Posts tagged ‘Antique Furniture’

January 19, 2017

‘As it’s called in the Trade’ – more generous help to the research project

Thanks again to the vast number of interested, and interesting, individuals who follow the Antique Dealer research project we continue to build an archive of the Cultural History of the Antique Trade.  And this time our thanks go to our friend and colleague, Dr Howard Coutts, Curator of Decorative Art and Ceramics at The Bowes Museum, in County Durham.  Howard very generously donated a small box of antique dealer related ephemera that he recently discovered in a charity shop – Thank You Howard!

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Material for the proposed book ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’. Early 1980s. Photograph, Antique Dealers Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

The material appears to be an outline draft structure and associated images for a publication entitled ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’, composed by the writer Brian Jewell, apparently in the early 1980s. Brian Jewell (1925-2006) was a prolific author, with at least 20 publications, ranging from local history subjects to military history.  He appears to have been something of a specialist in military history, indeed he also appears to have been in an editorial role for the journal ‘Soldier‘ in the early 1990s (‘Soldier‘ has been published since the Second World War, and continues to be produced), whilst running something called ‘War Room – Collection and Sound Archive’ in Harrogate, West Yorkshire.  Jewell also produced a small number of books on collecting in the 1970s and 1980s, including, Antique Sewing Machines (1985), Smoothing Irons: a history and collector’s guide (1977), and Collecting for Tomorrow (1979) – and was obviously preparing to produce a book on collecting antique furniture, as this archive demonstrates.

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Photographs and draft structures for ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’. Photo., Antique Dealer Project, University of Leeds, 2017.

I don’t know why his proposed book ‘As it’s Called in the Trade’ did not hit the press, but the small amount of archive material that Howard donated to us suggests that considerable work had already been done.

The material consists of a few pages of draft structures for the book, with title and chapter headings (all relatively conventional for the time, as one would expect), and a large amount of black and white photographs of antique furniture, all from Bonhams auctioneers, from what must have a been a series of English and Continental Furniture auctions in 1980 and 1981.

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18th century ‘library chair’. Original photograph copyright Bonhams Auctioneers.

Back in those days, the major auction houses used to classify auctions into collecting categories – ‘English Furniture’ ‘French Furniture’ ‘Continental Furniture’ etc etc…today of course the big auction houses are much more keyed into evolving and expanding markets and titles of auctions often follow sophisticated marketing and promotional techniques  – hence auctions titled ‘Interiors’ and the numerous ‘curated’ auctions in more recent times.

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One of a pair of ‘George III Pier Tables’, original photograph, Bonhams Auctioneers, 1981.

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Verso of ‘Pier Table’ photo – with details of price realized and buyer. Bonhams Auctioneers, 1981.

What is of particular interest to the antique dealer project in the small archive is how it further illustrates the synergies between the developing literature on the history of objects such as ‘antique furniture’ and the wider art market structures – the relationships between discourses if you like. This is made much more evident when one examines the back of the photographs – all of which have a range of art market information on them.

In this instance, this pair of ‘George III Pier Tables’ was sold at Bonhams auction on 28th July 1981, when they made £7,200, and were recorded as being sold to the dealer ‘Turpin’ – (M. Turpin Antiques, which was then run by the well known dealer ‘Dick’ Turpin, who was at the time trading from Mansion Mews, London SW7).

 

Other photographs similarly illustrate furniture sold at the auction house of Bonhams in 1980 and 1981. The ‘library chair’ in the photograph above for example, was one of a set of eight chairs sold at Bonhams on 25th March 1980 for £10,500 to the dealer ‘Williamson’ (possibly R.G. Williamson, then trading in Devon).  Other photographs just record the description of the object, auction lot number, and priced realized, such as this ‘George III mahogany serpentine chest’ which was sold at Bonhams on 17th July 1980 for £1,250. (There are probably buyer’s premiums to add to these figures of course, which in those days was c.10%).

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A ‘George III…chest’. Original photograph Bonham Auctioneers, 1980.

