Posts tagged ‘antique dealer archives’

July 26, 2017

More new archives! H.M. Lee & R.A. Lee archives arrive at University – and an object biography

Our corpus of antique dealer archives continues to expand – this week we accepted delivery of the archive of the world famous antique dealers Henry Morton Lee and Ronald A. Lee, generously donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds by Georgina Gough, the daughter of Ronald Lee. The archive (shown below before deposit in the Special Collections) comprises a selection of stock books, sales ledgers, press cuttings and photographs of stock, together with what appears to be a complete run of stock cards, dating from the 1920s to the 1990s.

H.M. Lee and R.A. Lee archive. Brotherton Library Special Collections.

The Lee family antique dealing business began in Kingston on Thames just after WWI (Henry Morton Lee began as a hairdresser in London, counting King Edward VII as a customer); Ronald Lee joined his father in the business in 1931 before eventually setting up on his own in 1949 – the business closed in the 1990s.

During the 1920s and 1930s Henry Lee sold a vast array of objects to many of the most important dealers of the day, including Joseph Duveen (1869-1939), the son of Joseph Joel Duveen of the world-renowned Duveen dynasty of dealers – here’s just one page of sales to Duveen, in 1927 – Henry sold him, amongst other things, ‘a Double Dome Walnut Bureau Bookcase..£161.0.0’ and a ‘Walnut armchair £55.0.0.’ –  very fashionable, and very expensive, objects in the 1920s and 1930s.

Lee Archive, sales ledger – entry for Duveen, 1927. Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Ronald Lee, like his father Henry, was a highly successful dealer, and was also an expert on clocks – especially the clockmaker Joseph Knibb and family (Ronald wrote the biography of the Knibb family of clockmakers in 1965 – still a key work on the subject).  Ronald sold an astonishingly wide range of objects, to collectors and museums all over the world – a key driver for Lee appears to have been the historical significance of objects (as well as their beauty of course);  he was clearly an antiquarian dealer, demonstrated by the historical importance of many of the objects he sold –

The Savernake Horn for example – sold (in partnership with the well-known silver dealer S.J. Phillips) to the British Museum in 1975.

The Savernake Horn, 1100-99 with 14th century mounts. Image copyright The British Museum.

And the so-called ‘Katherine Parr Pott’, (see below) sold to the Museum of London in 1967 – this glass tankard, with silver mounts dated 1546-47, emblazoned with the arms of Sir William Parr, was bought by Ronald Lee from Sudeley Castle – the glass body is now believed to be an 18th or 19th century replacement. The tankard has an illustrious history, having been acquired by the collector Horace Walpole in 1758 (cost £2.19.0) and sold at the dispersal of the Collections at Strawberry Hill (Walople’s house) in 1842 and bought by John Dent for £3.13.6 – the Dent-Brocklehurst family, at Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, sold the Parr Pot to Ronald Lee in 1967, before Lee sold the tankard to the Museum of London for £18,214.00 in the same year.  The tankard was subject to an Export Stop because of its historical significance; according to the archive it seems that Lee had initially and successfully negotiated a sale to the Boston Museum of Fine Art in the USA, but funds were raised through the British Government, The Art Fund, The Pilgrim Trust and the Goldsmiths Company to save the tankard for the Nation.

The Parr Pot. Image copyright, The Museum of London.

The ‘Parr Pot’ is just one of a wide range of fascinating stories about the acquisitions made by Ronald Lee in the Lee archive…there are far too many to recount in a short blog post, but it is worth retelling the story of the acquisition, and subsequent sale, of one of the most interesting objects that Ronald Lee sold – the story demonstrates the significance of ‘Object Biographies’ in the conceptualization (and reconceptualization) of objects – it is also a story that re-embeds the significance of the narrative of the personal into these now very public objects.

Anyway, in 1966 Ronald Lee negotiated the sale of what was then considered to be an exceptionally rare 13th century Limoges enamel Ciborium to the (then) Royal Scottish Museum (now National Museum of Scotland).

