Posts tagged ‘Lady Lever Art Gallery’

December 2, 2018

SOLD! A Major Exhibition at The Bowes Museum

As some of the readers of the Antique Dealers Blog already know, for the last 18 months I’ve been very busy working as ‘guest curator’ on an exhibition called ‘SOLD!’ at The Bowes Museum based on over 10 years of research on the history of Antique Dealing in Britain – and we can now announce the forthcoming opening (on 26th January 2019) of the exhibition!  Here is the poster, with the stunning bronze by Antico of c.1490-1500, acquired by the V&A Museum through the dealer Horace Baxter in 1960, as the ‘poster boy’.

SOLD! Poster

SOLD!, which opens on 26th January 2019, brings together more than 40 world-class objects, from various museums, including the V&A, the British Museum, The Royal Armouries, Royal Collection, The Lady Lever Art Gallery and Temple Newsam, as well as objects from the collections at The Bowes Museum itself, and loans from private collections never seen in public before, to tell the ‘hidden histories’ of the objects with a focus on the history of antique dealing.  One of my PhD students (Simon Spier) is working as the project research assistant helping with the assembly of the recreation of an ‘old curiosity shop’ which will be part of the display and interpretation for SOLD! – you can follow Simon’s activities in the special Twitter feed we have developed – see  https://twitter.com/Bowes_GBAS

Besides ‘Antico’ from the V&A Museum…(which I have been calling a ‘Horace Baxter’ – indeed, I have been calling all the objects in the exhibition by the name of the dealer who sold them which has been very confusing for many museum curators! – so the ‘Antico’ is a ‘Horace Baxter’; we also have a ‘Henry Farrer’ (a very rare 16th century Venetian glass goblet – sold by Farrer to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A Museum) in 1854 for £30.0.0) – you can just see the edge of the green glass goblet to the right of the ‘Baxter’ in the poster above; and a ‘David Tremayne’ – the wonderful 18th century bronze mask, sold to The Bowes Museum by David Tremayne in 1966 – you can just the bronze mask to the left of the ‘Baxter’ (sorry, the ‘Antico’) in the poster.

We have a wonderful range of objects in SOLD!, including this amazing demilance suit of armour of c.1620 from the Royal Armouries, (Tower Armouries Collection in London), which was acquired via the well-known specialist dealer in ‘ancient armour’ Samuel & Henry Pratt from their ‘The Gothic Hall’ just off New Bond Street in 1840.

S. & H. Pratt – (1840) – Demilance suit of armour, c.1620. Photograph courtesy of The Royal Armouries.

As part of SOLD! we have objects that passed through the hands of major 19th century dealers such as E.H. Baldock, John Webb and George Durlacher; and in the 20th century, major dealers such as Frank Partridge, M. Harris & Sons, H. Blairman & Sons, Mallett & Son, Wartski, Hotspur, S.J. Phillips, and Bluett & Son…plus many more besides.

One of the major dealers we have focused on is Phillips of Hitchin; mainly because we have the Phillips of Hitchin archives at the Brotherton Library Special Collections at the University of Leeds. And here’s a very rare photograph of the Phillips of Hitchin shop in c.1905, with Frederick W. Phillips (centre) the chap that established the firm in 1882, and Hugh Phillips (his brother) to the right (we don’t know who the third person is) – the photograph was taken just a few years before Frederick Phillips bought the ‘Gothic Cupboard’ and sold it to Robert Mond (see below).

F.W. Phillips (Phillips of Hitchin) shop, Hitchin, c.1905. Digital copy of glass-plate negative courtesy of the V&A Museum.

Jerome Phillips, the grandson of Frederick Phillips, kindly identified the people in the photograph – and Kate Hay at the V&A Museum and her volunteers generously made a digital copy from the original glass-plate negative (part of the Phillips of Hitchin material that is, at present, at the V&A stores).

