneys project is that we are making a film of the play instead. We will be filming Quinneys at the University of Leeds in early July and following that we are planning to have a ‘premiere’ of the film at a cinema later in the year – so do look out for updates on the antique dealer project website antiquedealers.leeds.ac.uk and on this Blog of course.

In the meantime, here’s another photograph of the Quinneys rehearsals on TEAMS, with all the actors – and this time including Annabel Marlow (left centre), who pays Posy Quinney in the play/film.

Quinneys rehearsals on TEAMS at the University of Leeds.

We very much look forward to welcoming everyone to the World Premiere of our film of Quinneys later this year.

Mark

May 8, 2021

‘She is now of the family of Champcommunal and other money makers’: women, antiques and interiors in mid twentieth-century London

[our friend and colleague, Dr Clare Taylor, from Open University, is our guest blogger again for this blogpost – thank you again Clare for taking the time to share your research – you can also read Clare’s other blogpost from 19th Feb 2021, HERE].

Mark

Here’s Clare Taylor’s blogpost:

‘Many of the names behind leading antique dealers were men, but women’s role in the business equally deserves to be uncovered and celebrated, as Mark’s 2015 posts on the early B.A.D.A. member Clara Millard revealed [HERE & HERE]. Women, too, have a long association with the trade [Mark – indeed they do, the dealer Jane Clarke (c.1794-1859), who specialised in ‘antique lace’, was a major dealer in the middle decades of the 19th century – see also my dictionary of 19th century antique dealers – White Rose Depository ] and at least one female dealer looked back to the eighteenth-century to advertise her shop. Anne Austen adapted the c.1754 trade card of James Wheeley, a paper hanging warehouseman on Aldersgate Street, for her own business on New Bond Street, which was visited by Prince Henry of Battenberg in 1912 [Mark – see Anne Austin in the Antique Dealer Project Map website too – HERE ]. Austen kept Wheeley’s cartouche and shop scene but changed the name and address. She also adapted the wording, removing the wallpaper manufacturing element from Wheeley’s card and substituting ‘common papers’ with the presumable more valuable ‘Chinee papers’ or Chinese wallpapers, adding ‘New Chairs & Horse Glass designs by the ingenious Mr. Chippendale’ to the list of items she sold.

Trade Card for Anne Austin’s gallery, c.1913. Copyright Trustees of the British Museum. Courtesy of Clare Taylor.

Austen’s card suggests she was fitting up interiors, and decorating was frequently thought of as the preserve of amateurs who gave ‘advice’, but became nevertheless an important area for women seeking work (and an income) in the early years of the twentieth century and often went hand in hand with the trade in antiques. Sybil Colefax (1875-1951) was in just such a position in the 1920s. These women trod a difficult path, as Virginia Woolf’s description of Sybil in a letter of 1930 to Vanessa Bell conveys, since in Woolf’s view Sybil ‘is now of the family of Champcommunal and other money makers’, ‘a hardened shopkeeper’, whose society life of leisure has been replaced by a working life such as that of Elspeth Champcommunal (1888-1976), the then Editor of Vogue magazine.

Trade Card for Sybil Colefax Limited, n.d. Bodleian Library, Oxford. Image courtesy of Clare Taylor.

Sybil’s name is now synonymous with the decorators Colefax & Fowler, and although her role in that firm might have been short lived (1938-46) and her contribution since eclipsed by those of John Fowler and Nancy Lancaster, Sybil’s knowledge of antiques was built up over a much longer timeframe. She had started out before the Second World War working for Stair & Andrew, establishing their decorating department on the first floor at Bruton Street, so her early knowledge may well have been gleaned from working with their stock, although according to her biographer later ‘forays into Bond Street…brought her into contact with many London dealers’. Her trade card certainly highlighted that she supplied ‘Antique furniture, glass, china with a special feature of Regency pieces’ and it was a lighter version of Edward Knoblock’s Regency taste which she promoted with painted and gilded chairs, console tables and textiles in plain satin or printed with Regency-style motifs such as bay leaf circlets and lyres.

Drawing Room at Sybil Colefax’s home on Lord North Street, London, photographed after 1941. Bodleian Library, Oxford. Image courtesy of Clare Taylor.

Her own manuscript, ‘On Houses’, also signified the importance of the setting in which antiques were placed, warning that ‘ You lose half the effect of a fine Queen Anne writing table or bookcase or walnut chairs…when they’re set among some dull creton [sic] or linen covers of poor design and washy colour’. It also seems that clients recognised her expertise in antiques as well as interiors. During the War she kept her business going whilst helping out at the Red Cross depot and in May 1940, a desperate Marquess of Anglesey, for whose wife, Marjorie Manners, Sybil had decorated a bedroom at Plas Newyyd, wrote that he had no money and no jewels (‘except as will belong to the children, as they want them’) to send to the Red Cross sale. He sought Sybil’s advice to authenticate a piece of furniture, asking, ‘What about the Empire piece. Do you think it has a History? Or can you say with authority that it comes from Malmaison? Can you advise me whether it could be written over as famous and historical and sent to the Lord Mayor?’

