Posts tagged ‘French & Co’

April 25, 2015

Defining ‘Antique Dealers’ – in 1916.

For those of you that have been following the Antique Dealer Project blog, you’ll know that the question of how one draws the defining line around ‘antique dealers/antique dealing’ has been something that has been a consistent focus in the development of the project.  Indeed, one of the objectives of our forthcoming ‘interactive antique dealer’ website (YES…it’s on its way very soon!..at last!) is precisely to allow us to further reflect on the changing parameters of ‘antique dealing’, as a set of social, cultural, economic, and political practices. For earlier blog posts on these changing parameters, see reflections on the changing definitions of ‘antique dealers’ and the richly patterned semantic shifts in the classifications in the antique trade, in posts on ‘Semantics’; ‘Connell & Sons’; ‘the architecture of the trade’; and ‘antique dealing and other practices’.

Anyway, whilst at The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, (The GRI) in the Special Collections and Visual Resources room as part of the USA research trip, I came across a newspaper clipping in the French & Company papers (ref. 990051, Box 9) –  French & Co were mentioned in the newspaper article, hence the inclusion of the clipping in the archive.

The clipping was from The New York Herald, (Saturday 8th July, 1916, p.3); it is a fascinating, and somewhat provocative, article entitled ‘Art and Junk are One under French Law and Junkmen and Antiquaries are Equal‘, which was composed by one of the Herald’s (unnamed) journalists. One could write an essay on the rich series of semantic meanings in the article – and it’s also interesting (to me anyway) that the writer tries (desperately) to separate ‘art’ from ‘junk’…but there’s no space here to deal with the implications of this dichotomy.

The article itself reports on a French legal case, brought against a collector/dealer named Kelekian, who was, according to the Herald, a ‘racing stable proprietor and owner of Art Galleries in Paris, Cairo and New York.’  Essentially it seems that in 1916 the French courts had ruled that art and antique dealers must be classed as 2nd hand dealers, and comply with the requirement that they should make their stock books accessible to the Police and also should be required to ‘wear tags’ to indicate their ‘profession’.  There’s a clear rational for this of course, relating to the historical propensity of 2nd hand dealers being the (often unwitting) recipients of stolen goods, hence the introduction of laws that often required dealers in 2nd hand material to hold on to goods for 7 days before selling them on; and the requirement that stock books be open to scrutiny. It is worth mentioning here that the marginal practices of the second-hand trade have often reduced to stereotypes/tropes – Dickens’ ‘Fagin’ is just one of numerous literary constructions that play to those notions.

However, the implications of the French Court ruling, as the writer of the article expressed it, would be that ‘dealers inspired productions of Great Artists are required to Classify themselves with Buyers of Old Junk.’  The writer opined, ‘if junk is art to a Paris Court, specimens of Gothic religious inspiration in sculpture, a Renaissance Poignard hilt, carved by Cellini, and Chippendale furniture are all junk – merely junk!’….and continued ‘the comparison between junk and art is “strange” no matter how the imagination is stretched’, concluding, somewhat hyperbolically, that ‘The End of the World must be at hand’.

You can read the full article, thanks to Fulton History, who have scanned and uploaded the full texts of the New York Herald – see Fulton History – and here’s the scan of the article itself: New York NY Herald 1916 – 6110

BTW – I defy anyone’s eye not to drift towards the contiguous article, entitled ‘Bites Golf Ball; boy may die’ (how could you resist!)…the final paragraph in that article suggests a rather disturbing value structure of the market/economy and that of a human life (if one believes the reporter of course)…………now that must tantalise you to read the PDF?…

The article also contains fascinating interviews (kind of ‘vox pop’) on the French Court ruling with various dealers in New York, including, Stephen Bourgeois, Raymond Guille (of the antique silver dealers, Critchen Brothers) and the famous Joseph Duveen, who, like the gatekeeper to the art market that he was, gave a terse ‘no comment!’……

What is particularly interesting is that the writer in 1916 directs attention to the ambiguity of how, and where, and when, one defines the ‘dealer’.  ‘Where is one to draw the line?’, states the writer, emphasising this ‘problem’ by posing the question, would ‘a collector’, ‘selling part of a collection’, be a ‘junkman?’….(in the eyes of the French Law, at least).

It is precisely these shifting frameworks, and the mutability in the notion of the ‘antique dealer’, that is the focus of the current research project.

Mark.

 

 

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 –

french invoice 7.9.15 det

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’ –

lewis inv 25.11.52 det

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) –

charles inv 9.11.36

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) –

hancock inv 9.10.34 det

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

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….).

charles inv 9.11.36

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).

Charles 12 west 56th  st NY

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 –

former French and Co 6 East 56th st NY

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 –

french invoice 7.9.15 det

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…..

former French and co 210 East 57th st NY

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.

former Drey 680 5th Ave NY

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).

former Partridge shop 6 West 56th st NY

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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