For over 100 years, Partridge has been a name synonymous with the buying and selling of the greatest antique furniture, pictures and works of art on both sides of the Atlantic.
I am delighted to have taken on the role of Chairman of this great company and am fortunate indeed to have the continued support of John Partridge as our President.
I believe the fine art world of today must grasp the opportunity to encourage collectors new to our field; to instill in them the tremendous satisfaction and, hopefully, fun, that can come from setting out to acquire works of art and the many friendships that can be made along the way.
I hope that this catalogue will not only appeal to those of you who know our galleries well, but also tempt many to venture for the first time into the 'House of Partridge' when next in London. I can assure you of a warm welcome and that you will continue to find important furniture and works of art but with a greater variety than in recent years.
Chairman and Managing Director
A BRIEF HISTORY OF PARTRIDGE
The Partridge 'look' has changed somewhat since the business came into being over a hundred years ago, as John Partridge, President of the new Partridge and the third generation to run the business explains. 'My grandfather started Partridge in l900 in King Street, opposite Christie's, selling oak furniture. He was one of the first to have the vision that Adam and satinwood furniture would be very successful, which in those days wasn't very popular. Then he got involved in Chinese and English porcelain and later he went into French furniture and Renaissance bronzes.'
From the first, Partridge appealed to the serious collectors of the day in both Europe and America. 'My grandfather was lucky enough to have as his first client Mr. Lever, later Lord Leverhulme, who formed a great bond with him. A great deal of the best furniture at Port Sunlight, his house in Cheshire, came from my grandfather' John Partridge recalls. Later other very good clients found their way to Partridge such as Sir William Burrell. 'He walked in one Saturday and said to my grandfather "I'm just a Scotsman down for the day and I'd like to look around". He picked out the five best things we had and bought them. Over his lifetime we did about a thousand transactions with him.'
In his memoirs, John Partridge's grandfather, Frank Partridge, tells of close relationships with collectors such as John D. Rockefeller Snr., Judge Untermeyer and William Randolph Hearst, not to mention three generations of members of the British royal family, in particularly HRH Queen Mary, that most consummate and informed of collectors.
It was John Partridge's grandfather who also started another Partridge tradition; their close relationships over a century with major museums, particularly in America. 'This all started because my grandfather was very friendly with the then Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it went on from there - I think the most things we have ever sold to museums went to the Metropolitan' he believes.
John Partridge's father, Claude Partridge, took over the business in l950 but tragically died of cancer four years later. However, he brought his own passion for l8th Century pictures to the galleries, a tradition which has continued to this day. 'My father was very much keener on paintings than he was on furniture and I think if he'd had his way earlier in life we would have gone into the picture business and got rid of the furniture and porcelain' says John Partridge.
A hundred years of top-flight dealing over three generations have seen Partridge become one of the best-known and most venerable antique dealers in the rarefied international world of the very best. John Partridge himself has counted as clients major museums and 20th Century collectors such as Stavros Niarchos and Charles and Jayne Wrightsman. Now, Partridge is undergoing changes in order that it can respond to the taste and differing demands of a new generation; the collectors of the 21st Century.
At the end of 2005, Partridge was bought by the energetic and successful porcelain dealer Mark Law who, as he explains acquired it because 'I very much wanted to play a part in Partridge in the future and I thought it was incredibly important that it continued, because I think that the whole market needs landmark businesses and landmark names to bring in new collectors. If these historic businesses are not there' Law believes, 'younger collectors won't see things and be intrigued and start to collect.'
'Perhaps there isn't the desire for an entire room of gilded furniture these days' he says 'but one spectacularly gilded piece will really make a room and draw it together. I think people are bored with minimalism and so Partridge's wonderful galleries give a great opportunity to show people the very best furniture, pictures, porcelain, silver and works of art and how these can work in different settings.' Mark Law also believes that even if people buy fewer things than their parents and grandparents might have done, 'wonderful period things will still work very well in surprisingly contemporary settings. We have a great advantage here at Partridge' he says 'in that in our galleries we can really show superb furniture, porcelain and pictures, I arrogantly believe, better than anyone else in London.'
For 21st. century collectors 'Partridge' will continue to represent the height of taste and connoisseurship, allied to a present-day sensibility about the arrangements of furniture, pictures, silver and porcelain as a wonderful background to contemporary life.
I have had the pleasure and honour of being the Chairman and the Managing Director of Partridge Fine Arts for the past 47 years.
Now the time has come to hand over the mantle to a successor. After several approaches we finally decided to accept the offer of Mark Law's company. He has been in the art business for twenty years, starting his career in the auction world and then buying the company of Albert Amor, the famous dealers in antique porcelain.
Mark Law is a man of great knowledge with boundless enegery and I feel that with his enthusiasm and dedication, he can take the company forward, as I did at the age of twenty-eight, at a time when the art market began moving into a new era. This was in 1959 when Sotheby's held its first evening sale of seven great French Impressionists from the Goldschmidt Collection. Having bought the Corot and underbidding the great van Gogh landscape bought by Henry Ford, I then hosted the evening party across the road in our galleries.
This was at the time that I had purchased the French furniture and objects from the Chester Beatty collection, in the Partridge galleries for sale that evening and now mainly in the Niarchos, Getty and Paul-Louis Weiller collections. During my life-time I have had the privilege of meeting and making friends with some of the greatest collectors of the last century.
I now wish Mark Law great success in taking the company forward at the time, when great changes are taking place in the art market worldwide. I am delighted to remain as President of the company to give my advice when needed and I look forward to still greeting my old customers and friends.