A key element of the Regency Revival taste for which Sybil Colefax was admired was decorated and painted furniture, a taste which is still with us today. From the early 1920s such pieces were sold by the decorator Syrie Maugham (1879-1955) from her shop on Baker Street, who had a reputation for ‘pickling’, bleaching and painting in white pieces from eighteenth-century commodes to mirror frames.

Sketch of Syrie Maugham at work from Cecil Beaton’s The Glass of Fashion 1954. Image courtesy of Clare Taylor.

Liberty’s, Heal’s and Peter Jones on Sloane Square also sold painted pieces, supplied in the case of Peter Jones not only by Maugham but by the artists Ambrose Thomas (‘The Marquis d’Oisy’) and Margaret Kunzer. By 1930 Kunzer had been recruited to head a Department of Decorative Furniture for the shop, and during the early 1930s a painting studio was established in nearby Ixworth Place to feed in stock, run by a young John Fowler. Stock sold out at the first exhibition held in the Department and demand continued to grow. One determinant was clearly price. Kunzer went on buying trips and had a regular supplier in Suffolk who repaired pieces ready for painting (a Mr Head in Sudbury) but she also bought pieces closer to home once paying £10 in the Caledonian market (also a source of pieces for Syrie Maugham) for ‘a small pine tallboy, a writing table, several chairs and a tray’ which all needed only minor repairs before being painted. However, Kunzer also had a keen eye for what would sell, recalling in 1982 that at an exhibition held early in 1935 it was Regency pieces that were most in demand as they were suited to customers who were increasingly living in smaller scale flats and houses.

These examples, of Anne Austen, Sybil Colefax, Syrie Maugham and Margaret Kunzer, illustrate some of the different ways in which women contributed to the trade in antiques in the interwar years and after, and offer tantalising glimpses of the networks within which these women operated and their role in promoting new tastes.

Clare Taylor.

April 29, 2021

Antique Dealing & Department Stores

One of the latest acquisitions to the growing archive of antique dealer ephemera is a rare sales brochure, dating from c.1900, from Hampton & Sons Limited, Pall Mall East, London, of ‘Antique Embroideries, Furniture, Silver, Porcelain and other Art Objects’. It’s a very elaborate brochure, with a colour printed and embossed cover and full of black and white, and some colour photographs, of the stock of antiques that Hampton had for sale.

Hampton & Sons Ltd., Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Hampton & Sons were established in 1830 by William Hampton, trading in Cranbourne Street, London, selling general household items and furniture and expanded to a large general furnishing and department store in East Pall Mall, London, in 1869. Many department stores in London in the period c.1900, such as Debenham & Freebody, the 19th century department store business that eventually became Debenhams, and the furnishing store Maple & Co. Ltd., of Tottenham Court Road, developed ‘Antique Departments’ within their stores – here, for example, is a sales brochure produced by Maple & Co in c.1915, also in the Antique Dealer Research Project archives.

Maple & Co. Ltd., sales brochure for antiques, c.1915. Image, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

(For more on antiques and department stores see also our blog post on November 2nd 2014 by Chris Coles). Like these other department stores, Hampton & Sons antiques department sold a wide range of antiques. They described themselves as ‘Decorators, Furnishers’ and ‘Dealers in Antiques’ in the frontispiece to their sales brochure – with ‘Antique Furniture’, ‘Old Tapestries’, ‘Embroideries and Laces’, ‘Old Arms and Armour’, ‘Old Silver’, Sheffield Plate and Porcelain, ‘Old Copper Ware’ and ‘Curios’ all listed in the contents of the brochure.

Hampton & Sons Ltd., Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

In the Introduction to the brochure Hampton & Sons write that ‘The steady and continuous growth of the Department…rendered it absolutely necessary to make extensive additions to the Show-rooms’ that they had ‘recently constructed for the display of Antiques’ (Hampton & Sons, brochure, p.1). The sales brochure illustrates the very wide range of antiques that the business sold in the period around 1900. Here is a page showing ‘Old Arms and Armour’, including ‘A Demi-Suit of Bright Steel Armour…of the XVIIth century, from the celebrated Melges collection’, (Brochure, p.4) – numbered as item ‘O1.’ in the photograph.

Hampton & Sons sales brochure c.1900. Image, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Among the photographs of antique furniture is this page, showing 18th century English and French antique furniture and clocks, is a fascinating cabinet on stand (right side of photograph, numbered ‘O71.’), described as ‘an old cabinet, of rosewood, richly inlaid with conventional representations, in ivory, of trees and flowering plants….’; and an equally interesting ‘Old English Miniature Bureau Bookcase’ (show top left, numbered ‘O67’)…an ‘Important example’ as the caption states. This, of course, as we now know, is a late 18th century example from Vizagapatam, India.

