Posts tagged ‘Quinneys’

September 27, 2020

Antique Dealers and Theatre & Film Props

As a prelude to our restaging of the play ‘Quinneys’, I thought it might be interesting to post a blog entry on the relationship between antique dealing and film and theatre props and scene sets, given that we have many generous promises of the loan of antiques for the props for the future set of the play Quinneys (there will be more on that in future blog posts, so do keep popping back!).

Quinneys will hopefully take place in the Spring next year, as part of the continuing Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded ‘Year of the Dealer’ project which, as you may know, had been put on hold since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, but we have thankfully had our request for an extension to the project granted by the AHRC (thank you!), so the project will now continue until 31st March 2021.

Anyway, the relationship between antique (and curiosity) dealers and the theatre goes right back to the very start of the modern antique trade in the early 19th century – for more on the early history of the antique trade, if you are interested, you might want to read my book ‘The Emergence of the Antique & Curiosity Dealer 1815-1850: the commodification of historical objects’ (Routledge, 2020), which came out earlier this year.

I don’t wish this blog post to be too much of a promo for my book of course!…but if you are really interested in this subject, Routledge have very generously made a 50% discount on the book (reducing the price from £120 (academic books are so expensive!) to £60 (still quite a lot of money though) – you just need to go to http://www.routledge.com and add EACD50 in the code when you get to the checkout – here’s a link to it – Routledge

Anyway, promo over!….back to the real purpose of the blog post – as I said, the relationship between the antique and curiosity trade and the theatre goes right back to the start of the antique trade itself. For example, the curiosity dealer John Coleman Isaac (c.1803-1887), who traded in Wardour Street in London from 1829 until his retirement in 1868, appears to have regularly hired out suits of ‘ancient armour’ as theatre props for plays performed in London theatres in the 1830s – the archive of Issac (held at the Hartley Library at the University of Southampton – MS139/AJ53) records that Isaac received ‘Ten Pounds for the hire of two suits of Armour for four weeks at the Victoria Theatre’ in December 1835 (MS139/AJ53, no.467), and that he also hired ‘ancient armour’ for a performance at the Coburg Theatre in 1836. So we can certainly say that the use of genuine antiques, as part of theatre sets, has a very long tradition indeed.

More recently, I’ve been doing some research on antique dealer firms and the film industry in the 20th century, and discovered some fascinating details of the role that some leading antique dealer firms played in the film industry during the period from the 1930s until the 1960s.  For example, M.Harris & Sons, who were one of the most important dealers in antique furniture during the 20th century, advertised that their business included, ‘Hire and Hire-Purchase….for short or long periods, or household use. Also for Theatrical and Film Productions, at specially agreed rates’ (M. Harris & Sons, An Abridged Introductory Catalogue of Antique Furniture and Works of Art (n.d. c.1925), p.6. Here’s Moss Harris’ shop in New Oxford Street in London, in c.1921 –

M.Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, c.1921. Photograph ‘The Connoisseur’ 1921.

M. Harris & Sons must have been used by many film companies over the years, and they certainly hired antique furniture for the set of at least one film (there must be many more?…if anyone knows of any further examples I’d be very interested to hear?).  The film was The Beloved Vagabond (1936), a famous musical made by Columbia Pictures, directed by Curtis Bernhardt and starring Maurice Chevalier and Margaret Lockwood.  The film was made at Ealing Studios, just to the west of London, so convenient for the hire of props from a London antique dealer.

Film poster for ‘The Beloved Vagabond’ (1936). Image, silversirens.co.uk

One can see various pieces of antique furniture, typical of the stock of M. Harris & Sons in the 1920s and 1930s, in some of the film stills.  Here, for example, in one scene, the 18th century open armchair, to the right in the photo-still, is perhaps a piece on hire from Moss Harris & Sons. The business certainly had many examples of such 18th century chairs in stock during the 1920s and 1930s.

Film still from ‘The Beloved Vagabond’ (1936). Image Avaxhome.

And here (below), in another film still from The Beloved Vagabond, there is another mid-18th century open armchair, to the left, together with a mid-18th century stool (just behind the man, centre of the still) and an 18th century sidetable behind, all typical of M. Harris & Sons stock of the period.

Film still from ‘The Beloved Vagabond’ (1936). Image Avaxhome.

In the late 1930s and during the Second World War, in the early 1940s, Thomas Crowther & Son, North End Road, Fulham, London, also hired hundreds of objects to many British film companies – during WWII it would have been cheaper, I guess, to hire genuine antique room panelling and 18th century chimney-pieces (the kinds of things that Thomas Crowther was well-known for buying and selling) than it would have been to have things made, given the extreme rationing during the War and the fact that almost all factory production was devoted to the war effort. Crowthers were established as stone masons in the late 19th century and were themselves also heavily involved in the war effort – they had contracts for the building of Anderson Shelters, and for production of pulley blocks for the Royal Navy.

