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Archive for the ‘Travel Abroad for Antiques’ Category

History Revealed in a Lap Desk for Travel

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Every gentleman and lady of the late 18th to the early 20th century travelled with mounds of luggage, among the pile the essential “lap desk” or “writing box”.  We came back with a great selection and they have just been posted on the website under New Shipments.  One I really want to share with you because the history has slowly been unravelled.

Exterior of c. 1830 Rosewood Staveley Family Lap Desk

Exterior of c. 1830 Rosewood Staveley Family Lap Desk

This by first observation is a c. 1830 rosewood lap desk of exceptional richness with fine brass bindings and escutcheons.  The interior is classic with three hidden drawers, black leather surfaces, etc.  There is also a full length drawer that pulls out of one end.  But what is intriguing always is any inscription on the top inset brass panel:  This one has a Stag’s Head, at gaze, cabossed (in heraldry terms).  Inscriptions are:  God’s Providence Is Our Inheritance  and  “Ut Aspirat Cerves”, roughly “As A Stag Aspire”.  This is shown in the next photo.

Staveley Family Crest

Staveley Family Crest

For those who have used Fairbairn’s Crests you know it seldom leads to one definitive family only for a crest–sometimes fifteen or more share a crest.  In this instance, only the Stravely family has such a crest!  But much more exciting is what still resides inside the lap desk:  one letter, one note in a beautiful Spencerian hand, and a stamp to impress the family crest and a monogram into wax seals for letters, the monogram “TKS”.  The note is a set of instructions given with the desk, or so it appears, leading off:  “To releave the secret drawers etc etc”.  Very useful as the three small ones have an unusually tricky mechanism that would otherwise require hours to unravel!  And I love the word “releave” rather than release, as it is indeed of course pressure that is releaved or released by pressing a certain spot and the trap cover springs out.

The letter has an address:

Miss Stravely

Old Slenningford Hall

Ripon,    Yorks  (Yorkshire)

Here are the notes and the stamp:


And here the blessings of the modern age come to the fore.  I began to research the family history of the Straveleys, of Old Slenningford Hall, and of Ripon, Yorkshire.  Looking for family history c. 1830 I discovered that Thomas Kitchingman Straveley, born in 1791, was the head of the family at this time–the initials under the family crest are his.  (The family held lands of modest value and a handsome Hall as their seat dating to the 1500′s, so not of the landed aristocracy, the family was a highly reputable Yorkshire family.  of immense importance to our mystery is that Thomas was elected to the First Reformed Parliament, December 11, 1832.

In many ways this was the most important political change in England since Magna Carta and The Glorious Revolution. It doubled the voters of England and gave power to the newly industrialized cities.  Here is a short history from Wickipedia:

The 1832 Reform Act was the most controversial of the electoral reform acts passed by the Parliament. The Act reapportioned Parliament in a way fairer to the cities of the old industrial north, which had experienced tremendous growth. The Act also did away with most of the “rotten” and “pocket” boroughs such as Old Sarum, which with only seven voters (all controlled by the local squire) was still sending two members to Parliament. This act not only re-apportioned representation in Parliament, thus making that body more accurately represent the citizens of the country, but also gave the power of voting to those lower in the social and economic scale, for the act extended the right to vote to any man owning a household worth £10, adding 217,000 voters to an electorate of 435,000. As many as one man in five (though by some estimates still only one in seven) now had the right to vote.

For many conservatives, this effect of the bill, which allowed the middle classes to share power with the upper classes, was revolutionary. Some historians argue that this transfer of power achieved in England what the French Revolution achieved eventually in France. The agitation preceding and following the first Reform Act (which Dickens observed at first hand as a shorthand Parliamentary reporter) made many people consider fundamental issues of society and politics.

The novel Middlemarch, by Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot) is set in the 1830s and mentions the struggle over the Reform Bills, though not as a major topic. Eliot’s Felix Holt, the Radical, set in 1832, is a novel explicitly about the Great Reform Act.

This was made by one of London’s finest box makers–it is labeled by him–in business precisely during this period.  Could it be that the lovely hand reporting the secret drawers information was a gift of Thomas’ wife Mary Claridge (married in 1820) to her husband for use in his new and important official work as a Member of Parliament?  While we can spin romance–such a joy of this business–we do know definitively now who owned this box, who made this box, who inherited the box–the Miss Straveley letter is 1928 so it was revered in the family for at least 100 years.  How in 2014 it slipped from family hands is a mystery–has it in fact been floating through other families?  If so, why keep the stamp?  Most interesting is the family is still wealthy, has a modern seat and its old hall, and has been a great benefactor of the church, our Thomas having built the 1840 Church of St. Mary The Virgin near Ripon in another village on the family’s lands.

