CARP: Chinese Art - Research into Provenance

Search Images
Browse Images
Browse Essays

0 images in Album
View Album


Bluett Essay (Part 2) by Dominic Jellinek

Return to list of essays

Alfred Ernest Bluett
Alfred Ernest Bluett

Selling the Stock (Return to Start)

Having looked at the way in which the stock was acquired, the method by which it was sold, and in what manner the potential collectors were introduced to a somewhat arcane subject needs to be examined. Before so doing there is another aspect of the Bluett brother's activities, closely related to consolidating their client base, that merits attention. In the late 1920's a series of articles, each concentrating on a particular collection and written by such acknowledged experts as R.L. Hobson, Bernard Rackham and William King, was published in Old Furniture and The Collector and later collected in a sumptuous volume, limited to 625 copies, entitled Chinese Ceramics in Private Collections, published in 1931. Edgar Bluett undertook a series of similar articles over a period of more than thirty years, published in magazines such as Apollo and The Antique Collector. The first concerned the collection of Alfred and Ivy Clark, in 1933 and the last, published posthumously in Oriental Art Magazine, describing the cloisonné in the collection formed by P.D. Krolik, in 196528. Among others the collections of Lord Cunliffe, R.F.A. Riesco and R.H.R. Palmer were described. Perhaps of greater interest was a non-selling exhibition, rather more a symposium, held at the gallery in 1931 and published as a hard bound catalogue, in an extremely limited edition (214 copies) in 1933. Entitled Ming and Ch'ing Porcelains the book has an introduction written by George Eumorfopoulos, who was among those who provided examples from their collections. Eumorfopoulos describes succinctly the purpose of the exhibition:

Two years ago Messrs. Bluett organised an exhibition to which specimens were contributed by themselves and by many collectors. Wherever possible specimens with a Ming nien-hao were confronted with specimens of a similar type of decoration with a Ch'ing nien-hao.

At the invitation of Messrs. Bluett a meeting of collectors and students of Chinese ceramics was held in their rooms, and the specimens were examined and discussed, and other more informal exchanges of views took place.

It was not to be expected that all doubts and questions would be resolved but I think that a clear step forward was made in establishing certain criteria.29

Sixty pieces were included in this exhibition, and many of them were illustrated in the catalogue. Among those who lent pieces, and participated in the discussion, were many well-known names including Sir Percival David, F. Howard Paget, Henry Oppenheim and George Eumorfopoulos.

By the early 1930's the Bluett brothers were well established as serious dealers in their field. Since the move to Davies Street, and probably before although no evidence survives of activities at the Oxford Street shop, regular exhibitions had been held at the gallery. In October 1923 The Times reviewed what must have been the first of such exhibitions at Davies Street:

"In a quiet basement room at 48 Davies Street, the new premises of Messrs. Bluett & Sons, there is a small but very choice collection of early Chinese pottery and porcelain, lately received from China".30

Three pieces included in this exhibition, all Longquan celadons, appear in the earliest preserved advertisement bearing the Davies Street address. For many of these exhibitions a small catalogue was produced - the earliest being entitled Catalogue of an Exhibition of Old Chinese Pottery and Porcelain from the Han to the Ming Period, undated but with a pencil inscription on the cover reading "1st in Davies Street, 1924". Many of the pieces offered were of the earlier periods, reflecting the nature of the consignments being sent from China.

In 1925 a rather different group of objects was offered for sale (Plate 15). F.C. Harrison was a private collector, who retained a long connection with Bluetts, and had formed part of his collection at the turn of the century. As stated in the introduction to the catalogue:

"The greater part of the collection now exhibited was formed just after the Boxer Rising of 1899-1900 and many of the specimens have been on view at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, during the past twenty years".31

Many of the exhibits were Palace pieces and one in particular is worthy of further examination as an example of developing knowledge. Catalogue no.22, was described as:

"A rounded octagonal vase of Ko type with exceptionally delicate glaze of pale green tint. The neck and shoulder with ribbing in low relief. Yung Cheng period".

The vase was sold to the eminent scientist and collector Sir Daniel Hall, for £17:10. 18 years later, following Sir Daniel Hall's death, the vase came up for sale at Sotheby's. This time it was more accurately described as: "a very important Kuan Yao octagonal bottle" with the note that it bore on its base a Palace inventory label. It was also given a full page black and white illustration in the catalogue and was purchased by Bluetts, for the collector Robert C. Bruce, for £550 (Plate 16). 11 years later the Bruce collection was sold, again at Sotheby's. The vase was given much the same treatment on this occasion, another very similar photograph provided and it was sold for £2,400 to John Sparks. By the early 1970's it had become part of the Ataka collection in Japan, and in 1974 was illustrated in colour in La Ceramique Chinois, by Jean Michel Beurdeley.32

Many of the exhibitions held before the war must have been without catalogues. Many were held to show the latest arrivals from Captain Collins and the other China-based suppliers. However a series of illustrated catalogues were produced by the firm from the mid-1920's up to the last years of the firm, in 1990. A list of these is given at the end of this essay.

