Posts tagged ‘antique dealer archives’

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

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

May 23, 2020

Antique Silver Dealers – Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co. archive

It’s amazing what turns up at auction sometimes – during ‘Lockdown’ I seem to have ‘saleroom.com’ constantly running in the background whilst I’m writing on my PC; last week, at Keys Fine Art in Aylsham, Norfolk, a rather dishevelled old album caught my eye. Lot 217, described as ‘Vintage Album containing various photographs of hallmarked silver and other artworks’ sounded rather intriguing, and I recognised the type of photographs and that it was probably a silver dealer’s album – so I had to buy it of course; it was a bargain I think, just £12 plus commissions and postage, so cost about £24 all told (and thank you to Keys Fine Art Auctions for packaging the lot so well and posting it so promptly!).

 

‘Vintage Album’, Keys Fine Art Auctions, Norfolk.

The album arrived in the post this week. I guess the album itself dates from c.1900 – it has an old title on the original red leather spine ‘Photographs & Records of Cups and Presentation Plate’ – although it has been recovered in plain brown paper at some stage, and as you can see it is in a very distressed condition.

The album turned out to be a fascinating record of the well-known London-based silversmiths and antique silver dealers ‘Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd‘.  In some business letters, dating from the 1920s and which have been pasted into the album, Attenborough described themselves as ‘Goldsmiths, Diamond Merchants and Watchmakers’; they traded from 142-144 Oxford Street, London, from c.1905 until the late 1950s, although like many 20th century antique silver dealers (such as Harman & Lambert, or Birch & Gaydon), Attenborough can trace their genealogy into the 18th century – their business letterhead states that they were established in 1796. The Attenborough business was acquired by the silversmith James Charles Jay in 1887 and by 1904 had become Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd – the business seems to have closed sometime in the 1960s? They were listed as ‘antique silver dealers’ in the London Trade Directories in the 1920s-1950s. As silversmiths, Attenborough also sold antique silver and indeed the album exemplifies the continued tradition within silversmithing of buying and selling second-hand and antique silver. The famous firm of S.J. Phillips, for example, began as silversmiths and jewellers in the 19th century and many other antique silver dealers can trace their origins as silversmiths.

The contents of the album are mainly photographs of modern silver made by Attenborough in the 1920s to the 1950s, but there are also many photos of 18th and 19th century antique silver, including this amazing George II silver basket – in the style of Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751).

George II Silver Basket; Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd album, photograph c.1930s?

Some of the most interesting photographs in the album illustrate pieces of antique silver that have been remounted as presentation pieces by Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co in the 1920s and 1930s.  This silver punch bowl dating from 1870 has been remounted for presentation in 1924.  There is a long description of the object in the album; ‘Silver Punch Bowl, weighing 144 ounces, standing 14 inches high, and measuring 18 inches across. It is entirely wrought and chased by hand, and bears the Victorian Hall mark for the year 1870. The body of the bowl is decorated with repousse work in high relief of figures of horsemen and footmen in armour, symbolising battle scenes from early English history. The pedestal foot is ornamented with a series of wreathed designs of oak leaves and acorns; the whole forming a remarkable and unique specimen of the silversmith’s art. It was originally on [sic] the collection of the late Viscount Chaplin, who was a great patron of the turf, and a thorough sportsman, also a political associate of the Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain. The inscription engraved on the foot is as follows:- Monday, 14th July, 1924 ‘To have the honour to meet H.R.H. The Prince of Wales’ Souvenir of ‘At Home’ at the Jamaica Court. BRITISH EMPIRE EXHIBITION, WEMBLEY.’

The album also contains dozens of photographs of commissions for presentation cups and plate that the firm created in the early and mid 20th century. Here, for example, is ‘The Spectaclemakers Cup’, made to commemorate the tercentenary of the granting of the Royal Charter by Charles I in 1629; ‘made in May 1930 for Sir Osborn Holmden’ – who was made Master of the Worshipful Company of Spectaclemakers in 1928.

The wide range of commissions for silver that the firm undertook is illustrated by these two further examples – a large silver presentation salver, made as a gift to William Lawrence Stephenson Esq. on his retirement as chairman of F.W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd. in 1948.

And the winner’s trophy for the Miss World Competition in 1955, which that year was held in London.

