Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Sunday, 23 August 2015
Up there with Robert Kime
Yesterday's flea-market purchase. An 1850 decanter with honeycomb blown bowl and dimple-cut stem. £12.
That 'honeycomb' moulding is often seen on 18th century, Scottish, 'Monteith' Bonnet glasses, but I have never seen a decanter blown with that pattern. It is alluringly pretty to my eyes, and will be even prettier filled with port. The strange thing about decanters is nobody seems to want them. You would have a hard job selling a perfect 1700's glass decanter for more than about £25. I don't understand it, but there are bargains to be had everywhere. Here's a tip for free. Spend about £5000 on good quality glass decanters, then sit on them for 15 years. The trouble is that I actually know people who did just that 20 years ago, and they are still sitting on them.
I can be pretty confident about assigning the 1850 date to it because of the dimples cut into the neck. These dimples were first cut into beer glasses for the India Pale Ale market in 1850, and the press-moulded glasses in the same style were brought in around 1870. The dimpled glasses were the prototypes for the classic British beer mug which everyone knows from pubs - now in decline in favour of the sleeve mug.
It came without a stopper, but I found one with the perfect fit in amongst a collection of orphaned stoppers that I have accumulated. It's not a perfect match, but it will do perfectly well. You push it into the neck and you can actually feel it tighten with a crunchy sort of feel, telling of the air-tight fit.
"It will be perfect for Christmas!" I proclaimed to H.I. when I unwrapped it yesterday.
"Christmas?!" She was incredulous that I should even mention this far-off, one-day event during August, and in advance of our forthcoming holiday in September.
After a lapse of about 3 years, Christie's auction house has begun sending me alerts and catalogues again. They stopped when I stopped spending 100s of thousands of pounds of other people's money with them, which was a bad marketing mistake on their part. If I feel insulted about their assumption that I cannot afford to spend this sort of cash on their offerings, then I am going to go all sulky with my clients - the ones who can.
I opened up the brochure this morning, and it featured a whole bunch of London, New York and Parisian interior designers smugly standing around in the midst of their aesthetic environments (either in jeans or ball-gowns), all created with junk bought at Christies. Talk about chintz.
When I look at these furnishing suggestions aimed at people with more money than taste (think Donald Trump or Russian oligarch), I feel like going around to the designer's houses and giving each one of them a good slapping. I suppose they have to live like the rest of us, but how do they sleep at night?
On the other end of the high-class whore's boudoir scale, there is the studied chaos referring to the sort of Victorian museum collections which you never see outside of the Sir John Soane museum these days. They love these sales because it is a good way to off-load whole cabinets full of disparate junk, and it requires no skill whatsoever from the designer to cobble together an interesting and diverse set of conversation pieces - if your guests are staying long enough to have that many conversations.
That's what Christie's specialises in - adding value. How about this: go to an abattoir and buy a cattle skull with a decent set of horns on it before it is rendered down for glue or fertiliser, bleach it white, then put it in Christies with an estimate of £10,000 - £15,000 on it.
The chances are that Christies will do their magic and it will make £25,000 - but only if your face fits.