In June 1934 Bluetts held an exhibition that symbolised much of the style that the brothers had been developing. As mentioned above, the Dutch dealer Peter Boode had contacted the firm as early as 1924, but on this occasion a group of more than 100 of his recent acquisitions was offered at the Davies Street gallery with the title: "Old Chinese Pottery and Porcelain recently collected in China by Mr Peter Boode of The Hague". These ranged from Song ceramics to Imperial Ming porcelains, a very fine blanc de chine Guanyin and a group of Qing works of art (Plate 17). By no means all the pieces sold, but among those that did were several Xuande and Chenghua ceramics, a number of which may be seen today in the collections of the British Museum and the Percival David Foundation (Plate 18). One of the more significant pieces that did not find a buyer in 1934 turned up again many years later, still in the possession of Mr Boode. Item no.60 in the catalogue was described as follows:

"Large porcelain dish with shaped rim and unglazed reddish coloured base (Plate 18), decorated in underglaze copper red (yu li hung), the interior with scrolling peonies within a border of flowers, the underside with a border of flowers and waves. Diameter 18 ins, 15th century"

It was priced at £55. Not illustrated in the catalogue, it was singled out by Frank Davis in his review of the exhibition in The Illustrated London News, May 26 1934, and a small illustration was provided. The dish would seem to have been ahead of the taste, or the understanding of the time. Nearly four decades later, in October 1971, the aged Boode, now resident in Jersey, consigned to Bluetts a group of objects. The list is part typed, part hand written and presented in a card folder. The first item on the list is described as:

"Underglaze red dish £12,000"

This time it did find a buyer, in the person of the distinguished diplomat and Sinophile Sir John Addis, Boode receiving a net £12,770 as a result of the sale. In 1975 the British Museum received a significant gift of Yuan and early Ming ceramics from Sir John Addis for which a descriptive catalogue was produced, Boode's once-unwanted dish presented with pride on the cover.33


At the end of the 1920's a larger format catalogue came into favour, with a characteristic plain yellow cover. The first of these was issued in May 1929 for the sale of part of the collection of Captain C. Oswald Liddell, whose posthumous sale at Sotheby's is referred to above (Plate 19). The second of these yellow catalogues was produced for the exhibition of a large collection of purportedly early Chinese jades, assembled by the Chinese collector K.C.Wong, held in June 1930 (Plate 20). A long introduction gives the background of the collection, the following short extract gives the pedigree:

"The Wong Collection of Chinese jades comprises, in all, some 527 specimens. The nucleus of it was inherited by Mr Wong from his forefathers and it was this nucleus or a portion of it which was used as material for "Investigations into Ancient Jades with Illustrations" published in 1889 by the well-known scholar and statesman Wu Ta-ch'eng"34.

Wu Ta-ch'eng's (or in-pinyin Romanisation, Wu Dacheng) work, with its Chinese title Ku Yu T'u Kao (Gu Yu Tu Kao) was heavily relied on by Berthold Laufer in his 1912 work Jade: A Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion, and many of the illustrations are reproduced from the Chinese publication. Laufer gives some biographical background in his introduction:

"The most recent and valuable Chinese contribution to the study of antique jades is entitled Ku yu t'u k'ao, Investigations into Ancient Chinese Jades with Illustrations in two quarto volumes published in 1889 by the well known scholar and statesman Wu Ta-ch'eng, who was born in Su-chou in 1833. In his work on jades, two hundred and fifteen pieces are illustrated in outline, as a rule reduced to seven-tenths of their original size, described as to their colouring, identified with their ancient names and explained with quotations from ancient literature. The text is a facsimile reprint of Wu's own expressive and energetic handwriting35.

The Wong catalogue illustrates a number of the jades, but a hoard of photographs in the Bluett archive has allowed more than 350 to be identified. Comparison with the illustrations in Laufer's book shows that in many cases the Wong jades are almost certainly the pieces Wu Dacheng had drawn, and the type of the jades in the Wong collection certainly corresponds with the types illustrated in the Gu Yu Tu Kao.

Many of the Wong jades did not sell in 1930, and they seem to have been put into storage for a number of years. Mr Wong would seem to have died around 1938 and at this time Bluetts began to offer the jades again, generally at much reduced prices. By the end of the war most had been sold.


