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

 

 

 

 

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