That year, the fifth edition of the now highly contentious and outdated competition, Miss Venezuela, Susanna Duijm, won the competition; here she is, holding the trophy made by Jay, Richard Attenborough & Co Ltd.

As well as the photographs of modern and antique silver, the album also contains a small number of fascinating watercolour designs for cups and medals, including these beautiful watercolours for designs for a medal for the Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club, dating from the 1930s.  The Club was established in 1888 and is still going.

The Attenborough album is an amazing document, one that clearly demonstrates how the practices of antique dealing, and those of contemporary design, have been in continuous flux.  The album will be making its way to the Special Collections at the Brotherton Library at the University of Leeds in due course!

Mark

June 23, 2019

New Antique Dealer Archive Material – Stair & Andrew (Stair & Co)

Thanks to the generosity of Robert Luck, a former Director of the antique dealership of Stair & Company, we have another cache of antique dealer material for the project archive. Robert passed on a selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues (see below) of various dates, from the 1950s to the 1980s; some of the catalogues retain annotations of prices and stock codes – which make fascinating reading in terms of the changing sale values of antique furniture.

A selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues for the Antique Dealers Research Project.

The catalogues are a very useful resource for the project, and illustrate the changing practices, and changing taste, of one of the leading dealers in antique English furniture and works of art.  Stair and Company was established in 1911 as Stair & Andrew, at first in London and then in 1914 in New York; the business was founded by Arthur Stair, who trained as an architect, and Valentine Andrew.  The partners met at the furniture manufacturer Waring & Gillow, before working at the decorating firm, Crawford & Co in New York and then setting up business together in 1911.

The business became Stair & Co after the Second World War, and from 1952 was owned by Jules C. Stein, (of MCA, Music Corporation of America).  In 1968 the business acquired the antique dealership, R.L. Harrington (formerly Christy’s of Kent), then also, like Stair & Co., trading in Mount Street, London; this allowed Stair to operate from 2 interrelated shops (120 & 125 Mount Street) in one of the most important locations in London for antiques at the time.

Stair & Co., 125 Mount Street, London, 1970. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

Stair & Co 120 Mount Street, London 1970 – formerly the shop of R.L. Harrington. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

In 1980 the business was again bought by an American businessman, this time by David Murdoch, the Los Angeles based financier and owner of Pacific Holdings Corporation – both Stein and Murdoch were serious collectors of antique English furniture.

The Stair & Co catalogues are fascinating, as I say, but more importantly Robert also passed some rare survivals from the business archive of Stair & Co., including a copy of the first business account books from the Stair & Andrew Limited business.

Stair & Andrew Limited, Signed Accounts book c.1912-1937. Stair & Co archive.

The account book shows the balance sheet and profits of the Stair & Andrew business from April 1912 (when the business made sales of £8445 and 6 shillings and 3 pence), until June 1937 (when the business made sales of £25,071 and 5 shillings and 1 pence). The accounts are an amazing survival and give a unique insight into the working practices and profit and loss accounts of one of the world’s most important antique dealers of the 20th century.

But perhaps more significantly Robert also passed a large collection of the client cards from Stair & Co – these are truly fascinating and an amazing resource for the antique dealers research project.  The cards appear to date from the 1950s up to the 1980s, and record the changing addresses and the changing family members involved in the business, as well as recording changing members of staff, and details of when people left particular firms, or had died.  This information is particularly useful for the data in the antique dealers research project interact map website.

Stair & Co., client card – Stair & Co., archive.

Here’s just one of the client cards – this one recording the information on fellow antique dealers Norman Adams Ltd, then trading in Hans Road; the verso of the cards also record the purchases made from Stair & Co by the particular client – here’s the verso of the Norman Adams Limited card, listing purchases from 1964 to 1968 – it’s a great pity that the actual stock books of Stair & Co no longer survive – Robert Luck believes that they were destroyed when the business closed in 2004.

Stair & Co., client card for H.C. Baxter & Sons, verso recording purchases. Stair & Co archive.

The client cards may need sensitive handling in the archive, given the nature of the personal information that they contain, and will probably be need to be partially embargoed for a number of years.  But even so, the Stair & Co archive material that Robert Luck has so kindly donated to the Antique Dealers Research project archives is an amazingly generous gesture and will be a major resource for future researchers.

