Posts tagged ‘Period Rooms’

September 30, 2021

Antique Dealer Catalogues – Rueben Shenker c.1920

Our collections of historic antique dealer catalogues and brochures continues to expand. The latest edition is a rare sales catalogue issued by the antique dealer Reuben Shenker (1872-1952) in c.1920. Shenker was born in Russia and came to England, settling initially in Grimsby, North Lincolnshire with his parents. The family moved to London by 1910, and Reuben, together with his younger brother Isaac (1882-1959) established an antique dealing business, specialising in ‘early oak furniture’.

Rueben Shenker, ‘Genuine Antique Furniture’ dealer catalogue, c.1920. Image, antique dealer research project, University of Leeds.

Isaac Shenker seems to have worked for his brother Rueben – he is recorded as ‘assistant antique furniture’ in the 1910 Census, whilst Reuben is listed in the same Census as ‘antique dealer’. Isaac appears to have left his brother’s business in 1913, first trading from Holland Park Avenue, then, by 1928, from 118 Brompton Road, a location with a very high concentration of antique dealers in the period. Isaac became a BADA (British Antique Dealers’ Association) member by 1932, and seems to have been very successful, ending up with a shop in Old Bond Street by the late 1940s.

Rueben established his business in 1911, trading from Red Lion Street, London until 1936. He specialised in ‘early oak’, which was hugely popular for furnishers and collectors in the opening decades of the 20th century. In 1937 Reuben appears to have closed his Red Lion Street shop and became ‘manager’ of an antique dealing business, Coslyn Limited, who were based at St. Mary Abbott’s Terrace, London.

Advertisement, R. Shenker, from Connoisseur, June 1914. Image antique dealer research project University of Leeds.

Rueben’s ‘Illustrated Catalogue of Inexpensive Genuine Antique Furniture’ contains a series of photographs of various examples of 16th, 17th and 18th century furniture, and is dominated by ‘early oak’ specimens.

Rueben Shenker ‘Genuine Antique Furniture’ dealer catalogue c.1920. Image antique dealer research project, University of Leeds.
Rueben Shenker ‘Genuine Antique Furniture’ dealer catalogue c.1920. Image antique dealer research project, University of Leeds.

In his introductory remarks to the catalogue, Shenker draws attention to the popularity of ‘early oak furniture’. He writes, ‘In recent years Genuine Antique Furniture has come into greater favour with buyers of all tastes and classes than heretofore…..The most important and durable pieces are to be found in the early oak examples, which, while being quaint in design and workmanship, are the most useful for country residences.’

‘Old oak’ was indeed amongst the most popular tastes in the opening decades of the 20th century, with many specialist dealers emerging in the market. There was also a thriving trade in the sale of ‘old oak rooms’, recycling 16th and 17th century panelling and fittings into new old-style properties as collectors and furnishers wanted the ‘period room’ look. Dealers such as Lenygon & Morant, Frederick Litchfield, and perhaps most famously, Charles Roberson, did a brisk trade in the sale of period panelling and period rooms. Below is a photograph of a ‘Gothic Oak Room from Boughton Malherbe Manor House, Kent’, from Roberson’s sales catalogue, volume II of three volumes, also, like Shenker’s catalogue, dating from the early 1920s.

‘Gothic Oak Room from Boughton Malherbe Manor House, Kent’, from Roberson, ‘Antique Panelled Rooms, vol II’, c.1921. Image, antique dealer research project, University of Leeds.
Rueben Shenker ‘Genuine Antique Furniture’ dealer catalogue c.1920. Image antique dealer research project, University of Leeds.

Reuben continued in his introductory remarks in his catalogue, highlighting the increasing importance of authentic specimens, which was a special concern for collectors of ‘old oak’ in the period, and of his own his expertise as a dealer. Reuben writes, ‘Having specialised in early oak furniture for many years, I offer intending purchasers the benefit of my experience to guard them against unfair dealing…I may mention that I have a large clientele all over the world, which has been obtained by giving satisfaction and by honest dealing.’

Rueben Shenker ‘Genuine Antique Furniture’ dealer catalogue c.1920. Image antique dealer research project, University of Leeds.

Shenker’s catalogue is a rare survival of an antique dealer’s sales catalogue from the 1920s and will be joining the growing collection of antique dealer catalogues and ephemera and antique dealer archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds in due course.


May 25, 2019

W. F. Greenwood & Sons, York

Recent additions to the growing corpus of antique dealer ephemera for the research project includes this rare pamphlet published by the antique dealers W.F. Greenwood & Sons, titled, ‘The Tudor House, Stonegate, York, a brief description of an interesting remain of domestic life and architecture dating back to the middle ages’.

The Tudor House, published by W.F. Greenwood & Sons, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The pamphlet is undated, but probably dates from c.1905-1910 (one of the illustrations included in the pamphlet is dated 1904).  It seems to have been produced to highlight the recent acquisition by W.F. Greenwood of their new premises, ‘The Tudor House’ in Stonegate, York, and was part of publicity for their antiques business of course.  Greenwood were one of the oldest established ‘antique dealers’ in Britain – according to their own publicity of the early 1900s, the business was established in York in 1829; they began as furniture manufacturers rather than as antique dealers, but certainly by the 1850s there are records of the firm was selling antique furniture – it was very common for furniture makers to transition their business practices from making furniture to retailing antique furniture during the course of the 19th century.  Walter Francis Greenwood began the business in York, which by the 1880s had branches in Scarborough of the East Coast of Yorkshire; they also opened a branches in Harrogate, Yorkshire by 1910 and even had a branch in Clifford Street, London and at New Bond Street, London for a short time in the early 20th century.