There were a few more catalogued exhibitions in the later 1930's, and from its inception in 1935 Bluetts exhibited at the Antique Dealer's Fair at the Grosvenor House Hotel (Plate 21). That same year the firm was given a portion of the Eumorfopoulos collection to sell, as described in the foreword to the catalogue (Plate 22) & (Plate 23):

"Nearly forty years ago Mr George Eumorfopoulos commenced to form and build up the famous collection which bears his name. Between then and now much has been learnt of the real meaning of Chinese Ceramic Art and there have been many fresh discoveries. Concurrently, China has offered great opportunities to the Western Collector, chances which in all probability will never recur, to acquire great works of art, and Mr Eumorfopoulos has shown himself foremost in the ability to appreciate and gather together some of the most remarkable examples of the works of the Chinese potter which have come to light during the last few decades. There are five distinct sections in this large collection - Pictures, Sculpture, Bronzes, Jades and Ceramics. The whole of the first four sections have been purchased by the Nation. From the ceramic section rather more than a thousand pieces are going to our Museums, Mr Eumorfopoulos is retaining a small nucleus collection for himself and the remaining 331 items are now on exhibition and for sale to private purchasers"36.


The war put a stop to any elaborate exhibitions and no further catalogues were produced until the late 1940's, and these were very simple affairs compared with the pre-war productions. By the 1960's the business had regained its strength and it was again possible for the firm to publish well illustrated and informative catalogues. The first of these was an exhibition of Chinese lacquer, in 1960, a group of 27 Ming dynasty pieces, with an introduction by Sir Harry Garner (Plate 24). A few years later 11 archaic bronzes were offered, all illustrated in a small catalogue (Plate 25). The 1970's saw a number of disposals of ceramics and works of art from private collections. The first of these were divided into two exhibitions, one of ceramics in June 1971, the second of ancient bronzes and jades, in the autumn of 1973. These offerings came from the large collection built up by Lord Cunliffe, who had died in 1963. These exhibitions caused much interest, many of the pieces finding new homes in Japan. These exhibitions were followed by the sale of ceramics from the collection of Eugene and Elva Bernat (Plate 26), prominent collectors from Massachusetts, Song ceramics from the collection of Professor Postan and a group of Chinese and Japanese ceramics from Sir Harry Garner's collection.

During the 1950's Bluetts developed an interest in Islamic art, particularly the ceramics of the Middle East from the 10th to the 14th century. In 1958 the firm held an exhibition entitled Islamic Pottery of the IX-XIV Centuries From the Collection of Sir Eldred Hitchcock, C.B.E. a group of 71 Islamic ceramics, many of which had been displayed at the City Art Gallery, Bristol. The exhibition was opened by Sir Mortimer Wheeler. This interest was maintained up until the end of the 1970's, by which time the presence of a number of Iranian dealers who had settled in London following the deposition of the Shah had quite changed the nature of the business in Islamic art. In 1976 London held a World of Islam Festival, with a number of lectures, seminars and exhibitions. To coincide with this Bluetts held two Islamic exhibitions. In April 1976 there was the "Gurgan Finds", a group of very fine ceramics excavated at the town of Jurjan close to the Caspian sea in Persia. Nearly 100 pieces were shown, and illustrated in the catalogue. The possession of Raymond Ades and his family they were not for sale, and many of the pieces may be seen today at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. A selling exhibition of Islamic art was held in November of the same year, an eclectic group of objects of widely varied types entitled Calligraphy and the Decorative Arts of Islam.


Another area into which the firm diversified in the 1950s was Japanese prints and other works of art. A couple of small exhibitions were held devoted to this material, both in 1956, Japanese Works of Art from the Tikotin Collection, a diverse group of prints, drawings, kakemono, metalwork, lacquer, textiles and pottery, and Japanese Colour Prints from an American Collection, 34 prints from the collection of Mr R.E. Lewis of San Francisco. Nearly thirty years later, to coincide with a major exhibition, The Great Japan Exhibition: Art of the Edo Period, 1600 - 1868 at Burlington House, the firm held an exhibition of carefully selected Japanese works of art, all. sourced from Japan, in October 1981. Entitled Chisel, Wheel and Brush: Masterpieces of Japanese Art (Plate 27) the catalogue illustrates 23 examples of ceramics, bronze, wood sculpture, textiles and lacquer, many of which ended up in museum collections. Other exhibitions of Chinese jade and lacquer were held in the 1980's, the last held at the Davies Street Gallery being Chinese Jades from the Mu Fei Collection (Plate 28), 77 jades from the neolithic period to the 18th century from the collection of Professor Cheng Te-k'un, in December 1990.

The Collectors (Return to Start)

Interest in private collectors as individuals and the reasons for their forming collections rather than primarily in the objects they collected has been growing to a considerable extent over the past decade. The 20th colloquy on Chinese Art and Archaeology held at the Percival David Foundation in June 1999 gave expression to this relatively new field of study,37 and a number of students are working in this area for their masters or doctoral theses. This perhaps reflects on the passing of the private collector as a major part of the Chinese art world in Britain, the end of an era. For the study of the trading history of Bluett and Sons over the course of the 20th century is unavoidably linked with that of the private collectors, many of whom are now only names linked with museum collections and with objects that to this day pass through the sale rooms. The era of serious British private collectors, who built up many significant holdings of Chinese ceramics and works of art, had largely drawn to a conclusion by the early 1980's. A considerable increase in prices from the early 1960's, and a sharper increase in the early 1970's did much to put the finer objects beyond the range of the older style collector - mostly professionals of fairly considerable means, but no match financially for the new collectors from Japan, Taiwan or Hong Kong, or a small number of very wealthy individuals from Europe and the United States.