While this ends our mystery, read on if you love history as I have included various historical snippets pertaining to both the owner of the box and the family’s continuing history:

October 9th (1891).

Church of St. Mary the Virgin, North Stainley, near Ripon, re-opened for divine worship by the Lord Bishop of Ripon. The portion of the church forming the present nave, previous to the alterations now completed, was a plain and unpretending structure with a flat plastered ceiling, a simple parallelogram, 36 feet by 24 feet, erected by the late Mr. Staveley in 1840. The additions to the church, as now existing, comprise a chancel 24 feet by 17 feet, vestry 13 feet by 8 feet, organ chamber and south porch 9 feet by 6 feet. The style adopted by the architect is simple work after the Decorated or Second Pointed of the 14th century. To obtain dignity to the chancel and preserve the general outline of the church, the architect has carried the ridge at the same level as the old nave. The stone work forming the original east window has been transferred to the west gable of the nave, which formerly was a blank, cold wall.

The new east gable to the chancel is lighted by a three-light window, with a similar one on the south side. Under the east window, inside, some plain stone panelling is placed, which forms a reredos with altar shell. The altar itself has been lengthened and raised. In the south wall of the chancel are double sedilia with credence and piscina. The new roof over the chancel is constructed of pitch pine, left clean with principal trusses, the intermediate spans being panelled throughout. The stalls and boys’ desks are of oak, and the floor is covered with rich tile paving. A chancel arch, with low stone screen separates the nave from the chancel, and the altar is raised five steps above the nave floor line. The flat ceiling has been removed from the nave, and pierced panelling inserted in the four trusses to the roof, whilst the soffits of rafters are all panelled in clean pitch pine to accord with chancel. The chancel is built over the Staveley vault now closed, and the monument to the late Mr. Staveley now stands against the south wall of the nave. Great and reverent care was taken of the few bodies disturbed by the work, and the whole work was carried out by faculty after the Chancellor had held a special court at the church. The entire cost of the chancel has been borne by Miss Staveley and Miss Lee, of Old Sleningford Hall, as a memorial to Mrs. Staveley, of Old Sleningford Hall, who died in 1881.


Public Displays of Staveley Arms  (I was unable to transfer the photos of the arms in the stained glass windows, but it is pretty much self explanatory–to investigate further, just Google Straveley Coat of Arms, Thomas Kitchingman Straveley, etc)

Ripon, Yorkshire: The ‘Staveley’ window shown at left in Ripon Cathedral displays the arms of Sampson Staveley (1605-81 – Stainley line) and Thomas Kitchingman ‘Staveley’ (Hutchinson), (1780-1860) in adjoining panes.

Hunmanby, Yorkshire: There is certainly an heraldic shield (stags heads caboshed etc.) on the alabaster monument in Hunmanby church to the Staveley family of William and Rosamunda Staveley (b. 1705) of Bridlington, though it is not totally clear if this was part of the original memorial or later restoration. There is also one on a memorial in Pocklington Church to the memory of Walter Staveley (1701-1797) and his wife Alice (1710-1773) of the Bridlington line. This tablet was erected by their wealthy ‘grocer’ nephew, Walter of Beverley, but I was intrigued to find (on personal visitation!) that the stags heads shown are not caboshed but ‘couped’ (side on and cut of at the bottom of the neck). The background is argent, the lozenges and chevron sable and the stags heads are ‘or’ which is the blazon of the original North Stainley arms although the stags head device is of course different. However I have concern that this use of arms and the Irish motto (Fidelis ad Urnam) was perhaps erroneous as there is no record at all of the Bridlington family of this era ever having had a grant of arms except their illegal use by them in the 17th c. They may well have been misled later by the Irish connections in the 18th Century as to their lineage! Or yet again there just maybe more here to this story than is readily apparent at the moment. My only real conclusion over heraldic links generally is that they tend to confuse rather than clarify things!









