Posts tagged ‘C Charles’

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

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March 30, 2015

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 –

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Arthur Vernay, 51 Berkeley Square, London house interior, c.1929. Image courtesy of Chris Jussel.

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Arthur Vernay, 51 Berkeley Square, London house interior, c.1929. Image courtesy of Chris Jussel.

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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

 

 

 

 

March 29, 2015

More on early 20th century antique dealers in New York

Following the blog post on ‘searching for Duveen’ in the streets of New York I thought it would be interesting to find the former locations of some of the other antique dealers I encountered in the archives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – it’s also the opportunity to share some of the fascinating archive documents in the archives (thanks again to Melissa Bowling, one of the archivists at the Met Museum for helping with the research for the Antique Dealer project!) Most of the dealer galleries dating from the early part of the 20th century seem to have been demolished in the continual processes of renewal of the architectural landscape of New York city, (as you’ll see in the comments below) – but I did find one building that still remains (although no longer the premises of an antique dealer).

Some of you may know of the dealership ‘C.Charles’ – he was a brother of the famous Joseph Duveen; he was, apparently, not allowed to use the trading name of ‘Duveen’ (there’s only ONE Duveen I guess), so began trading as ‘C. Charles’ in London in the opening decades of the 20th century, and by the 1930s was trading as ‘Charles of London’ in the USA. Here’s a fascinating invoice from ‘Charles of London’ dated November 9th 1936, for an ‘Old 18th Century Mahogany Desk’, sold to the famous American collector Robert Lehman for $550 – (I couldn’t trace this object in the Met Museum collections….).

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Invoice ‘Charles of London’ November 9th, 1936. Box 37, Folder 12, Robert Lehman Papers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Archives.

In my walks around New York searching for the locations of former antique dealer galleries I found Charles Duveen’s gallery at 12 West 56th Street – a very elegant (as one might expect) building, designed in a similar vein to Joseph Duveen’s spectacular purpose built gallery on 5th Avenue (see previous blog post).

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Charles of London former gallery at 12 West 56th Street New York. Photo MW March 2015.

There were a few other letters and invoices from dealers I found in the archives, and I managed to find the former locations of the dealers – as I say, sadly the buildings themselves no longer exist. The location of the galleries of the famous antique dealers French & Co at 6 East 56th Street are now (maybe appropriately!) occupied by Armani –

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Former location of French & Co (1916). Photo MW March 2015.

French and Co were at 6 East 56th Street, New York by 1916, as this invoice (again photographed by kind permission of the Metropolitan Museum Archives) demonstrates –

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Invoice, French & Co., 1916. Box 4, Folder 16, Durr Friedley Records, 1906-1918 (1917-1918) The Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum Archives.

(I’ll come back to the contents of the invoice itself in another blog post…).

French & Co had moved to 210 East 57th Street by the 1930s, but again the building they occupied no longer remains…..

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Former location of French & Co, 210 East 57th Street, New York in the 1930s. Photo MW March 2015.

And here’s the former location of the dealer A.S. Drey, ‘Antique Paintings and Works of Art’, who, according to a note in the Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives moved to 680 5th Avenue, New York in 1929. The location is now occupied by shops and offices.

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Former location of A.S. Drey, 680 5th Avenue, New York in 1929. Photo MW March 2015.

And, just for the record, I also found the former New York locations at 6 West 56th Street for Frank Partridge & Sons (they were at this address from at least the early 1920s until at least the late 1960s – Partridge & Sons, like many of the dealers highlighted in this blog, are no longer trading).

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Former location of Frank Partridge & Sons, 6 West 56th Street, New York. Photo MW March 2015.

 

And the locations of ‘Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Company Incorporated’ trading at 7 West 36th Street, New York in 1916, are now shops and offices….

former Seligmann shop 7 West 36th st NY

Former location of Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., 7 West 36th Street, New York. Photo MW March 2015.

Likewise the former location of the antique dealer and interior decorators ‘White Allom’ (led by Sir Charles Allom) at 19 East 52nd Street, New York in 1914, are now occupied by an hotel.

former White Allom 19 East 52nd st NY

Former location of the galleries of White Allom, 19 East 52nd Street, New York in 1914. Photo MW March 2015.

As you can see, the archives at the Met Museum were a catalyst for a fruitful perambulation around a (very cold) New York….
Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 6, 2014

Images of Dealer shops

Recently been gathering more and more images of antique dealer shops, interior photographs as well as exterior photographs, so I thought I’d share a few images – we will be creating a database of images for the interactive website, and once that goes ‘live’ everyone will be able to see all the images we have to date – we’ve only just started to scratch the surface here, so there will be many, many more images to come, but at present I reckon we have a few hundred images….

Anyway, here’s some to whet the appetite – they are actually quite revealing about display practices in the antique trade at various points in the 20th century. Here’s ‘C. Charles’ shop – (this is J. Duveen’s brother, Charles Duveen, who was paid by his brother not to use the surname Duveen..); the date of the image is c.1903, when C. Charles traded at 27-29 New Bond Street, London.

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The stock seems typical for a ‘high-end’ dealer, selling mainly to ‘Gilded Age’ American clients.  The display seems to be sightly more dispersed than many of the packed-out displays in antique and curiosity shops of the 19th century, but there’s still a fairly random jumble of various objects; there’s certainly no attempt here to replicate a ‘historic room’ display, or to theme the objects in any recognizable sense.

Contrast Charles Duveen’s gallery with a display of c.1903 of the house furnishers, furniture makers, and antique dealers, ‘Gillows’, 406 Oxford Street, London; Waring and Gillow was established in 1897, following the merger of Gillows (Lancaster), (est c.1730) and Waring of Liverpool. As ‘house furnishers’ Gillows have chosen to create a ‘room set’ effect; there’s also an obvious mixture of ‘antiques’ with reproductions made by the firm itself.

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To set these metropolitan dealer shops in a contrast, here’s a provincial dealership, Perry and Phillips, trading in Bridgnorth, Shropshire –

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The photograph is of their shop interior in c.1922 – quite a packed-out display, which must have been typical of many antique shops in the period – they have resonance to the displays of antique shops in the 19th century, and we still encounter such modes of display today of course.

Some, specialist dealerships, required different, discrete modes of display – this astonishing (to me anyway) image of the interior of the famous dealer in Chinese Works of Art, John Sparks, of c.1937, when Sparks was trading at 128 Mount Street, London (still a very smart address), is indicative of specialist methods of display, illustrative of the potential modes of engagement with the objects themselves.

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The display obviously keys into the evolving aesthetic of British Modernism at the time, but also nods towards the specific modes of engagement, and the significance of the optic and the haptic in the appreciation of such works of art; it’s also worth pointing out that the display also keys into the stripped back, minimalist aesthetics of Chinese and Japanese art works themselves.  John Sparks had created a very carefully planned, very thoughtful response to the objects that they sold, and produced a display that does look astonishingly modern.

Mark

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