Posts tagged ‘Martin Levy’

December 30, 2015

Early 20th century women antique dealers

I recently came across a fascinating little article published in The Sketch on the female antique dealer Clara Millard – The Sketch, in case you were not aware, was a British weekly illustrated newspaper which focused on high society and the aristocracy (it ran from 1893 until 1959).  The article, written by a journalist/writer named only as ‘F.E.A.’, was published on March 14th 1894 and focused on an interview with Clara Millard – here is Miss Millard aged about 25, in a photograph published in the article (see below):

Clara Millard 1894 The Sketch

Miss Clara Millard, c.1894. Photograph by Jones & Co., Surbiton. Image from ‘The Sketch’, March 14th 1894, p.348.

Clara Millard, as far as we know at present, traded from the 1890s until the 1920s, first at Vicarage Road, Teddington, and later at Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire; she was also an early member of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (certainly a member by 1920) – see also our interactive project website map for information on Clara Millard – www.antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk

The article was entitled ‘A Curio Collector, a visit to Miss Clara Millard’ and gives us an insight into the social demographic of women curiosity/antique dealers in the period (it is evident, for example, that Clara was from a well-to-do family), and the kinds of objects that circulated in the trade in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Millard mentions a few objects that she had sold in her shop in Teddington, including ‘a set of seven spa diamond buttons worn by Garrick at the Stratford Jubilee’ – The Shakespeare Jubilee took place in September 1769, and was organised, and partly financed, by the actor-manager David Garrick (1717-1779).

She also mentioned that she also sold the library table used by Napoleon when in exile at Longwood House, St. Helena. The effects of Longwood House were sold in 1822 and there were several library tables in that sale – for an exemplary description and analysis of Napoleon’s furniture at Longwood House see Martin Levy, Napoleoon in Exile, the houses and furniture supplied by the British Government for the Emperor and his Entourage on St. Helena (Furniture History Society, 1998). Perhaps the library table that passed through Clara Millard’s stock was the famous table that was also subsequently sold at the auction sale of the library and effects of John Copling in 1867, who seems to have acquired a number of Napoleonic relics.  The table in question was described in 1867 as ‘A 6ft LIBRARY TABLE of mahogany and yew, banded with ebony…..constantly used by Napoleon himself in his cabinet’ (see Levy, p.66) – this table certainly appears to have been the most famous of the library tables dispersed at Longwood House in 1822. One wonders how Millard obtained the table, and to whom she sold it?

Besides these interesting details on the objects that Millard sold, the interview also provides a fascinating insight into the social networks of Millard, and how she came to become a dealer. The interviewer ‘F.E.A.’ asked her ‘What made you become a dealer in curios?’ – and she gave a comprehensive response, stating;

‘ When I was sixteen I had to decide upon some way of earning my own living….I had always lived with people who liked nice things, and I understood a little about curios, so I started a sale of china and curiosities.  I prepared a catalogue, and sent it round to collectors and wealthy people. The catalogue was a happy thought; it attracted notice and the whole transaction was so successful that I went on as I had begun. I must not forget to tell you that I owe a great deal to the kind help and teaching given to me by Lady Charlotte Schreiber, Lady Currie and Baron Rothschild.  Thanks to them, I made fewer mistakes that I should otherwise have done. Then, I have had a larger share of good luck than falls to the lot of most people’ (The Sketch, p.348).

Millard’s connections to Lady Charlotte Schreiber (1812-1895), daughter of the 9th Earl of Lindsey, and a major collector of ceramics, as well as to Baron Rothschild (1840-1915) and Lady Currie (1843-1905), is indicative of the intimate relationships between dealing and collecting, and of the significance of social and cultural networks in the history of the antique trade.

It’s also worth mentioning that Clara Millard was also well known, in the 1890s, as an antiquarian book dealer – which also draws further attention to the overlapping practices that constitute the ‘antique trade’ (see earlier blog posts on these notions).