Ciborium, in the 13th century style – probably 19th century. Photograph copyright National Museum of Scotland.

Lee spotted the bowl of the Ciborium, then lacking it’s foot at an auction sale at Sotheby’s in April 1965.

Ciborium Bowl, lacking foot – photograph copyright Sotheby’s 1965.

He had, a few years earlier, again it seems at a Sotheby’s auction, acquired the stem/foot from a similarly dated object, and which (so Georgina Gough, Ronald Lee’s daughter tells us) Ronald had given to his wife as a little present –

Ciborium Foot; Photograph, Lee Archive, Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Seeing the bowl at Sotheby’s presented the opportunity of reuniting the foot and bowl and Ronald Lee had to do the right thing  – (it must be a common practice in all antique dealer families that objects are inherently unstable….and always subject to potential future sale…). The story was reported in the Press at the time, recounting the breathless moment when the foot and bowl fitted together as one – rather like the story of Cinderella and the glass slipper!

But anyway, Lee offered the Ciborium, now with its foot, to the Royal Scottish Museum in 1966, and the then Keeper of Art, Cyril Aldred, approved the acquisition and the object entered the collections in Edinburgh.  The Ciborium was lauded as a major acquisition, it was one of the most expensive objects ever acquired by sale by the museum at that time – costing £8,500 – an enormous sum in 1965.  It was related to the Master Alpais, the creator of the 13th century Ciborium in the collections of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and to a similiar Ciborium in the collections at the British Museum in London; the world renowned scholar and curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, John F. Hayward considered these comparisons and the significance of the Ciborium in an extensive article ‘A Newly discovered Limoges ciborium’ in Connoisseur (vol CLIX, pp.240-1). So consensus at the time, from leading experts, curators, and one of the leading antique dealers, was that the Ciborium was of the 13th century, and possibly associated with the workshop of the Master Alpais.

But authenticity is also an unstable concept – indeed, if we can borrow, and slightly amend, a phrase from Georg Simmel (1858-1918), the philosopher and critic, and founder of the discipline of anthropology, (he writes that ‘value is not a property of objects, but a judgement by a subject’), then perhaps we can say that authenticity is also not a property of an object, but a judgement by a subject –  Time, and, more importantly, new knowledge structures have repositioned the Ciborium, and it now considered to be a 19th century copy – for a full, and excellent account of the art historical and scientific analysis of the Ciborium at NMS and a comparison with that at the British Museum  see ‘The Heritage of ‘Maitre Alpais’ edited by Susan La Niece, Stefan Rohrs and Bet McLeod, (British Museum Press, 2010).

There is no moral to this story as such – I hesitate to rehearse the notion ‘caveat emptor!’, especially as I am writing about antique dealers, and I’m conscious that to rehearse this story is also to further embed the trope of the dealer as ‘problematic’ in the cultural consciousness – but it remains a fascinating story about an object, and how its meaning, and significance, is reframed as it moves between discrete, but intimately interconnected realms.  As this story recounts, the meaning of the Ciborium shifted as it moved between the realms of objects of commerce and economic value to those of heritage and museums, but, crucially, it retained its commodity status, and its status shifted again as new approaches and methods established, (indeed constituted) the authenticity of the object.

But for me, being an old Romantic, the enduring story about the Ciborium is the very human story of Georgina’s recalling that the foot of the Ciborium was a present (albeit temporary) for Mrs Lee.

All the while these objects acquire significant status in museums, they remain as catalysts for innumerable personally situated memories, of the private, intimate relationships we have with things.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 17, 2017

Generous donation to the Antique Dealer and Art Market Archives

Interest in the antiques dealer and art market archives continues to grow.  The archives, as readers of the blog will probably know, are part of the Centre for the Study of the Art and Antiques Market (CSAAM) here at the University of Leeds, and are deposited in the Brotherton Library Special Collections  You can read about the archives deposited, and promised, to the CSAAM in the archives pages on the CSAAM website – click CSAAM.

