July 2016 Newsletter

  • By Antiques-Art-Design Sydney

"I think housework is far more tiring and frightening than hunting is, no comparison, and yet after hunting we had eggs for tea and were made to rest for hours, but after housework people expect one to go on just as if nothing special had happened."

Nancy Mitford
Inside painted snuff bottle, crystal and jade, painted in the Summer of 1912.

Hello there,
Another newsletter full of things to read, see and discover - I'm sure you will enjoy our insight into the world of snuff and the eclectic English eccentrics who are the Mitford sisters. Keep warm, and happy reading...

Blowing out the Candles in July...
Whitlam and Caesar banter in Latin, Klimt blows kisses to Jackie and Nancy, Derrida deconstructs the cake, Ginger and Kafka dance until dawn…
Nancy Mitford by Cecil Beaton
Midway between the Bennets of Longbourn and the Kardashians of everywhere there were the Mitford sisters; Nancy, Pamela, Diana, Unity, Jessica and Deborah. Born into the English aristocracy, the daughters of Lord and Lady Redesdale, their glamour and often outrageous behaviour amused then appalled English society in the turbulent decades of the mid-20th century.

Diana abandoned her husband Bryan Guinness to marry British fascist leader Oswald Mosley.

Unity “Boud” (conceived in the Canadian town Swastika) became a rabid Nazi and friend of Hitler. 

Jessica “Decca” eloped, embraced Communism, moved to America and became a renowned journalist and civil rights campaigner. 

Deborah (Debo) married Andrew Cavendish and as the Duchess of Devonshire restored the family seat Chatsworth, (believed to be the inspiration for Austin’s Pemeberley) as the “sensible one” she was the epitome of the Conservative countrywoman.  

Author and Francophile Nancy’s autobiographical novels, Love In A Cold Climate and The Pursuit Of Love immortalised (and romanticised) her family and have never been out of print.

They continue to fascinate; Mitford-alia, has become a literary industry, not all of it appreciated by the cognoscenti. One biography prompted a letter to the Times disputing the author’s claims to familiarity with his subject “…and as for the use of the word we, is that the royal we, the editorial we, or just you and your bloody tapeworm?” a line worthy of Nancy herself. 

A recent addition to the canon Take Six Girls: The Lives Of The Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson was published after the death of the surviving sister Deborah in 2015. Thompson includes references to her lengthy conversations with Diana Mosley and the Duchess so she can claim association and is a sympathetic if not uncritical biographer. Placing them in the context of their time and ours, she uses the Mitfords’ relationships; their passions, ideologies, loyalties, rivalries, betrayals and ultimate reconciliations to show how civilizations are destroyed and restored, one family at a time. 

Please see link

Lorna Lesley
Mitford Family at Swinbrook House 1929 (courtesy of
From L-R: "Muv", Nancy, Diana, Tom, Pam, "Farve", (front row) Unity, Jessica, Debo
Looking...last chance to see…
Heavy Artillery at the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale featuring works by contemporary Chinese artists including sculptor, Xu Zhen, video performance artist Liu Chengrui and He Xiangyu - whose installation in the attic gives new meaning to the term “luxury leather goods” The exhibition also features Flotage—Tectonics (2014), a translucent screen-printed “floating” wall by Shinji Ohmaki, Biennale guest artist from Japan. Closing on August 7th post-viewing tea & dumplings in the café highly recommended.

Please see the following link to the exhibition:
 Photos courtesy of and
Onyx snuff bottle with cabochon coral glass stopper c.1880 China
Discovering Snuff Bottles...

Snuff and Stuff
A friend, who also happens to be good client, asked me recently if I might be interested in cataloguing a collection of snuff bottles for her.   It was a collection that had belonged to her mother and as such she wanted to know more about them.  We had a great time with them and the end result was a hardbound book that we produced and edited for her and so we asked if we might share some of them with you.
Snuff bottles are a relatively recent thing.  You might imagine that they are an ancient Chinese tradition; the origins of which are buried in the mists of time.  However, “taking snuff” is a European custom introduced to China through missionaries and envoys visiting in the 17th Century. 
Traditional European snuffboxes didn’t work in Asia to keep the excessive humidity out of the snuff powder. It was also therefore necessary to have an implement with which to break apart the snuff that may have fused or caked together; hence, the Chinese solution of the bottle with a cork seal and a spatula or spoon in its lid.  Initially, snuff was used by the elite in Beijing, and its widespread popularity was only reached in the mid to late 18thcentury.  As a result, the majority of bottles that come onto the market are from after this time.
By the early 19th century snuff bottles had surpassed their utilitarian roles and became more and more decorative and novel, ultimately becoming status symbols. This eventuated in styles like the inside painted snuff bottle coming into existence.  These were not really intended to be used at all, but to show the skill of the artist and maker, and demonstrate the cultivated nature of those that owned them.
If you have a collection you might like recorded and catalogued please feel fee to contact us for a quotation.

Christopher Becker
Snuff bottles from L to R: Yellow Peking glass snuff bottle, Peking glass carp snuff bottle, brown agate snuff bottle with dark amber lid, carved turquoise matrix snuff bottle.
The Last Word…
voisinage: neighbourhood related to vicinity or “the fact of being near” as in:

“It’s not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me oh no
 It’s just the voisinage of you”
(with apologies to Ned Washington)
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