Mark

Advertisements
October 10, 2015

Yet More Oral History Interviews! – Martin Levy, of H. Blairman & Sons

Our oral history research is really gathering pace now – yet another one ‘in the bag’ – this time with Martin Levy, of the old established antique dealers H. Blairman & Sons (established 1884) – very well known to those interested in the history of the antique trade.

M Levy

Martin Levy, 2015. Image copyright H. Blairman & Sons.

During a fabulously interesting interview Martin outlined the early history of H. Blairman & Sons, from their beginnings in a shop in Llandudno, where, as Martin recently discovered, the business also sold contemporary ceramics alongside antiques – this 19th century cup and saucer, with a back-stamp indicating that it was retailed by H. Blairman is a testament to those trading practices (see our earlier blog entry on these practices too – blog entry for MAY 2014 – and Blairman & Sons website H.Blairman & Sons Limited.

Photograph copyright, Blairman & Sons, London.

Photograph copyright, Blairman & Sons, London.

 

Photograph copyright Blairman & Sons, London

Photograph copyright Blairman & Sons, London

The Blairman family were originally emigres from Poland in the late 19th century, and initially Harris Blairman (Martin Levy’s great-grandfather) entered into a partnership with a dealer in Birmingham, before establishing the business in Llandudno. For some further detail on the history of H. Blairman & Sons do look at the history of Blairman, composed by Martin, on the Blairman website.

Martin also told us of his interest in 19th century and early 20th century designed objects – in which he has also been something of a pioneer in more recent times – and his memories of working with his father, George Levy (who joined the firm in 1949), as well as Martin’s memories of his own early days after joining the business in the mid 1970s.  Martin also has some wonderfully engaging reflections on the changing taste in antiques, on people that influenced his development as a dealer, and on his passion for objects and their history.

The interview will be soon be made available via the project websites – once we get it edited and etc.

Mark

May 30, 2014

Antique Dealing….and other practices

The history of the trade in antiques is composed of a complex mixture of overlapping practices and activities. In the early 19th century, when we can say that the present trade began, antique and curiosity dealers emerged from the furniture-making community, from the ‘rag-trade’, the second -hand trade more generally, and modern china and glass sellers….amongst others…. ..if you’re interested, see my work A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Antique and Curiosity Dealers (Regional Furniture Society, 2009 & 2011 – copies still available!…£20…(sorry about the advert!….) – But anyway, historically, the trade has always comprised a series of interrelated selling and manufacturing practices.  Indeed, during the course of the investigations for the current project and the history of the antique trade in the 20th century these overlapping practices continued – here’s just one example of the practices of ‘antique dealing’ operating alongside other activities – some of these are obvious (interior decorating for example, and furniture making…which many dealers today are involved in). But antique dealers have also regularly sold a range of ‘modern’ things alongside what one might describe as ‘traditional’ antiques (the notion of ‘antique’ is quite obviously a mutable term!).

Anyway, Martin Levy (of Blairman & Sons, London) sent us this image of a tea-cup and saucer, which was apparently retailed by Blairman, when the firm was then trading in Llandudno, Wales (they had a shop there from the 1880s).

Photograph copyright Blairman & Sons, London

Photograph copyright Blairman & Sons, London

Photograph copyright, Blairman & Sons, London.

Photograph copyright, Blairman & Sons, London.

We reckon the tea-cup and saucer dates from c.1890-1910, so would have been a ‘modern’ thing when sold by Blairman at the time. The retailing of ‘contemporary’ products is interesting, especially given the recent shift to the contemporary and the changes in the activities of, what were often considered to be ‘traditional’ dealerships – it’s now not that unusual to enter an ‘antique shop’ and be confronted by modern and contemporary design amongst the ‘brown furniture’ and ‘antique’ objects…..

There are many other examples of other practices that the antique trade have been involved in over the years and we hope to include information of these activities as part of our ‘cultural geography’ of the antique trade…

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