Ruth (1916-2001) and Carl (1916-2014) were beloved members of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society (ICSBS). Active, engaged and discerning collectors, the Barrons amassed an impressive collection of Chinese snuff bottles in a period of just over twenty years. After Ruth passed away in 2001, Carl continued collecting on his own, meticulously cataloguing the collection in a database with photos and information on each bottle.
Residing outside of Boston, the Barrons were fixtures in the Cambridge business community, where they were very active in local philanthropy. A true American entrepreneur, Carl started his own furniture-leasing business in 1938, after seeing the difficulty his Harvard Business School classmates had in furnishing short-term apartments. The first business of its kind, his idea sparked an entire industry. Once married, Carl and Ruth worked side by side. On his desk at his office in the Barron Building in Cambridge’s Central Square, Carl’s nameplate read, “Carl F. Barron, Assistant to the Boss.” Ruth’s read simply, “The Boss.”
The list of their philanthropic contributions to the community is long and diverse, ranging from founding faculty chairs at Bowdoin College and Cambridge College, supporting academic studies at the University of Haifa in Israel, to creating the Barron Center for Men’s Health at Mount Auburn Hospital, to funding prostate cancer checks for all the police and fireman in Cambridge and surrounding communities, and seemingly countless more gestures of giving back to the community.
As collectors the Barrons explored many categories, including Wedgewood porcelain, Japanese Meiji-period art, American and Moser glass and stamps. Carl’s passion for snuff bottles came later in his life, but his enthusiasm for and dedication to the field is evident in his choice of bottles. The ICSBS annual convention in Boston in 2008 featured a symposium on his collection, where Hugh Moss, Clare Chu, Robert Hall and Robert Kleiner each selected a topic on which to speak, illustrating their points with choice examples from the Barron collection. An exhibition of highlights from the collection accompanied the symposium, some of which are included in this sale.
It is Christie’s great honor to present the Barron Collection of fine Chinese snuff bottles to a new generation of collectors.