Mark

November 11, 2018

New Donation to the Antique Dealer Project Research archives

The antique dealer research archives had a new addition last week, a bound copy of the very rare lithographed catalogues issued by the Nottingham antique dealer Samuel Richards in the late 1890s.  The catalogues came up for auction at Mellors & Kirk in Nottingham (appropriately) last May, and Ian Wilkinson, the Rare Book Specialist at the auctioneer very kindly alerted us to the forthcoming sale.  But thanks to the generosity of Simon Myers of the antique dealers R.N. Myers & Son, North Yorkshire, who also spotted the catalogue and offered to buy it and donate it to the Brotherton Library Special Collections, the catalogue is now part of the Brotherton Library Special Collections of antique dealer related archives and associated material.  Simon is the 4th generation of dealers in the firm that still bears his great grandfathers’ name – the business was also, like the business of S. Richards, trading in the 1890s, so it was quite fitting that Simon donated the catalogues.  Indeed, Simon has been a keen follower of the research project for a number of years, but his donation of the Richards catalogues was an exceptionally generous thing to do – he popped across to the Brotherton Library last week to hand over the catalogue, which is now available for researchers.

S. Richards, ‘Monthly Catalogue of Antiques, Curios etc for sale’ 1890-1899′. Photograph, copyright Mellors & Kirk, auctioneers, Nottingham, 2018.

The catalogues produced by Samuel Richards are exceptionally rare – the bound copies that Simon donated date from January 15th 1890 to March 15th 1899; there are a few examples (dating from 1890-1915) in the National Art Library at the V&A Museum, but there are no copies in the British Library – I know of two other copies in a private collection, but given the ephemeral nature of the catalogues (they were designed to be posted to collectors and are lithographed on very flimsy paper and can’t have been produced in any significant quantities), they must not survive in any numbers.

We are very encouraged by the support that many antique dealers have shown to the Antique Dealers Research project, and Simon’s generosity is a reflection of the wider support of the project over the past few years.

Mark

June 14, 2018

Antique Dealer Exhibitions & new material in the Phillips of Hitchin archives

As followers of the Antique Dealer blog will be aware, one aspect of the continued development of the Antique Dealer research project has been an investigation into the emergence and role of themed exhibitions staged by antique dealers over the course of the 20th century.  Indeed, as a platform for dissemination of information on antiques and as a mechanism for the marketing of antiques, these exhibitions very usefully draw attention to the deep synergies between structures of knowledge and the art market.  Dealers have regularly organised selling exhibitions of course – the famous ‘Summer Exhibitions’ held by the leading New Bond Street dealership Frank Partridge & Sons from the 1950s to the 1980s, were opportunities to showcase new stock and for the swish private preview parties for the exhibitions, which were significant events in the social calendar.  Such exhibitions were attended by the most influential collectors, museum curators, interior decorators and antique dealers.   But what is of particular interest to the research project are the more scholarly, thematic exhibitions that antique dealers have staged over the years. These exhibitions, which remain a regular part of the current practices of antique dealing at the top of the antique trade, demonstrate the discrete, focused and scholarly contributions that many antique dealers have made to the knowledge of antiques – such exhibitions have often been accompanied by museum-type catalogues composed by antique dealers who are acknowledged as leading specialists in their field.

We are very fortunate that in the recent additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archive (again very generously sent up to us in Leeds by Jerome Phillips, who found the extra material whilst tidying up some stores – thank you again Jerome!) we now have a range of material that illustrates the detailed planning and execution of a range of ground-breaking exhibitions held by Phillips of Hitchin during the 1970s and 1980s.  Jerome organised these immensely influential selling exhibitions on specific furniture types – a model, unsurprisingly, that was also being adopted in public museums such as Temple Newsam in Leeds at the time (see, for example the exhibitions on ‘School Furniture’ organised by the furniture history scholar Christopher Gilbert at Temple Newsam in 1978 and a similar exhibition at Temple Newsam on ‘Common Furniture’ in 1982).