Without these private collectors Bluetts could not have existed, at least not in the form the business took. All of the founding members of the Oriental Ceramic Society bought with some regularity from Bluetts and there are few names in the Pantheon of serious collectors in Britain from the 1920's to the 1970's who do not feature in the pages of the Sales Day Books. Such well-known collectors of the early years as Sir Percival David, Sir Alan Barlow, Sir Herbert Ingram, Reginald Palmer and Brodie Lodge were quite regular visitors to the gallery, and the relationship with George Eumorfopoulos has been examined above. The rather formidable ladies among this group, in particular Mrs. Sedgwick and Mrs. Seligman, also bought with some regularity from the Davies Street gallery. These are famous names and many pieces from the collections they formed are to be seen today in institutions across the country. There were many others, less well known, who also had long connections with the firm, in a few cases building up almost their entire collection from the Bluett brothers. By looking at one or two of these collections it is possible to see that the firm was not merely an emporium of Chinese art, but also played a part in the development of the collectors as collectors.

Francis Howard Paget bought almost all of the more than 250 Chinese ceramics in his collection from Bluetts between March 1923 and his death in 1945. A large proportion of his ceramics were Ming dynasty Imperial wares, the quality of these may be seen in the 19 pieces from his bequest to the British Museum.38 It is highly likely that many of his earlier purchases were not long out of the Imperial stores in Peking (Plate 29). Bluetts made an inventory of his collection in 1937 and on his death bought a large majority of the pieces from his estate. The largest proportion of the collection were monochrome wares, 144 pieces in 1937, including 58 Imperial yellow wares, the great majority of the Ming period. Paget pieces entered many of the British collections that were being formed in the immediate post-war period, and from time to time may be identified in the market today.

One of the more unusual - it is tempting to say eccentric - of the earlier collectors was Major Lindsay F. Hay. The picture that may be built up from the Bluett Day Books and, to a lesser extent from those of Messrs. John Sparks, can only be a partial one and merely hints at a more interesting story. Hay was well known to the older members of the London Chinese trade as the man who built up a fine collection fairly quickly, sold it at auction and then a few years later built up a second, very similar one, buying back a number of his old pieces in the process. Hay made his first purchase from Bluetts in March 1938, three Ming dynasty blue and white bowls and on the same day made his first purchase from Sparks, a Xuande blue and white dragon jar and cover, lot 37 from the Wu Lai-tse sale, for £32. He made a few further purchases from both firms, acquired other Wu Lai-tse pieces from Yamanaka and H.R.N. Norton, then put his collection up for sale, in June 1939, at Sotheby's. Billed as The Well Known Collection of Rare Early Ming Blue and White Porcelain. The Property of Major Lindsay F. Hay, of Bath, it comprised 48 items, mostly 15th century, including three Chenghua "Palace bowls". The group sold for a total of £1,275. Major Hay appears again in Bluetts Day Books in October 1943 and over a period of almost exactly two years purchased 36 pieces, mainly 15th century with a few 16th century, all blue and white, including a group of eight pieces that had been sold in his 1939 sale to the collector Lionel Edwards. (At the Edwards estate sale in February 1945 he paid £625 for pieces that had raised only £234 in his 1939 sale). He seems to have made no purchases from Sparks at this time and must have died towards the end of 1945. In June 1946 the collection was sold, again at Sotheby's, similarly billed as The Well Known Collection of Chinese Blue and White Porcelain of the 15th and 16th Centuries. The Property of the Late Lindsay F. Hay. This group comprised 66 lots, again with three Chenghua "Palace bowls", and made a total of £3,437:10 (Plate 30). As with the Paget collection, Hay pieces still come up for sale from time to time, almost always of the highest quality.

In a sense collectors such as Paget and, in his first manifestation, Lindsay Hay, with regard to the Imperial ceramics they purchased, were "first generation" buyers in that many of the pieces they bought were not long out of the Palace stores and had not before been in private hands. Although there can be no clearly defined boundaries a group of "second generation" buyers seems to emerge in the years following the great 1935 exhibition. One of these, part of whose collection survives on view to this day, was R.F.A. Riesco. Although Riesco made his first purchases from Bluetts at the end of the First World War it was not until 1935 that he was stimulated into making a serious collection (Plate 31). He acquired more than 500 pieces from the firm, his last purchases being made in 1961, a few years before his death in 1964 at the age of 87. Riesco bequeathed the bulk of his collection to the corporation of Croydon, his home town, and more than 200 of his ceramics may be seen in a purpose built gallery at the Clock House in Croydon.

