This lot is offered without reserve.
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
This lot is subject to storage and collection charges.
**For Furniture and Decorative Objects, storage charges commence 7 days from sale. Please contact department for further details.**
DEALING IN IMAGINATION:
BERNARD VIEUX-PERNON AND HERMITAGE ANTIQUES
AN APPRECIATION BY DARLEEN BUNGEY
As a young boy growing up in the French Alps, Bernard Vieux-Pernon could only imagine of one day becoming an antiques dealer. To him it all seemed too far fetched and impossible until he purchased his first antique; a small Louis XV silver and tortoiseshell box for his sister's eighteenth birthday from a dealer in Geneva. The thrill of its discovery and the pleasure of handling such a beautiful object instantly captivated him. This was a defining moment for Bernard as he decided that his future would be in the pursuit of and dealing in beautiful and exotic antiques.
When Bernard arrived in London from France in 1967 he promptly set the town on fire. While studying English, he took a part-time job in an antiques shop. Even in the middle of August, Bernard felt the cold so badly he lit a fire in the shop's ornamental hearth. The chimney caught fire, and the shop was engulfed in flames. The owner took the news with formidable sang-froid 'She was wonderful,' recalls Bernard. 'She said. "Don't worry darling, let it all burn down and then we'll have champagne".'
Bernard discarded any plans to return home, and for the next three years set about learning the art of antiques dealing in trendy Camden Passage. 'In those days Camden Passage had a wonderful collection of dealers selling all sorts of treasures and business was bustling. It was so very exciting and fast paced,' explains Bernard. With his employer's permission he started to offer his own stock. 'I would buy in France and I started to deal in Art Nouveau and Art Deco, wonderful vases by Daum, Lalique and Mueller Freres, the odd shagreen item and bronze and ivory figures by Chiparus.'
For Bernard, business was very prosperous and in 1970 it was time to start his own enterprise. He found an attractive corner shop in Camden Passage very close to Robert Carrier's fashionable restaurant and with the financial backing of his parents and some extensive travelling for his initial stock, Hermitage Antiques was established.
'I was so lucky,' recalls Bernard. 'My clients would wonder in after a long lunch at Carrier's restaurant.' 'Ava Gardner, Sian Phillips and Rex Harrison were among my first clients and in time their friends would also come along and business went from strength to strength.'
In 1974, the shop moved to Pimlico Road, an oasis of wonderful shops and larger than life characters of the antiques trade. Geoffrey Bennison, Ruth Sheradski and Henry Woods-Wilson owned neighbouring shops and the area was full of ideas. As Bernard's business evolved, he started to deal in different styles of furniture and objects and was soon dealing in an eclectic mix of French Provincial, Oriental and European styles.
It was a holiday to visit a diplomat friend in Moscow that had the greatest impact upon Bernard's direction as an antiques dealer. 'I spent several weeks visiting the amazing treasures of St Petersburg and Moscow and their palaces, and then I went onto Helsinki, Vienna and Munich,' remembers Bernard. 'I returned to London seriously in love with Russian and Biedermeier furniture.'
With no time to waste and some would say with the recklessness of a love struck youth, Bernard auctioned his remaining stock and commenced dealing exclusively in these amazingly uplifting styles. 'I so loved the fantasy, the imagination and originality of their design.' 'The beautiful timbers used such as the rich brass-mounted mahogany and the lustrous patterns of Karelian birch.' 'The symmetry of its architectural design and the fact that it all harmonises so well with contemporary interiors creates a style that gives a home a soul,' says an excited Bernard.
Being an antiques dealer has given Bernard tremendous joy and a life full of travel, wonderful anecdotes and the opportunity to meet a wealth of people. 'My life has been full of passion and emotion, of discoveries often in the most unexpected places and at the most unexpected times.'
With all of this have come some wonderful opportunities, not least in 1999 when Hermitage Antiques provided the Russian furniture for the film set of Onegin directed by Martha Fiennes and starring Ralph Fiennes as Evgeny Onegin.
None of this would have been possible without Bernard's many clients and the numerous people who have worked with him during the past thirty-six years. 'I am so very grateful to my many clients and also to Michael Fenn who has been invaluable to me and this business since he joined me at Hermitage Antiques in 1974.'
Even though Bernard Vieux-Pernon has decided to close Hermitage Antiques and to sell the collection at Christie's South Kensington, he now wants to deal differently. He will carry on dealing in antiques, and sourcing pieces for his clients, both private and trade.
So despite being one of London's top antiques dealers, with an international client list with all the ingredients of a best selling novel - rock and movie stars, fashion designers, discerning collectors and even the odd museum - Bernard still feels he hasn't accomplished what he set out to do when he arrived in London thirty-eight years ago. He believes he hasn't yet perfected his English accent. 'A couple of weeks ago, a taxi driver asked me how long I had been in this country, and I said, "Why, do I sound like I arrived yesterday?" he replied, "No Sir, this morning".'