The pamphlet recounts the history of ‘The Tudor House’, with a history of the house and a description of the interiors, which were at the time stocked with antiques by Greenwood. The images here show (right) ‘The Tudor House’ as it was in c.1813 and (left) a recent photograph of the same shop at 33 Stonegate (as it is now numbered) of 2018.

The early 19th century engraving of the ‘Tudor House’ is from The Antiquities of York (1813) by the antiquary H. Cave. The decorative pargetting (moulded plasterwork) on the front of the building was removed in the late 19th century, and the windows and the shop front itself have obviously been remodelled, but the building structure remains mostly the same as it was when it was constructed in the 17th century – according to Historic England the building is believed to date from early 17th century, despite a spurious date of ‘1489’ carved on the second-floor bressumer (the beam that traverses the front of the building) – the spurious date was obviously one of the reasons for the house being called ‘The Tudor House’ at some stage in its life.



Greenwood’s other shop in York at the time was at 24 Stonegate, and which became a very well-known antique shop in the city. Here’s a photograph of their Stonegate shop in c.1905. Indeed, the shop itself still exists in Stonegate – although it’s now occupied by the women’s fashion store ‘Jigsaw’ – and the shop still has a photograph of Queen Mary visiting Greenwood’s antique shop in the 1930s in a small glazed frame fixed to the shopfront.

W.F. Greenwood & Sons, 23 Stonegate, York, c.1910. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research project, University of Leeds.

Greenwood’s shop at 24 Stonegate was regularly visited by Queen Mary (1867-1953) during the 1920s and 1930s.  Amusingly, on one occasion in September 1927, Queen Mary and The Princess Mary (who had married the Earl of Harewood in 1922 and was living at nearby Harewood House, near Leeds) visited Greenwood & Sons on a Wednesday afternoon, not realising that Wednesday was half-day closing for the shop.  The Evening Telegraph reported that ‘they found the door closed against them and were unable to gain admission’; ‘in response to their knocks, an assistant, Miss Hogarty, appeared and admitted the party.’ The report continued….’Miss Hogarty was considerably surprised, but the Queen soon put her at her ease by apologising for having disturbed her half-holiday.’  In the meantime the assistants sent for Mr Greenwood, who was at his house, ‘mowing his tennis lawn.’  Queen Mary, it was stated, ‘bought two Spode tea services, some Rockingham china, and some old silver’.  Queen Mary was allegedly notorious for encouraging gifts from antique dealers – or rather there are many stories suggesting that the Queen would often say, ‘Oh what a lovely thing’ when looking around antique shops…..and obviously the objects were often packed off to the Palace without charge.  I’m not sure how true these many stories are, but the newspaper reports on this occasion clearly state that the Queen ‘bought’ the objects from Greenwood & Sons.

Anyway, what is fascinating about the ‘Tudor House’ pamphlet is how it demonstrates the close alignment of the practices of antique dealing and the evolving notions of heritage, and heritage interpretation, in the period around 1900.  For further examples of this phenomenon see previous posts on the Antique Dealer Research Blog (February 2017) on the antique dealers’ Phillips of Hitchin and the construction of Baliffscourt, Sussex in the 1920s, and the post (February 2017) on the antique dealers’ Walter Thornton-Smith and their work on Schoppenhangers Manor near Maidenhead, in the 1910s.

The W.F. Greenwood pamphlet is obviously a promotion for the business, but interestingly it presents itself as a philanthropic project; as the text in the pamphlet states, ‘Instead of using the house as showrooms and storerooms for some of their valuable stock of antiques, it’s present owners, W.F. Greenwood & Sons Ltd., have restored it with all the exactitude and care which their experience as dealers in antiques have enabled them to give.’ – ‘the object of Messrs. Greenwood is to use their shops and showrooms, No.23a and 24, Stonegate, for selling, and here to give their customers and visitors an idea of the beauty of the old houses and furniture’, but of course, as the writer continued, ‘Visitors can purchase the articles on view’.

The pamphlet includes some fascinating photographs of the interiors of ‘The Tudor House’.  The displays were arranged as a series of ‘Period Rooms’, which was becoming a discrete marketing and display technique amongst antique furniture dealers during the 1910s and 1920s, and such historical recreations were also becoming more popular in the displays in public museums at the same time.  The ‘Tudor House’, for example, had an ‘Elizabethan Panelled Living Room’ (shown below), furnished with antiques from the period.

The Elizabethan Panelled Living Room, in The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

And a ‘Jacobean Bedroom’, with a rare bedstead of the period:

The Jacobean Bedroom, The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antiques Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

As well as a ‘Georgian Panelled Dining Room’, again with appropriate antique furniture and other objects:

Georgian Panelled Dining Room, The Tudor House pamphlet, c.1905-10. Photograph, Antique Dealers Research Project, University of Leeds.

The foregrounding of heritage interpretation, heritage education and heritage tourism are all evident throughout the text in the pamphlet, but its commercial imperatives were also implicitly, and explicitly, present – the pamphlet contains 4 advertisements of W.F. Greenwood & Sons in the final pages and it was, of course, published by Greenwood & Sons.  The educational/marketing technique of displaying antiques in ‘period room’ settings would also enable those interested in buying antiques to see how they could display them in appropriate settings in their own homes, and such ‘interior design’ practices for domestic interiors were becoming ever more popular in the opening decades of the 20th century.


April 13, 2015

Antique Dealers, ‘Period Rooms’ and Museums

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

seligmann model MIA

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

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

hotel bouexiere

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

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

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

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

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



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