Part of the archive of T. Crowther is held in the Hammersmith & Fulham Local Record Office in London (DD900 – stock book records 1938-1948).  The wide range of film studios that Crowther did business with was extraordinary and is a testament to the desire to keep film production going during WWII.  The list of film companies in the Crowther archive includes, Warner Brothers Film Studios at Teddington in Middlesex; British National Films, Boreham Wood; Grafton Films, Shepperton Studios; MGM Films, Denham Studios; Ealing Studios; Twentieth Century Productions Ltd., Lime Grove; British Lion Corporation, Wardour Street; Gainsborough Studios Ltd; Columbia British Pictures Corporation; and Associated British Pictures, Welwyn Garden City. Unfortunately, the archive detail is rather limited, with just an entry stating ‘hire of goods’ and various amounts, from £1.4.9. ( MGM, Denham Studios in May 1940), to £183.8.0 (Gainsborough Pictures in October 1942), so it is not possible at present to identify which films the Crowther props were used in.

Film poster for ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ (1957). Image wikipedia.org.

The firm of Stair & Company, of London and New York, established in 1911 as Stair & Andrew, also appear to have been used regularly by film companies for the hire of film props.  In 1956, for example, Stair & Co. hired antique furniture and many other antique objects for the set of the film The Barratts of Wimpole Street, directed by Sidney Franklin and starring John Gielgud and Jennifer Jones. The film was made in England and was released in January 1957. Here’s the film poster, and a film still, in which one can just detect an 18th century armchair, in the Chinese taste, in the centre background, and many other 18th century and 19th century objects also populate the scene – perhaps some of these were on hire from Stair & Co.?

Film still from ‘The Barretts of Wimpole Street’ (1957). Image Torontofilmsociety.com.

Stair & Co seem to have hired antiques for films sets fairly regularly during the 1950s and 1960s. The provided ‘hire of furniture for 2 weeks’ in July 1968 for the film ‘Mosquito Squadron (1969), directed by Boris Sagal and which starred David McCallum; it was filmed in England, with some scenes shot on location at the mid-19th century Minley Manor near Farnborough, Hampshire, then, appropriately, owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Film poster for ‘Mosquito Squadron’ (1969). Image wikipedia.org.

In 1963 Stair & Co also ‘hired various goods’ for the set of the film Woman of Straw (1964), which was partly shot at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, and was directed by Basil Dearden, starring Gina Lollobridgida, Sean Connery and Ralph Richardson.

Film poster for ‘Woman of Straw’ (1964). Image wikipedia.org.

Other London-based antique dealers that hired antiques as props for film sets, include Montague Marcussen, who was trading from Crawford Street in London during the 1960s, and announced in one of their advertisements in 1965 that they had ‘supplied many props used in the film The Yellow Rolls Royce’ (1965). This was a big budget film, made at MGM Studios in London, directed by Anthony Asquith and starring, among others, Ingrid Bergman, Rex Harrison, Omar Sharif and Shirley MacLaine.

Film poster for ‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ (1965). Image wikipedia.org.

It’s not known what actual objects Marcussen supplied as film props for the film, but the firm was known for extravagant, interior decorator objects, so perhaps some of the objects in the film set (below) were from the firm?

Film set still for ‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ (1965). Image Heritage Auctions.

There’s a lot more to be said about the role of the antique trade in film, theatre and television, not least in the ways that film sets became increasingly concerned with historical accuracy, and the supply of genuine antiques helped to fulfill those ambitions.

Mark

March 8, 2020

Quinneys – costumes

Our progress on re-staging our performance of Quinneys is coming along well; yesterday (a Saturday no less!) India Walton and I went to the Leeds Playhouse Costume Hire stores to choose the costumes for all the characters in the play – India is playing the part of ‘Mable Dredge’, Quinney’s typist, who in the play is in the triangle of love between James (Quinney’s foreman – played by Fergus Johnston) and Posy (Quinney’s daugther – played by Annabel Marlow) – here, (below) is India (left), with Annabel (centre) and Fergus (right) in rehearsals earlier in the week.

India, Annabel and Fergus in rehearsals for Quinneys.

India and I spent all day in the costume store – it was exhausting (10.15am til 4.00pm!) but great fun! And we managed to find costumes for every character in the play.  Here’s India, choosing a nightdress for ‘Mable Dredge’, with Steff, from the costume hire, who was such a fantastic help all day! All the costume we needed dates from the Edwardian period (the play is set in 1914), and there are brilliant resources at the Leeds Playhouse Costume Hire.

India and Steff and Leeds Playhouse Costume Hire

India and Steff and Leeds Playhouse Costume Hire

We hope that the actors (and George Rodosthenous, our theater director for the performance of Quinneys) all approve of the costumes that India and I chose.