All of this is not unusual of course – why wouldn’t a publication that intends to provide illustrations of antique furniture seek photographs of antique furniture that have recently been circulating on the art market.  But there is an interesting genealogy here, if we remember that many of the founding texts that focused on the history of English Furniture, which began to appear with increasing frequency from the period 1900 onwards, had also drawn their illustrations of key objects from the corpus of photographed examples circulating in the antique trade in the period. Attention to the meanings of this observation is something that the project is considering, and I’d like to say thank you again to Howard Coutts for providing us with yet another example of the significant interaction between discourse and the market.

Mark

 

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April 1, 2015

The semantics of the antique trade

One (just one) of the research objectives of the Antique Dealers project is to map, analyse and contextualise the changing language of description and classification used by the antique trade over the period 1900-2000 – and our interactive website (soon to be officially launched) will begin the process of tracking the huge variety of classifications and descriptions that reflect, as well as act as catalysts for, the specialist marketing practices deployed by, and developed by, the trade.  So, for example, some of the questions we are thinking about are when, and where, did antique dealers begin to call themselves ‘Old English Furniture Dealers’, and when/where did ‘antique furniture dealers’ emerge to be a dominant trade classification/description…or when/where did ‘Old Chelsea Porcelain’ emerge as a description deployed by antique dealers…or ‘Old Irish Glass’….?

The language of description and layering of classifications suggest subtle (and sometimes less so subtle) positioning within the complex collecting and classificatory structures of the antique markets over time.

Within the archives of the Metropolitan Museum are some interesting examples of the changing landscape of antique dealer descriptions –

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Invoice from French & Co, 1915, Box 37 Folder 40, Robert Lehman papers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives.

Here, (above) in 1915, the well-known dealers, French & Co, describe themselves as selling ‘Antique Furniture and Tapestries of Guaranteed Authenticity’, and also list ‘Interior Decorators’ as a practice.  Later letterheads and invoices issued by French & Co., in the 1950s, for example, classify them as selling ‘Works of Art’.

By contrast, an invoice issued in 1952 by James A. Lewis & Son Inc., the American branch of the London antique dealers, indicated that they were ‘Specialists in Old English Furniture & Porcelains’ –

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Invoice from James Lewis & Son, 1952, Box 38 Folder 15, Robert Lehman papers. The Metropolitan Museum Archives. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum Archives.

Whereas ‘Charles of London’ (Charles Duveen, we encountered in previous blog entries) described themselves as ‘Dealers in Antique & Decorative Works of Art’ in 1936 – (see below) –

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Invoice from Charles of London, 1936, Box 37 Folder 12, Robert Lehman papers. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum Archives.

 

And the specialist ceramics (as we might say today) dealer H.R. Hancock described themselves in an invoice of 1934 as dealers in ‘Old Chinese Porcelain, Furniture and Works of Art’ – (see below) –

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Invoice, H.R. Hancock, 1934, Box 38 Folder 2, Robert Lehman papers. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum Archives.

An investigation of the framework of meanings behind these changes and shifts are a key part of the antique dealer research project.

Mark

February 22, 2015

More on Connell & Sons, Glasgow – and BADA

We’ve discovered a bit more about James Connell & Sons (the ‘Art Dealers’) in Glasgow (see earlier blog post on Connell).  Thanks to Mark Dodgson, Secretary General, and Riley Grant, membership Secretary, at The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) who very kindly emailed us a PDF copy of the full catalogue for the ‘Art Treasures Exhibition 1932’. The exhibition, ‘under the auspices of The British Antique Dealers’ Association’, was held at Christie’s auction rooms in King Street, London, October 12th to November 5th, 1932.

There are lots of fascinating things in the catalogue itself, not least the kind of stock that antique dealers sold in the 1930s – but there’s too much to outline here in a short blog post! However, amongst the exhibitors was our friend ‘James Connell & Sons’ – at this date trading at 26 Old Bond Street, London, and also at 75 Vincent Street, Glasgow.