Hampton & Sons, Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Another of the pages devoted to antique furniture includes another cabinet on stand, this time described as ‘A Very Fine Old Ebony Cabinet….Formerly the property of Oliver Cromwell. From Olivers Stanway, once the residence of the Eldred family’; (numbered O78.’) – the cabinet is also illustrated in Arthur Hayden Chats on Old Furniture (1905), p.99, where it is reproduced by ‘permission of Messrs. Hampton & Sons’ and obviously from the brochure here.

Hampton & Sons, Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image, Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

There is also an extensive selection of antique textiles and lace in the sales brochure; antique textiles and lace were highly fashionable at the time, but antique lace in particular had also been a key part of the antique markets since the early 19th century, perhaps most famously with Jane Clarke, who operated the ‘Antique Lace Warehouse’ at 154 Regent Street, London in the 1830s and 1840s. In the Hampton & Sons brochure there is a fabulous ‘Banner of Old Italian Lacis’, ‘dated 1606’, ‘a very fine and interesting specimen’ as it was described; (numbered ‘O130’).

Hampton & Sons, Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image, Antique Dealers Research project, University of Leeds.

There is also a page devoted to the ubiquitous ‘Curios’, which included an ‘Elizabethan Brown Glazed Ware Jug’ (numbered ‘O211’) top right in the photograph below, together with ‘Ivory Tankards’, ‘Silver and Metal Gilt Monstrances’, and ‘a Pair of Chinese Carved Cylindrical Spill Vases’ (numbered ‘O212’) top centre – these are carved Bamboo brush pots which appear to have been later mounted in silver, probably in Europe.

Hampton & Sons, Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

And finally, no antique department store would have been complete at the time without some collections of antique Chinese ceramics, and here are a couple of pages from the brochure illustrating Hampton & Sons collections of ‘Old Chinese Porcelain’. This page (below) showing 18th century polychrome porcelain, including an interesting vase ‘on Imperial Yellow Ground’ (centre, numbered ‘O272’):

Hampton & Sons, Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

And this page (below), showing ‘Old Nankin Porcelain’, from the extensive collections of blue & white Chinese porcelain at Hampton & Sons.

Hampton & Sons, Sales Brochure, c.1900. Image, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The Hampton & Sons sales brochure is a rare and fascinating survival of antique dealing in the period c.1900, and will be making its way to the antique dealer archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds in due course.

Mark

March 31, 2021

More Antique Dealer Archives – Kent Gallery Ltd albums

The collection of antique dealer archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections (BLSC) at the University of Leeds has a new donation – two fascinating photograph albums, dating from c.1920-1930, illustrating the stock of the well-known and highly important antique dealer furniture dealers’ Kent Gallery Ltd. The albums have been generously donated to the BLSC by the V&A Museum – thanks to Kate Hay, Assistant Curator, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the V&A and her colleagues Leela Meinertas (Senior Curator of Furniture at the V&A) and Christopher Marsden (Archivist at the Archive of Art & Design) – and thank you to Karen Sayers, archivist at the Brotherton Library Special Collections, for accepting the donation!

Kent Gallery photograph albums, c.1920. Photograph courtesy of Kate Hay, 2021.

Kate and I came across the photo albums back in 2017 when I was with Kate at Blythe House (the V&A Museum stores) whilst we were looking over some other antique dealer related material, and I immediately had a sense that the albums were created by the antique dealers’ Kent Gallery. I’d seen Kent Gallery photographs many times previously and, like many leading antique dealer photographs, they have a very distinctive appearance – often the objects are photographed against particular backgrounds or are framed in a particular way. Here’s some examples of the photographs in the Kent Gallery albums – the albums are quite large format (c.20 inches high); they are (despite looking a bit shabby at present) quite grand leather finished and gilt-tooled albums. The photograph albums were used by Kent Gallery as inventories of stock, as well as perhaps to show customers what was available for sale, and acting as catalysts for asking customers what kinds of antique furniture they might be interested in purchasing.

Kent Gallery Album, c.1920-1930. Photograph courtesy of Kate Hay, 2021.

The 18th century chair in the photograph (above), from one of the albums, has an annotation indicating that it had been ‘Sold’ and includes a negative number for the photograph. The photograph below, shows an 18th century giltwood mirror (also indicated as ‘Sold’), and the negative number, but in this page the object is also inscribed with a stock number.

Kent Gallery photograph album, c.1920-1930. Photograph courtesy of Kate Hay, 2021.

Photograph albums such as these seem to have been relatively common among leading dealers from the early 1900s until the 1960s. I’ve seen examples created by several well-known dealers, such as Mallet & Son, M. Harris & Sons and W.F Greenwood & Sons – indeed, I posted a blog entry on the W.F. Greenwood & Sons photograph album on this blog in July 2014 – see earlier blog post here.