There are also couple of objects from the V&A Museum in the exhibition that were sold by Phillips of Hitchin – this Gothic cupboard (known as ‘Prince Arthur’s Cupboard’ in the early 20th century when it was acquired by the V&A Museum) was sold by F.W. Phillips (Phillips of Hitchin) to the well-known collector Robert Mond in 1912 for £220.0.0. – Mond donated it to the V&A in the same year.

F.W. Phillips (Phillips of Hitchin) ‘Gothic Cupboard’ c.1500-1600. Sold by F.W. Phillips in 1912. Photograph courtesy of the V&A Museum.

 

The other Phillips of Hitchin object in the exhibition is the famous ‘Medal Cabinet’ by the 18th century cabinetmaker William Vile (c.1700-1767), of c.1760, which was sold by PoH to the V&A in 1963 for £10,000.

Phillips of Hitchin (1963). George III mahogany medal cabinet, c.1760. Photograph courtesy of the V&A Museum.

 

The exhibition will also have a wide range of exceptionally rare antique dealer archives, and a range of dealer ephemera, to bring to life the history of the antique trade.  But there are also some spectacularly rare objects in SOLD! – indeed, one of the key premises of the exhibition is to show some very familiar, world-class museum objects, but to ‘reframe’ them through the narrative of the art market; and to bring the previously marginalized story of antique dealing more directly, and more explicitly, into the spaces of the public museum – and to provoke us all (museum curators, academics, and the public) to reflect on why the art market has often been suppressed and dislocated from the narratives of the history of art that the museum presents us with.

We hope that the ‘SOLD!’ exhibition will be a catalyst for increased public engagement with these previously marginalized stories.

I’ll be updating the blog with regular progress reports on SOLD! as we move towards the opening of the exhibition on 26th January 2019 – I do hope that we will see as many people who can make it to SOLD! at Bowes Museum and I hope to say ‘hello’ if I am about at the exhibition.

Mark

 

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November 25, 2017

Antique Dealers – ‘Treasures I Would Not Sell’

The complex social and cultural relationships between ‘dealers’ and ‘collectors’, and indeed the historical dimensions of these evolving identities, is a fascinating topic (and something I’ve been working on for the last few years). And I was recently reminded of this subject when I came across an intriguing little article on the dealer Moss Harris (Harris, as many readers of the blog will know, founded one of the world’s leading antique dealing businesses, M. Harris & Sons in c.1915, taking over the business of D.L. Isaacs); the history of Moss Harris & Sons is also partially sketched out in an earlier blog post (see the blog on the oral history interview with John Morris).

The article, published in The Bazaar, Saturday June 15th, 1929, was titled ‘Treasures I Would Not Sell’.  The article is no great piece of journalism – it seems to have been essentially an excuse to have a sneaky peek into the private collections of some high profile antique dealers.  Anyway, the article indicated that there were in fact 2 objects that Moss Harris ‘would not sell’. One was described as a ‘graceful Hepplewhite side-table’; the other was a ‘magnificent Chippendale armchair’. Harris was obviously so proud of the ‘Chippendale armchair’ that he appeared sitting in the very chair in an image published in the next issue of The Bazaar (22nd June 1929): The photograph of the picture of Harris is very grainy I’m afraid, but the quality of the original is rather poor…anyway, here is Moss Harris, cigar in hand, sitting proudly in his ‘Chippendale chair’:

Moss Harris, in his ‘Chippendale chair’. Image from ‘The Bazaar’ June 22nd 1929.

The article suggested that Harris did eventually sell the Hepplewhite side-table; as Harris stated;

‘I bought this (Hepplewhite side-table)…quite forty years ago from an old established London firm for much less than £100. It was one of those pieces that I was loth to part with.  In fact, I eventually sold it to a collector only on condition that if he ever parted with it he would sell it back to me….he fulfilled my request in a sense. For when he died ten years later he thoughtfully left it to me in his will.’

But the chair, it seems, was a different story; indeed, the article set me off to see if it was possible to identify the ‘Chippendale chair’ that Moss Harris would never sell, and to find out what happened to the chair – and, thanks to the help of my amazing colleagues at the V&A Museum in London (Kate Hay and Leela Meinteras) as well as the help of Lucy Wood and Sarah Medlam, we think we might have answered that particular question.

