Posts tagged ‘Arthur Vernay’

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

July 2, 2017

New Phillips of Hitchin archive material – recording a trip to New York in c.1920 by Amyas Phillips

Thanks to Jerome Phillips, of Phillips of Hitchin Antiques, we have some new additions to the Phillips of Hitchin archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.  Jerome found a few more boxes of archive material and files of business records during a recent clear-up at Manor House in Hitchin – it was quite a bit of material actually….as this stack of lever-arch files suggests!..

New PoH archive material, ready to catalogue!

The new material comprises 21 lever-arch files of business records, a folder with new information on the restoration to the historic clock at Durham Cathedral (a project undertaken by Phillips of Hitchin in 1936), and  boxes of photographs and associated ephemera;  we’d like to thank Jerome Phillips again for these very generous donations to the PoH archives held at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

Whilst making an initial assessment of the material we came across a little notebook, detailing, it seems, a trip to New York in the period around 1920.

Phillips of Hitchin archive, notebook, c.1920; with teaspoon for scale. Photograph, Antique Dealer Project, University of Leeds 2017.

The notebook is a small pocket-size booklet, measuring just 5 inches (125mm) long by 3.5 inches (90mm) wide, and is packed with notes about meetings with individuals, aide memoires, and some beautiful little drawings on things that the person who composed the notebook had seen in New York.  It provides a fascinating insight into the activities of an antique dealer in the opening decades of the 20th century.

Page of drawings of details of antique furniture. PoH notebook, c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Page of a drawing of a carved figure?, with annotations on colours. PoH archive notebook, c.1920 uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, 2017.

 

The notebook appears to date from c.1920 (it is undated) and (so Jerome informs us) would have been composed by Aymas Phillips (Jerome’s father) who joined the business in 1910.  Amyas’s brother, Hugh Phillips took over the business of Phillips of Hitchin following the death of his father Frederick W. Phillips in 1910; F.W. Phillips was the founder the firm in 1884; Hugh Phillips retired in 1935.

Amyas would have been very young man in 1910, and was called back from his studies at Oxford to help run the business following the death of his father. Hugh must have had great confidence in the young Amyas in sending him to New York, given that notebook mentions meetings with some very well connected individuals.

The notebook itself is a commercially produced ‘Sketch Book’, ‘Series 30’, by the art materials suppliers Windsor & Newton, and cost 1/- (one shilling). Each page remaining in the notebook (there were originally 24 pages, with 22 surviving in whole or part) has annotations and/or drawings, with details of ‘Travelling Expenses’, a hand written list of dollar/pound currency exchange rates, and various notes on places to visit, people to see and things purchased etc.

The notebook begins with a note suggesting that Amyas was to begin his travels to New York on the ‘Aquitania’, on ‘4th Dec.’ – ‘sails 1pm, Embark 12 noon’; with another note mentioning that a ‘special train leaves Waterloo 10.10am’ – it seems that Amyas had also reserved a First Class, Smoking, train cabin.

PoH Archives, notebook c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. 2017

The opening page gives us a first clue to the earliest date for the notebook; the famous ocean liner Aquitania had a maiden voyage to New York on 30th May 1914, making only 3 further round trips before being requisitioned in Spring 1915, during the early stages of World War I.  Aquitania returned to service as a passenger liner in June 1919, and this, together with several other clues in the notebook point towards a date of c.1920 for the annotations.  One further clue to its date is that Amyas notes a visit to The American Art Association at 6 East 23rd Street;  the AAA was established in 1884 as an art gallery and auction house at the address given in the notebook, moving to the corner of Madison & 56th Street in 1922. Amyas also notes that he would be returning to England on either the Baltic (launched 1904) or the Olympic (maiden voyage 1911) – so he was travelling in some style!

The page illustrated above also indicates that Amyas stayed at the Hotel McAlpin in New York (in a room costing 3 Dollars, ‘without bathroom attached’) – the McAlpin was at the time the largest hotel in the world, having been completed in 1912 and designed by the architect F. Mills Andrews (1867-1948). Other well-known venues are mentioned in the annotations – The Belasco Theatre (opened in 1907 as the Stuyvesant Theatre, and renamed the Belasco in 1910) and the famous bookstore Brentano’s (opened in New York in 1853); and various museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper Union Museum (as it was called then…now known at the Cooper Hewitt Museum (renamed in 1968).

