Street View: 14
Address: 26 St. James’s Street
The premises at number 26, St. James’s Street were, according to Tallis, used by Charles Jones, a gun maker, and by Bromley’s Auction Rooms. This joint occupation seems to have been a regular occurrence in the history of the building as at various times more than one name was registered in either a directory or, for instance, in the records of the Fire Office. The building does not look excessively large from the front, but if we look at Horwood’s 1799 map, we see, besides a re-numbering, that number 26 (was number 29), the fourth house from Ryder Street, seems to have a number of outhouses at the back, which may well explain the double occupancy. The front of the house shows two doors on either side of the window, presumably ensuring separate entrances to the different businesses.
The first time an auction room is mentioned at number 26 is in late 1824. While an advertisement in The Morning Chronicle of 26 June had announced that at number 26 a selection of pictures would be shown “at Mr. Hickman’s Gallery”, there is no suggestion that they were to be auctioned off. An advertisement in the same paper on 13 December of that year, however, specifically mentions “the auctioneer’s, 26 St. James’s St.”. It appears that one Mr. Cox is the auctioneer at that time who was to sell a house in Queen Square on behalf of the executors of the late owner. But an exhibition and auction room was not all that number 26 had on offer as on 19 January 1826, once again in The Morning Chronicle, the School for Fencing and Gymnastic Exercises, run by M. Hamon, is advertised as having been established some years since. In other words, number 26 was a multi-functional building.
But let’s turn to Mr. Bromley who announced a public sale of pictures at his “Auction Gallery” at 26 St. James’s in The Morning Chronicle of 19 December 1838. There is a problem identifying which Mr. Bromley was running the gallery cum auction room, as he did not put his first name in the advertisement. There was a Joseph Bromley, auctioneer at 17 Commercial Road, listed in the 1829 Post Office Directory, a business that was handed down to John Bromley & Son (Pigot’s Directory, 1839) and they may have extended their business to St. James’s Street, but it could just as well have been someone else of the same name. But whoever it was did not stay long, as on 18 March 1840, Henry Artaria “begs respectfully to inform the connoisseurs and amateurs of pictures” that he is selling, by auction, at his Gallery at number 26, a collection of pictures, among them works by Cuyp, Rubens, and Vande Velde. In this Morning Chronicle advertisement, Artaria also mentioned that he had for many years been the assistant of the late Mr. Harry Phillips of 73, New Bond Street. Phillips has been given his own post (here), but in this post we will follow his former assistant in his attempt to start his own auction house, although we will see later on that the Phillips-Artaria relationship was not just one of master and assistant.
Henry Artaria, or to give him his full name, Henry Charles Ferdinand Artaria, frequently entered advertisements in the newspapers to announce the sale of various goods, such as, for instance, “velvet and tapestry carpets” which had been on show at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly(1), but he mainly dealt in pictures. It was not surprising that Henry specialised in paintings as his family ran an extensive publishing house / art dealers’ business in Vienna. The family originally came from the Lake Como district in Italy, but had moved to Vienna sometime before the year 1700 (see here). There was also an Artaria shop in Mainz and later in Mannheim, Germany, and after Henry’s death, it was said that he had worked in the Paris branch before coming to London. The immigration records show various Artarias coming over from either Germany or France to London. Unfortunately, first names or initials are frequently omitted in the records and all we learn from most of the entries is that one Artaria, merchant, came over on such and such a date. The most significant is probably the visit in October 1838 of Claudio Artaria, more or less coinciding with the moment Henry was setting up his own business after the death of Harry Phillips.
In 1840 Henry married Elizabeth Cauty who had been Harry Phillips’s mistress and with whom she had at least four children. Whether Henry and Elizabeth lived at St. James’s Street is not clear as they do not appear in the 1841 census for that street and I have not found them anywhere else. In March 1843, Henry alerted his customers to his removal to 17, Golden Square, “in consequence of the expiration of his lease”, but he would “continue to effect the disposal of works of art, either by public or private treaty”.(2) Henry seems to have done quite well for himself, but, according to Angelo C. Hayter, an artist, Artaria “was attacked by a brain fever” in the latter part of 1848 and was “since in a despondent state”. According to Hayter, Henry “was frequently in a distressed state of mind without any real cause, as his business was not at all complicated”.(3) I am afraid that Henry’s ‘distressed state of mind’ led to his suicide. He pasted up every opening around the door and skylight in the room that was used to repair and varnish paintings at 33 George Street, Hanover Square, and lit a brazier with charcoal. His servant who had been told he need not come back after his lunch break on Thursday, found him on Friday morning, 25 January 1850, lying on his stomach with his hands under him. The jury returned the verdict: “that the deceased committed suicide by inhaling carbonic acid gas … whilst in a state of temporary insanity”.(4)
Although Angelo Hayter, who was, by the way, the son of artist George Hayter and his mistress Louisa Cauty, the sister of Henry Artaria’s wife, had already said that Henry Artaria’s family came from Como, Italy, and hence the link with the Artarias of Vienna could be deduced, Henry’s will proves this beyond doubt. He leaves all his interests in the family firm on the Kohlmarkt in Vienna and also his share in a freehold estate in Blevio (Lake Como), which he had inherited from his father, to his mother Nanette Artaria. After her decease, his share was to go to his brother Claudio and his sister Emma. All his possessions in England were to go to his wife Elizabeth. He named a friend Frederic Wilmet and his wife’s brother, Henry John Cauty, surgeon at Liverpool, as his executors for the English side of the business and his brother and sister for the Continental side of his affairs.(5) Widow Elizabeth remarried later that year to John Smith, an art dealer and historian. She died in early 1853.
On 23 April 1850, Henry’s collection of paintings was sold at the Phillips auction house in New Bond Street. The report on the sale in The Times said that the price realised was approaching £5,000. Quite a number of the pictures in the list given by the newspaper can still be traced as, for instance, lot 45: A landscape with an aquaduct over a narrow stream, sold for 78 guineas and recently sold at Bonhams (see here); also lot 82: Caspar Netscher’s Lady with a watch, sold for 70 guineas, now in the Wallace collection (see here); and one that was not mentioned in the newspaper report, but is now also in the Wallace Collection: Giovanni Bernardo Carbone’s Portrait of a Nobleman (see here). So, although Henry Artaria only worked as an independent auctioneer for ten years, his name is still frequently mentioned in the provenances of important paintings and as such his influence in the art world is greater than his short professional existence would perhaps suggest.
(1) The Examiner, 25 July 1840.
(2) The Times, 17 March 1843.
(3) The Era, 3 February 1850.
(4) The Standard, 29 January 1850.
(5) PROB 11/2109/201.
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