An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 281

Clinton Howell Antiques - April 8, 2024- Issue 281
An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture
A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts

Whenever I want to remind myself just how good some of the things I have that are for sale, I visit the Met. I don't mean for this to sound arrogant, some of the English furniture at the Met is really marvelous. The tapestry room, for example, is quite fantastic for both the tapestries and the furniture and no dealer today could match it unless someone could convince the owners of Newby Hall in Yorkshire to sell their tapestry room. And the other two period rooms, the Lansdowne dining room and the Kirtlington Park dining room are also spectacular. I have sold two period paneled rooms, but as good as one of them was, it did not compare to either of those two rooms. But I am not trying to compete with what the Met has, I am simply saying that I really do have some marvelous items that could fit right into the collection at the Met.

One of the first things I noticed on a recent visit to the museum were a "new" pair of torcheres. I think I remember seeing them in the window of a London dealer quite a number of years ago--at least fifteen--bought at a sale in Switzerland and which were a set of four that were either split up or are a different pair altogether? In any case, they are big, stylistically transitioning from the baroque to rococo with masks and swags and robust carving--the candelabra they held must have been enormous as they look like they could hold several hundred pounds on the lobed top. They are impressive and what interested me most about them is that the gilding was restored to the way the trade, those of us that sell this stuff, would want.

The torcheres are definitely grand, far grander than any pair I have owned, as are many of the items in the gallery. But when I say my furniture would fit in, it is not meant as a competitive statement. For example, I have a Regency writing table that is singular in design that could easily fit into the Met--indeed there is plenty of space for it in the room that has one or two Regency pieces. The Met has some sensational commodes, but I have among the finest pair of marquetry console tables available--they would look spectacular in the Lansdowne room. I have a walnut console table that would fit nicely into the Kirtlington Park room--I think you get the idea as anyone can own great furniture and it doesn't have to compete with what you see in the V & A or some country house--indeed, better examples of any of the items on display may turn up tomorrow. It's about owning things that are just really good and using them in an environment where they shine and are functional. What more can you ask for?