The Phillips of Hitchin exhibitions in June 1981 and June 1984 (staged to coincide with the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair held each June (except 1981) in London) are key examples of these types of antique dealer exhibitions.  In 1981 the exhibition on ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ was a scholarly project, with antique furniture placed in rooms to mirror the social use of the objects at the time they were made – rather like a ‘period room’ setting that was also so popular in museums at the time.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ June 1981. Photograph Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Here’s another room at The Manor House, Phillips of Hitchin’s shop, with the assembly of some furniture suggestive of a more rustic dining space. The exhibition had a fully illustrated catalogue – Jerome remains a leading scholar on antique furniture and wrote many essays on the subject that appeared in publications such as Antique Collector; it’s also worth mentioning that in 1978 Jerome composed the new Introduction to the reprint of R.W. Symonds Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (first published in 1940).

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Dining Room Furniture 1730-1830’ June 1981. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Phillips of Hitchin’s exhibitions on dining furniture might be considered as relatively conventional, and of course they were more than just museum-type scholarly projects and also offered the opportunity for potential buyers to imagine new schemes for their dining rooms.   Jerome’s next exhibition, in June 1984, was of a type that was more ground-breaking, for the antique trade at least (as I mentioned, museums such as Temple Newsam were already organising exhibitions focused on specialist furniture types in the 1970s).  The ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ exhibition in 1984 involved considerable primary research and was again accompanied by a catalogue with a discursive essay on the historical development of travelling and campaigning furniture.

Phillips of Hitchin catalogue for Exhibition of Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850.

 

The Travelling and Campaigning Furniture exhibition was obviously more specialist in nature, as I imagine was the audience for the exhibition – specialist collectors of ‘metamorphic’ furniture and museum curators perhaps? But the exhibition itself was a considerable success, according to the detail in the Phillips of Hitchin archives on the exhibition.  Indeed, reading the archive one cannot but admire the research and the time and effort that went into the planning and delivery of these exhibitions.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The new parts of the Phillips of Hitchin archive contains numerous photographs of the actual exhibitions, together with correspondence and supplementary detail on the planning of the exhibitions themselves – it’s a wealth of material that helps us to understand the objectives and complex nature of these scholarly and selling events.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984. Photograph, Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

One further thing, and something that also demonstrates the richness of the archives that Jerome so generously donated to Leeds University, is that Jerome also saved the object labels from the exhibition! …..and here’s just one of a number of those labels from an object from the ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ exhibition.

Phillips of Hitchin exhibition ‘Travelling and Campaigning Furniture 1790-1850’ June 1984, object label. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

There’s more to say about the significance of these scholarly selling exhibitions organised by dealers such as Phillips of Hitchin and we are fortunate to have such archive material to help us to continue to explore and analyse the cultural history of the British antique trade.

Mark

 

March 30, 2018

Additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archives

A couple of weeks ago our Phillips of Hitchin archive had some very significant additions. Thanks to the support and generosity of Simon Phillips and Thomas Lange at Ronald Phillips antiques, London, who very kindly sent, via their driver and courier, a very large number of archive boxes full of photographs, glass-plate negatives and associated marketing ephemera that Jerome Phillips, of the antique dealer firm of Phillips of Hitchin, had deposited with them in London.

The new additions to the PoH archive include 15 large archive boxes of glass-plate negatives and 17 smaller archive boxes with similar contents.  Both sets of glass-plate negatives appear to date from the 1920s-1950s and comprise PoH images of stock, plus glass-plate negatives of photographs of some other well-known antique dealer firms, including Hotspur, Ronald Lee, Stuart & Turner, Mallett and Frank Partridge.  There are also some glass-plate negatives related to the antique furniture collector and author R.W. Symonds – perhaps for the publication of Masterpieces of English Furniture and Clocks (1940), which was republished in 1986 with an Introduction by Jerome Phillips.

Boxes of glass-plate negatives, part of the PoH archive. University of Leeds.

There is also one fascinating box of glass-plate negatives labelled ‘Arundel Paintings, 1912’ – which seems to relate to the famous Arundel Society (founded in 1849, for the dissemination of artworks via their reproductions).  As well as these extensive sets of glass-plate negatives there are also 49 blue plastic albums packed with photographs of the antique furniture stock of PoH (dating c.1920s-1970s) organised by object type – ‘chairs’, ‘desks’, ‘tables’ etc; and a box of loose photographs dating from the very beginnings of PoH c.1900.

