Auctions Collectors Market United Kingdom

Furniture with a historic aura on offer

Scholar-collector John Hardy’s historic pieces for sale at Christie’s

A commode of Japanese Edo-period lacquer, with ormolu mounts, attributed to John Cobb, about 1765-70

The opportunity to buy from the collection of John Hardy, one of the best known, idiosyncratic but inspiring, scholars of English furniture and country houses, is coming up on 22 May at Christie's, London, where he was a consultant from the 1980s until recently.

The basis of Hardy’s knowledge was laid in the previous 20 years, spent at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the department then called Furniture and Woodwork, which, under Peter Thornton, was something of an elite group, leading the study of furniture in the context of architecture and social mores.

It is no surprise, therefore, that most of Hardy's pieces are exceptional in the histories attached to them. They include a handsome pair of 1791 silver sauce boats to a design by the architect William Chambers and made for the 4th Duke of Marlborough, 12 silver plates by Tiffany made for the Paris 1900 Exposition Universelle, a very fine giltwood sofa almost certainly supplied in 1778 by Thomas Chippendale to Denton Hall, Yorkshire, and a mahogany stool of 1761-63 attributed to William Vile, with the royal inventory stamps of Kensington Palace and Holyrood House.

For Hardy, the historic aura of a piece is captivating, which also explains some battered Roman marble fragments. These are illustrious for having belonged to Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, Britain's first great collector, in the early 17th century.

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