One of very many things I value is the cadre of craftspeople we rely on to put our stock in shape prior to its display in our galleries. I am put in mind of 18th century workshop practice, because we can have a number of crafts involved in the process. A piece of painted furniture, for instance the small japanned bureau on stand illustrated, had three- a painter to restore the surface decoration, a turner to replace one of the legs, and a bronzier to recast a replacement drawer pull. Suffice to say, the end product is something lovely, and in its result, the livery companies of a former day haven’t a patch on us.
It’s also apparent, though, that there’s a degree in backroom complexity associated with this business that one determines in the fullness of time. Moreover, there’s no master protocol associated with anything that requires restoration and the only blanket statement I can make is that everything, and I do mean everything, that we sell has required something done to it. Admittedly, we strive to acquire pieces, whether of the fine or decorative arts, that are in fairly good and largely original condition, but thinking that something might be in entirely, untouched original condition and in good enough nick to offer it untouched is folly. The general rule of thumb, and one to which most connoisseurs would subscribe, is that everything requires some significant work done to keep it in a reasonable state at least once every hundred years. That seems like not much, but bearing in mind that a number of our pieces are three centuries old means that, of necessity, things have been seen to a number of times.
When someone comes into our gallery and admires, in if the planets are in alignment actually purchases, one or more items of our stock, what they’ve also purchased is our assessment of what it took to put the item(s) in saleable condition. Mind you, though our backroom team does a great job, what they do is what we, after a great deal of consideration and back and forth palaver, direct them to do. As a consequence, when we’re asked by those who have yet to favor us with their custom about recommending a restorer, or more frequently asking us to undertake a restoration, we like as not will demur. Probably more than likely. Determining what it is that the client actually has in mind is a tedious task and always requires us, on the odd occasion that we actually undertake custom projects, to provide supervision that is no less time consuming than that required on pieces we actually plan to take into inventory. Further, we always, it seems, have a backup in our workrooms, with a fair number of our own pieces awaiting the magic touch, so slotting in a piece from elsewhere necessarily delays the completion of our own projects. So venal fellows that we are, we will for the indefinite future focus on the remunerative aspect of our business, the retail sale of art and antiques.