Posts tagged ‘The V&A’

December 20, 2018

Progress on SOLD!

SOLD! is coming together very well – we’ve been working at The Bowes Museum on the text panels and object labels all of this week.  They all go off to the designers soon – there’s only about 1 month to go before the exhibition opens on 26th January (and that includes the Christmas break!), so there’s still a lot of work to do.  George Harris (Exhibitions Manager at Bowes), Catherine Dickinson (Exhibitions Officer), Jane Whittaker (Head of Collections) together with the other members of the exhibitions team Vin and Jen, and I have been working on the images and texts we need for the exhibition.  It’s going to be designed around a theme of ‘shopping for antiques over 200 years’….using a cityscape as a main theme, with antique shop fronts, of various periods from 1820s to present day, interspaced with images of antique shop interiors over the same period, so the visitors to the exhibition will get a sense of the changing panorama of the ‘antique shop’.

Simon Spier (Project Assistant on the recreating the 1850s Shop) has also been helping with engaging with the local community of dealers and collectors to gather appropriate objects for the shop (see Simon’s ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ Twitter feed).  Simon and I were searching the Bowes stores this week for suitable objects for the 1850 shop…together with Howard Coutts, (the Curator of Decorative Art) – it is interesting that Howard is not the curator of ‘Antiques’ – but then, antiques’ are not what the museum contains I guess?

Over the course of the research project we’ve gathered hundreds and hundreds of images of exteriors and interiors of antique shops.  These two photographs, of F.W. Phillips’ (Phillips of Hitchin) antique shop in about 1905 and the interior photograph of the shop of C. Charles (Charles Duveen, J.H. Duveen’s brother) in New Bond Street, London in c.1903, are just examples of several hundred we have to choose from, so it’s been quite a task to find the right kind of image for the exhibition interpretation.

Phillips of Hitchin shop, c.1905. Photograph courtesy of the Brotherton Library Special Collections, University of Leeds.

 

C Charles, New Bond Street, c.1903. Photograph, Connoisseur, September 1903.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve also had some excellent pre-publicity for SOLD! this week – the exhibition was featured on the front page (and on page 4) of the Antiques Trade Gazette – see the web version HERE and SOLD! is also on the British Antique Dealers’ Association website (thank you as always the BADA!).

The objects coming to SOLD! cover quite a range of object types (and dealers of course) – we have this wonderful ‘majolica’ dish, from Deruta in Italy, and dating from c.1530, on loan from the V&A Museum.

Dish, c.1530, sold by Henry Durlacher to the SKM in 1854. Image courtesy of the V&A Museum, copyright the V&A Museum.

It was sold to the South Kensington Museum in 1856 (as the V&A Museum was called in the 19th century) by the well-known 19th century antique dealer Henry Durlacher (b.1826) for £5 and 5 shillings – quite a meagre some, even in the context of the market for such objects in the 19th century.  The market for ‘Raphaelware’ (as this kind of object would have been categorized in the 19th century) was very strong in the middle decades of the 19th century, so perhaps Durlacher was hoping to encourage more purchases from the South Kensington Museum?

SOLD! also has several objects from the collections at The Bowes Museum on display of course, including this spectacular 18th century Bronze fountain mask, which was sold to The Bowes Museum in 1966 by the dealership ‘David Tremayne’ – one of the directors of ‘David Tremayne’ was David Salmon, a member of the family that owned J. Lyons & Company, of ‘Lyons Tea Rooms’ fame.  ‘Tremayne’ traded from the King’s Road in London, which in the 1960s was the epitome of Swinging, Fashionable London, with the antique dealers patronised by Film Stars and Rock Groups such as the Rolling Stones.

Bronze Mask, sold by ‘David Tremayne’ to The Bowes Museum in 1966. Photograph courtesy of The Bowes Museum.

 

In SOLD! we also have a number of objects from Temple Newsam, part of Leeds Museums & Galleries, including the famous black lacquer secretaire, formerly supplied by Thomas Chippendale for Harewood House in the 1770s.

Secretaire, c.1770, sold by Hotspur to Temple Newsam, Leeds Museums & Galleries in 1999. Photograph courtesy of Leeds Museums & Galleries, copyright Leeds Museums & Galleries.

Of course, for SOLD! this is not a ‘Chippendale’ , it was sold to Leeds Museums & Galleries by the well-known Antique English Furniture specialist dealers Hotspur in 1999, who were then trading in London.  Indeed, the secretaire’s dealer biography can be traced to 1946 when it was acquired by the London dealer Jesse Botibol, probably direct for the auction sale of some contents of Harewood House sold at Christie’s in London that year.