We’ve made the characters of the American millionaire collectors, ‘Cyrus P. Hunsaker’ and ‘Dupont Jordan’ (played by Stephenson Catney and Jake Pursell, respectively) rather bold, brash and ostentatious……with a brightly coloured jacket in red, yellow and black check pattern, and a similar jacket in brown and yellow checks – they will look out-rage-ous in the play! – especially as ‘Cyrus’ accepts a large ‘cheque’ (a ‘check in American parlance) from Mr Quinney at one point in the play….

For ‘Quinney’ himself (played by Samuel Parmenter) we decided he should be very smartly and expensively dressed, but rather more soberly – so we put him in a light grey morning suit – a dapper chap, but with a restrained, serious personality. For Mrs Susan Quinney (played by Hannah Rooney) we went for two Edwardian dresses, both in an elegant green – one with fabulous black embroidery to the sleeves.

And for ‘Posy’ (Quinney’s daugther, played by Annabel Marlow) we found a light and delicate pale blue dress, together with some some Edwardian blouses in white, with small red flowers, and a cream-coloured long flowing Edwardian skirt. We also found suitable dresses for ‘Mable Dredge’ – slightly more plain, given Mable’s status as Quinney’s typist, but still very elegant – (India enjoyed choosing her costume!)…. And finally we found a very swish black jacket with black velvet trousers for ‘Sam Tomlin’ the smart (and smarmy) Bond Street antique dealer, (played by Morgan Buswell), and for ‘James Miggott’ (Quinney’s foreman…played by Fergus Johnston) we found a suitable ‘workman’s’ outfit, but one that still retains a degree of Edwardian elegance….

Here are all the costume’s on the rail at Leeds Playhouse Costume Hire –

Quinneys play costume at Leeds Playhouse Costume Hire.

We still need a few Edwardian hats and accessories, but the costume for the performance is all coming together well – I’m sure that the actors will thoroughly enjoy their rehearsals now that we have costumes – and that their performances will become even more authentic and ’embodied’!

Mark

 

March 4, 2020

More Quinneys Rehearsals

Our rehearsals for the performance of Quinneys are continuing apace – (the play is to be staged at The Witham, Barnard Castle, on Saturday 28th March – to book tickets, click to the weblink to The Witham here).  George Rodosthenous, (Director of the theatre and performance BA/MA programmes at the University of Leeds), and the director of the play, has been ramping up the number of rehearsals over the last two weeks, as the student actors begin to inhabit their characters in ever increasing degrees of authenticity!  Here (below) is one of George’s professional black and white photographs of (almost) the full cast of Quinneys (only Jake, who has recently joined the cast to play the part of Dupont Jordan, is absent…but you can see Jake further in this blog post, below) – in the photo below are, left to right, India (Mable Dredge, Quinney’s typist), Stephenson (Cyrus P. Hunsaker, American millionaire collector), Annabel (Posy, Quinney’s daughter) on Fergus’s (James, Quinney’s foreman) knee; with Samuel (Quinney) and Hannah (Mrs Susan Quinney) behind, and Morgan (Sam Tomlin, fellow antique dealer) to the right.

The cast of Quinneys in rehearsals at the University of Leeds.

And here’s the cast in rehearsals again, this time without Samuel (Quinney) but with Jake Pursell (playing the role of the American millionaire collector, Dupont Jordan) in the centre, on his knees examining a chair – Jake is an MA student, and has immediately immersed himself in the role…being from Texas, USA, himself!

The cast of Quinneys – without Samuel (Quinney), but with Jake (Dupont Jordan).

In the photograph (below) Jake (Dupont) and Stephenson (as Cyrus P. Hunsaker, another American collector in the play), greet Annabel (Posy), with India (Mable) and Fergus (James) to the right – and George, directing the play (but here playing Quinney). In the foreground is an inanimate ‘actor’, (a reproduction ‘Persian’ vase) taking the part of the rare ‘Kang Hsi, mirror-black bottle’ that also stars in the play.

Jake, George, Stephenson, Annabel, Fergus and India in Quinneys rehearsals

Indeed, in this week’s rehearsals we used some stand-in props for the real antiques that we will be using as part of the set for the play. In the 1910 and 1920s, when Quinneys was first performed, several leading antique dealers, such as Moss Harris and Walter Thornton-Smith, provided appropriate antiques for the set – and for our performance at The Witham, we have been lucky that several antique dealers, and also the Bowes Museum itself, have agreed to loan antiques for the play.  For rehearsals of course, we need ‘stand-ins’, and in the photograph (below), Samuel (Quinney) and Stephenson (Hunsaker) discuss a rare Charles II walnut armchair (which will be on loan from the Bowes Museum) using a large blown-up photograph (fixed to the cream seminar room chair, between them) of the very chair that will be in the performance!

Samuel (Quinney) and Stephenson (Hunsaker) discuss an ‘antique’ chair in rehearsals for Quinneys.