Kakiemon by Chantilly by Samson!!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

On our recent trip to France buying for the shop I could not resist documenting this perfect example of the great faker Edme Samson’s work.  Kakiemon is a mid-17th-18th century Japanese porcelain of great decorative restraint on a white ground. While popular forever from the great kilns of Arita, Kakiemon was surpassed in popularity by Imari, Kutani and other more gaudy colors in the 15th and 19th centuries.

Kakiemon was one of the most popular porcelains brought to Europe and as the burgeoning factories producing first soft paste and then hard paste porcelain, Kakiemon was copied throughout Europe.  Meissen and the other princely factories of Germany and Chantilly and several other royal French factories produced great imitations.  This was the period of approximately 1730-50.


Beginning in the 1840′s the Chantilly factory produced elegant Kakiemon in a soft paste milky color but hard paste tocopy the Chantilly!  This example similar to period pieces of the Regence and Louis XV reigns has bronze dore mounts but when further investigated we find the marks of the Samson factory.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


The mark of interest is a pair of entwined s’s for the Samson factory.  Sadly the making of a lamp sometime in the 20th century destroyed another mark.

While we know that the vast majority of Samson production was misrepresented by unscrupulous 19th and early 20th century antiques dealers and auction houses throughout Europe and America, this mark is an honest one and clearly used by Samson to proclaim their work.  A fascinating article in 1892 by the famous author/antiques student Sarah Cooler Hewitt documents in gory details for page after page the shenanigans of the House of Samson.  The basement had storage bins with orders for antiques from all of the most prominent antiques shops and auction houses in the world–just waiting for them all to be made and shipped!  Four floors covering a city block had hundreds of craftsmen working creating every conceivable type of porcelain, bronze, lacquer, enamel, etc. that one could imagine.  And she described how aging was accomplished by rubbing, chipping, acid treatments, and other chicanery.












“These are a few of my favorite things”

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

In addition to music (yes that is a line from The Sound of Music) and family,  much of my life is visual.  So here are some photos I took this year–hope you enjoy them.  In just a week we will load for The Vero Beach Museum of Art Show and return to unload a new shipment from England and France–so what better time than now to remember the past year.

Nelson, Christmas 2012 at grandma's

Alexander's Christmas Past--2012 at grandma's

The glory of North Carolina from Grandfather Mountain

Elizabeth ready for opening night, Vero Beach Museum of Art, 2013

Oops--it slid! Uncle Erik with Nelson and Alexander and Elizabeth presenting her masterpiece: Erik and Alexander in a joint birthday celebration

Topiary magic in the Nashville Antiques and Garden Show

The epitome of George I walnut bureau bookcases

Thomasville, Georgia hospitality--we stayed in dear clients' guest house

Chang at work--half snoozing in the Villa entrance room

Serenity in the Asiantiques booth, Alexandria, March, 2013

Spring finally arrives in the Duke Gardens in mid-March--at least the jonquils arrived in February!

A sweet Edwardian Sutherland table came home to Whitehall after 50 years in a Mebane, NC home--and now has a new home in Florida

May 2 brought Paul's 65th birthday celebration at Kipos, a new West Franklin Street Greek restaurant in The Courtyard

Spring Market was a great success: part of our huge booth at The Antique and Design Center of High Point

26 Abraham Derby roses by David Austin line the Whitehall parking lot producing a heady fragrance in memory of our dear employee of 50 years, Frances Farrington

Our new condo nears completion in mid-June

We ran the floors from the front door 30 feet toward the glass walls–this view covers most of the 30 feet lateral into the study making a large “L”.  Always run flooring so that you carry the eye to create a greater sense of size, rather than chopping up the desired view.

A "Moral Monday" sea of protestors in Raleigh--this year NC traded a 50% tax cut for the wealthy for reducing education funding to 47th in America. Bless our great teachers who soldier on.

The thrill of entering a lovely retirement home and finding a period breakfront from the late 18th century! I was waxing it again today at the shop!

Moving day was June 27th--this is July 1st and off to England July 4th to buy for the shop

Looking for nifty sporting items in southeast England

And finding 1960's G-Plan furniture for Paul's new Studio Design Gallery at The Courtyard (a three block walk to work each day) and already a huge success!

Nelson and Dad join us in London and then off to Paris!

View from the hotel room

Grandpa as Napoleonic Soldier--yes the sword is period

An Exciting Durham estate--I had worked with the parents for 25 years--yielded a rare Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin chrome backed swivel, rocking club chair--and so much more!

