A James Elder Christie Portrait

I don’t look at this sort of thing usually. Those of you who know me, my books or my site know that I’m a ‘twentieth century boy’, and forays into other periods are scarce. It might surprise you to learn that our home is far from the mid-century ‘Madmen’ paradise that you may think, but is in fact filled with a huge variety of objects from many different periods – many of them 18th & 19thC. Most of our furniture is Victorian, for example, and I can’t resist etchings. They’re things that I picked up on the way because I liked them, or because they caught my eye or, as is the case with so much ‘brown furniture’ they were inexpensive and well-made. Visiting Past Caring in Islington, one of my favourite central London hunting grounds, this weekend I happened on this rather chocolate boxy Victorian pastel of a rather serious looking lady. It’s not the usual thing I’d buy and it looked rather out of place amidst the mid-century miscellany that the shop …

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If I don’t find anything I want when I’m browsing antiques shops and fairs, I’m fond of hunting through glass cabinets for cufflinks. Whether or not I take any home depends on how much they cost. Last time I did this, I found this intriguing pair of brass cufflinks, that looked like they had been gold-plated at some point as some of the plating remained. I usually go for much more colourful enamelled examples, or those made from precious metals that the seller may not have identified…! But these intrigued me. The heraldic motifs of the seated large dog beneath a Latin motto begged to be researched and, well, the £2 price tag was hardly going to stop me! What I found after some judicious googling the Latin motto, and double-checking the information, was a rather charming canine tale. The cufflinks possibly related to William Phillips (1752-1828), who inherited numerous estates from his family, owned the leases on prestigious central London properties and possibly ran a wine merchant in the 1780s. One day, while bathing at Portsmouth, he …

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