The  latest addition, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Executors of the estate of late Anthony J. Evans (1954-2008) the well-known scholar and collector of Chinese Ceramics, and Michael Evans the brother of A. J. Evans, is a selection of provenance material, biographical information and related material associated with the collections of Chinese ceramics assembled by Anthony J. Evans. The material has already been catalogued by the team at the Brotherton Library Special Collections (thank you to Karen Sayers, archivist at the BLSC) and is available for consultation – the catalogue record is MS2071 – 1/2/3 – it’s certainly worth a look!

The archive material donated to the university is mainly devoted to the dispersal auction sales of the A.J. Evans collection at Bonhams auctioneers in London in November 2011.  These collections were primarily of Chinese ceramics, something for which Anthony had a special interest and was a world-leading scholar and author. The market for Chinese ceramics is, as many will be aware, very strong in particular areas, but perhaps it’s surprising  (to some…including me!) how valuable some early 20th century Chinese ceramics can be? A.J. Evans certainly had a very good eye!…For example, this Republic Period (1912-1949) plaque achieved £240,000 at the Bonhams sale in 2013 –

Republic Period Chinese polychrome plaque, from the A.J. Evans Collection. Photograph, Bonhams Auctioneers, 2011.

And this rare pair of fan-shaped plaques c.1900-1920, decorated and signed by Pan Taoyu (c.1887-1926) made an even more spectacular £360,000 at the Bonhams auction sale of the A.J. Evans collection.

Rare pair of fan-shaped plaques c.1900-1920 by Pan Taoyu (c.1887-1926) from the A.J. Evans Collection. Photograph, Bonhams Auctioneers, 2011.

I hope this whets your appetite to take a look at the archive information on the A.J. Evans collection; it has been meticulously assembled by Michael Evans and includes all the dealer invoices for the objects that Anthony collected, as well as biographical information and copies of the auction sale catalogues and provenance notes composed by Anthony J. Evans himself – it is an extraordinary resource for future scholars and researchers on the history of the art market, and the history of the taste for collecting Chinese ceramics in particular. Our warm thanks go to the Executors of the Estate of Anthony J. Evans and Michael Evans for donating this fascinating material to the CSAAM and the Brotherton Library Special Collections.

 

NOTE: (and thank you to Michael Evans and Dominic Jellinek for pointing out the initial error on the first posting of this blog – the A.J. Evans (below) is in fact a different individual from Anthony J. Evans (above) – but it is quite an interesting coincidence that there are 2 collectors of Chinese works of art, both called A.J. Evans, and both collecting in the same period, and both with auctions of their collections around the same time!…)

Anyway – this other A.J. Evans was a also celebrated collector of Chinese works of art, a taste he seems to have inherited from his father Frederick Evans, who worked for an Anglo-Chinese mining company in China during the 1920s. Anthony Evans inherited a range of early Chinese ceramics from his father, including this early 18th century polychrome decorated bowl (below), which was sold at one of the auction sales of A.J Evans collection at Canterbury in Kent in 2013, where it realised £235,000.

Early 18th Century Chinese Bowl from the A.J. Evans Collection. Photograph, Canterbury Auctions, Kent, 2013.

Thanks again to Michael and Dominic for pointing out the initial error!

Mark

 

April 11, 2017

Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholar (UGRLS) 2017

The Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship is a two-year scholarship funded by alumni, offered to first-year students, which enables students to develop their research and leadership skills through participating in academic research projects and attending residential and one day events. The Scholarship is unique in that it funds students to participate in live research, as well as developing their skills for future research and leadership roles in employment or further study. Furthermore, it offers scholars the opportunity to attend networking events to meet other UGRLS scholars and researchers, as well as providing scholars with the chance to attend conferences related to their project. The scholarship is one of the most prestigious offered at the University of Leeds, and I’m greatly looking forward to fully engaging with both the scholarship and the research project.

