Writing about art and antiques gave me my first opportunities to write professionally. I reviewed over 300 exhibitions and for 10 years wrote a popular monthly feature on antiques in Oxfordshire Limited Edition. (OLE) This was the first one and yesterday Caroline reminded the audience of my 20 years in the antiques trade running fairs, markets and centres. For a while I was chair of the Thames Valley Art and Antiques Dealers Association.
One of my favourite series for OLE I titled ‘Every Antique Tells a Story’. I have often wondered if Christopher Brown the then director of the Ashmolean flagged it up to his friend the director at the British Museum! I invited readers to send me their stories and they did but were sometimes not long enough. I supplemented the feature below with the story of my own Victorian chest of drawers naming it -for the first time- the Well -Travelled Chest of Drawers. It makes an appearance in Sculpting the Elephant as the link between the contemporary and the historical story. In the novel it holds cameras, scientific instruments, photos and the correspondence of my Victorian maverick Bartholomew Carew.
My chest really did go to India and back. This was not uncommon. During the empire, Brits travelling to far flung places by sea took empty cabins which they furnished with their own possessions. Harry King was definitely NOT into Victoriana and didn’t really want to buy the chest of drawers but he wanted the rare Keith Murray Art Deco black basalt vases on the top. We don’t own a black basalt piece so the pieces in the photo are lemon and turquoise.
Bartholomew Carew in ‘Sculpting the Elephant’ travels to India as a young man- no doubt with campaign furniture like this- believing in the myths of Empire but is soon disillusioned. Working for the Great Trigonometrical Survey which was indeed great – he finds Ashokan rock edicts and becomes obsessed by a desire to re discover Ashoka who in effect was the founder of Buddhism.