Anyway, the Chair – the 1929 article recounted Harris’ memory of the acquisition of the chair, as he states:

‘It was, in a way, a ‘holiday find’….I was touring the country some 300 miles from London before the War. (this would be World War I)  A fellow guest at my hotel recognised me, and knowing my interests, told me of some beautiful Chippendale chairs that he heard were for sale at a little place about 100 miles further on.  The next day accordingly saw me many miles away, and sure enough I found five exceptionally fine ‘Chippendales’.  Four of them I sold to a private museum, and the fifth – well you see it here.’

Tracking down the chair should be relatively easy.  The model is a very famous one – but it seems there are actually 6 of them (not 5 as Moss Harris stated in the 1929 article).  One was sold by Moss Harris to Lord Lever in 1915 and remains at the Lady Lever Art Gallery in Liverpool – it was illustrated on the cover of Lucy Wood’s monumental study of ‘Upholstered Furniture’ published in 2008. 

A set of four of the chairs eventually made their way to Frank Partridge & Sons, the leading London antique dealers, trading in New Bond Street, and were exhibited together at their Summer Exhibition in 1949 – the current whereabouts of these four chairs is not known?

But it seems that Moss Harris did keep his word and never actually sold the final chair of the 6, the one that Moss Harris is actually sitting on in 1929.  The chair, so Moss Harris’ mentioned in the 1929 Bazaar article, was exhibited at the ‘Exhibition of Art Treasures (1928) organised by The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) at Grafton Galleries; probably item no.134 ‘A Chippendale stuffed-back easy chair, with carved mahogany scroll arms, carved frame and scroll legs, circa 1760’.  It was also still in his possession in 1937, when it was illustrated in the book, published by M. Harris & Sons, called ‘The English Chair’ (1937, republished 1947) – here is the chair; and the cover to book and the image of the chair.

 

The chair was eventually sold posthumously (Moss Harris died in 1941) at a Christie’s auction sale on November 9th 1944 (lot 114, where Harris is recorded as the owner in the Christie’s archives – and thanks again to Kate, Leela, Lucy and Sarah for this information) – the buyer was recorded as Sir S. Bairn(?). But it seems that the chair was acquired by that other famous antique dealer firm, Mallett & Sons sometime after 1944, and was sold by them to the collector Brigadier Clark, who gifted the chair to the V&A in 1956. And here is Moss Harris’ chair:

W.16-1956. Image courtesy of the V&A Museum, and copyright V&A Museum.

 

There’s still some ambiguity in the history of this set of ‘Chippendale chairs’ – it’s certain that Moss Harris retained the chair – it was, as I say, sold posthumously at Christie’s in 1944.  But there’s also some contradictions in the story that Moss Harris recalled about his acquisition of the chairs sometime ‘before the War’. Lucy Wood also tells us that the chair in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, the one sold to Lord Lever by Moss Harris in 1915 (when Harris was at that stage, working with the established dealer D.L. Isaacs), was, according to the records at Lady Lever Art Gallery, originally purchased by Harris at a Christie’s auction in London on 10th June 1915 – so not the ‘300+ miles away from London’ that Moss Harris recalled in the 1929 article.

But perhaps Moss Harris’ memory was unclear, or perhaps he spun a story for the reporter? Either way I’m pretty sure that the chair that now resides at the V&A Museum is indeed the ‘Treasure’ that Moss Harris ‘Would Not Sell’.  And in that sense it’s an amazing discovery.

Mark

 

The Period Room: Museum, Material, Experience

An International Conference hosted by The Bowes Museum and The University of Leeds

H. Blairman & Sons Ltd

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century

Museum Studies Now?

'Museum Studies Now?' is an event which aims to discuss and debate museum and heritage studies education provision.

The Burlington Magazine Index Blog

art writing * art works * art market

East India Company at Home, 1757-1857

A research project investigating the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century