Amongst the most fascinating pages is this page detailing a visit to Paul Revere’s House in Boston, (which had opened as a museum in 1908 and remains one of the earliest Historic House Museums in the USA).

PoH Archive, notebook c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. 2017.

The annotation reads – ‘Colonial Wallpaper from Paul Revere’s house, Boston. Inset – old London churches by Wren. Repeat about 3ft high.’ The note is perhaps suggesting that the design would be a good model for the reproduction of a wallpaper (or a fabric?), which was something that the firm of Phillips of Hitchin were well-known for in the period; they were, in effect, Interior Decorators, as well as antique dealers, as were many other antique dealer firms in the period (see earlier blog posts on Thornton for example).  The annotation also demonstrates the keen and attentive eye of Amyas; the drawing is, as one might expect, an accurate illustration of the view encountered by the compiler of the notebook at Paul Revere’s House – here’s a colour postcard from c.1909 of the interior of the house captured in the drawing in the notebook.

Postcard, 1909, ‘Paul Revere’s House’. Wikicommons.

Jerome tells us that he remembers when he was young that his father’s house in Bedfordshire had replica wallpaper based on the wallpaper at Paul Revere’s House!

Other pages in the notebook record meetings, or potential meetings, with several antique dealers, including ‘Stair & Andrew’ (the business was established in London in 1911, and opened a branch in New York by 1914); Vernay (established in New York in 1906, and at the address recorded in the notebook (10 East 45th Street) by 1914); and the interior decorators and antique dealers’ Lenygons.

There are also several annotations recording meetings with some very well-connected individuals – Amyas jots down a lunch meeting with ‘Mrs Hazel Goepper’ of 859 7th Avenue, on ‘Thurs 6th at 12.30’, and other pages have names of other New York socialites – ‘Mrs Lionel Stahl’ for example.

One annotation records a note about ‘Mrs A Van R. Barnewall’ of ‘3 East 47th Street’ (see below).

PoH Archive, notebook c.1920; uncatalogued. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds. 2017.

The note reads – ‘Mrs A  Van R. Barnewall 3 East 47th St. (came to Hitchin with the Days) best flow(?) shop (hasn’t been to Europe 15 years) Specialist French and (?) furniture…’. Mrs Barnewall was a well-known interior decorator in the period; she wrote an essay on ‘A Modern Bathroom’ published by House & Garden ‘Book of Interiors’ in 1920. Given the kind of business operated by Frederick Phillips and his sons Hugh and Amyas in the early decades of the 20th century it’s perhaps not surprising that they are making contact with leading American interior decorators at the time. We have yet to discover who the ‘Days’ were?…(and thank you to Karen Sayers at the BLSC for helping to decipher the annotations!)

The notebook is a rare survival, recording the day to day business of a leading firm of antique dealers and their relationships with some key protagonists in the USA during the key moment of the American ‘Gilded Age’. This tiny notebook, and all the other fascinating Antique Dealer material donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections, will provide a rich vein of research, and will soon be available for researchers and scholars.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2015

Vernay Archives at Winterthur

The antique dealer related archives at The Winterthur are an amazing resource, and the archive team there, led by Jeanne Solenksy, are simply great; they are certainly the most accommodating of archive teams (thank you to all!). And thanks again also to Chris Jussel (see previous blog posts) for donating the archive of Vernay & Jussel, and that of J.J. Wolff, to Winterhur archives – it was such a generous, and insightful, thing to do….without such ‘blue sky’ thinking we would not have such rich resources to investigate the history of the antique trade. As you probably know, antique dealer archives in public archive collections are very rare indeed.