I am a first-year International History and Politics student, and I’m greatly interested in the life-course of objects, such as how they are affected by outside influences and why they are moved to different places of residence. I’m also interested in the social history of the 20th century, and after having never studied neither antique dealers or the antique trade, I’m looking forward to learning more about the subject. I also love primary sources, so the chance to work with primary materials like sales ledgers and photographs greatly attracted me to this fantastic project.

The ‘Where is it Now?’ aspect of the project is what I’m most looking forward to, especially finding out how and why antiques changed hands, and the opportunity to develop both my primary source skills and ability to handle and care for archived materials are arguably my other favourite aspects of the project. My personal favourite of the ‘Where is it Now?’ antiques is the ‘Fine Italian Marquetrie Bureau Bookcase’ (http://csaam.leeds.ac.uk/archives-where-is-it-now/where-is-it-now-number-4/) and I can’t wait to start working with the team to try and track this down.

Liv

Liv

April 3, 2017

‘Where is it Now?’ – more objects to find

Following the success of the finding of the first of our ‘Where is it Now?’ objects from the Phillips of Hitchin archives, (we found the delftware plate in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as you will know), we have posted 6 more photographs of objects to find.  You can see the photographs and the archive detail associated with them on the ‘Where is it Now?’ pages on the Centre for the Study of the Art & Antiques Market – click here

Thanks especially to Peter Edwards, Faculty IT support at the University of Leeds for helping to create extra ‘Where is it Now?’ pages! The new objects are, we hope, relatively easy to identify, if they still exist of course – they may have been destroyed?  The photographs all date from the early 20th century, and the attributions in the archive may have been revised in the intervening years….but the objects are still fascinating illustrations of the taste for antiques in the period prior to World War I.

Do check out the ‘Where is it Now?’ pages and if you know where the objects are at present, do email us – antiquedealers@leeds.ac.uk

Mark

March 6, 2017

‘Where is it Now?’ – we found the first one!

Thanks to Simon Spier, one of our Centre for the Study of the Art & Antiques Market PhD students, we have found the first of the ‘Where is it Now?’ objects. The object in question is a ‘Lambeth’ Delftware plate, dated 1717, with the initials ‘W D C’ painted on the top rim.

ms1999-4-1-52-plaque

Delftware plate, dated 1717. Phillips of Hitchin Archive MS1999/4/1/52. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds, 2017.

The plate was in the stock of the antique dealers Phillips of Hitchin in c.1900, shown above in one of the photograph albums of stock that are part of the Phillips archive at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds.

We have discovered that the delftware plate is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA. The plate is currently part of the Met Museum’s collections of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts – here’s a link to the Met Museum collections online for the PLATE 

And here’s the plate itself, in full, glorious colour! The plate is on display in Gallery 710 in the Met Museum if you want to go and see it for yourself.

delftware-plate-1717

Lambeth delftware plate, dated 1717, diameter 9 inches.. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 12.279.9 Rogers Fund, 1913. Photograph copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Metropolitan Museum acquired the plate in 1913 (via the Rogers Fund), through the well-known antique dealer Frederick Rathbone (1837-1919). Rathbone was, by 1913, trading at 20 Alfred Place, South Kensington, London, and would have been in his mid 70s when he sold the plate to the Met Museum. He was an acknowledged expert on antique ceramics, especially on Wedgwood and ‘Old English Pottery’; he was famous for helping to assemble the collections of William Hesketh Lever (1851-1925) 1st Viscount Leverhulme, and the extensive collections of 18th century Wedgwood ceramics assembled by Lord Tweedmouth (1820-1894).

It’s not known when, for how much, or to whom, Phillips of Hitchin sold the plate – it may have been sold direct to Rathbone, we have yet to discover that information, but it will be buried in the extensive archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections.  What we do know is that Phillips bought the plate from the collection of the well-known collector W.H. Booth of Ipswich in Suffolk sometime around 1900.