Kate Hay did some further research on the albums and discovered that they had been given to the V&A Museum by the antique dealer Ronald A. Lee in 1973, but had never been accessioned into the V&A collection – it’s fitting therefore that the albums are coming to the BLSC, which, as you may know, also has a collection of R. A. Lee material donated by Ronald Lee’s daughter Georgina Gough.

Kent Gallery were one of the leading dealers in antique furniture in the opening decades of the 20th century, trading from various locations in London – the main headquarters of the business was in Conduit Street. The business was established by Edward Horace Benjamin, who, by the early 1920s had been joined by Lionel Harris Junior (b.1903) and Maurice Harris (b.1900), the sons of the well-known dealer Lionel Harris (1852-1943). The Harris family had extensive antique dealing interests – they owned ‘The Spanish Gallery’, (aka ‘The Spanish Art Gallery’) one of the leading dealers in Spanish work of art in the period; and Lionel Jnr and Tomas Harris (1908-1964) also operated their own antique dealing businesses in the 1920s and 1930s.

Kent Gallery was one of the Harris families’ specialist antique dealing businesses – with a speciality, from the 1920s, for selling antique English furniture. The business was one a number of antique dealers in the period that seem to have focused on selling English furniture, no doubt spurred on by the publication of key texts such as Percy Macquiod’s A History of English Furniture (1904-1908) and Macquoid and Edwards’ Dictionary of English Furniture (1924-1927). Indeed, many of the photographs in these volumes were supplied by dealers such as Kent Gallery, Moss Harris & Sons and Frank Partridge & Sons.

Some other Kent Gallery material which I’ve collected over the years or which has been kindly sent to the antique dealer research project also demonstrates the tightly imbricated relationships between the development of scholarship on English furniture and the market for antiques in the period. For example, our friend Chris Jussel, formerly of the leading dealers Vernay & Jussel, sent us an invoice back in 2019 which records the sale of a ‘Sheraton mahogany two-door bookcase’ sold by Kent Gallery to Arthur S. Vernay Inc (a precursor to Vernay & Jussel), in September 1931 for £1,120.

Invoice, Kent Gallery, 1931. By kind courtesy of Chris Jussel.

The bookcase, as the Kent Gallery invoice highlights, was formerly in the collections of the well-known American collector of antiques Francis P. Garvan (1875-1937), as well as that of the collector F.C. Hunter; but had also been previously illustrated in Percy MacQuoid’s A History of English Furniture (1904-1908) in the volume titled, The Age of Satinwood, ‘figure 185’. Illustrated below is the very bookcase.

‘Mahogany and Satinwood Book-case. Property of F.C. Hunter’. Percy MacQuoid, A History of English Furniture, The Age of Satinwood, (1904-1908), figure 185.

In the antique dealer project archives we also have a very small cache of loose photographs from Kent Gallery – I picked these up about 10 years ago, from Ebay, in a small collection of photographs of antique furniture which includes photos from the dealers Basil Dighton, G. Jetley, Robersons and Gill & Reigate. The Kent Gallery photographs have a distinctive style, as I mentioned. This ‘George I’ chair, for example, (see below) from the cache of photographs, is similarly framed and has the same background to the Kent Gallery album photograph of the mahogany chair (see above).

Photograph of a ‘George I mahogany + gilt wig chair’; photograph c.1927. Kent Gallery. Antique Dealer Archive.

The verso of the photograph of the ‘George I’ chair has a Kent Gallery stamp. Thanks to Chris Coles, who kindly send us a photograph of the advertisement in The Connoisseur in 1927 from Kent Gallery, which illustrates the chair and which helps us date the Kent Gallery albums to c.1920-1930.

Kent Gallery advertisement, The Connoisseur 1927. Courtesy of Chris Coles.

Thanks also to Chris Jussel and Chris Coles, who both pointed out to me that this chair is one of a set – there are two from the set in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and another pair are also in the collections at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Port Sunlight, near Liverpool. One of chairs was also illustrated in Macquoid and Edwards Dictionary of English Furniture (vol I. 1924), p.227, (which is also mentioned in the Kent Gallery advert) where it had a provenance to the collection of Sir George Donaldson (1845-1925). The Kent Gallery chair is evidently from the same set, with some minor differences (the Kent Gallery chair has brass studs to the seat covering for example).

The photograph of the lacquer table, (below), is also from the small cache of photographs from Kent Gallery.

Photograph of lacquer table, ‘c.1710’: Kent Gallery. Antique Dealer Archive.

The verso of the photograph also shows the Kent Gallery stamp and with an inscription (in pencil) indicating that the photograph was being used in some publication (perhaps as part of an advertisement in Apollo or The Connoisseur magazines?). The inscription in ink describes the object – ‘Red and Gold lacquer table in the later manner of the Queen Anne period c1710’.

Verso of photograph of lacquer table, ‘c1710’; Kent Gallery. Antique Dealer Archive.