Another collector of this period was R.E.R. Luff, a slightly younger man than Riesco, but it is tempting to surmise that the younger man may have been influenced by the older. Luff made his first purchase from Bluetts in February 1944 and although it may be no more than co-incidence, they were a pair of blue and white plates that had shortly before been bought by Bluetts from Riesco. The two men lived fairly close to one another and both were city business men. There are many similarities in the make-up of their collections, although Luff's was much smaller (Plate 32). He purchased 160 pieces from Bluetts and after he had sold a number of lesser pieces at Sotheby's in 1967 the collection, as listed by Roger Bluett after Luff's death in 1969 comprised 114 items, all but 14 of which came from Bluetts. A small group of his pieces were sold by Sotheby's in June 1973, 33 pieces sold for a total of £432,050 - a very significant sum at that time. The "star lot" in the sale was a Chenghua "Palace bowl" bought for Luff by Bluetts at the 1946 Lindsay Hay sale for £132:5, and sold in 1973 for £130,000, the buyer again being Bluett, this time acting for the Japanese dealer Kochukyo.


Among the European collectors who made regular visits to Davies Street the most illustrious was perhaps the Crown Prince of Sweden, later King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden, who gave the firm (along with John Sparks) his Royal Warrant. The Crown Prince was a customer from the early 1920's and he continued to be a very enthusiastic collector of Chinese art almost up to his death in September 1973, a couple of months short of his ninetieth birthday. His collection was bequeathed to the Swedish nation and makes up the core of the collection of the Museum of Far Eastern Art in Stockholm. Another major European collector, active over a similar period and for many years after the war one of Bluetts most important customers, was H.M. Knight. Knight displayed his collection privately at his apartment in Scheveningen, outside the Hague, and it was little known until the exhibition of Asian art at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam in 1954, when the curator, Jan Fontein, selected many pieces from this collection of which he had been hitherto unaware. After Henry Knight's death in 1970 the collection was divided up into three parts, the process being overseen by Roger Bluett and Brian Morgan. One third of the collection was inherited by Henry's nephew, F.W.A. Knight. Frederick Knight was a difficult character, but a collector with flair, determination and a fine eye for quality (Plate 33). He was very much a Bluett client and an impression of the quality of his collection may be seen in the small catalogue produced for a single-owner sale at Sotheby's Hong Kong in May 1982.

Bluetts were involved in helping the Swiss collector Dr Pierre Uldry build up his magnificent collection of cloisonné enamels39, and, to a lesser extent his collection of Chinese gold and silver, both of which were published and exhibited in Switzerland and New York in the 1980's. Among other European collections in part purchased from Bluetts is the Meiyintang collection of Chinese ceramics, formed over many years by two Swiss brothers, and published in a two volume catalogue in 199440, and the Gulexuan collection, formed by a German surgeon and his wife and published in 200341. In earlier years Bluetts did much business with the Swedish collector Carl Kempe and with the French publisher and collector Michel Calmann, whose Tang and Song ceramics may be seen displayed at the Musée Guimet, Paris. Many of the American collectors called at the Davies Street gallery on their visits to London, increasingly so in later years with the development of the transatlantic air routes. In earlier years sales were made to the Chicago collector Russell Tyson, Charles B. Hoyt of New York, Richard C. Fuller of Seattle and, less well known, Mrs Edward S. Harkness, wife of a railroad magnate from New York. In later years many pieces were sold to Avery Brundage, whose collection is today at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco42. The Bernat brothers, Eugene and Paul, whose textile business was based in Massachusetts, had a long connection with Bluetts, and the sale of part of Eugene's collection by the firm in 1974 is referred to above. A group of exceptional 18th century enamelled porcelains from Paul Bernat's collection may be seen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Less business was done with the emerging Chinese collectors - the firm was unwilling to engage in bargaining. However, the older school of scholar-collectors such as Dr Ip Yee and C.P. Lin were good clients for many years. The firm acted as British agent for the Hong Kong museum of Art for-many years and supplied many of the pieces now on display on the Kowloon side of the harbour. The Japanese method of dealing, by which the private collector rarely ventured to make purchases other than from his chosen native dealer, meant that the great majority of Bluetts considerable trade with that country was made through a small group of dealers.

Museums from all over the world played a significant part in the history of the firm. The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum made purchases from the 1920's onwards. During the 1950's the City Art Gallery, Bristol, under its active curator H. Schubart, made a number of purchases and the link between the museum and the firm was continued by Peter Hardie in later years. A significant and much celebrated part of the Asian art holdings at Bristol, the Burrows Abbey Collection of Chinese glass, was purchased almost entirely from Bluetts by H.R. Burrows Abbey between 1933 and his death in 1949, going to Bristol via the National Art Collections Fund (Plate 34). Sir William Burrell, whose collection is displayed in palatial buildings in Glasgow parkland, bought many pieces from Bluetts over a long period, and the Royal Museum of Scotland, close by in Edinburgh made occasional purchases. In Australia the Felton Trust, under the guiding hand of Sir Keith Murdoch, made a considerable number of purchases for the Victoria Art Gallery, Melbourne, in the 1930's and 1940's and there were regular sales over many years to the American museums. Suzanne Valenstein of the Metropolitan Museum of Art made regular visits to Bluetts in the 1970’s and 1980's, often finding something for the ceramic collection, generally funded by Mrs. Richard Linburn. In the early 1990's, in the last years of the firm, the Royal Ontario Museum, using a large bequest from Herman Levy, himself a regular visitor to Bluetts, made a number of significant purchases, a number being illustrated in the catalogue of the collection published in 1996 with the support of the Hong Kong based collector T.T. Tsui43.


