When buying antiques most people of course want to know about the provenance of pieces they are buying. We would all like our new art and antique acquisitions to be provenanced to a stately home where the piece has remained since its inception, generally over 200 years ago. Well quite frankly buys like this are few and far between.
Most dealers do not want to divulge the immediate source of stock they are currently selling, however are willing to mention which part of the country the piece has come from, or if we are allowed by the vendor, be a little more specific than that. Most antiques that are being sold today are ones that were sold in maybe the late 60’s and early 70’s, and have not always been wanted by later generations. So they are disposed of either directly to the trade, via a house clearance or through auction.
At Millington Adams we tend only to acquire privately sourced stock, the vehicle we use to perform this task could be varied including the three ways mentioned above. We are particular for instance when we buy at auction to know where the piece comes from, we do not generally buy trade hand me downs, except of course for a few exceptional circumstances where we will state this in the “Provenance” section on the individual stock item page.
Remember though apart from a few notable exceptions, most things that most dealers are selling today, have been through the trade a generation ago. Some things can be traced back for over a hundred years, some things we know have been in their original home all their life, but most have been with one generation for 30 years or so. So our provenance statements are for our stock items immediate past unless we know further history. One thing we must add is that auction houses and the like, are just agents acting on behalf of their client. When a dealer buys at auction, he is buying from the private individual using the auction house as the facilitator, likewise the vendor uses the auction house as a vehicle to sell his unwanted antiques, the main winner of course is the auction house, who takes a cut from both sides of the equation…. easy life for them isn’t it?