This lot is offered without reserve.
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
The shop was called M. Turpin Ltd., but from his earliest years in the trade, just after the Second World War, everyone knew Maurice Turpin as 'Dick'. When he died last year, he was one of the very last of those dealers active in the post-war decades when the 'trade' was dominant. He was also one of the great characters of the antiques trade - in a trade full of them. He was instantly recognised everywhere he went, he was a very large man with a large personality, a large moustache, thick glasses, an ever-present tweed trilby and a high-pitched voice. He rarely suffered an unexpressed opinion; not always right, he was never uncertain.
Dick was a dealer who hated to sell. Deep inside he was, like many dealers, a collector. Dick loved to buy; he loved the back and forth and the hurly-burly of trading, the marketplace, bidding at auction, buying a 'good lot', loading it into his estate car, bringing it back to London and selling it on - then he could return and do the same the next day. He particularly enjoyed all the friendships that dealing engendered.
In his prime, he was a tough competitor and a fierce defender of what he saw as his turf at country auction sales. Woe to the young dealer who fancied something he did! However, if he liked you as a young person coming along in the trade, he would take you under his wing and your friendship, and business, would flourish.
There was rarely a good sale that Dick did not attend, whether it was in London or in the country. He was always accompanied by his close friend and confidant, his partner since 1957, Colin Hart. Colin was the grandson of Moss Harris, the well-known dealer who had had a large shop in Oxford Street. After attending country sales, Dick and Colin would then 'do the local shops'. Dick would often arrive in a shop first and then Colin would arrive a few minutes later after buying a packet of biscuits. They would sit down for a drink and Dick would disclaim on the local auction and the other dealers who attended. Dick had nicknames for them all - Taras Bulba, Dracula, Gary Glitter, The Handbag, The Horse, Frankenstein, Noddy, Big P and Little P, The Pineapple, The Token Schvartza, Columbo, The Black Adder and a few others which are not printable! Dick would comment on all the goods in the sale, who bought them, what they paid (frequently 'too much'), decrying the events in the sale, the auctioneer and so forth. Inevitably, Colin would begin to say 'Come on Dick, Come on Dick, let's go, let's go Dick'. For many of us that is our image of the two of them. They were together from the mid-1950s until Colin's death a few years ago.
In the 1960s and 1970s, he travelled the world and was regularly seen at sales in Paris, Monte Carlo, Amsterdam. Sweden and Denmark - where he once bought a superb American flat-fronted chest. He travelled frequently to America, often to California. As he said to me once, 'if I hear of a lot, I'm in the car or on a plane'. He once famously walked the streets of Manhattan from river to river, starting at the Battery in Lower Manhattan and going all the way to the edge of Harlem. He put together quite a shipment on that trip.
After some hesitation and a degree of active discouragement on the part of the trade, I called on Dick for the first time some 25 years ago. I went along to the Mews houses in South Kensington and Alfred Redman, the cabinet-maker, showed me around. I was astonished, it seemed an endless parade of houses - three of them - each with room after room, each room full of treasures. Alfred didn't have any prices, I made a list and then rang Dick that evening. We arranged to meet in a café around the corner the next day. They were playing a Bob Marley record and I recall being a little surprised that he knew who Bob Marley was - later I learned he loved music. We went around to Manson Mews afterwards and did a deal - and a long friendship ensued from that day onwards.
Dick for many years was a dealer's dealer and so the public rarely had a chance to sample the wares hidden away in those Aladdin's Caves. Dick thrived on loaning objects out to the major retailing dealers of those days, and also supplying an endless stream of American dealers - many from the South. As such, he was one of the great 'hidden sources' that are legendary in the antiques trade. What these two sales present are the revealed treasures of those Mews houses, and the shop he later opened on Bruton Street.
New York, 2006