Times have changed and, looking back from the start of the 21st century, it is hard to imagine that such a group of private collectors, participating in what was a relatively new field of collecting and together making sense of a wide ranging group of objects, will be seen again. Until the 1960's there was little scholarly work, in the western sense, being done in China and it was not until the later 1970's that developing Chinese scholarship began making a significant impact in the west. Today almost all the primary research is being done in China, their publications are up to the highest western standards and the major exhibitions of Chinese art presented by western museums are increasingly often drawn from the holdings of the many Chinese museums.


Bluetts ceased trading at the end of 1992, a victim of the very difficult trading conditions at that time. This period also saw the closure of John Sparks and it was not many years before the very long established firm of Spink & Son was absorbed by Christie's and quietly disappeared.


1. See, for example Porcelain and the Dutch East India Company, T. Volker, Leiden, 1971. Return

2. See Le Mussee Chinois de L'Imperatrice Eugenie, Chateau de Fontainebleau, 1994; for Fonthill see Christie's auction catalogues dated 31st May 1965, 18th October 1971 and 9th November 2004. Return

3. See The Powell-Cotton Collection of Chinese Ceramics, Gordon Lang, Birchington 1988. See also The Summer Palace, Beijing 1900: An Inventory by Noel du Boulay, Commandant 1900-1901, Anthony du Boulay, Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society (TOCS) vol. 55, 1990-91, pp.83-102. Return

4. TOCS vol.35, 1963-64, p.xx. The Society's offices were bombed during the war and the Bluett brothers made the basement of their Davies Street gallery available as a temporary replacement. The Society remained at Davies Street for more than a decade. Return

5. A Collection of Early Chinese Porcelain and Pottery, Bluett and Sons, n.d. (May 1924). Return

6. China Letter Book no.1, pp.2 and 3. Bluett Archive. Return

7. China Letter Book no.1, p.158. Bluett Archive. Return

8. China Letter Book no.1, p.186. Bluett Archive. Return

9. China Letter Book no.1, p.222. Bluett Archive. Return

10. T'ang Gold and Silver, Bo Gyllensvard, Stockholm. Return

11. Personal communication from Mary Ginsberg, British Museum, 25th August 2004. Return

12. The Collector and the Expert J.A.N. Barlow, TOCS vol.14, 1936-37, reprinted 1961, p.10. Return

13. China Letter Book no.l, p.283. Bluett Archive. Return

14. China Letter Book no.1, p.302. Bluett Archive 1957, p.51. Return

15. China Letters, 1.934-1937, section 7, letter no.7. Bluett Archive. Return

16. China Letters, 1934-1937, section 28, letter no.3. Bluett Archive. Return

17. China Letter Book, 1928-1934, p.92. Bluett Archive. Return

18. Ferdinand Schiller, Collecting Chinese Art, 1913-1936, Peter Hardie, Journal of Museum Ethnography 2003, no.15, p.41. Return

19. China Letters, 1934-1937, section 23 passim. Bluett Archive. Return

20. China Letters, 1934-1937, section 40. Bluett Archive. Return

21. China Letters, 1934-1937, section 13, letter no.2; section 15, letter no.6 and no.9. Bluett Archive. Return

22. China Letters, 1934-1937, section 27, letter no.1; section 30, letter no.1 and no.2. Bluett Archive. Return

23. China Letters, 1934-1937, section 36, letter no.1; section 38, letter no.2. Bluett Archive. Return

24. Bluett turnover figures have been taken from the cumulative monthly trading figures given in the Sales Day Books. Return

25. Chinese Jades from the Mu Fei Collection, Wu Hung and Brian Morgan, Bluett & Sons, 1990, n.p., preface. Return

26. Dr Newton's Zoo: A Study of Post-Archaic Small Jade Carvings, Bluett & Sons, 1981, p.3. Return

27. TOCS vol.26, 1950-51, p.27. Return

28. Chinese Pottery and Porcelain in the Collection of Mr and Mrs Alfred Clark, Edgar Bluett, Apollo Magazine, September 1933 - May 1934. The Riesco Collection of Old Chinese Pottery and Porcelain, Edgar Bluett, The Antique Collector, May - October 1951. Chinese Cloisonne in the Krolik Collection, Edgar Bluett, Oriental Art, Winter 1965. Return

