Posts tagged ‘Mallett & Sons’

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

May 16, 2017

New Oral History Interview – Lanto Synge, from Mallett & Sons

Our latest Oral History Interview took place last week, with Lanto Synge in the interviewee chair. The interview was conducted by our lead project volunteer, Chris Coles (thank you again Chris!) and is part of our continued efforts to capture the Voices from the Trade as part of the ‘BADA Voices’ extension to the Oral History project (thanks again to the BADA for their support). 

Lanto, as many of you will know, worked at the world-famous antique dealers Mallett & Sons for almost 40 years, after joining the firm in 1969, rising through the ranks to ultimately become Chief Executive of the firm in 1997; Lanto eventually retired in 2009.

Lanto Synge, formerly of Mallet & Sons (Antiques). Photograph courtesy of Lanto Synge.

Catalogue from Mallett & Son, 1930s.

In this absolutely absorbing interview Lanto recalls the history of Mallet & Sons – they are one of the oldest antique dealing firms in the world, established in 1865 by John Mallett in Milsom Street, Bath, Somerset. During the interview Lanto reflected on his memories of working at the firm during the 1960s-1990s and describes the changes in marketing practices, the displays in the galleries (there were 28 rooms of antique furniture and objects in Mallett’s Bond Street showrooms by the time Lanto retired in 2009); he also recalls the various individuals involved in the business over the period he worked at Mallett.

Lanto was also instrumental in the development of Mallett’s antique business in Australia and during the interview he reflects on the expanding business for antiques in the 1980s.  There are some fascinating memories on many leading dealers and collectors, as well as observations on the role of the antique fair (especially The Grosvenor House Fair) in the developing antique trade.

Lanto is also a leading expert and author on the subject of antique textiles, and his enthusiasm, and expertise, is clearly expressed in a series of engaging reflections on the development of his interest in antique textiles and tapestries.  Our interview with Lanto, as with all of the other Oral History interviews we have undertaken for the Antique Dealers Research Project, will be edited and made available in due course.

Thank you again to Lanto and Chris Coles for taking the time to expand our Oral History strand of the research project.

Mark

 

October 21, 2016

The Generosity of Auctioneers – more archive material from Sworders

Tim Turner from Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers, Stansted Mountfitchet, very kindly donated some antique dealer related material to the Antique Dealer research project – and thanks to Jacqueline Travell, also from Sworders, for bringing the package of materials all the way from Essex to Leeds last week (Jacqueline was up North to see her son, who coincidently is studying at the University of Leeds).

It is through the exceptionally generous nature of people like Tim and Jacqueline that the research project at the University of Leeds continues to progress – thank you Tim, Jacqueline, and Sworders. The material that has been donated ranges from a selection of Antique Fair handbooks, dealer catalogues, and antique collecting publications – dating from 1909 to the 1970s.sworders

The materials also include an amazing selection of invoices (dating from the 1940s-1970s) from a wide variety of Antique Dealers; these are invaluable to the research project – they give us, for example, key self-designated descriptions of the dealers themselves, dealer addresses, as well as often having detailed information on the people involved in the various businesses, not to mention the fascinating ways in which a variety of ‘antiques’ are described in the old invoices. dealer-invoices-sworders

Included in the materials are also some early antique dealer catalogues – one from Mallett & Son, dating from the 1930s – mallett

and one from The Parker Gallery (print dealers, rather than antique dealers per se), which seems to have been produced as a booklet celebrating 200 years of trading – The Parker Gallery was established in 1750, so the booklet suggests. parker-gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most interesting documents in the parcel of archive material, is a very early (probably 1920s?) furniture catalogue produced by the antique dealers and reproduction furniture makers, Arthur Brett & Sons – trading from Norwich. The booklet, titled, ‘Period Furniture’ contains a very wide range of reproduction furniture that Brett & Sons were manufacturing in the 1920s and 1930s.