 

PoH photograph albums. Phillips of Hitchin archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The photographs in the albums clearly illustrate the exceptionally high quality of antique furniture that passed through the hands of PoH – as the examples of the ‘chairs’ album of photographs, and the ‘commodes’ album demonstrate.

PoH archive, ‘Commodes’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

 

PoH ‘Chairs’ photo album. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Amongst the photograph albums are two albums dedicated to the PoH stands at the world-famous Grosvenor House Antiques Fair; with photos of the PoH stands from the early 1950s up to the 1970s.  The photographs illustrate the changing methods of display adopted by PoH over the period – it’s interesting to note that PoH had also, from the earliest days of the business, produced reproduction wallpapers and textiles, and the PoH stands at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair always appeared to have been decorated with PoH reproduction wallpapers.

Here is the Phillips of Hitchin stand at Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in 1951.

PoH stand at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, 1951. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

PoH photo archive ‘ A rare old carved oak Vestry chair with marquetrie panel in back’, ‘circa 1650’. PoH archives, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Perhaps the most fascinating photographs in the archive are those dating from the very earliest days of the PoH business, when the antique shop was then run by the founder of the firm Frederick W. Phillips, the grandfather of Jerome Phillips who so generously donated his family business archive to Leeds University. These early photographs, dating from c.1900-1910 are dominated by examples of oak, walnut and mahogany furniture, which was so fashionable in the early 20th century.

The ‘rare old carved oak Vestry chair..’ shown here, is inscribed on the back of the photograph in a contemporary hand, ‘this we have reproduced’ – a further demonstration of the breath and depth of the business of F.W. Phillips (as it was then) in the period around 1900.  Indeed, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts on the antique dealer firm, F.W. Phillips was not only an ‘antique dealer’, but was also a complete home furnisher and interior decorator – he would also, if you so desired, build you an ‘ancient house’, (using recycled ancient materials) so fashionable in the period around the First World War.

Other interesting photographs in the recent additions to the PoH archive include this ‘carved mahogany settee, c.1760.’

PoH archives, ‘a carved mahogany settee, c.1760, upholstered in crimson damask’. Phillips of Hitchin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

The back of the photograph has the inscription ‘carved mahogany settee…’ and also the price – ‘£95.0.0.’, which was quite a sum in c.1900.

We are so grateful to Simon Phillips of Ronald Phillips Antiques for so generously paying for the transport of this large corpus of PoH archive material – they are a great addition to the PoH archive we already have at the University of Leeds and the addition of the photographs will allow us to match up the stock books that we already have with these fascinating images of the enormous variety of antiques that PoH sold over more than 100 years.

Mark

 

 

September 24, 2017

New Archive – M. Turpin Antiques

Thanks again to the generosity of our wide community of friends and supporters we have accepted the donation of the partial archive of the well-known antique furniture dealer M. Turpin.  Maurice ‘Dick’ Turpin (1928-2005) established his business in the early 1950s, initially in Old Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London, before gravitating towards the Mayfair area and settling in Bruton Street by the 1990s – a street which at that date was also the location of R.A. Lee & Sons, whose archive is also now part of the collection of Dealer archives at Leeds.  Indeed, the M. Turpin archive is a great addition to the growing number of antique dealer archives now at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

We have many people to thank for the M. Turpin archive coming to Leeds University – the archive has been very generously donated through the auspices of Bonhams Auctioneers (and special thanks to the help of the Bonhams team at Leeds Office, Jane Winfrey, Jackie Brown, and Simon Mitchell; and Alison Hayes in their London office). The initial donation to Leeds was facilitated by Sally Stratton and Guy Savill, whilst they were at Bomhams London office (and they are now heading up the new auction business The Pedestal). I understand, from Sally, and from our previous project Research Fellow, Elizabeth Jamieson, that the original donation was through Jackie Mann, Maurice’s partner – so there are quite a few people to thank for ensuring that this important archive is saved for future generations of researchers – thank you all!

The M. Turpin archive itself mainly consists of a large series of fascinating photographs of stock sold by the firm; there are literally 1000s of B/W and colour photographs. Unfortunately there are no stock book or business records, but that said, the material donated to us gives a fascinating insight into a major antique furniture business over the course of 30+ years of trading.  There are, for example, photographs of the stands that M. Turpin took at various antiques fairs in the period. Here’s a B/W photograph of the stand of M. Turpin at the Maastricht antique fair in 1979.