We did manage to use one real antique in the rehearsals – a 19th century key, one that Posy places in the Kang Hsi ‘mirror black, bottle’ and which opens an antique lacquer cabinet that is one of the stars of the show (in terms of inanimate objects at least) and into which she has placed a love letter to James – and here’s the very key – appropriately, given that it is the key that opens a cabinet into which a love letter rests, shaped like a ‘heart’!

The key to Posy’s Heart – from Quinneys!

One of the aspects of the performance that we will be debating and discussing in the proposed workshop on Sunday 29th March – the day following the re-staging of Quinneys – is the complexity of the idea of ‘authenticity’ in a workshop titled ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ and led by our colleague Professor Jonathan Pitches (Professor of Performance at the University of Leeds) – so having the actors working with ‘fake’ antiques, and then working with the genuine thing, will be something we might ruminate upon; as well, of course, as what it means to embody, to become, a character in a play as part of a performance.

Indeed, what is especially interesting (for me) is that the fictional character of the antique dealer Joseph Quinney is actually based on a real life antique dealer, called Thomas Rohan, who was trading in Bournemouth and Southampton at the time that Horace Vachell composed his play (and associated novel) – and, as if to reinforce the point, here is Samuel, holding a photocopy of a photograph of Thomas Rohan, of about 1920 – Samuel becoming Thomas Rohan, becoming Joseph Quinney!

Samuel, as Quinney, as Rohan.

And here’s a few more photographs of the student actors in rehearsals – they are all fantastic actors and are performing brilliantly – you will miss something special if you don’t get to see the play!….seats are going fast, so do book before they all go!

Hannah (Mrs Susan Quinney) and Samuel (Quinney) in rehearsal.

Annabel (Posy), Hannah (Mrs Quinney) and Fergus (James) in rehearsals for Quinneys.

India (Mable), Annabel (Posy) and Fergus (James) in rehearsals for Quinneys.

And finally, an amusing shot, from an amusing scene in the play, with Annabel (Posy) and Fergus (James) in foreground, with Samuel (Quinney) and Hannah (Mrs Quinney) in the background, sneaking a look at the two young lovers – (in the play, the whiteboard will be an 18th century  Chinese lacquer screen…..we hope!)

Mark

Annabel (Posy) and Fergus (James), with Samuel (Quinney) and Hannah (Mrs Quinney) in the background – rehearsals for Quinneys.

 

February 9, 2020

Quinneys Rehearsals

Our rehearsals for the play Quinneys continue apace – with Dr George Rodosthenous leading the direction of the performances.  This week George assembled the whole team, including Professor Jonathan Pitches, who is taking the lead on the ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ workshop which takes place at The Bowes Museum on the day following the restaging of Quinneys at the Witham in Barnard Castle.  Here’s the whole team at the rehearsals –

The Quinneys team – back (Annabel, Mark, Fergus), middle (Stephenson, Hannah, Samuel), Front (George, Jonathan, India, Morgan).

George (centre) directing India (sitting) and Morgan (back) and Fergus (right) in rehearsals for Quinneys.

George had the cast reading sections of the play, revealing insights into the characterisations, and drawing out some great performances from the actors.

Annabel and Fergus reading for ‘Posy’ and ‘James’.

Here’s (left) Annabel and Fergus taking on the character of ‘Posy’ (Quinneys’ daughter) and ‘James Miggot’ (Quinney’s workshop foreman).  And (right), George, directing India (seated), playing ‘Mable Dredge’ (Quinney’s typist), and Morgan (background) playing ‘Cyrus P. Hunsaker’ the American millionaire collector, with Fergus as ‘James’.

And another few photos of the cast getting into character – with (left to right) India, Samuel (as the eponymous Joseph Quinney), Morgan, Annabel and Fergus, rehearsing a scene set in ‘Quinney’s sanctuary’ – Quinney’s collector’s paradise, full of extraordinary antiques.

Quinneys actors – (left to right) India, Samuel, Morgan, Annabel, Fergus.

We are working with The Bowes Museum and local antique dealers in Barnard Castle to source the antiques for the stage set.  In 1915, when the play was first performed, several well-known London antique dealers loaned antiques for the set, including Walter and Ernest Thornton-Smith, who, co-incidently (or maybe not) traded in Soho Square, London, which was also the fictional location of Quinney’s  antique  shop in the novel ‘Quinneys’ (1915).  Indeed, one of the aspects we are thinking through in the restaging of Quinneys is the notion of authenticity – Jonathan Pitches will be working with the actors, reflecting on authenticity of performance and authenticity of character in acting, alongside me (Mark) working on authenticity of objects (antiques) and authenticity of identity (of antique dealers), in the ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ workshop on the day following the performance at The Bowes Museum.

To that end, George got me to work with an imaginary ‘antique chair’, examining it as if I were an antique dealer, for the student actors – (that’s as much acting as I am going to do!) –

Mark, explaining how an antique dealer examines an ‘antique’ chair……

Hannah, another of the student actors, also joined in the rehearsals, playing the part of Susan Quinney, Quinney’s wife – here’s Annabel (left) as ‘Posy’, with Hannah (right) as ‘Susan’, reading from a scene in Act 1.