29. Ming and Ch'ing Porcelains, Edgar E. Bluett, 1933, p.9. Return

30. News cutting pasted into back page of Bluett's first advertisement file. Return

31. A Collection of Old Chinese Monochrome Porcelain, Bluett & Sons, n.d., (June 1925). Return

32. La Ceramique Chinoise: Le Guide du Connaisseur, Cecile et Michel Beurdeley, Fribourg 1974, p1.42. Return

33. Chinese Porcelain from the Addis Collection: 22 Pieces of Chingtehchen Porcelain Presented to the British Museum, J.M. Addis, 1979, no.9. Return

34. The Wong Collection of Ancient Chinese Jades, Bluett & Sons, n.d., (June 1930), p.viii. Return

35. Jade: A Study in Chinese Archaeology and Religion, Berthold Laufer, Chicago 1912, reprinted New York 1974, pp.12-13. Return

36. Chinese Pottery & Porcelain from the Eumorfopoulos Collection, Bluett & Sons, n.d., (March 1935), p.v. Return

37. Collecting Chinese Art: Interpretation and Display, Colloquies on Art & Archaeology in Asia No.20, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, 2000. Return

38. See Ming Ceramics in the British Museum, Jessica Harrison-Hall, 2001, nos.4:42, 4:43, 6:16, 9:1, 9:71, 9:72, 9:79, 9:82, 9:85, 9:93, 9:105, 9:110, 10:2, 10:6, 10:7, 10:8, 11:140, 11:141, 11:181, 12:120 and brief biographical note on p.593. Return

39. Chinese Cloisonne: The Pierre Uldry Collection, 1989. Brian Morgan had been asked by Dr Uldry to organise the translation from German of this catalogue and is credited as the editor of the translation. Return

40. Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, Regina Krahl, 2 volumes, 1994. Return

41. Chinese Ceramics from the Gulexuan Collection, Regina Krahl with Clarissa von Spee, Lunen, Germany, 2003. Return

42. The Avery Brundage Collection is extensively illustrated throughout Chinese Ceramics: The New Standard Guide, He Li, 1996. Return

43. Royal Ontario Museum. The T.T. Tsui Galleries of Chinese Art, Toronto 1996. See nos.4, 65, 75 and 105. Return


All catalogues are soft back unless otherwise stated.

(1924) Catalogue of an Exhibition of Old Chinese Pottery and Porcelain from the Han to the Ming Period. n.p., 8pp., 111 items, no illustrations. 21.5 x 14cm.

(1925) A Collection of Old Chinese Monochrome Porcelain. (Frederick Harrison Collection). n.p., 8pp., 113 items, 1 illustration. 23 x 14.5cm.

(May 1926) A Collection of Early Chinese Porcelain and Pottery. (James Baird Collection). n.p., 20pp., 169 items, 1 illustration. 23.5 x 14cm.

November 1926 Early Chinese Works of Art. n.p., 22pp., 157 items, 1 illustration. 23.5 x 14.5cm.

November 1927 Early Chinese Works of Art. n.p., 18pp., 134 items, 1 illustration. 23.5 x 14.5cm.

February 1927 An Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery, Porcelain, Sculpture etc. 19pp., 127 items, 1 illustration. 20.5 x 14cm.

May 1929 The Liddell Collection of Old Chinese Porcelain. v + 26pp., 229 items, colour frontispiece, 7 b & w plate 25 x 18cm

June 1930 The Wong Collection of Ancient Chinese Jades. ix + 35pp., 527 items, colour frontispiece, 16 b & w plates. 25 x 18cm

July 1930 A Collection of Old Chinese Porcelain with Monochrome Glazes. (H.C. Back Collection). 12pp., 99 items, no illustrations. 21 x 14cm

June 1931 An Exhibition of Early Oriental Works of Art. n.p., 36pp., 88 items, 9 illustrations. 23.5 x 14cm

March 1934 A Collection of Old Chinese Porcelain. (Sir Ernest Debenham Collection). 14pp., 91 items, no illustrations. 21.5 x 14cm

May 1934 The Abbes Collection of Early Chinese Pottery and Porcelain. 14pp., 79 items, 4 illustrations.

June 1934 . 36pp., 107 items, 8 illustrations. 23.5 x 14.5cm

November 1934 A small Exhibition of Examples of the various groups of old Chinese pottery and porcelain and a few fine old English clocks. Bluett & Sons and F.H. Green, 13 Royal Exchange, E.C.3 8pp., 40 items and 9 clocks, 1 illustration. 20 x 13cm.