M. Turpin, Maastricht Antique Fair 1979. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

And another photograph, this time in colour, of M. Turpin’s stand at the same fair in 1988 – a much larger stand, with many more objects, indicative of the success of the business no doubt.

M. Turpin, stand at Maastricht Antiques Fair, 1988. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Amongst the many wonderful and historically significant objects that passed through the firm of M. Turpin was this flamboyant Regency period polychrome penwork cabinet – probably well-known to many people.

Regency Penwork Cabinet – M. Turpin archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. Original photograph copyright P.J. Gates, London.

The cabinet was purchased by Maurice Turpin in the 1980s, and seemed to have remained with him until it was sold at the auction sale by Christie’s of the M. Turpin Collection in 2006, after his death – (see Christie’s The Legend of Dick Turpin 9th & 14th March 2006), where it sold for £78,000.  This history is, of course, well known in many circles, but what is perhaps less well known, and revealed in some of the discrete sections in the M. Turpin archive, is the history of the restoration of the cabinet.  The Turpin archive contains a large number of restoration records for a wide range of objects that were either part of stock/collection of M. Turpin, as well as, it seems, records of restorations to many other objects belonging to collectors and dealers.  These make fascinating reading.  The penwork cabinet, for example, appears to have suffered minor damage to the cornice at some stage – here’s a photograph of the record in the archive.

Restoration Record – Penwork Cabinet: M. Turpin Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections. Photograph copyright Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Restoration Record – Penwork Cabinet. M. Turpin Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. Photograph copyright Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Other restoration records provide valuable insight into the processes of restoration and the changing taste and fashion for the presentation of antique objects – here, for example is the record of the cleaning and minor restoration to an early 18th century walnut stool.

Restoration Record – M. Turpin Archive. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. Photograph copyright Brotherton Library Special Collections.

It is a great pity that the actual business records and stock books for M. Turpin do not survive (unless someone knows where they are?), but this very extensive photographic archive, and the fascinating series of restoration records, will, I’m sure, be invaluable for future research into the history of the antique trade.  The M. Turpin archive will soon be catalogued and made available for research, so keep your eyes on the Brotherton Library Catalogue online.

Mark

 

August 25, 2017

UGRLS Trip to the British Library

As part of my UGRLS project, I’ve been researching purchases made by Charlotte Shaw, the wife of George Bernard Shaw, which led me to take a research trip to the British Library in London. Through my work with the stock books held in the Brotherton Library Special Collections I came across a number of purchases made by a person named Shaw, thus the research trip was to corroborate these findings by locating these purchases in the diaries and chequebook stubs of Charlotte. I was aided greatly in this endeavour by Alice McEwan from Shaw’s Corner, a National Trust property I’ll be visiting shortly to gain a deeper insight into the Shaw’s.

I had neither been to the British Library before, nor undertaken a research trip before, so I found the two days I spent there greatly beneficial in developing my research skills and introducing me to one of the most valuable resources an historian can access. Perhaps the most striking thing I encountered upon my first visit was the King’s Library, which is impossible to miss and personally, I found it amazing that such a range of material is stored in one place. Especially when one considers the material stored within this, such as some of the earliest examples of the printing press and rare copies of the Bible. I have included some photographs I took on my visit below, which to me help to convey the size and scale of the British Library.

British Library Exterior

Photograph of the exterior of the British Library

King's Library

Photograph of the King’s Library within the British Library

 

Whilst the quantity of references Alice and I found was far less than we had anticipated, I still found the trip to be successful to myself in other ways. For example, through reading Charlotte’s diaries and chequebook stubs I gained a further insight into her tastes for interior decorating. This allowed me to remove the purchase of some pink carpet from my research on purchases made by a Shaw in the Phillips of Hitchin stock books, as it seemed highly unlikely this was bought by Charlotte. Furthermore, we discovered another item for me to research further through discovering a reference to chair covers. Within Shaw’s corner, there is a chair cover and several pieces of fabric in the Nonesuch pattern offered by Phillips (see photograph below), which led us to believe there is the possibility that these items of fabric were purchased from Phillips of Hitchin. This will require further research on my behalf, as I have encountered a reference to the sale of the Nonesuch pattern previously. There is also the possibility that the purchaser of said fabric was not noted down, making the task that Charlotte purchased this from Phillips slightly more difficult.