Anyway, we are pleased at least to have found the first of the ‘Where is it Now?’ objects, and to have provided a little more provenance information to the delftware plate in the collections at the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Mark

 

February 28, 2017

Lord Laidlaw Undergraduate Scholarships 2017

The development of future research on the rich series of antique dealer archives donated to the Brotherton Library Special Collections has had some recent success in an internally funded project (at the University of Leeds) – just to demonstrate that we are not sitting on our hands in our future strategy for ensuring that the rich potential of the very generous donations of key archive material continues!  Anyway, we were successful in our application to run a two year scholarship for an undergraduate student to work alongside the project team and develop research skills, and archive cataloguing skills, as part of a project to increase the research activity on the antique dealer archives.

The Scholarship is part of a series of generously funded projects from Lord Laidlaw – ours is the project called –

‘Object Trajectories – archives, objects, museums in the Phillips of Hitchin and Roger Warner archives’   

The scholarships are only open to existing students at the University of Leeds, but we hope that the successful student will be inspired to continue their research on the history of the antique trade…building new capacity for future research into this important aspect of our cultural life.

We’ll let you know the successful student as soon as the interviews have taken place, and will encourage the successful student to blog about their experience on the project in the coming months.

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

August 28, 2016

Final Day in ‘Action Week’ on Phillips of Hitchin archives

‘Action Week’ at the Brotherton Library Special Collections came to a close on Friday – it was an exhausting, but very productive week of cleaning and cataloguing – and thank you again to everyone that helped out with the Phillips of Hitchin archives – to the team at Brotherton Special Collections – Sharon, Francis, Tim and Joanne, (and everyone else!); and to the volunteers in the archives Helen, Matt and Riza, and our Antique Dealer project volunteers, Heather, Pauline, Sue and Yiwen – it was such a great team effort!…. here’s four of the happy volunteers (see also pictures of the volunteers in previous blog posts) –

archive action week

Action Week volunteers – L-R, Yiwen, Pauline, Heather & Sue.

There’s still an awful lot of cleaning and cataloguing to do, but we made great progress on the Phillips of Hitchin archives – and made some new discoveries…the archive is certainly beginning to reveal the rich potential that we always knew it had. And from the huge variety of materials (sales ledgers, day-books, photograph albums, correspondence files, etc etc) some fascinating stories are emerging.

One of  the tasks we undertook was the cleaning and cataloguing of some of the scores of small (6 inch high) ‘photograph albums’; they appear to date from the early 20th century, and contain a huge variety of black & white photographs of antiques – the condition of the albums is mostly fair, but many of them need a little bit of care and attention; see below for an image of the cover of one of the albums –

photo album c1910

Photograph Album, c.1900, Phillips of Hitchin archives MS/1999/4/1. Photograph courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

They contain fascinating images of the type of stock that Phillips of Hitchin traded in during  the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and there are some interesting objects – such as this late 17th century armchair, seemingly still with it’s original upholstery, but with a fascinating repair-job to the feet, which appears to have been added in the late 18th or early 19th century?

PoH MS1999.4.1.15

Photo Album, Phillips of Hitchin archives, MS1999/4/1/15. Photograph courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections.

The pencil annotation below the photograph states ‘Sold’, but I wonder how long the chair retained it’s subsequent, practical, additions…and how long before it had a much more historically ‘sympathetic’ repair – if I’m honest, I quite like the old repair, it is, after all, a testimony to the history of the object.

Within the Phillips of Hitchin archives, as one would expect, there are thousands of transactions with hundreds of other antique dealers – including the most high-profile dealers at the time – as well as all the major collectors and museums one could think of……..the archive also contains a wide range of photographs of the interior displays at Phillips of Hitchin. The especially interesting images are those taken during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – including this amazing image of the ‘Corner of the English China Room’ (c.1900), showing a wide range of antique ceramics, including some (now) seemingly exceptionally rare things!

PoH English Ceramics room MS1999.4.1.17

Phillips of Hitchin archives, photo of ‘Corner of English China Room’. MS1999/4/1/17. Photograph courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections.