Annabel (left) and Hannah (right) rehearsing for Quinneys.

George and the actors are certainly creating a fantastic atmosphere, and I am sure that when Quinneys is eventually performed on Saturday 28th March at The Witham, is will be a brilliant production!  Here’s a final few photos of George and the team.

George (centre) with the student actors at the rehearsals for Quinneys.

And a final, much more professional photograph, of Stephenson, India and Samuel (back row), with Annabel and Fergus (front).

part of the cast for Quinneys – Stephenson, India, Samuel (back) with Annabel and Fergus (front)

Don’t forget to book your tickets for Quinneys – you can book your seat HERE

Mark

January 30, 2020

Quinneys Auditions

Preparations for the re-staging of the play Quinneys (first performed on 20th April 1915 at The Haymarket Theatre in London) at the Witham Theatre in Barnard Castle on Saturday 28th March are coming along well – we had some good publicity from The Antiques Trade Gazette (thank you to Frances Allitt) and the bookings are coming in well – don’t forget to book your ticket – you can book via The Witham  HERE or the link via the Year of the Dealer Project website HERE

Poster for Quinneys, Birmingham performance, 1920.

Over the past few weeks George Rodosthenous (who is directing our re-staging of the play Quinneys)  and I have been auditioning some of the students from George’s BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance at the University of Leeds for the acting parts in Quinneys. We think we have just about finished casting the play now, and have some wonderful student actors – all brilliant in fact!  Yesterday we auditioned Annabel Marlow, India Walton, Samuel Parmenter and Fergus Johnston – in the weeks before we’d seen Stephenson Catney, Morgan Buswell and Hannah Rooney (I did a few tweets on the research project Twitter feed, if you want to see them!)

Here’s Fergus, Annabel, India and Samuel, from yesterday, chatting about the play in one of the audition rooms at the University, and with George, ‘directing’ Annabel and India…!

Fergus, Annabel, India and Sammy in the auditions for Quinneys

 

Fergus and Annabel have been cast to play the parts of James (Quinney’s workshop foreman) and Posy (Quinney’s daughter) and did some brilliant improvisation (directed by George!) at the auditions. India and Samuel took the parts of ‘Mable Dredge’ (Quinney’s typist) and Joseph Quinney himself. Here’s Fergus and Annabel and India and Sammy reading for the parts!

Fergus and Annabel, reading for ‘James’ and ‘Posy’.

 

India (Mable) and Samuel (Quinney) in the auditions.

The part of Susan (Quinneys wife) has been won by Hannah, with Morgan playing ‘Sam Tomlin’ (Quinney’s brother-in-law, and also an antique dealer, like Quinney), with Stephenson playing ‘Cyrus P. Hunsaker’ (an American millionaire collector and rival to James for Posy’s affections) – we’re still looking for an actor to play ‘Dupont Jordan’ an American millionaire, but will find someone soon….

George introduced some music into the auditions (he played the piano) and we had Annabel singing ‘I love James’ to the tune of the popular 19th century lullaby, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’… (great performance!); and India, Fergus and Sammy all made the parts of ‘Mable’, ‘James’ and Quinney’ their own!

We’ve now got to sort out the stage set (using genuine antiques, thanks to The Bowes Museum!), and work up a theatre programme for the performance, and what seems like a million other things to sort out before the performance on 28th March – but George has already started the rehearsals for the play, and we’re very much looking forward to working with everyone on this one – Quinneys is, after all, the centrepiece for the Year of the Dealer project!

Mark

 

 

December 17, 2019

Quinneys is now open for bookings!

We thought you would be interested to hear that the bookings for the re-staging of the play ‘Quinneys’ are now open. The performance will be at The Witham Community Theatre in Barnard Castle, County Durham. You can book here:

Playbill for the performance of Quinneys at Birmingham theatre in 1925.