Anyway, as readers of the blog may also know (see previous blog posts), the dealer Arthur Stannard Vernay (c.1877-1960) was one of the most important dealers operating in the USA in the period prior to WWI and up to the 1960s. He was born in Weymouth, in the UK, and Chris Jussel tells us, (in the oral history interview we did last week) that Arthur Vernay was originally called Arthur Avant, but changed his name to ‘Vernay’ in about 1903 or 1904 when he came to the USA. Vernay eventually had shops in New York, and in Boston, Massachusetts, but he also had a shop in London, at 217 Piccadilly, probably in the late 1910s-20s, (217 Piccadilly may also be the same location as Vernay’s address at Trafalgar House, 1 Waterloo Place?); Vernay also took a house at 51 Berkeley Square in the late 1920s, which also possibly operated as a showroom too.  So whilst he is primarily an antique dealer with associations in the USA, he qualifies as a suitable subject for the present ‘Antique Dealers in Britain in the 20th century’ project by virtue of his shop in London.

FYI – Vernay is also famous for his interest in collecting animal specimens, many of which he donated to the American Museum of Natural History, in New York – indeed the ‘Vernay-Faunthorpe Hall of South Asiatic Mammals‘ named in 1930 after Vernay and his friend and fellow explorer Colonel John Faunthorpe, remains at the AMNH.

The sales ledgers at Wintherthur contain all the sales made by Arthur Vernay from 1914 until the 1960s; from 1940 the business was continued by Chris Jussel’s father, Stephen Jussel, (Chris took over the business in 1972). The business records prior to 1914 were destroyed by fire, but the remaining early business records are a fascinating research resource, and contain detailed stock books and sales ledgers as well as other ephemera.  This example (below) is the 1914 sales ledger, and the copy invoice (image below) is to ‘Mrs J. P. Morgan’ wife of the famous collector; it is dated December 1914 and describes ‘One Chippendale pole screen with petit point frame, circa 1760’…sold for the princely sum of $450.

Vernay 1914 2

Vernay sales ledger, 1914. Coll 739 04×126.37. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

vernay dec 1914 sale

Vernay copy invoice, December 1914. Coll. 739 04×126.37. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

Vernay opened his first shop at East 45th Street, in New York in 1906 (the archives at Winterthur have a printed announcement dated March 1906) – his first premises are shown below.

vernay shop e 45th st ny 1910?

Arthur Vernay, first shop (1906) at East 45th Street, New York. Image c.1910. Coll. 739 07×56 Series IV. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

The archives also have some photographs of one of the rooms in the interior of Vernay’s first shop, probably taken in c.1910 – which show what must have been a typical assembly of ‘antique’ objects of interest to collectors and furnishers in the period.

vernay 1st int 1910

Vernay shop interior, East 59th Street, New York, c.1910. Coll. 739 07×56 Series IV. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

The archives also have a photograph of Vernay’s first delivery van, with it’s own livery! – (Chris Jussel tells me that the van was a Packard type, and was a bespoke model, and quite expensive) – as befitting the culturally significant goods that Vernay sold!

vernay van

Vernay delivery van c.1930s. Coll. 739 04×56 Series IV. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

Like many other antique dealers we are studying, (and as previous entries on the Antique Dealer blog have highlighted) Vernay regularly produced catalogues of his stock of antiques, and staged temporary exhibitions to generate interest in particular kinds of objects, or periods/styles and etc. The archive also contains examples of this ephemera, and they clearly demonstrate how sophisticated an operation the Vernay business was. Here’s a selection from the late 1920s –

vernay 1929

Vernay catalogues, 1920s. Coll. 739 04×126.77. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

And a selection from the 1940s –

vernay 1944

Vernay catalogues from the 1940s. Coll. 739 04×126.123. Courtesy, The Winterthur Library: Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera.

There’s so much more to say about the Vernay, Vernay & Jussel, and the Wolff archives at Winterthur, they are an astonishing survival, and an amazing resource. We certainly hope to do further research on Vernay, and develop this as a potential ‘case study’ for the forthcoming edited book on the ‘British Antique Trade in the 20th Century’ which will be one of the outputs for this AHRC funded research project.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 30, 2015

Oral History Interview with Chris Jussel

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

Chris Jussel March 2015

Chris Jussel, in Boston, March 2015.

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

Vernay 1927-29 7

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

Vernay 1927-29 6

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

Vernay 1927-29 8

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

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

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

Mark

 

 

 

 

Home Subjects

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

The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience

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

H. Blairman & Sons Ltd

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

Museum Studies Now?

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

The Burlington Magazine Index Blog

art writing * art works * art market

UCL Blogs

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