Paul’s Modernism gallery included in his new Studio allows us to help with a broad range of fine items from the late 17th century to the 1970′s between Whitehall and Studio Design Gallery–and the stores are only a mile apart!

And then it was July 19th and time for my 65th birthday–60 friends and family gathered atop our new building to celebrate.

My son Erik and older grandson Nelson David (Elizabeth's son)


The best little guests!

And also celebrating over 23 years with Paul, my guide through life.

And then 6 days of both teaching and learning during the annual Whitehall Summer Antiques Seminar

Then the new shipment arrived followed by a wonderful fundraiser at the Villa benefitting The Chamber orchestra of the Triangle and finally of to three fall shows and the Fall High Point Market (all featured in prior blogs).

And Halloween

A December sunset from my hotel for the Jacksonville Antiques Show--my 36th straight year!

Exploring a collection to sell this winter!

And finally the beauty of Christmas again!  Another year of exploration, learning, teaching and enjoying all that life has to offer with family and friends.  Happy New Year!  Live it with love and gusto.

Final Report from Paris

Monday, July 15th, 2013

This is my final report from Paris and it contains both the shocking changes in the Parisian antiques market over the past year or two as well as some fun shots of sights, people and stuff!

The markets generically called Marche  aux Puces in the Clignancourt area of Paris date back well over 100 years and include literally thousands of dealers in small flea market stalls, more elegant small shops and a secret wholesale market for dealers only.  We have been shopping there while in Paris for over 30 years and have watched sea changes in inventory as well as easy of using the facilities.

We have progressed from using small holes in basements for toilettes to clean, modern facilities–some even free and maintained by the management of the largest complexes!  We have progressed from carrying wads of cash in total fear with our shipper ten feet behind to take our purchases to their truck–because if they did not,  the dealers would ship you an entirely inferior piece and sell your fine piece again–and perhaps again!–to using a buyers contract with each dealer, photographing and labeling each part of each piece, and knowing what we have bought is what we will get.  The shipper brings a check the following week and picks up the purchases.

A warning if you go–pickpockets are everywhere as are purse snatchers.  Also ruffians who cause trouble–all teenagers–and the occasional stabbing during robbery attempts demand that one be alert, dressed casually with little jewelry and for the ladies only fake LV is recommended (yes they know the difference!).

While the markets have always been flooded with fakes–that has not changed, it is very buyer beware–some things have changed.  While the furniture and accessories were predominantly 18th and 19th century country and formal design, one could find almost anything in the markets.  Once perhaps only ten or so dealers carried Art Deco and Art modern–and that was considered quite avant garde.  Then over the last ten to fifteen years Art Deco became an important part of the market with perhaps 20-30% devoted to that era. Now the market is heavily dominated with the furnishings of the mid-20th century, c. 1950-1980.

Here starts a series of photos of this change:

Modernism Booth/Shop

Very cool but don’t think that orange lacquer is original!

The dog is real for sure!

Shop dogs and shoppers with their dogs are equally welcomed in the markets.  You will notice here the sense that these large market buildings are in a sense an antiques show that never ends–each week dealers are bringing in newly acquired merchandise and redoing their spaces to catch the eye of the shoppers from around Paris and around the world.  This is in sharp contrast to the wholesale secret areas which are a jumble of goods–and where great finds are made!

A wholesale dealer's space

From this dealer for years we have purchased 18th and 19th century country pieces–just last year a brilliant walnut armoire for instance–this year, nothing made before 1950 in the entire 2,000 square feet!  He is next door to the photo above where we in fact found several glorious pieces including a fine armoire and a handsome vaisselier–he had just bought an entire estate and he had a bit of everything from mediocre to bad to great.

In the markets with small spaces are many specialists–this charming woman has always featured items associated with the kitchen and casual dining–we bought some wonderful sets of knife rests in lucite, silver plate and majolica!

Lane Acclaim Tables in Paris

The markets are filled with American made mid-century pieces such as these Lane Acclaim tables priced so an American dealer buying them, shipping them and taking a normal (small) mark-up would need to sell them for $8,500 the pair!!!!!!!!!!!  My partner Paul is opening Studio Design Gallery (www.studiodesigngallery.com) in The Courtyard on West Franklin in August and offering the same pair of tables for $1,200.  So again, buyers in Paris beware!!!!!!!!!!!

And of course no visit to Paris is complete without wandering the streets of the Drouot where views of Sacre Couer are truly splendid.

