Read and rights
A controversial account of early Jewish settlement in America and photographs of Native Americans do better than expected
THE first Jew known to have settled in North America was Elias Legarde, servant to Anthonie Bonall, a Huguenot vigneron sent to Virginia in 1621 to investigate the possibilities of New World wine-making. The next arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1649, but was returned to Holland almost immediately. Thus the references to Jews in America in John Sadler’s Rights of the Kingdom: or, Customs of our Ancestours (Fig 1), published in 1649, are likely to be largely theoretical.
Like modern American evangelicals, Sadler (1615–74), millenarian, lawyer, politician, Hebrew scholar and academic, was principally interested in the Jews as harbingers of the Second Coming of Christ and he believed the same of the British Civil Wars and the rule of Cromwell.
He was partly responsible for the granting of civil rights to the Jews, and, although in this book he advocated regicide, he also promoted prison reform.
At the Restoration, he lost his post as President of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and although, in 1662, he had prophesied a great fire of London, he lost much of his property there when the Great Fire actually broke out four years later. At Magdalene, they ‘accounted him not only a general scholar, and an accomplished gentleman, but also a person of great piety; though it must be owned he was not always right in his head’.
A copy of the book, estimated to just £300 at Bloomsbury in mid December, sold for £10,540. First editions are rare, but the discrepancy was perhaps due to
an inscription and ownership signature that the cataloguer read as ‘This Book is worth its weight in Gold, Yea, in Dymonds says J.P.’ and ‘J.S.M.P ENN’. To my eye, the initials in both cases appear to be ‘Wm’ and the elaborately scrolling capital Ps are typical of the founder of Pennsylvania (1644–1718).
A further inscription says that it was the gift of Penn’s ‘kinsman Sir John Fagg of Wiston’, who had been nominated to the commission that tried Charles I, but refused to sign the warrant, thus earning a baronetcy from Charles II.
A couple of lots later, a warrant signed by Penn, using a slightly less elaborate P, along with Samuel Pepys and Viscount Brouncker, sold for £868 (Fig 2). It is an order for the crewing of the yacht
Lenox, which was borrowed by the Royal Navy during the 1660s and 1670s from the Duke of Richmond and Lennox. He used it officially when he was ambassador to Denmark, thus neatly getting the state to pay him for the use of his own boat.
The vendor of the Sadler was probably lucky that this book and manuscript sale was followed immediately by the sale of a collection of more than 300 largeformat photogravure plates published to accompany Edward S. Curtis’s
The North Amer- ican Indian (1907–30), which may have alerted Transatlantic bidders to it. The session began with the first 13 volumes of 20 of the published edition, which sold for £86,800, and the most expensive photogravure was Cañon de Chelly—navaho at £17,360 against a £2,000 estimate. An impression of perhaps the most famous image of all, The Vanishing Race—
Navaho (Fig 3), made £1,488. Thoughts of vanishing and neat money-making wheezes bring me to Minimalism. When Peter Mandelson was being castigated for his dodgy property arrangements, I was much more shocked by the photos of the eviscerated interior of his Notting Hill house. It is natural enough for people who are uncertain of their own tastes to buy a ‘look’ from an interior decorator and, if the decorator can label a ‘look’ that has cost him very little ‘Minimalism’ and sell it very expensively, that is sometimes to be expected.
However, it does seem as if the fashion for sterile interiors has run its course. Our minds and senses need all the fun they can find at the moment and sight and touch are much better served by variety, colour and contrast than by white walls. Which leads us to the winter Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in the Battersea Park marquee from January 24 to 29. Here, the idea that periods, styles and genres can be mixed to advantage is well accepted and there are no real boundaries between antique dealers and decorators.
The entrance area at these events is now used for themed displays drawn from a number of exhibitors, and this time the theme is Gothic, as reinterpreted for the 21st century. In fact, I think that should perhaps be ‘Gothick’ as it seems to be inspired by Strawberry Hill rather than the Middle Ages. Within, there will be more textiles than previously, as the London Antique Rug & Textile Fair has merged with the Decorative event.
Among these exhibits, I look forward to seeing two in particular. C. John of Mayfair has a colourful oval carpet (Fig 4), measuring nearly 10ft at the longest, designed by the Belgian Art Deco architect Albert Van Huffel (1877–1935), and Stothert and Trice offer a Finnish-style rya (rug) (Fig 6) designed in 1962 by Jean Cocteau for a Maltese company called Mediterranean Industries. Only about five of the proposed 50 were made before Cocteau’s death, so this rarity is priced at £6,500.
Another curiosity, with Kate Thurlow, is a 12½in-high 18thcentury north Italian wooden model of a baptistry (Fig 5), topped by a bell and presumably intended to carry a chalice (£2,200).
Next week The season for works on paper
Fig 1 left: John Sadler’s Rights of the Kingdom: or, Customs of Our Ancestours. £10,540. Fig 2 right: A warrant signed by William Penn. £868. Fig 3 below: Print of Edward S. Curtis’s The Vanishing Race— Navajo. £1,488
Fig 4 left: Belgian 10ft oval carpet. With C. John of Mayfair. Fig 5 right: Model baptistry. With Kate Thurlow
Fig 6: Cocteau rya or rug. With Stothert & Trice