As you can see, Kent Gallery dealt in the highest quality antique English furniture in the period. The Kent Galley photograph albums are a rare survival of material from one of the leading antique dealers of the early 20th century – we are so grateful to Kate and the V&A for their very generous donation of the albums to the Brotherton Library Special Collections – once they have been quarantined, cleaned and conserved the albums will be available for researchers – I for one, can’t wait to have another look at them!

Mark

February 19, 2021

Solving the puzzle: Unexpected findings inside A History of English Furniture

We have a guest blogger for this blog-post in the antique dealers blog – a fascinating investigation of the photographs of antique furniture published in A History of English Furniture (1904-08) by Dr Clare Taylor (Open University), one of my friends and colleagues (and collaborators).  You might know Clare from the BBC TV programme Secrets of the Museum: Behind the Scenes at the V&A, where she was academic consultant. Thank you to Clare for taking the time to compose a blog post for us – we hope you enjoy the read!

Mark

Clare Taylor’s blog-post:

‘Remember those heady pre-covid times when you could physically visit a library or a second-hand bookshop without an appointment, or indeed visit one at all? Reading the catalogue to the SOLD! exhibition recently reminded me about studying the four volumes of Percy Macquoid’s monumental History of English Furniture (1904-08) in the Sackler library in Oxford. They contained a puzzle which, at the time, I could not solve, but now SOLD! gave me some clues.

The volumes had revealed some unexpected contents. Three of the four contained loose black and white photographs of sets or individual items of furniture, and one sword. None were dated, but many had the photographer’s stamp on the reverse for Cooper and Humphrey of 71, Newman Street, with a pencilled 5-digit number. Others were stamped A. C. Cooper & Co, Fine Art Photographers of 10, Rose & Crown Yard, King Street, St James and one by F.A. Swaine, 146, New Bond Street, W.1 and Southsea.

Set of chairs upholstered in cut velvet, printed ‘Mallett 40 New Bond Street, London and The Octagon, Bath’, photographed by Cooper and Humphrey, inscribed in pencil ‘38763’. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

All the photographs looked as if they were taken for stock, as objects were seen against neutral backgrounds and carefully lit. Glazed cabinets were photographed with garnitures on top and more ceramics inside, while a lacquer cabinet was pictured both open and closed. Some, at least, were associated with Mallett’s. A set of chairs with fringed cut velvet seats, and a burr walnut bureau, were printed with the firm’s name and locations on the front; and an ‘Indian armchair’ with entwined splats, and a walnut card table, both had ‘Mallett’ pencilled on the reverse.

‘Indian armchair’, photographed by A.C. Cooper & Co, pencilled ‘Mallett’ and neg.6409. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

But there were more parts to this puzzle. As well as the photographs, tucked into volume II, with a few in volume III, were torn pages from auction catalogues, The Cabinet Maker, and Country Life including a settee pencilled ‘Mr[s] Astor’s’.

Torn page from Country Life, inscribed ‘Mrs Astor’s’. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

Other annotations were made on illustrations in the volumes themselves, often noting when and for how much the item pictured had been sold. For example, in the Age of Mahogany a ‘Bureau and China Cupboard’ illustrated as owned by H. Percy Dean was marked in ink ‘Bought and sold to H. Palmer Esq £200’. The annotations sometimes recorded condition, too; the same object was pencilled ‘The top and bottom of this piece have been made to go together’, and indicated with an arrow the location of a ‘secret drawer’. Yet other annotations recorded notes from eighteenth-century sources, for example references to Chippendale from the Gentleman’s Magazine next to an illustration of another Mallett’s chair.

Annotated page from the Age of Mahogany. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

A later cataloguer had helpfully compiled a list of all these loose items and photographs including ‘on exercise paper- a list of items, dates and prices’. This turned out to be a double-sided ruled sheet, tucked in next to Figure 98 in the Age of Mahogany. In a single hand, it listed twenty-five objects, followed by a name and a brief description. The numbered entries on the sheet matched up with the illustrations of the same objects in the Ages of Walnut and Mahogany, and many of these were also annotated in pencil or ink. For example, next to a bureau-bookcase listed as sold to Campbell Cory (147 in the list) was pencilled ‘Crest Surtees family for whom it was made’.

Sheet from exercise book listing some objects illustrated in volumes II (the Age of Walnut) and III (the Age of Mahogany), c.1904-08. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

Two final columns on the sheet marked ‘Date’ and ‘Price’ were written in a different hand. Whereas the (earlier?) left-hand entries seemed to be someone trying to recall owners, prices and dates, the hand which recorded the dates and prices from 1904-08 was much more precise and the prices recorded sometimes differed from the earlier writer’s, suggesting either gaps in records or possibly different sales. On the reverse, the earlier writer had also drawn in pencil the shapes of side-tables, perhaps as an aide-memoire.