As you may know, we are re-staging the play as part of the AHRC funded ‘SOLD! The Year of the Dealer: antique dealers, art markets and museums’ project, which runs until May 2020.  The performance will be by student actors from the University of Leeds, School of Performance & Cultural Industries; the play is to be directed by Dr George Rodosthenous, who leads on the MA in Theatre Directing at the University of Leeds.
   Quinneys was written as a novel in 1914 by the prolific writer Horace A. Vachell and is about the life and activities of the fictional antique dealer ‘Joseph Quinney’.  The play ‘Quinneys’ followed in 1915 and was regularly performed during the period 1915 until the 1950s – it even made it to theatres in New York!  The character of Joe Quinney was based on the real-life antique dealer Thomas Rohan, who was trading in Bournemouth and Southampton during the early 1900s until the 1930s – for more on Quinneys and Thomas Rohan do take a look at some of the previous posts in the antique dealers research blog.
And as fiction mirrors fact, the play and the subsequent novel led to the growth in the number of antique shops called ‘Quinneys’ – we have so far traced about 20 shops called ‘Quinneys’ in the UK…as far as we know there’s only one left…Quinneys of Warwick, which is still trading after nearly 90 years!….
We hope that you will be able to make it to the performance of Quinneys. There is a wine reception at 6.30pm, prior to the performance, where you can have a glass of wine and some nibbles and chat and meet with many people involved in, or following the ‘Antique Dealers Research Projects’.  The Year of the Dealer project is covering the costs for the wine reception and all performance fees and costs, but as The Witham is a community theatre, we are hoping to support them with some funding and have agreed with them that there should be a nominal £5.00 cost for the tickets for the performance – all the ticket monies will go towards the projects at the The Witham.
The performance will take place on SATURDAY 28th March 2020. Wine Reception at 6.30pm; Play at 7.30pm; close by 9.30pm at the latest.
We do hope that you will be able to make it – and enjoy a rare performance of a key document on the history and characterization of Antique Dealers!
Mark
June 26, 2019

Year of the Dealer starts!

We are very excited to announce that the ‘Year of the Dealer’ project has officially started – the new project website is being constructed (thanks to Peter Edwards in University of Leeds, Arts, Humanities & Cultures Faculty IT team) – you can see the new website here – Year of the Dealer website 

The ‘Year of the Dealer’ project is a collaboration between the University of Leeds, the University of Southampton, 7 major national and regional museums (The Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Museum, Scotland, The Ashmolean Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Bowes Museum, Temple Newsam, Preston Park Museum and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery), together with a regional community theatre (The Witham, Barnard Castle) and one of the UK’s leading antique dealing businesses (H. Blairman & Sons). The project runs from 1st June 2019 until 31st May 2020 and is an ‘Impact and Engagement’ project funded (£100,000) by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Over the next 12 months  the Year of the Dealer will be organizing a series of events, activities and museum object trails, using the research arising from the AHRC funded (£231,592) research project ‘Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th century’ AH/K0029371/1 (2013-2016).

C. Charles, Brook Street shop interior, c.1903. Photograph, Connoisseur 1903.

Through these events and activities the project aims to draw attention to the relationships between the art market and public museums and to share expertise, experience and perspectives among stakeholders and to increase public engagement with the significance of the history of the antique trade in British cultural life.

The Year of the Dealer will reveal new and previously marginalised stories of world-renowned and familiar museum objects through the co-production of a series of 7 museum ‘hidden history’ trails; each trail will have a curated selection of up to 20 museum objects foregrounding the history of antique dealers in the biography of the museum object.  So, for example, at The Bowes Museum, we will be drawing renewed attention to some of the museum objects by telling the story about the antique dealers who sold the object to the museum – this rare pair of gilded bronze lamps, made by William Collins in 1823………..

One of a pair of gilded bronze lamps at The Bowes Museum. Photograph, antique dealers project 2018.

…………………..will be reinterpreted through the Year of the Dealer trail in the museum as a pair of lamps sold to the Bowes Museum in 1960 by Stanley J. Pratt, a leading antique dealer then trading in ultra-fashionable Mount Street, London.  How Pratt acquired the lamps and how they ended up at The Bowes Museum will be key elements in the ‘story’ about the objects. Stanley Pratt came from a well-known family of antique dealers dating back into the 19th century; indeed the Pratt family of dealers were established, according to their own publicity, in 1860, and so sold the lamps to The Bowes Museum in their centenary year!

Advertisement by Stanley J. Pratt illustrating the pair of gilded bronze lamps. Connoisseur, June 1960.

Besides the 7 museum trails, the project will also stage 4 art market themed knowledge exchange workshops and 3 public engagement ‘In Conversation’ events, hosted by the partner museums. The workshops will consider the relationships between the art market and public museums, drawing in historical and contemporary perspectives and will also consider the challenges and future opportunities for the relationships between museums and the art market.  The ‘In Conversation’ events invite key art market professionals, museum professionals, academics and commentators to discuss and debate the subject of the art market and public museums – all the events will be free, thanks to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding.

Other activities as part of the Year of the Dealer project include museum front of house staff and volunteer training workshops at each of the 7 partner museums to ensure that the project research and objectives are disseminated and cascaded to the front-line interface with the public.

We will also be re-staging the play ‘Quinney’s (1915) at the Witham Theatre, Barnard Castle, and are organizing an associated workshop, ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

Poster for Quinney’s production at Birmingham Theatre, 1925.

‘Quinney’s’ is the story of the fictional antique dealer Joseph Quinney. The play and the workshop aim to critically engage the general public with the central role that ‘authenticity’ has played in the art market, and to explore and critique the trope of the antique dealer as a problematic character, often associated with fakes and forgeries and the ‘love of money’. The workshop will be interdisciplinary in scope, drawing on theatre and performance studies and material culture studies as well as the history of antique dealers.

