The Collection of Keith and Chippy Irvine Sale
Today's essay was intended to be a "Winning Bid" post about Reggie's successful bidding on a number of lots at the recent auction of "The Collection of Keith and Chippy Irvine" held at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York. It has evolved into being yet another of his posts about collecting ceramics, and it includes one of his favorite tips for carefully storing the same. It also includes his ramblings about the concept of stewardship.
So, Dear Reader, be forewarned!
For those of us who are as obsessed as Reggie is with pretty things and the appurtenances of refined living—at least as it was narrowly defined among a tiny minority of Anglophilic East Coasters here in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century—last weekend was a sale bonanza in the little city of Hudson, New York. As readers of this blog well know, on October 5th Stair Galleries auctioned there nearly 300 lots of "Property of a Lady," universally understood to be that of the late Brooke Astor.
|Cover of the promotional brochure for the Irvine sale|
held at Stair Galleries on October 6th
The very next day Stair Galleries also held a sale of the "Collection of Keith and Chippy Irvine." Mr. Irvine, the noted decorator, died last year, much to the sadness of those who knew and loved him. His wife, the noted author Chippy Irvine, is very much alive and decided to sell a treasure-trove of objects that she and her husband collected over their long and happy marriage. Stair was the fortunate auction house to be selected for this extravaganza.
We—and a number of our friends—were fortunate to come away from the Irvine sale with a pretty thing or two for our own collections. Which brings to mind one of the reasons that I enjoy collecting antiques (or "previously owned" things): namely, that I appreciate owning objects that someone else (and, dependng on the age of the object, possibly many people) owned and enjoyed before me, and which I shall pass on to someone else to own and enjoy in the future. We are but stewards of our possessions, Dear Reader, and it is up to us to appropriately care for them while enjoying them, so that those who come after us may do so as well. Collecting and living with antiques (whether they be objects or houses), is the original definition of being green in my book.
But I digress . . .
We attended the Irvine sale from the first rap of the auctioneer's gavel at eleven o'clock in the morning through the late afternoon. We did so because the lots that we and our friends desired were spread throughout the day, and also because it was all rather interesting. Bidding in the auction was spirited, and was enlivened by an intense rivalry between two tastemakers in the room who bid determinedly for the same lots over and over again. There was also one very active phone bidder amidst the fray.
|One of the lots in the Irvine sale from which we |
dropped out of the bidding, long before the final hammer
Image courtesy of Stair Galleries
Although there were any number of lots in the sale that we were interested in bidding on, we quickly decided to refrain from doing so on those that the two tastemakers were vying for . . .
|Nope. Didn't get this one, either!|
Image courtesy of Stair Galleries
. . . since, given their determination and seemingly endless resources, there was no point! Besides, we knew one of them and didn't want to bid against him, as he is a friend of many years standing.
|The Irvine wall clock that we were able to buy,|
as it appeared in the Stair Galleries online catalogue
Image courtesy of same
Boy and I did come away with two lots from the sale. One, a pretty and decorative tôle peinte Regency-style pocket watch-form wall clock (clearly not first period—it was most likely made in the 1950s or 1960s), and the second a set of prettily painted Wedgwood creamware plates. Some of the plates in the set were made in the first period, around 1800, and others were made later, possibly as many as one hundred years later, to fill out the set. Fortunately Wedgwood kept its early molds and had painters on staff throughout who could perfectly copy the earlier decoration.
|The Irvine wall clock, photographed hanging|
from a doorknob at Darlington House
Boy has rather a thing for early creamware and was excited by the opportunity to acquire a substantial stack of plates at the Irvine sale to add to our cupboards. Fortunately the two tastemakers at the sale had their sights on furniture and pictures, so Boy was able to reasonably win the plates and bring them home at the end of the day.
|The creamware plates Boy bought, as shown in Stair's online catalogue|
Image courtesy of same
But the story doesn't end there, Dear Reader. No, there's more. For when one acquires pretty things, it requires (or at least it should) that they be cared for appropriately, so that they can be passed on to others in the future in the best condition possible.
|The creamware plates, now that they have come |
to exist with us at Darlington House
Once we got our pretty plates home to Darlington House, the two of us spent an hour or so tending to them. First we removed every sticky label (auction lots get covered with identifying paper labels during the sale process), and then we removed the residue left behind (thank goodness one has discovered Goo-Gone™ for such purposes). We then followed this by a sudsy wash in warm water and a thorough drying with a soft cloth.
|Our bolt of brown felt, on hand for cutting rounds|
The next and final bit of tending one does under such circumstances, at least that we do at Darlington House, is to cut out felt rounds to place between each plate so acquired. Doing so protects the plates from scratching and chipping when picked up by a careless housekeeper and ensures their stacked safety for as long as one owns them. Although one can buy pre-made rounds to layer between one's plates, making them oneself is easy and (by far more) economical. Furthermore, in doing so one is able to choose the color of one's rounds. Our current favorite color of felt is chocolate brown, although we have also used grey in years past.
|The felt, as marked for cutting plate rounds|
Tending to such things is a satisfying, relaxing, and nonverbal activity, and a decidedly pleasant way to pass happy and productive time with one's like-minded spouse.
|The plates, cushioned by layers of felt|
Dear Reader, should you be so fortunate to buy, be given, or inherit pretty and fine antique dishes, I encourage you to secure a bolt of felt and cut rounds from it to protect them. Not only will you be assured of coddling the plates for as long as you own them, but you will also be confident that when you pass them on, either directly or when your effects are auctioned after you move into the Big China Closet Beyond, whoever receives your plates will find them to have been properly—and appreciatively—cared for.
All photographs, except where noted, by Boy Fenwick