Dear blog reader
Here is the sixth part of the series on the sale of the contents of Shandon House, also known as the Shandon collection.
This blog post is from the first day of the sale and gives us an excellent introduction to Robert Napier’s taste.
GLASGOW HERALD THURSDAY 12 APRIL 1877
SALE OF THE SHANDON COLLECTION. FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT. LONDON, WEDNESDAY.
The high prices realised at the sale of the Shandon Collection at Christie, Manson & Wood’s today fully justifies the estimate of its value as formed by connoisseurs. Mr Napier seems to have been a collector from the beginning to the very close of his life, otherwise it would be impossible to account for such an enormous accumulation of curiosities of all sorts, some of which only passed through the market quite recently.
Most amateurs are content with one mania at a time as, for instance, Mr Gillott and Mr Mendel, who bought pictures, the latter beginning with water colours and at last getting rid of all those in order to make room for his oil paintings; Mr Bohn, who collected china of all sorts, it is true, but who now sells it off to give space to his miniatures; Dr Sibsen, who made Wedgewood his sole hobby; and the Duc de Forti, whose collection of Dresden is as unrivalled as Mr Addington’s or [illegible] Dudley’s show of Sevres, or Lady Charlotte Schrieber’s Chelsea. These are only types of hundreds of others more or less known beyond the immediate circle of their friends, for every now and then there crops up into notice through the agency of Messrs Christie especially unknown men who for years have been quietly absorbing the best specimens of the various objects of their passion. Mr Napier seems to have outdone most of his rivals, for not only did he collect everything, but he bought with taste and discretion in every branch of art.
Twenty days are required to exhaust his almost inexhaustible museum, which, had it been purchased en bloc by the City of Glasgow, would have at once endowed the ‘second city of the empire ‘ with an art museum scarcely if at all inferior in the quality of its specimens to that which London possesses at South Kensington, and which is now the envy and admiration of foreigners of all nationalities, the French especially.
The Shandon sale opened today with Mr Napier’s Continental porcelain, and the prices realised show two very striking factors important to collectors and wholly ignored by Mr Bohn. He was always ready to give the ‘trade’ a turn, and in return the trade have shown an energy and enthusiasm in putting up the prices which were quite absent from Mr Bohn’s sale. Another good idea, due to Messrs Christie, is the arrangement of the specimens of porcelain in alphabetical order according to its fabric. An exception of course has to be made in favour of the Sevres which is divided into two portions, a half being sold on each of the first two days. The fabrics which are represented in the collection are these chiefly known for the extreme beauty of their designs, the skill of the painting, or the rarity of the paste.
Specimens of such fabrics as [illegible] Retiro [I believe this refers to Real Fabrics del Burn Retiro] are difficult to obtain , either in this country or in Spain, and it is therefore not to be wondered at that Mr Napier’s solitary specimen, a pair of white cups and saucers with raised flowers in imitation of Chinese designs, realised 10 guineas. It was in 1759, when Charles III abdicated the throne of Naples in favour of his son, Ferdinand, that he withdrew to his Spanish capital, near the gardez of the Palace of Burn Retiro, and installed the two-and-thirty workmen he had brought with him from the Royal Porcelain Factory of Naples, and continued to reproduce works similar to that known as Capo di Monte. At this latter factory, founded also by Charles III in 1736, the idea of reproducing raised figures in high relief on the soft paste of the cups and vases was first practiced with success, but anything like really old and authentic specimens are now so rare that they command fabulous prices. Still more rare are paintings by some of the earlier artists of the Capo di Monte manufactory, and a small bottle, painted by one of the best of those, was hotly contested and eventually knocked down for 50 guineas.
Doccia was the only other Italian fabric represented in today’s sale, which was made up of specimens from Amsterdam, Angouleme, Ausbach, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dresden and Sevres.
The next blog post will look the details of the porcelain sold on the first day of the sale of the Shandon Collection.