As readers of this Blog will know, we regularly highlight the overlapping trading practices of the ‘Antique Trade’, and drew attention to the fact that James Connell & Sons, were, conventionally at least, classified as ‘Picture Dealers’ – and you’ll know that we disrupted the smoothness of such classificatory parameters in our earlier Blog post on an exhibition catalogue of ‘A Few Examples of Old Furniture of Fine Character and Quality’ that Connell & Sons staged at their Glasgow gallery in c.1915 (see earlier blog post).

In the ‘Art Treasures’ exhibition of 1932 Connell also exhibited objects…but again, not paintings, but ‘antiques’ – including ‘A George II stool c.1745’; See image here – sorry about the poor quality- connell

They also exhibited ‘A George II mahogany chest of drawers, c.1755’, and ‘A Balloon bracket clock, c.1790’ – and despite there being a small section at the exhibition devoted to pictures, Connell & Sons did not contribute to that section of the exhibition. So, it seems, on this evidence at least, that Connell & Sons continued to trade in antique furniture from at least c.1915, up to the 1930s, and whilst all the time classified at ‘art dealers’.

This is not to say of course that other ‘picture dealers’ did not also sell ‘antiques’, nor of course that ‘antique dealers’ did not sell pictures….but maybe it points towards a more complex network of overlapping practices that are not captured by the trading classifications of ‘art dealer’, ‘antique dealer’ and etc…and, as you know, part of the objective of the current research project is to explore these shades of grey (there’s an up to date allusion for you!) –  the umbra, penumbra and antumbra of the antique trade…

Mark

 

January 27, 2015

Art Dealers & Antique Dealers – James Connell & Sons, Glasgow

As followers of the Antique Dealers Project blog will already know, one of the problems we’ve encountered as the project has developed is where to draw the line around ‘antique dealers’ as a practice (or profession).  Earlier posts have pointed towards the overlaps between the antique trade and the second-hand trade – the shift between ‘antique’ and ‘second-hand’ is always a moveable feast!

One of the decisions we took early on in the development of the research questions for the project was that we were not going to focus on the ‘Fine Art’ trade – the history of the Picture Dealer is already a well mapped out research area, and we thought we would leave to other scholars – (many of which, I count as good friends and colleagues actually!)

Anyway, as we already knew, things are complicated! This was brought into sharper focus when I recently acquired a little catalogue of an exhibition held at James Connell & Sons, in Glasgow.

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James Connell & Sons, Exhibition Catalogue. c.1910

Connell is well known amongst art historians as a ‘Fine Art’ dealer – one who emerged from the picture frame making trades in the middle decades of the 19th century – for more specific detail on Connell do take a look at the excellent research projects on the Art Trade (Dr Pamela Fletcher’s fab site at Bowdoin College) The London Gallery Project

Or the large research project ‘Mapping the Profession and Practice of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951

Connell in these projects is located in the boundaries of the picture trade – and I expect that is where they properly reside – however, as you’ll see by the title of the little exhibiton catalogue (above) Connell also, occasionally I imagine, sold ‘Antique Furniture’ (or ‘Old Furniture’ as their catalogue suggests) – which (for us, at least) further complicates the boundaries of the antique trade – not that they are ever defined so clearly anyway, we know that!

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to show the Connell catalogue – it’s a small ‘souvenir’ (as they state) of an undated exhibition, but certainly seems to date from c.1910.

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Connell catalogue, c.1910

The introductory page states that Connell ‘have been fortunate in acquiring recently superb examples of Chippendale, Adam, Sheraton, and Hepplewhite furniture from well-known collections. Those beautiful specimens form a most interesting exhibition. which is presently being held at their galleries, 31 Renfield Street, Glasgow.’

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‘Satinwood Commode’ from Connell catalogue, c.1910

There are perhaps a dozen individually photographed pieces of furniture, ranging from 16th/17th century oak, to late 18th century satinwood furniture – not sure that some of the pieces would pass the ‘authenticity test’ today, but that’s beside the point.  The real interest here, as far as the current research project in the ‘antique trade’ in concerned, is that catalogues such as Connell’s demonstrate the blurred boundaries of the history of the ‘art’ market.

Mark

 

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