The Sadler Collection of Antiquities, Sotheby’s

For years at the centre of the art world in London, Agatha Sadler, “Queen of Art Books”, counts among her friends some of the greatest names in the art establishment. Bruce Chatwin, Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark and David Sylvester – all enjoyed meeting, browsing and buying in her legendary bookshop, the St. George’s Gallery in Duke Street. Through the people she met in the gallery, Agatha Sadler quickly developed an eye for the beauties of antiquities and European works of art. On Friday, October 31, 2003, Sotheby’s in London will offer the Sadler collection of antiquities. Put together over some 40 years by Agatha and her husband Charles, with the help of leading authorities in the field, and always with the Sadlers’ unerring sense for beauty, the collection of some 100 lots is one of the most significant and aesthetically striking to have come onto the market in recent years.

Having left Vienna in 1938, Mrs Sadler and her father made a living in London by selling their collection of paintings and drawings. In 1944, they opened the St. George’s Gallery in Grosvenor Street, supplementing their 20th-century German and Austrian art with a small selection of books. Times were hard though, and by the 1950s the gallery had closed. Undeterred, Mrs Sadler took the remaining books and the name of the gallery and relaunched St. George’s Gallery on her own, “renting” space within other galleries in return for secretarial work, and moving around London (from Kensington, to Mayfair, to Cork Street) as opportunities arose. Finally, in 1964, the gallery moved to Duke Street, where it remained until the mid-1990s. Ideally located amid London’s major dealers and auction houses, the business quickly flourished, attracting a host of leading art historians, critics and dealers to its doors. Anita Brookner went to work there, as did the art historian Liz Mostyn Owen. Early clients included the art critic and legendary editor of Apollo magazine Denys Sutton, Eric Estorick (founder of the Estorick gallery in Clerkenwell), Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore, dealers Hans Calman, Alfred Scharf, Federigo Zeri and Robin Symes, as well as Peter Wilson of Sotheby’s. The gallery also supplied books to leading public institutions such as the Tate, the National Gallery, the National Art Library (housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum) and the Getty Museum, as well as to the London auction houses.

The success of the gallery, however, was only in part due its location. Far more important was the eagerness and open-mindedness of its proprietor. Agatha learnt quickly, regularly consulting her clients and seeking their advice. At the same time, her passion for the books she sold and the subjects they treated was contagious. She welcomed everyone and encouraged her clients to use the gallery as a place not just to buy books, but also to meet, chat and exchange news. She loved playing hostess and cultivating a drawing-room atmosphere in her much-loved gallery.

The Collection – Agatha Sadler’s interest in antique art was first sparked by her friendship with the London dealer John Hewett. Struck by beauty of the Greek, Roman and other works of art she saw in books and in the galleries around London, she began to buy the works she could afford, conversing regularly with Hewett, buying through him and seeking his advice on items for sale at auction.

One of the first pieces Mrs Sadler bought was a Roman marble head of Hercules, dating from the 2nd century AD. Estimated at £50,000-£80,000, it now forms one of the highlights of the sale. From a similar date, a Roman marble figure of a leaping hound fully captures the movement of the animal and the artistic sophistication of the age in which it was made. It is estimated at £100,000-£150,000. These are complemented by some 100 other items, including examples of Greek, Egyptian, Roman, Cycladic, Etruscan, Iranian and Byzantine art ranging from sculpture and bronzes to terracotta figures, marble reliefs, wall plaques and fragments of sarcophagii. Representing some of the later additions to the collection are 25 pieces of beautifully-crafted, wearable jewellery, including a wide range of Greek and Roman rings, bracelets and necklaces, and a Viking gold bracelet, estimated at £7,000-£10,000. In addition to the antiquities, the sale will also include a group of 17 European works of art dating from the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Of particular interest is a rare mid-15th century alabaster figure of a mourner from a Burgundian tomb, probably part of a sculptural ensemble broken up in the French Revolution. Also a group of Venetian bronzes from the second half of the 16th century.

The sale is expected to make in excess of £1.2 million and the entire collection will be on view at Sotheby’s in New Bond Street for several days prior to the sale on October 31, 2003.

Published in: on October 2, 2003 at 2:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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