An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 107

Clinton Howell Antiques - December 7, 2020 - Issue 107
An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture
A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts
The enclosed link is to my webinar which will be airing this coming Thursday. It is sponsored by the Appraisers Association of America, Inc., and my heartfelt thanks goes out to them and Lark Mason of who arranged everything. I also want to give you a link to the "12 Days of Christmas Show" that is being run by both the Art and Antique Dealers League of America (AADLA) and the National Art and Antique Dealers Association of America (NAADAA). It is an innovative show designed to have you return day after day for 12 days. As it began on the fifth, you can click the enclosed link and look at days 1-3 and then follow along as dealers upload new items every day through Dec. 16. Our goal is to save you from computer fatigue, i.e. clicking backwards and forwards endlessly. Herewith, the link which I recommend you get to on a computer and not your phone as their are technical difficulties with the scroll on the phone. 

I would like to dive into another London house that isn't so much a place with great furniture, but a paean to one of England's great heroes, the Duke of Wellington and his house, Apsley which is located on Hyde Park Corner. His descendants continue to live there, but the house is open and there you can be reminded of all the campaigns Wellington fought. And to the victor goes the spoils as Wellington was given a host of paintings by the Spanish who were grateful for Wellington's expulsion of Napoleon from Spain. There are seemingly endless collections of royal porcelain made for Napoleon which, in turn, were given to Wellington instead. But the most startling item is a Canova statue of Napoleon in the buff, and if you read the blog in the link below you will see the photo of it and their interesting observation of Napoleon's anatomy. The statue is by Canova, one of the best known sculptors of the era, and for some reason the British Parliament bought it and donated it to the Iron Duke.

Wellington purchased Apsley in 1817, two years after his victory at Waterloo. The house was built by Robert Adam in 1770, but Wellington re-made the interior to reflect the current taste of the Regency. The color schemes are bold and similar to what you will see a short half mile away at Buckingham Palace. It is not my taste, showy with bold colors that dominate the eye, rather like a show of colors on a parade ground and less like a place to live in.  But the paintings are sensational, something you have to wonder about as Wellington received these paintings from the Spanish and thereafter bought contemporary portraits of fellow soldiers from the painter Thomas Lawrence. In other words, Wellington accepted the gifts, but did he look at them?  I think he lived such a public life that he lived in a stage setting. The house is austerely formal which, having read Wellington's biography, I suspect, betrayed in an odd way, his sense of duty--that he was first and foremost a servant of the crown.

Wellington was also Prime Minister although not a successful one, at least when compared with many of his 19th century counterparts who continue to stand out such as Gladstone and Disraeli. Wellington's forte, which I learned on reading his biography by Rory Muir, "Wellington, The Path to Victory, 1769-1814", was his ability to keep his soldiers happy by keeping supply lines open and tending, as best he could, to their comfort. Napoleon led by charisma which the Iron Duke was, apparently, short of, although loyalty achieved through the supply of essentials made a strong bond which won the day so you can't argue with success. At least in this case. His house museum is definitely worth a visit, however, and nobody who goes to London has an excuse not to, and at the same time you can finish by walking down Piccadilly to visit Lord Burlington's old house which now houses the Royal Academy. And then a quick nip across the street to St. James's church to catch a glimpse of the sublime work of the woodcarver, Grinling Gibbons',  therein. Finally, you can visit the other great hero of the Napoleonic Wars, Horatio Nelson in Trafalgar Square. It's not a long walk.  The wikipedia take on Apsley.