As you can see, there are plans for a very rich series of events, activities and collaborations over the course of the Year of the Dealer project – but we have a great team to help deliver the project – my colleague from University of Southampton, Dr Eleanor Quince, and Vanessa Jones, our project administrator, and my colleagues at the University of Leeds, Professor Jonathan Pitches and Dr George Rodosthenous, and of course all of the curators and staff at the all 10 collaborating partners and a small team of PhD research students to help keep the project on track!……it’s no doubt going to be exhausting, but we hope it will also be a really engaging project…and one that will have real Impact!

We hope to see you at some of the events – we already have some events fixed in the project calendar…so do keep an eye on the project website and the antique dealers research blog.

Mark

December 23, 2015

And even more on Quinneys

I’ve been undertaking some further research on the play ‘Quinneys’  – as readers of the project blog now know, I hope – it’s the fictional story of the life of an antique dealer, Joe Quinney, composed as a play by Horace Annesley Vachell in 1915, based on Vachell’s novel of the same name of 1914 – see previous blog posts on ‘Quinney’ and on Thomas Rohan. In a recent post I posted about the playbill for Quinneys, at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, which was staged in 1915 (see blog entry for December 2015), and drew attention to the fact that the London antique trade had supplied much of the antique furniture and etc for the stage-set.

I recently found another playbill for Quinneys, this time from 1925, for a staging of the play at the New Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane, London.

Quinneys New Theatre 1925

Playbill, ‘Quinneys’, New Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane, London, 1925. Image, copyright Antique Dealers project 2015.

henry ainley

Henry Ainley as ‘Quinney’, c.1915.

As in the 1915 play, the lead (Joe Quinney) is still played by the Shakespearian actor Henry Ainley (looking much older, as one would expect, to his youthful self in the 1915 photograph – see above, and in our earlier blog post).

There are a few other photographs of Ainley as the character ‘Quinney’ in the 1925 playbill – here’s one with the aged Ainley suitably posed as the ‘connoisseur’ inspecting an antique cup –

Henry Ainley as Quinney 1925

Henry Ainley as ‘Quinney’, 1925; ‘Camera Portrait by Dorothy Wilding’. Image copyright Antique Dealer project 2015.

The 1925 playbill is a much more extensive document than the 1915 one (which was effectively just a single, folded, page), and amounts to 12 pages, mostly of advertisements. The adverts, as one might expect, included many of the leading antique dealers of the day; including the antique glass specialist Arthur Churchill (then in Dover Street); Joe Sale, of Kensington Church Street; John Sparks; Dreyfous of Mount Street; Frank Partridge; Charles J. Pratt; M. Harris & Sons; Hotspur Ltd; Stoner & Evans, the ceramics specialists, as well as lesser know dealers such as C. Rose, Edith Lee, C. Griffiths, Mrs. Mellor, and H. Fisher.

And, just as the 1915 play had antique furniture and objects loaned by dealers, (in 1915 it was Keeble, Parkenthorpe and Spillmans), in 1925 the antique furniture for the stage-set was supplied by leading antique furniture dealers Moss Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street.

If anyone knows anything else about the staging of the play ‘Quinneys’ we would be very interested to hear!

Mark..

Oh and Merry Christmas to all our readers of the project blog!

November 28, 2015

Yet more on ‘Quinneys’

Following some earlier blog posts on ‘Quinney’ and the dealer Thomas Rohan (see blog posts December 31st 2014; December 6th 2014; July 27th 2014), I recently came across some more information associated with this fascinating conflation of fact and fiction – as you’ll know, the real antique dealer Thomas Rohan (trading in Bournemouth and Southampton in the period 1903-1937) was the basis for the famous fictional antique dealer ‘Joe Quinney’ in the novel by Horace Vachell (first published in May 1914) – see our interactive research project map site for the entry on Rohan:

www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/dealerships/34852

Anyway, recently in a couple of antiquarian book dealers I found two further pieces of ephemera associated with the play ‘Quinneys’ (1915) and the novel ‘Quinneys’ (1914). Firstly, I found a rare copy of the playbill for the first staging of the play ‘Quinneys’ on April 20th 1915, at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London – see cover picture:

Quninneys 1915 play

Playbill, ‘Quinneys’, Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1915. Image copyright, AHRC Antique Dealers Project, 2015.

And secondly a copy of the published script of the play (a later copy, probably from the 1950s?) –

Quinneys play script 1915 reprint

‘Quinneys’, play script (1915) – 1950s edition. Image copyright AHRC Antique Dealers project 2015.

henry ainley

Henry Ainley (1879-1945), British Actor. Image Wikicommons.

