Q&A My favourite things
Antiques expert Curtis Dowling, who is appearing on the new series of Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is, usually sells his best finds, but there are some objects he just can’t bear to part with
9th September 2009 - 10:33
What was the first antique you bought?
A silver specimen vase from a boot fair when I was very young. I paid £1 and the lady told me it wasn’t silver. It was; it was Indian from about 1880.
Do you still have it?
No I sold it for £600. As an antique dealer I don’t collect, in fact I don’t keep antiques at home. I love them so much, I find them a distraction, but there are a few items I can’t part with. My favourite is a glass Lalique car mascot in the shape of a dragonfly – the Petite Libellule made in 1928. Lalique made around 40 different car mascots and they were very popular at the time. I bought it in a 1993 at an auction in Sudbury for £1,200; it should get £2,500 today. I have a couple of other pieces of Lalique too, my favourite being a 1930s iridescent Coquille glass bowl.
What else do you have stashed away?
I have a couple of original James Gillray prints. He was an 18th century caricaturist who satirised the great and good. I have one of the most famous of them all: Fashionable Contrasts, or, The Duchess's little Shoe yeilding to the Magnitude of the Duke's Foot. It’s a picture of two man’s feet facing down and two woman’s facing up, clearly in a compromising position – which was a dig at the Prince Regent.
What's your favourite piece of furniture?
I have a passion for Georgian walnut furniture from 1720 - 1770, it’s my favourite period and the look, feel, smell, warmth it generates makes me dizzy, but it wouldn’t fit into my home. My favourite piece at home is my black leather Egg chair, designed by Arne Jacobson which I bought ten years ago for £6,000. It’s an iconic 1959 design and also damn comfortable.
Your best find?
A pair of Victorian enamel cufflinks owned by Noel Coward, which I came across in a box during a house clearance. The box belonged to someone who had worked at the hotel on Burgh Island on the Devon coast. Many famous people stayed there including Coward and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The box had been in a cupboard for 60 years and contained old letters and notes written by Coward along with the cufflinks and a Paris crystal bracelet that belonged to Wallace Simpson. I put the lot into auction, but pulled it out at the last minute – I didn’t want to see the contents split up. The bracelet is made from 10 strings of crystals held together in a cuff with a silver clasp, hallmarked 1916, a lovely item, particularly with that provenance. I’m too sentimental for my own good!
Most treasured possession?
A leather jacket worn by Ian McShane in Lovejoy. I used to hang around on the set and one of the production crew said I could have it. My wife absolutely hates it, but I wear it quite a lot. I’ll never get rid of it – if I had to take just one thing with me from my house that would be it.
Curtis’s programmes will be shown on BBC One in October