brett

The catalogue is ordered chronologically, with ‘Tudor’ oak furniture in the opening pages, and includes reproductions of virtually every kind of antique furniture that was fashionable in the period. brett-1 brett-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brett catalogue demonstrates how popular furnishing with antique furniture was during the period between the Wars, with demand outstripping supply to the extent where reproductions filled the gap, satisfying the look of the old. It’s quite striking when one reflects on this today, with the rapid shift to the contemporary in the last decade or so – no doubt there are now masses of reproductions of Charles Eames chairs, instead of Thomas Chippendale – tastes change, but everything stays the same!

Anyway, thanks again to Tim and Jacqueline, and Sworders – the archive materials are already proving useful to the research project as we add more and more antique dealer data to the Project Interactive Map.

Mark

February 14, 2015

Mallett & Son Antiques – dealer ephemera from the 1890s and 1990s.

Mallett cats

A collection of Mallett Antiques sales catalogues, 1990s.

Materials related to the antique trade continue to be donated to the project – thank you again dealers! John Smith, a very good friend to the project, posted us a stack of old dealership catalogues – from the leading London antique dealers Mallett & Sons, and dating from the 1990s. The catalogues are, of course, relatively common, and can be picked up at second-hand book shops (and indeed charity shops) anywhere in the country – BUT, what makes the catalogues that John has kindly posted to us unique is that these are marked and annotated staff copies, with prices marked (and whether the objects were sold) of the objects illustrated. These are a fantastic resource on pricing structures (in the 1990s) for a leading dealership – there are also cost prices and suggested sale prices in some of the catalogues (I’m not revealing those here of course….the analysis of that is part of the research into the history of the discrete (and discreet!) practices of the antique trade itself).

Mallett cats 2

Mallett catalogue, 1990s.

The pages in the catalogues are fascinating though – here’s a page from one of the catalogues (dated 1997), and labelled in pen, in the top right-hand corner on the cover as ‘Nicholle’s’) – which illustrates as ‘Queen Anne walnut wing chair, c.1710’, and priced at £80,000 – marked in red ‘SOLD’; and a ‘needlework panel, c.1710, framed in a modern low table’, priced at £19,500.

mallett cats 1

Mallett catalogue, 1990s.

And, another (above) – left page – ‘French, early 19th century cache pots, 1800/1820’, priced at £15,000 (top) and £24,000 (bottom) – the bottom pair are marked ‘SOLD’; and (right page) a ‘pair of 18th century Chinese parrots’ at £7,500. Changing fashions in antiques, even in so short a time ago as the 1990s, may have made some of these prices look quite ambitious, and some look like bargains…..

Mallett of course are still trading (see Mallett Antiques) – they were established in 1865, in the West Country (in Bath, Avon….Mallett’s are now, as many readers will know, owned by Stanley Gibbons Group, and celebrate 150 years this year!…I hope there’s a party?) – anyway, I thought it would be interesting to show some early ephemera associated with Mallett.

Here’s an invoice (below) from ‘Mallett & Son’, dated 1900, to ‘H.F. Swann Esq.’ The invoice describes, amongst other things, a ‘Chest of Chippendale drawers’, sold for ‘£2’, together with ‘a Chippendale table’, (£5). Mallett were at this date trading from 36, 37 & 43 Milsom Street, Bath, and described themselves as ‘Dealers in New and Antique English and Oriental Jewellery, Plate & Objets d’Art’.

Mallett inv 1901

Invoice from Mallett & Son, dated 1900. Copyright Private collection.

Mallett invoices

Invoices from Mallett & Son, c.1899-1920. Copyright Private collection.

The invoice is one a small cache of invoices (see above) from Mallett dating from c.1899 to c.1920 that are currently part of a private collection – but will be donated to the antique dealer project in due course. This small collection also gives a fascinating insight into the early history of one of the world’s most important ‘Antique Dealers’.

Mark

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