As I say, there is an exceptionally rich potential for further research into the Phillips of Hitchin archives – and, as followers to the Antique Dealer Research Project will know, we also have an oral history interview with Jerome Phillips, the 3rd generation of the family business, and donator of the archive to the Brotherton Library Special Collections; if you would like to hear about the history of the firm from the person that really knows about it do have a listen to the interview Here’s a link to the interview –

Interview with Jerome Phillips

We are continuing to clean and catalogue the Phillips of Hitchin archives in the coming months, and will post information on any interesting discoveries, so do keep your eye on the Research Blog.

Mark

 

 

August 25, 2016

More ‘Action Week ‘ work on the Phillips of Hitchin archives

We are making steady progress this week on the enormous task of cleaning and cataloguing the Phillips of Hitchin archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds. The Brotherton Library drafted in their Special Collections team, and extra volunteers, for the rest of the ‘Action Week’ project on the archive – special thanks to the hard work of Francis (conservator at the Brotherton Library), together with Sharon, (head conservator) and our team of volunteers, Sue, Pauline, Heather, Matt, Helen and Riza – we are getting through the masses of material now. Here’s the team in the Special Collections archive room at the Library, busy cleaning, all masked-up – it’s dangerous work!

action week volunteers new

Cleaning the Phillips of Hitchin Archives. L-to-R, Helen, Pauline, Heather and Matt (left-hand table) and Riza, Sue and Francis (right-hand table).

Considering that the archive had been stored in a garage in Hitchin for most of it’s life, (it dates from c.1880s-to present) the archive arrived at the Brotherton in generally good condition, although parts of the archive had been subject to damp and mould and pest – hence the need for masks and gloves for the cleaning.  The process of cleaning and cataloguing is a huge task though, and at present we are only able to undertake brief cataloguing – we’re hoping for some funding to extend and complete the task!

As one would expect, given the significance of the history of the business of Phillips of Hitchin, the archive is absolutely packed with fascinating information on high profile transactions – all yet to be discovered!…but we thought we’d give you a flavour of the kinds of material that is buried in the archive –

The client lists of Phillips of Hitchin is a veritable ‘who’s-who’ of major collectors of antiques, and hundreds of sales of museums world-wide – here’s just one of many sales of antique furniture to the American collector Henry Ford II – for the sale of an 18th century English commode in the French taste, c.1770 – sold in 1957 for the sum of £2,750 –

H Ford II 1957

Copy Invoice, to Henry Ford II (21/10/1957) Phillips of Hitchin archive MS1999. Courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

Other, perhaps more surprising discoveries, include sales of antique furniture to the British Modern Sculptor, Henry Moore (1898-1986).  Moore was buying a wide range of 18th century antique furniture from Phillips of Hitchin in the late 1970s for his home/studio at Perry Green in Hertfordshire.  All of the furniture in the selection of sales invoices we’ve seen so far in the archive is for what one would consider to be ‘country furniture’ (18th century ‘fruitwood’ chairs; an early 18th century walnut side chair; an 18th century oak hanging cupboard; an 18th century ‘Yew wood’ settle, etc).

henry moore 1978 1

Copy Invoice, Phillips of Hitchin, to the sculptor Henry Moore, 1978. Phillips of Hitchin archive, MS1999. Courtesy of The Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

This is not out of keeping with Moore’s interest in ‘crafts’ of course – and no doubt the tactile nature of country-made antique furniture resonated with Moore – but it’s fascinating to see evidence of these sales of antiques to the great ‘Modernist’ sculptor.

The archive of Phillips of Hitchin covers over 120 years of antique dealing, and we are so grateful to Jerome Phillips, the last surviving member of this famous antique-dealing dynasty, for generously donating the archive to the Brotherton Library Special Collections, and the Centre for the Study of the Art & Antiques Market at the University of Leeds. It will, once we’ve finished cleaning and cataloguing it, be an astonishingly valuable resource for future researchers and scholars.

Mark

 

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