Annotated drawings on reverse of sheet from exercise book, showing designs of ‘Adam’, ‘Hepplewhite’ and ‘plain’ side-tables, c.1904-08. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

Who then were the authors of the list and the annotations in the volumes? Unfortunately we do not know who the volumes belonged to before they came into the library’s possession. Nor are there any clues on the exercise book sheet. However, they evidently weren’t much interested in early oak, if the numbers of photographs had anything to do with it since the Age of Oak contained none, the Age of Satinwood just three, Walnut nine, but Mahogany thirty-eight (including one oak table, perhaps mis-placed?).

What we can tell is that both the volumes and the list were being used to track objects and sales. At least some of the names listed were aristocratic: ‘Lady Stafford about 1903 inlaid cabinet £200’ was sold on 19th May 1904, while ‘Lady Paget’s pair side tables’ cost £250 on 24th April 1908. Other entries including two against Ralph Assheton-Smith’s name in 1905 (a walnut cabinet, £50, and six marquetry chairs, £180), while ten entries for Campbell Cory dating from 1904-05 listed objects by room including the upper landing (Charles II table, three cane back chairs and a tallboy), hall (walnut stuffed armchair), morning room (the bookcase mentioned above), and dining room (Gothic side table and ribbon-back chair) and finally two ‘Burgomaster’s chairs’ at £150 and £100 respectively. It’s also tempting to speculate that the entry for ‘Crane’s six cane back chairs’ for £240 in 1908 referred to the artist and designer Walter Crane.

Reverse of sheet from exercise book listing some objects illustrated in volume III (the Age of Mahogany), c.1904-08. Photograph, Clare Taylor.

So, what does all this information tell us? I think it shows that keeping in touch with current scholarship was important to those who bought and used these volumes soon after they were published, a point reinforced by the inclusion in the Age of Satinwood of a flyer for the latest volume (by Margaret Jourdain) in Batsford’s ‘Lenygon Series’, English Decoration and Furniture from 1750-1820. It also reminds us that building up knowledge over time mattered just as much at the beginning of the twentieth century as it does now. And, of course, that it’s always worth checking for any loose papers. When you can get back in a library or bookshop, that is.

Clare Taylor

clare.taylor@open.ac.uk

January 31, 2021

The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair

This blog post is inspired by one of my Christmas gifts – (thanks to my wife Mo!) – an early edition (1935) of the handbook of exhibitors at ‘The Antique Dealers’ Fair’ (known, from 1970, as ‘The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair’ and from 1994 as ‘The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair).  As you may know, The Antique Dealers’ Fair was staged from 1934, with the final edition of the fair in 2009.  A copy of the 1935 handbook is quite a rare thing – I don’t yet have a copy of the handbook for 1934, (I have a copy of the list of exhibitors though – but if anyone does know of the whereabouts of a copy of the 1934 handbook I would be very interested to hear).

The Antique Dealers’ Fair, catalogue 1935. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

  There was an obvious break in staging the fair during the period around the Second World War (1938-1947) and the event in 1979 was cancelled due to the ‘chambermaids’ strike at The Grosvenor House Hotel, but other than these breaks The Antique Dealers’ Fair was considered to be the premier antiques fair in the world and attracted an international elite of dealers, collectors and museum curators.  The Fair came under the Patronage of H.M. Queen Mary from 1937, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother from 1954. The Grosvenor House Hotel opened in Park Lane, London in 1928, on the site of the former London residence of the Earls Grosvenor; the chairman and builder of the hotel, Alfred Edwards, was involved with the Fair right from the start, helping with the financing and organisation of the Fair.

Verso of postcard with message to ‘Miss Maud Tidy’ 19th July 1935. Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Postcard, Grosvenor House Hotel, c.1935. Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Above is a postcard (also a Christmas gift from Mo!) showing the Grosvenor House Hotel, which was sent to ‘Miss Maud Tidy’ in July 1935, the same year for the date of the catalogue for The Antique Dealers’ Fair, and gives you a sense of how opulent the hotel was at the time. 

The idea for The Antique Dealers’ Fair was that of the dealers Alex Lewis and Cecil Turner.  Lewis was a partner in the antique furniture dealers James A. Lewis & Sons (established in c.1895), who in the 1930s were trading in fashionable Brompton Road, London, with a branch in New York – here is a photograph of the interior of James Lewis & Sons shop in Brompton Road in 1935, and from the 1935 Antique Dealers’ Fair Handbook.

James A. Lewis & Sons, Brompton Road, London. Photograph, Antique Dealers Fair Handbook 1935.

Lewis was a member of the Executive Committee for the Fair, acting as Chair of the Committee in 1938, but does not appear to be listed in the Fair Committees after the Second World War.  Cecil Francis Turner (1889-1959), who was elected President of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) in 1935, was trading as Stuart & Turner (established in 1919) in Soho Square, London; here’s a photograph of Stuart & Turner’s shop, also from the 1935 Antique Dealers’ Handbook.  Turner was the first Chair of the Executive Committee and continued in that role (excepting 1938) until 1953.

Stuart & Turner, Soho Square, London. Antique Dealers’ Fair Handbook 1935.