And finally, more fun for our family–this time a carrousel in The Tuileries.

We had a fascinating visit to the museums of The Invalides and here yours truly tries on a real helmet and holds a quite genuine sword.  One was also allowed to hold and aim various 18th and 19th century guns–a great way to add interest for kids.  If we still had these guns, mass murders would not be possible–so much sometimes for “progress”.  The fastest shooter could reload and shoot three times in a minute as long as no one bothered him.

I will return to the theme of soldiers–lead English ones–and French real ones in their encampments in an upcoming blog.  You will find it fascinating!

Nelson Becomes an Art Collector and more news from Paris

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Yesterday after Elizabeth and I hit the wholesale resources at the crack of dawn, we joined Nelson and Jeffrey for an afternoon of pizza (good hand made stuff!) and some exploration.  Walking from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower  by way of the Arch of Triumph, Nelson discovered an artist and bought two prints of his works–one a human skeleton which evolved into the Eiffel Tower.  It was a new direction for him from toy soldiers, Legos, books and puzzles!

Algerian artist selling his work to Nelson

I also made a discovery–at least new to me–when I finally saw the trees instead of the forrest!  There are some mega gardens atop a number of posh residences.  I am used to nice urban gardens, but somehow on my visits to Paris I never noticed the gardens (perhaps 100 to 200 feet wide and deep) with towering evergreens of exotic beauty atop a number of residences.  You can make out several in this next shot of the Arch as they are on the northeast and northwest sides of the circle around the Arch.  One is seen straight through the Arch and one to the right appears at first to be trees behind houses but look carefully–it is a dense evergreen garden atop a vast residence.

Our water tour began at the foot of the Tower and included the next several delightful vistas among many.

We also discovered two of the many small parks designed for little ones scattered throughout the city as we walked around this region of the city–Nelson loved them, we took turns around 6 pm at one drinking a bottle of wine just outside the garden with one staying to watch the kiddos all romping around, and Jeffrey met a couple of interesting Sri Lankian cab drivers also resting beside the park.

This park just above the Trocodero on Ave. d’Iena is dedicated to American-French friendship and has this marvelous bronze–one of many in the park–devoted to the friendship of Lafayette and Washington.

Walking back to the hotel after a delightful outdoor cafe dinner in a pleasant residential neighborhood, the light of Paris was perfect on the Arch–about 8:30 is magical as the west sun strikes most of the great monuments and Sacre Couer in stunning light (it is not only incandescent light that makes paris the City of Light).


Day Two in London

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Wondering where the pictures of antiques shopping are for London?  There are non–we shop the countryside (where the London dealers shop) and we just have fun in London.  And this morning was no exception–a visit to the beginning of the changing of the guard at the Whitehall parade ground followed by a stroll through St. James’s and on to Westminster, the playground in the park for one last romp and then on to St. Pancras to catch the Eurostar to paris!

While the Queen was still in residence we missed her–only this photo op at Hamley’s–yes she too is made of Legos!

The Lego Queen

The “boss” for the changing of the guard today was a young woman and the members of the guard exceptionally diverse.  When I said to Jeffrey “the one in charge is a lady” he instantly quipped “She certainly is!”  Think about it for a minute–very true and very funny.

This fellow set it all in motion with a loud shout:  Make way for the Queen’s guards!

Momma and her fuzzy babies–sygnets if I remember correctly.

And for the music lovers–another touch of history:

No doubt the fireworks scared the hell out of the pelicans that had been peacefully enjoying the waters for 85 years when GII’s Handelian disaster occurred!

While The London Eye–the vast ferris wheel–looms over the entire city, my favorite symbol of London remains unchanged:

Fun in London

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Driving today to London, Elizabeth and i decided to re-explore the town of Hungerford–even found a few antiques!  But the loveliest part was the canal bridge and the peaceful view of the barges:

And with only the minor hassle of dropping the car at Heathrow and train-taxi to our hotel we met up with Jeffrey and Nelson for an afternoon in London.

The view from in front of our hotel is delightful–especially on a mid-80′s day with lots of sun and a breeze.

Walking towards Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s namesake peering into the distance:

Elizabeth and Nelson at the base of Lord Nelson’s monument.

And at Hamley’s the Lego Royal Wedding celebrants wave from the 5th floor balcony.  Nelson had an hour or so of unmitigated toy overload!