 

Nonsuch

Photograph of the Nonesuch pattern offered by Phillips of Hitchin.

 

I also found the fact that we failed to find more references in Charlotte’s documents to Phillips to be helpful, as it was the first time I have encountered this issue. Research can often lead to disappointment, when the documents you are looking for may no longer exist or you encounter evidence that mostly contradicts your theory, and so learning how to manage this and create new solutions is a valuable skill to learn. I also found it highly beneficial to learn how to utilise the British Library before I begin more in-depth research as part of my degree, and the insights I gained from Alice regarding post-graduate study were incredibly valuable. To that end, I am greatly looking forward to visiting Shaw’s Corner to learn more about both the items within the house and the Shaw’s themselves, as well as continuing my research in the Phillips of Hitchin archives to locate the sale of several items of furniture and the Nonesuch fabric.

 

Liv

 

 

 

 

July 26, 2017

More new archives! H.M. Lee & R.A. Lee archives arrive at University – and an object biography

Our corpus of antique dealer archives continues to expand – this week we accepted delivery of the archive of the world famous antique dealers Henry Morton Lee and Ronald A. Lee, generously donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds by Georgina Gough, the daughter of Ronald Lee. The archive (shown below before deposit in the Special Collections) comprises a selection of stock books, sales ledgers, press cuttings and photographs of stock, together with what appears to be a complete run of stock cards, dating from the 1920s to the 1990s.

H.M. Lee and R.A. Lee archive. Brotherton Library Special Collections.

The Lee family antique dealing business began in Kingston on Thames just after WWI (Henry Morton Lee began as a hairdresser in London, counting King Edward VII as a customer); Ronald Lee joined his father in the business in 1931 before eventually setting up on his own in 1949 – the business closed in the 1990s.

During the 1920s and 1930s Henry Lee sold a vast array of objects to many of the most important dealers of the day, including Joseph Duveen (1869-1939), the son of Joseph Joel Duveen of the world-renowned Duveen dynasty of dealers – here’s just one page of sales to Duveen, in 1927 – Henry sold him, amongst other things, ‘a Double Dome Walnut Bureau Bookcase..£161.0.0’ and a ‘Walnut armchair £55.0.0.’ –  very fashionable, and very expensive, objects in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lee Archive, sales ledger – entry for Duveen, 1927. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ronald Lee, like his father Henry, was a highly successful dealer, and was also an expert on clocks – especially the clockmaker Joseph Knibb and family (Ronald wrote the biography of the Knibb family of clockmakers in 1965 – still a key work on the subject).  Ronald sold an astonishingly wide range of objects, to collectors and museums all over the world – a key driver for Lee appears to have been the historical significance of objects (as well as their beauty of course);  he was clearly an antiquarian dealer, demonstrated by the historical importance of many of the objects he sold –

The Savernake Horn for example – sold (in partnership with the well-known silver dealer S.J. Phillips) to the British Museum in 1975.

The Savernake Horn, 1100-99 with 14th century mounts. Image copyright The British Museum.

And the so-called ‘Katherine Parr Pott’, (see below) sold to the Museum of London in 1967 – this glass tankard, with silver mounts dated 1546-47, emblazoned with the arms of Sir William Parr, was bought by Ronald Lee from Sudeley Castle – the glass body is now believed to be an 18th or 19th century replacement. The tankard has an illustrious history, having been acquired by the collector Horace Walpole in 1758 (cost £2.19.0) and sold at the dispersal of the Collections at Strawberry Hill (Walople’s house) in 1842 and bought by John Dent for £3.13.6 – the Dent-Brocklehurst family, at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, sold the Parr Pot to Ronald Lee in 1967, before Lee sold the tankard to the Museum of London for £18,214.00 in the same year.  The tankard was subject to an Export Stop because of its historical significance; according to the archive it seems that Lee had initially and successfully negotiated a sale to the Boston Museum of Fine Art in the USA, but funds were raised through the British Government, The Art Fund, The Pilgrim Trust and the Goldsmiths Company to save the tankard for the Nation.

