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Tony Grist

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Old Things [Mar. 23rd, 2010|10:18 am]
Tony Grist
My grandfather collected antiques. His taste ran to the florid: Louis Quinze stuff- rococo- lots of inlay, lots of ormolu. When he died what was left of his collection, which had been thinned down through successive moves- went to auction- and most of it turned out to be not Louis Quinze at all but 19th century reproduction. I wonder if he knew- or would have cared?

It was sold because none of his descendants shared his taste- though I wish I'd held out for those two late 19th century German plates of his- with their paintings of Graeco-Roman rude girls.  My parents bought some nice pieces on their own account- and their taste was for the unfussy and English. That's my taste too- broadly speaking. I like honest farmhouse furniture, manor-house furniture.  Politics comes into it.  I'm a William Morris socialist- and that 18th century French lumber- with it's shouty ornamentation- is all about grinding the faces of the poor.  That's why I hate Faberge too. Faberge is the reason- in little- why the Russians had to have a revolution.

I'm fussy about the dead people I choose to associate with.

But of course I've never had the money to buy proper antiques.  Our stuff is a mix and match of Ikea and hand-me-downs and things from junk shops.   

But supposing I did have the money? I love the Antiques Road show and its spin-offs. I envy those guys. Because  what could be more agreeable than to roll around from antique shop to auction- with a big greasy roll of banknotes in the pocket of one's ratty, tweed jacket- spending one's life among old things?  I emphasize the word  "old". Oldness is what's it's really all about. If I'd been my grandfather I'd have been furious to find that my Louis Quinze was actually Napoleon III. Dealing in antiques is dealing in history. It's time travel.  If I had my life over again- and know what I now know- I'd do one of two things: I'd train as an archaeologist- or get a job with an auction house.

[User Picture]From: drox
2010-03-24 01:47 am (UTC)
I'm a William Morris socialist- and that 18th century French lumber- with it's shouty ornamentation- is all about grinding the faces of the poor.

I can see that. But I take the opposite response. I have a lot of fancy and delicate antique (and just plain old) stuff that I love the look of. Probably none of it is exceptionally valuable, but all of it was bought for pennies on the dollar, mostly at auction. I see it as just a bit subversive that these once upper-class frou-frou items are now in the hands of regular working-class me.

Dealing in antiques is dealing in history. It's time travel.

Amen to this.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-03-24 09:15 am (UTC)
I know what you mean.

My grandfather was a boy from the slums who made good. There could well have been a touch of class revenge in his taste for very flamboyant, very aristocratic antiques.
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