The playbill lists the actors in the play – ‘Joe Quinney’ the eponymous antique dealer, was played by the well-known Shakespearian actor Henry Ainley (1879-1945) (see above); incidentally he also played ‘Quinney’ in the 1919 film version of the play…and interesting (as far as we are concerned) Ainley was born in Morley, Leeds, West Yorkshire!. Quinney’s wife, Susan, was played by the British film actress Syndey Fairbrother (1872-1941).

What is also interesting, for the antique dealers project, is that a number of (then) high profile London antique dealers and interior decorators supplied the antique furniture for the play. The dealers listed in the playbill were the interior decorators ‘Thornton Smith Limited, 31 Soho Square’; antique dealers ‘Keeble Limited, 10 Carlisle Street’, ‘Parkenthorpe, Ebury Street’, and ‘Spillmans, St. Martin’s Lane’, who are all listed as supplying the ‘furniture’ and acknowledged for their ‘expert advice in this regard’.

The project interactive map website, at present, includes entries for ‘Keeble’ – and trading at 10 Carlisle Street, indeed we even have an image of the interior of their shop, dated 1927.

Keeble Carlisle House Carlisle Street London Oct 1927 Conn The Oak Room at Carlisle House

Keeble (1914) Ltd, Carlisle Street, ‘Oak Room’, 1927.

Parkenthorpe were trading at the time at 79 Ebury Street, as ‘dealers in antiquities’ – see again our project interactive map.

We can get a sense of the attention to authentic detail in the room settings for the play ‘Quinneys’ from the stage directions in the play script; the play opens in ‘The Sanctuary in Quinney’s house in Soho Square’ (one can note here that there is an extra layer of authenticity here, as the antique dealers Thornton Smith, in real life, also had premises in Soho Square)…and the stage directions continue:

‘The rise of the curtain discloses a beautiful room, filled with rare and costly furniture, prints in colour, miniatures and tapestry. Obviously the room belongs to a collector who is a connoisseur….between the windows is a magnificent Chinese lacquer cabinet, standing on a Charles II gilded and carved stand. On the cabinet is a Kang He mirror-black bottle about twenty inches high. An Adam’s mantelpiece, with dog grate, in which logs are burning….an incised lacquer screen, with a gilded Carolean chair in front of it. Upon the mantelpiece are a set of five blue-and-white jars, Oriental china of the eighteenth century. An old Aubusson carpet is on the parquet floor…..there is not much furniture, but it is of the finest Chippendale period….’

The description suggests a display of all of the most fashionable antiques of the period…the ‘Kang He mirror-black bottle’ was of the, then, hugely expensive, so-called famille-noir Chinese ceramics, collected by major figures such as Lord Lever during the opening decades of the 20th century.

Quinney/Rohan is certainly becoming a fascinating case-study of the evolving social and cultural identity of the antique dealer!

Mark

 

 

 

 

December 31, 2014

Even more on Thomas Rohan!

The blog posts on the antique dealer and author Thomas Rohan (see previous posts) are becoming quite a theme – thanks again to John Cresswell who very kindly posted photocopies of some newspaper clippings reporting the death of Rohan in 1940, as well as some photos of the house that Rohan lived in during his time in Bournemouth in the 1930s.

This Christmas, one of my presents (thank you Clara!) was a small (tiny actually!) booklet entitled ‘The Origin of Quinneys’ (by E. Montefiore) – it is undated, but perhaps c.1940 when Rohan died? The little booklet, which came all the way from a book dealer in the USA, rehearses the story of Rohan being the basis for the character of ‘Joe Quinney’ in Horace Vachell’s novels (see earlier blog entries for details on this).

 

quinneys booklet 1quinneys booklet 2

The booklet, as you can see, really is a tiny thing – here photographed next to a UK pound coin.

One thing that is interesting to note about Rohan is that for his first shop, located in High Street, Southampton, from c.1903, Rohan traded as ‘Thomas Rudd’. He tells us, in his autobiographical book Confessions of a Dealer (1924) how he came to trade as ‘Rudd’, and how he eventually renamed the business (actually called A. Rohan – after his wife Alice Rohan) by 1919. As Rohan writes;

‘How I took the trading name of Rudd was in this fashion. For family reasons I was asked not to use my own name as a dealer. I rather resented this, but for peace and quietness agreed. Just before opening my little shop, I went to a sale, and bought a grandfather clock. The auctioneer asked, “What name?” I called out my own name of Rohan. He said, “Rudd?” I said, “Yes, put it down R U double D” and from that time for fifteen years I was known as Rudd.’ Confessions of a Dealer, p.71.

Newspaper reports on the death of Rohan in 1940 suggest that he was ‘the scion of the noble family of France, the Prince and Ducs de Rohan’ (Bournemouth Echo, 27.1.1940) – so it may have been that associations with the ‘trade’ were not seen to be appropriate when Rohan first set up as a dealer in 1903. Whatever the reason, Thomas Rohan is a fascinating example of an early 20th century antique dealer!

Mark

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