There are many more well-known and world-class museum objects in SOLD!, But of course the purpose of SOLD! is to highlight their ‘hidden histories’ and to retell the history of the antique dealers that are such a fundamental part of their object biographies.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

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

 

July 25, 2016

‘BADA Voices’ Oral History Interview – John Bly

Print We did our 2nd in the new ‘BADA Voices’ Oral History interviews last week – this time in the interviewees’ chair was John Bly, of John Bly Antiques. John Bly Antiques was established by 1891, but the business itself has roots into the early 19th century, begun by John’s Great-Grand father William Bly, in Tring, Hertfordshire.  John’s grandfather, also called John Bly, operated as a cabinet-maker, house furnisher and dealer in antique furniture at 22 High Street, Tring by the early 1890s – and here’s an early photograph of the shop of ‘J.Bly’ at 22 High Street in 1907.

John Bly 22 High St Tring 1907

J. Bly, 22 High Street, Tring, 1907. Photograph from John Bly.

In a wonderfully engaging and fascinating interview, John tells us of the history of the Bly businesses, and of how he started in the antique trade over 50 years ago! John left school to work at Sotheby’s in Bond Street, London, where he was employed in the Silver Department, marking up lots for sale; he left Sotheby’s at the age of 19 to work for his father, Frank Bly, in 1960, and continues to run the business, with his son James, from locations in Tring and in the Kings Road, London.

john bly 2016

John Bly, in London, 2016.

John’s infectious enthusiasm for the antique trade is evident in the conversation – he tells us of his first job, driving the Northampton-based antique dealer Jack Roberts’ around auctions and dealerships in the early 1960s; and of the importance of his two ‘mentors’, Michael Brett (then of Broadway, Worcestershire) and the Nat Ayer, of Bath and London – who was, so we learn, the son of the famous songwriter Nat D. Ayer (1887-1952) – writer of, amongst other songs, ‘If you were the only girl in the world…’ (1916)

John also tells us of his life as a T.V. personality – he is famous, as many of you will know, as one of the experts on the BBC ‘Antiques Roadshow’ – but he began his career as T.V. antiques expert as long ago as 1969/1970 on a show for Thames Television called ‘Looking at Antiques….’, before moving on to a programme in the mid 1970s called ‘Heirlooms’.  He has been on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ since the 2nd series, in 1980.

John’s father, Frank Bly, is perhaps most well-known for the sale of the famous ‘Kimbolton Cabinet’ to the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1949. John rehearses the fascinating tale of the acquisition, and eventual sale of the cabinet to the V&A, during the interview – it is, by now, quite a well-known story, but John’s regaling of how the cabinet was loaded on to the flat-bed truck, and covered in a tarpaulin sheet, is still worth hearing again.

 

kimbolton

The Kimbolton Cabinet, c.1775. Photograph, copyright the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

John obvious positive energy comes across strongly in the interview, as he talks about the changes to the antique trade in the past few years, and the prospects for the future of ‘antiques’.  And as with all our other interviews, our interview with John will, once edited, be made available via the Antique Dealer project websites – keep you eye of the sites for updates.

Mark

May 15, 2016

New Oral History Interview – Jonathan Harris, of Phillips & Harris

The latest in our series of Oral History Interviews with members of the Antique Trade was recorded last week. Our interviewee was the well-known antique dealer Jonathan Harris, formerly of Phillips & Harris, of Kensington Church Street, London. In an absolutely fascinating interview, full of personal reflections on his life as an antique dealer, Jonathan told us about how he started in the trade in the mid 1960s, following a brief spell at the auctioneers Christie’s, before he entered into partnership with Henry Phillips in Kensington, London in 1967.

J Harris

Jonathan Harris, at his London home. May 2016.

Jonathan’s eclectic interest in antique objects shaped the acquisitions for the business of Phillips & Harris – the shop in Kensington Church Street was always full of an amazing mixture of spectacular objects, from 16th century sculpture, to early 20th century furniture.  An example of Jonathan’s taste for the historically significant, and the visually stunning, is the centre table designed by the architect William Burges in c.1867, for Burges’ own home in Buckingham Street, London.

Jonathan sold the table to Lotherton Hall, part of Leeds Museums & Galleries, in 1971 (a similar table in is the collections at Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum).

burges table

Table, designed by William Burges, c.1867. Sold by Phillips & Harris to Leeds Museums & Galleries in 1971.

During the interview with Jonathan we had the pleasure of taking a brief tour of some of the objects that he had collected over the years; it was fascinating to hear what had interested Jonathan about the objects and why he had acquired them – Jonathan belongs to that great tradition of antiquarian collecting, where the discrete history of the objects is a rich catalyst for the deeper traditions of story-telling, and served to remind me of the importance of the ‘oral history’ research as a key part of the broader Antique Dealer project research activities.

As with all of our Oral Histories, our interview with Jonathan will soon be made available via the Antique Dealer project websites.

Mark

 

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