"Sèvres-mania" and the late 19th-Century art market


  • 5.30pm

  • Online

This talk establishes the distinctly competitive market for ‘old’ Sèvres in the late-nineteenth century. Firstly, it will examine some of the key figures who battled against each other at auction frequently breaking records (as well as vases!). Secondly, it considers a court case which occurred in February 1882 and involved a disagreement over the authenticity of a pair of Sèvres rose du barry seaux. These were sold as genuine by the Jewish dealer Samson Wertheimer (1811-1892) and his son Asher Wertheimer (d.1918) to William J. Goode (1831-1892) for Goode’s private Sèvres collection in December 1880. Although the court case was known as a cause célèbre at the time, it has been subsequently forgotten in scholarship. Nonetheless it opens up new lines of enquiry regarding the epistemology, and indeed reliability of ceramics connoisseurship during the 1880s in Britain.

Dr Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth is an art historian who specialises in the histories of collecting and displaying European decorative arts (1650-1850). She has recently been appointed as the new 17th and 18th Century Curator of Ceramics and Glass at the V&A Museum, London. Since September 2018, Caroline has worked as a Lecturer on the History of Design Masters with the V&A and the Royal College of Art, where she is a postgraduate supervisor and runs MA courses on collecting and the Material Culture and Design of the ‘British’ Country House.

Caroline gained her PhD at the University of Leeds in 2019, where she continues to be a Visiting Research Fellow. She has been a DECR Chair for the Association for Art History, sits on the Board of the French Porcelain Society, is a founding member of the Society for the History of Collecting, and a Committee Member of the English Ceramics Circle.