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Magazine    June 2002

Hobbs for Sale

Northern Italian Neoclassical giltwood side table with porphyry top, circa 1780

A circa 1815 giltwood and ebonized mirror

Southern Italian giltwood chair, circa 1785

John Hobbs, the dashing London dealer who, in the 1980s, made a killing selling newly found antique Russian furniture from northern Europe in London, is auctioning a huge collection of very expensive Continental furniture at Phillips this month and in October.

Hobbs, a high-school dropout who started with his junk-shop dealer father and eventually came to sell fancy antiques to the world's most savvy collectors, including Hubert de Givenchy and Saul Steinberg, has consigned 118 lots of furniture and fine art in the first part of the sale, which takes place in New York on June 4.

"John has a penchant for furniture and objects on a theatrical grand scale and has had unique access to some of the greatest English country house and European collections during his 40 years in the antique furniture business in London," notes Thierry Millerand, director of Phillips's French and Continental furniture department. "He has the ability to find unusual and unique objects of the highest quality."

Many of the items up for auction come from historic houses and with bonafide provenance. A circa 1740 lacquered bookcase (see photo, table of contents) by Giles Grendey and bearing his trade label, with complete documentation by Christie's, is on the block for $600,000. A white marble chimneypiece (below) designed circa 1764 by the famous architect Robert Adam for Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet's Grosvenor Square house, carries an estimate of $180,000 to $220,000 as do a pair of mirrors (above left) from the Château de Groussay auction held by Sotheby's in 1999.

But Hobbs also is offering up his impeccable taste as well, having sourced antiques that, quite simply, are decorative, but unsigned, such as a pair of circa 1785 southern Italian Neoclassical giltwood armchairs from Naples with inswept tablet backs and shaped arms ending in carved camelhead rests (left) and a circa 1780 northern Italian Neoclassical giltwood side table, with porphyry top and a scrolled acanthus leaf design around a central lion mask (top).

Why have the sale in New York? Two years ago Hobbs was "introduced" to Manhattan's high society at a large private party hosted by one of the Bronfman scions and it seems he is intent on developing business there, leaving son Rupert to handle affairs in London. Meanwhile, John's younger brother, Carlton, continues his own business selling 18th- and 19th-century English and Continental antiques from the prestigious townhouse he purchased in central London several years ago.

A marble chimneypiece designed by Robert Adam, circa 1764 The fireplace at the 8th Earl of Thanet's London house

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