(March 1935) Chinese Pottery & Porcelain from the Eumorfopoulos Collection. v + 58 pp., 333 items (two added in ink), no illustrations. 25 x 18cm

(January 1936) A Collection of fine Old Chinese Jade Carvings, Early Glass and Pottery and Porcelain. 16pp., 172 items, 4 illustrations. 25 x 18cm

1937 A Collection of Ancient Chinese Bronzes 16pp., 76 items, 4 illustrations. 25 x 18cm

1938 Ancient Chinese Bronzes. n.p., 30pp., 16 items, 16 illustrations. 21 x 12.5cm

1948 The Rutherston Collection of Old Chinese Works of Art. 32pp., 144 items, no illustrations. 18.5 x 11.5cm

1949 Early Chinese Bronzes, Jades and Ceramics. n.p., 12pp., 66 items, no illustrations. 21 x 13cm

1951 Early Chinese Bronzes, Jades and Ceramics. n.p., 20pp., 101 items, no illustrations. 21 x 13cm

1953 The Hetherington Collection of Old Chinese Porcelain. n.p., 12pp., 54 items, no illustrations. 19 x 12cm

1956 Japanese Works of Art from the Tikotin Collection. n.p., 12pp., 118 items, no illustrations. 19 x 12cm

1956 An Exhibition of Japanese Colour Prints from an American Collection. (R.E. Lewis Collection). n.p., 8pp., 34 items, no illustrations. 19 x 12cm

1958 Islamic Pottery of the IX - XIV Centuries from the Collection of Sir Eldred Hitchcock C.B.E. n.p., 16pp., 71 items, no illustrations. 19 x 12cm

1960 Ming Lacquer. Introduction by Sir Harry Garner. n.p., 34pp., 27 items, 17 illustrations. 23.5 x 16.5cm

1963 Ancient Chinese Bronzes. n.p., 32pp., 11 items, 11 illustrations. 23.5 x 16.5cm

1966 Exhibition of Old Chinese Porcelain. (Stephen Garratt and Major Gerald Abraham Collections). n.p., 6pp., 7 items illustrated. 21.5 x 9.5cm

1967 Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery and Porcelain and Iranian Works of Art. (Property of a gentleman; Edmund de Unger Collection of Early Islamic Pottery). n.p., 6pp., 6 items illustrated. 21.5 x 9.5cm

July 1971 Cunliffe Collection (Ceramics). n.p., 6pp., 8 items illustrated, one in colour. 30 x 15cm

November 1972 Early Chinese Ceramics from the Postan Collection. n.p., 48pp., 20 items, all illustrated. 26 x 20cm

May 1973 Chinese and Japanese Ceramics from the Garner Collection. n.p., l6pp + 24 plates, 90 items. 26 x 20.5cm

Autumn 1973 Early Chinese Art. (Cunliffe Collection, bronzes and jades). n.p., 46pp, separate 12 p, leaflet inserted in pocket inside back cover, 108 items. 34 b & w plates, 4 tipped-in colour plates. 35.5 x 26cm. Hard back.

1974 Chinese Decorative Arts. (F. Knight and H.M. Langton Collections). n.p., l8pp + 64 plates, 1.55 items. 21.5 x 15.5cm

April 1974 Later Chinese Ceramics from the Collection of Mr & Mrs Eugene Bernat. n.p., 24pp + 19 plates, 2 tipped-in colour plates. 86 items. 26.5 x 20.5cm

June 1974 The Legacy of Phra Ruang: An Exhibition of Thai Ceramics and of ancient pottery from Ban Chieng. (F. Knight Collection). n.p., 24pp. + 37 plates, 141 items. 26 x 20.5cm

November 1974 Chinese Porcelain XVIc - XVIIIc from the Collection of Dr C.M. Franzero. n.p., 20pp + 16 b& w plates, 2 colour plates. 87 items. 26 x 20.5cm

April 1976 The Gurgan Finds: A loan exhibition of Islamic pottery of the Seljuq period from the Raymond Ades Family Collection. Introduction by Geza Fehervari. 56pp., 39 b & w plates, 4 colour plates. 97 items. 29.5 x 21cm

November 1976 Calligraphy and the Decorative Arts of Islam. 76pp., 55 b & w plates, 2 colour plates. 61 items. 24.5 x 18cm

July 1981 Dr Newton's Zoo: A Study of Post Archaic Small Jade Carvings. 48pp., 100 items, all illustrated, 4 colour plates. 29.5 x 21cm

October 1981 Chisel, Wheel & Brush: Masterpieces of Japanese Art. 52pp., 23 items, all illustrated, 12 colour plates. 29.5 x 21cm

1988 Oriental Art n.p., 40pp., 23 items, all illustrated in colour. 29.5 x 21cm

June 1989 From Innovation to Cenformity: Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to 16th Centuries. Regina Krahl and Brian Morgan. 92pp., 33 items, all illustrated in colour, 1 folding plate. 29.5 x 21cm

1989 Ancient Chinese Inlaid Bronzes. Includes paper by Emma Cadwalader Bunker. n.p., 32pp., 3 items all illustrated in colour. 29.5 x 21cm

1990 Chinese Jades from the Mu Fei Collection. Wu Hung and Brian Morgan. n.p., 150pp., 79 items, all illustrated in colour. 30 x 21.5cm, hard bound with slip case.

1991 Oriental Art II. n.p., 88pp., 38 items, all illustrated in colour. 29.5 x 21cm

Privacy notice | Terms and conditions