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Magazine    September 2001

Antiques Hunter

Italian scagliola tabletop, ca. 1725, attributed to Pietro Antonio Paoli

Japanned side chair, ca. 1730

Regency painted and gilt wood torcheres
designed by Thomas Hope
One of a pair of George III gilt wood
mirrors in the manner of John Linnell

“I help clients who have achieved a certain economic status buy adult things,” antiques consultant Philip Hewat-Jaboor of London says of his career as a decorative and fine arts adviser helping European and American collectors acquire antique furniture, objects, fine arts, statues, marble chimneypieces and rare vases. Such advisers have existed since centuries past when pharaohs and kings amassed riches and plundered other kingdoms in their quest to attain vast amounts of wealth.

Nowadays, the antiques advisory business is a lot more tame, and Hewat-Jaboor’s challenge is not so much acquiring antiques such as those shown on this page as educating clients on the endless possibilities in collecting and paying appropriate prices. “Clients may say they want English, but I’ll show them French and they realize they love it,” he says. “It’s about waking people up to unusual one-off things that are so exciting to find.”

Discoveries have included a circa 1770 white marble English chimneypiece mounted with an elaborate running frieze of sunflowers and foliage cast in gilt bronze by Matthew Boulton, the renowned English metalworker; a Sèvres porcelain vase, one of three made in a deep violet, that has French royal provenance; and an early-19th-century Russian gilt-bronze mounted porphyry vase, which, Hewat-Jaboor later confirmed, was the mate to an Imperial piece made for Alexander I. “I knew it was important when I bought it, and I sold it to a longtime client. Then I saw its twin sitting in a Russian museum,” recounts Hewat-Jaboor, who has a reputation for uncovering great works of art.

Although the hunt and chase can be stimulating, Hewat-Jaboor is cautious about price. “I try to provide proper sensible advice,” he says. “While my clients come to me because they’re interested in distinguishing themselves from others by owning great works of art, I don’t want them buying things just for the sake of making acquisitions. I feel an obligation to explain to them what things are and what they’re worth. If a chair has had three-quarters of its frame restored, its value is different than one that has been preserved in a private collection.”

Nearly all of Hewat-Jaboor’s clients are American. “They’re mostly New Yorkers in their 50s who are in communications, banking, real estate and food, and some of us have been together since 1983,” recounts the Londoner, who got his start in antiques 25 years ago at Sotheby’s, running the furniture department at Belgravia before moving on to Bond Street. He helped set up the auction house’s client services department before striking out on his own 18 years ago.

While Hewat-Jaboor’s knowledge of antiques is broad, he specializes in 18th- and 19th-century English and French furniture, decorative arts and paintings—and lately he’s been delving into the 20th century. His personal interests lay in English Neoclassical works of art of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and he’s an avid collector of pieces from the collections of Thomas Hope (1769-1831), a connoisseur, furniture designer and writer, and William Beckford (1760-1844), an antiquarian, novelist and patron of the arts.

Hewat-Jaboor is the co-curator of the exhibit "William Beckford (1760-1844): An Eye for the Magnificent" at the Bard Graduate Center for the Decorative Arts in New York City from October 17 through January 6. And he will lecture on Beckford’s collections of antique French and English furniture, paintings and precious works of art, many of which were specially commissioned by the noted patron, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 25.

Regence gilt wood console with rouge languedoc marble top

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Philip Hewat-Jaboor
London, England
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