The 1935 edition of the Antique Dealers’ Fair handbook (like all editions) contains a floor-plan of the Fair, with the names of the antique dealers, and gives a fascinating insight into the ambitions of the dealers at the Fair. Below is the floor-plan of the stands on the ground-floor of the Fair in 1935, with the stands of James A. Lewis & Son and that of Stuart & Turner, side-by-side at the top of the floor-plan. 

Floor-plan of The Antique Dealers’ Fair, 1935. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The floor-plan for the stands on the Gallery in the 1935 handbook illustrates the large stands taken by leading dealers such as Mallet & Sons, Moss Harris & Sons and the antique silver dealers S. J. Phillips (left side of the gallery).

Floor-plan for the Gallery, The Antique Dealers’ Fair Handbook, 1935. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

According to the arts journalist Frank Davis, former saleroom correspondent of The Times and later Country Life, some members of the antique trade were initially a little resistant to participate in the Fair.  As Davis wrote, ‘I remember very well how opinions differed when the idea of a great fair in the heart of London was first mooted, many regarding the scheme as decidedly infra dig, presenting an honourable trade to a wide public as if it were a mere market in the souk of Algiers.’ (F. Davis, ‘High Standards from the Start’, The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair Handbook, 1983, pp.8-9, p.8).  And it is striking that there were a number of leading antique dealers absent in the very first iteration of The Antique Dealers’ Fair in 1934 – Frank Partridge & Sons, Mallet & Son, Norman Adams, H. Blairman & Sons, Moss Harris & Sons, for example, are all absent from the first Fair in 1934, but appear to have embraced the Fair by 1935. 

  The other interesting aspect in the pages of the Antique Dealers’ Fair handbooks is in the presentation of information by the antique dealers.  In the first handbooks, in the 1935 and 1936 editions, the dealers seem to merely use the pages in the handbooks to reproduce magazine advertisements – they look like any dealer adverts of the period in magazines such as The Connoisseur or Apollo – here’s an example from the 1935 Antique Dealers’ Fair handbook for the well-known dealer Jessie M. Botibol. Indeed, many of the dealer advertisements in the 1935 handbook do not even illustrate any objects at all, and merely list the addresses and specialisms (antique silver, or ceramics, for example) of the dealer.

Advertisement for J.M. Botibol from The Antique Dealers’ Fair handbook 1935. Photograph, Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

Just two years later, from 1937, the pages of the handbooks shift format, and focus much more on objects that the particular dealer will have on display and for sale at the fair.  Here’s one example from the 1937 handbook, from the famous dealers Hotspur, then trading from Frith Street, Soho Square, London – as the caption at the bottom of the page states, ‘the above are displayed by Hotspur’.

Advertisement for Hotspur, Frith Street, London, in The Antique Dealers’ Fair handbook 1935. Photograph, Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

This is a minor change of course, but directs attention to how the handbooks for the Antique Dealers’ Fair began to act more like catalogues of an exhibition, rather than as commercial advertisements for the trade – and in this sense this shift also perhaps reflects the desires of those organising and participating in the fair to successfully blend the discourse of private and public value, positioning the fair as much for public education as for private profit.

The handbooks for The Antique Dealers’ Fair provide fascinating insights into the history of the antique trade in Britain, and I hope to compose some more blog posts on these important resources over the coming months.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 31, 2020

More Antique Dealer Archives – S. W. Wolsey and Peter Luff

Happy New Year to everyone! We hope that 2021 proves to be a much, much better year than 2020.

I thought we’d end 2020 with a blog post on yet another exciting addition to the Antique Dealer archives – this one, like many of the bits and pieces of antique dealer related ephemera, was spotted by Mo (my wife) in her regular trawls through Ebay on my behalf (I never seem to have enough spare time to keep eyes on sites such as Ebay, so Mo is becoming a great ‘spotter’!). Anyway, it was a great ‘spot’ this time – a small cache of manuscript archive that seems to have escaped from the library/archive of the well-known antique furniture dealer S.W. Wolsey (c.1895-1980); Wolsey’s archive was, I understand, partially destroyed, but I also believe that some of the archive remains in a private collection?

S.W. Wolsey Archive.

The partial archive comprises a selection of typed draft articles, with MS corrections and edits, on antique oak furniture for publications such as Antique Collector written in the 1960s by the furniture historian R.W.P. (Peter) Luff. Also included are a number of fascinating letters exchanged between Samuel Wolsey and Peter Luff in which they discuss their views on the history of oak furniture; there are also some delicious insights into various visits to Country Houses, such as a visit to Longford Castle in September 1963 that was undertaken by Peter Luff and which includes the report of a wry comment by the then Lord Radnor about the restoration of an oak table for Lord Radnor’s father, undertaken by the antique dealers’ Mallett & Son, (‘….for whom he had few good words’)

  S.W. Wolsey was perhaps the leading dealer in antique oak furniture and related objects of the 20th century; the business was begun by Francis Wolsey in the early 20th century and continued by Samuel and his brother; Samuel retired from business in 1969, the year after Furniture in England was published.  The archive contains a small number letters from Wolsey concerning antique oak furniture that passed through the business, including some very well known pieces. For example, the famous ‘Shakespeare’s Chair’ – which Francis Wolsey purchased at Christie’s on 13th April 1947, paying 175gns (£183.15.0.) for the chair.