The Parr Pot. Image copyright, The Museum of London.

The ‘Parr Pot’ is just one of a wide range of fascinating stories about the acquisitions made by Ronald Lee in the Lee archive…there are far too many to recount in a short blog post, but it is worth retelling the story of the acquisition, and subsequent sale, of one of the most interesting objects that Ronald Lee sold – the story demonstrates the significance of ‘Object Biographies’ in the conceptualization (and reconceptualization) of objects – it is also a story that re-embeds the significance of the narrative of the personal into these now very public objects.

Anyway, in 1966 Ronald Lee negotiated the sale of what was then considered to be an exceptionally rare 13th century Limoges enamel Ciborium to the (then) Royal Scottish Museum (now National Museum of Scotland).

Ciborium, in the 13th century style – probably 19th century. Photograph copyright National Museum of Scotland.

Lee spotted the bowl of the Ciborium, then lacking it’s foot at an auction sale at Sotheby’s in April 1965.

Ciborium Bowl, lacking foot – photograph copyright Sotheby’s 1965.

He had, a few years earlier, again it seems at a Sotheby’s auction, acquired the stem/foot from a similarly dated object, and which (so Georgina Gough, Ronald Lee’s daughter tells us) Ronald had given to his wife as a little present –

Ciborium Foot; Photograph, Lee Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Seeing the bowl at Sotheby’s presented the opportunity of reuniting the foot and bowl and Ronald Lee had to do the right thing  – (it must be a common practice in all antique dealer families that objects are inherently unstable….and always subject to potential future sale…). The story was reported in the Press at the time, recounting the breathless moment when the foot and bowl fitted together as one – rather like the story of Cinderella and the glass slipper!

But anyway, Lee offered the Ciborium, now with its foot, to the Royal Scottish Museum in 1966, and the then Keeper of Art, Cyril Aldred, approved the acquisition and the object entered the collections in Edinburgh.  The Ciborium was lauded as a major acquisition, it was one of the most expensive objects ever acquired by sale by the museum at that time – costing £8,500 – an enormous sum in 1965.  It was related to the Master Alpais, the creator of the 13th century Ciborium in the collections of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and to a similiar Ciborium in the collections at the British Museum in London; the world renowned scholar and curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, John F. Hayward considered these comparisons and the significance of the Ciborium in an extensive article ‘A Newly discovered Limoges ciborium’ in Connoisseur (vol CLIX, pp.240-1). So consensus at the time, from leading experts, curators, and one of the leading antique dealers, was that the Ciborium was of the 13th century, and possibly associated with the workshop of the Master Alpais.

But authenticity is also an unstable concept – indeed, if we can borrow, and slightly amend, a phrase from Georg Simmel (1858-1918), the philosopher and critic, and founder of the discipline of anthropology, (he writes that ‘value is not a property of objects, but a judgement by a subject’), then perhaps we can say that authenticity is also not a property of an object, but a judgement by a subject –  Time, and, more importantly, new knowledge structures have repositioned the Ciborium, and it now considered to be a 19th century copy – for a full, and excellent account of the art historical and scientific analysis of the Ciborium at NMS and a comparison with that at the British Museum  see ‘The Heritage of ‘Maitre Alpais’ edited by Susan La Niece, Stefan Rohrs and Bet McLeod, (British Museum Press, 2010).

There is no moral to this story as such – I hesitate to rehearse the notion ‘caveat emptor!’, especially as I am writing about antique dealers, and I’m conscious that to rehearse this story is also to further embed the trope of the dealer as ‘problematic’ in the cultural consciousness – but it remains a fascinating story about an object, and how its meaning, and significance, is reframed as it moves between discrete, but intimately interconnected realms.  As this story recounts, the meaning of the Ciborium shifted as it moved between the realms of objects of commerce and economic value to those of heritage and museums, but, crucially, it retained its commodity status, and its status shifted again as new approaches and methods established, (indeed constituted) the authenticity of the object.

But for me, being an old Romantic, the enduring story about the Ciborium is the very human story of Georgina’s recalling that the foot of the Ciborium was a present (albeit temporary) for Mrs Lee.

All the while these objects acquire significant status in museums, they remain as catalysts for innumerable personally situated memories, of the private, intimate relationships we have with things.

Mark

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