Another well-known chair figured in the archive is a Charles II walnut cane-seated chair, with a carved front-rail, ‘GEORGE LEWIS – FEBVERY ANNO DO 1687/8, and was formerly in the collections of the antiquarian George Weare Braikenridge (1775-1856); the chair was displayed by Wolsey at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in 1949 – here’s the ‘pass-in’ form for the chair at the fair.

S.W. Wolsey archive – ‘pass-in’ form for the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, 1947.

And here’s a close up of the chair, which ended up, via the dealer Ronald A. Lee, in the collections of John Bryan in the USA.

Charles II walnut chair, with carved inscription. S.W. Wolsey archive.

The Wolsey archive will be making it’s way to the Brotherton Special Collections at the University of Leeds in due course.

Mark

October 31, 2020

19th Century Antique Dealers – Robert Pratt (1823-1889)

A recent acquisition to the growing archive of antique dealer related ephemera is this rare 19th century carte de visite, dating from the 1860s I think, and featuring the ‘Antique Furniture Dealer’ Robert Pratt (1823-1889), who traded from High Street, Guildford from the 1850s until the 1880s.

Carte de Visite, c.1860s, featuring Robert Pratt (1823-1889). Private Collection.

It’s very rare to have an actual image of a 19th century antique dealer, so this was a very exciting find – the card is quite small, just 62mm wide by 104mm long; the verso of the photograph is inscribed in pen in a contemporary hand, ‘Mr R Pratt China & Furniture Dealer High St Guildford’ –

Carte de Visite, c.1860s, featuring Robert Pratt (1823-1889), verso with inscription. Private Collection.

Robert Pratt is listed in the Guildford Trade Directories, at 12 High Street, Guildford in 1855, as ‘furniture broker’, which suggests he was involved in the second-hand trade at the time, perhaps specialising in furniture, as it appears he was trained as a cabinetmaker – the Census for 1851 records Robert Pratt as ‘cabinetmaker and journeyman’.  Pratt was also listed as ‘cabinetmaker’ in the Guildford Trade Directories in 1878, and had by then moved the business to 147 and 148 High Street, Guildford.  However, in 1878 Pratt is also listed as ‘Antique Furniture Dealer’ at 147 and 148 High Street, Guildford in the Surrey Trade Directory.  The inscription on the verso of the photograph, ‘China and Furniture Dealer’ was a common classification and description used throughout the 19th century, especially in the period 1820s to 1870s, for what we would now call ‘antique dealers’, although as you can see from the variety of classifications in the Trade Directories, the descriptions of trades encompassed a range of overlapping practices.

Census records for 1861 indicate that Robert Pratt (who had a recorded age of 37 – although he was actually born, according to the birth and baptism records, on February 21st 1823) – census records for age are often slightly inaccurate due the the method of recording, which was rounded down to the nearest 5 years for people over the age of 15.  Pratt was at the time married to Mary (recorded age 31) and had 4 children – Mary (aged 9), Robert (aged 6) Anne (aged 5), and Susan (aged 3), all ‘scholars’ (i.e. at school); he was recorded as a ‘cabinetmaker and broker’ employing ‘5 men and 1 woman’ – by the 1881 census Robert Pratt was employing ‘8 men and 4 boys’, so he seems to have been quite a successful businessman.  His wife, Mary, appears to have died sometime in the 1860s, as by the 1871 Census Robert is recorded as a widower, and by that date Robert and Mary had 2 further children, Alice (aged 8) and Fanny (aged 5).

Pratt’s father, James Pratt, was a ‘bookbinder’, according to the birth and baptism record. Robert died on 18th April 1889 in Guildford, leaving £1,293.4s.6d – a fairly wealthy man considering that the ‘relative income value’ of that sum was about £1,018,000.00 in today’s terms (according to measuring worth.com)

I had wondered if Robert Pratt was any relation to the well-known antique dealers Charles James Pratt, who were trading in fashionable Brompton Road, London from the early 1900s until at least the 1960s – see the entry from C.J. Pratt & Sons in the antique dealers interactive map website – Antique Dealers Map – but it seems that there was direct no relationship between the families – at least none that I have managed to discover as yet.  And Robert Pratt also does not seem to be directly related to the illustrious 19th century ‘antique dealers’ Samuel and Henry Pratt, who traded in Bond Street, London during the 1830s and 1840s.

Anyway, this lovely little carte de visite is a fascinating survival in the history of the antique trade in Britain – if you know of any other photographs of 19th century ‘antique dealers’ I would be very interested to hear about them.

Mark

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