Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vernay & Jussel

When The Devoted Classicist worked at Parish-Hadley, he came to know the shop of Vernay & Jussel as one of the country's most respected dealers in English antiques.  (Parish-Hadley was a customer of the shop, but this writer's reason to visit the Madison Avenue address had to do with business with the owner's brother, Arthur Jussel, an excellent builder who had a small office above the shop).  That whole stretch of the avenue is filled with the boutiques of the big names in fashion;  I think the Armani men's store occupies that space now.
The origins of the business date from 1906 when Arthur S. Vernay established "The Shop Around The Corner" at 1 East 45th Street at the urging of his friend Mrs. Morton F. Plant, a noted collector herself who lived in the magnificent Fifth Avenue mansion that now houses Cartier.  When Mr. Vernay retired in 1940, the firm was bought by Stephen J. Jussel, who had been the firm's General Manager and an employee since 1928.  When Stephen retired in 1972, his son Chris became the sole proprietor.  In 1977, the business was renamed Vernay & Jussel.
A William and Mary Time Piece, ebony and gilt-bronze mounted,
by Thomas Thompion, London, no. 87, circa 1690.
The firm consistently provided the highest quality time pieces for collectors and is credited as introducing English clocks into the American market.
George I Repeating Bracket Clock, gilt-bronze and ebony,
by Daniel Quare, Ste: Horseman, London, no. 266, possibly dated 1724.
Spherical Eight-Day Skeleton Clock
by Henry Gratte, first quarter 19th century.
George III mahogany month-going longcase clock,
by Allam & Clements, London, circa 1775.
But the shop's inventory varied beyond rare clocks and included fine case furniture, tables, seating, mirrors and rare decorative pieces.
English historical picture of Codrington College, Barbados,
in needlework, mid-18th century.
(The building still exists as the theological college of the Anglican Church
in the Province of the West Indies, affiliated to the University of the West Indies).
George III mahogany bedside cabinet, circa 1770
attributed to Thomas Chippendale.
George III mahogany pedestal partners' desk, 1760.
(This fine, highly figured desk had been sold by Arthur S. Vernay, Inc.,
in 1919 and again in 1933).
Regency faux marble cellaret, first quarter 19th century,
after a design by Charles Heathcote Tatham.
By repute, from Castle Howard, Yorkshire.
Charles II polychrome-painted and black-japanned coffer,
second half 17th century.
By repute, from Ham House, Surrey.
(17th century blanket chests with japanned decoration are very rare,
but this was made at the height of the fashionable craze for all things Chinese).
George III mahogany stool, circa 1765,
attributed to Thomas Chippendale.
(Account books from Christ Church Library, Oxford University, record an order
for virtually identical stools supplied by Thomas Chippendale on July 21, 1764).
A pair of George III 'Boulle' marquetry tortoiseshell,
brass, pewter and rosewood writing cabinets, early 19th century,
possibly by Thomas Parker.

By 1995, real estate demands and a desire for a career change convinced Chris Jussel to close shop and have the inventory sold at auction.  One of the highlights of the sale, featured on the catalog cover, was a magnificently carved Neoclassical wine cooler.
George III mahogany wine cooler, circa 1800,
from the workshop of George Seddon.
The sale included a wide range of selections, including this fine tea caddy that was given to Stephen Jussel as a birthday present by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
George III tea caddy of mahogany
inlaid with various wood, last quarter 18th century.
The signed photograph that accompanied the gift.

This writer's favorite lot in the sale might have been a fine and rare coin cabinet embellished with 'Grand Tour' souvenir medallions.
George III coin cabinet of bronze-mounted mahogany,
circa 1775, with Italian bronze medallions of the twelve Caesars,
17th/18th century, in two parts.

Starting in 1995, Chris was the host of the first four years of the PBS hit television series "Antiques Roadshow".  From 1999 to 2003, he was Senior Vice President Sotheby's, Trust and Estates division, and worked on their Online Auctions Program.  Chris served as Senior Vice President of Samuel T. Freeman & Co. auctioneers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 2007 to 2009.  Presently, Chris Jussel serves as a private consultant for art and antiques.
Chris Jussel, 2006.
Facebook photo, Rob Rich,
The photos, except as noted, come from the Sotheby's auction catalog, "Important English Furniture and Decorations", New York, January 21, 1995, Sale 6658.


  1. Garden Club LadyMarch 7, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    A great tribute. I am a Chris Jussel fan from his Roadshow days. But I did not know he had such a distinguished background. And you showed such interesting examples from his inventory, too. Another great post!

    ps. Loved your presentation to our group! You are a terrifically talented gentleman!

  2. I can't decide whether my favorite piece is the Chinoiserie chest, or the coin cabinet. I would also like to see the partners' desk in person--I have a feeling the picture doesn't do it justice.

    It is interesting to get this glimpse into the taste of an important dealer like Mr. Jussel.
    --Road to Parnassus

  3. GCL, thank you!

    P, the chest with black lacquer panels really caught my eye too; I had to include it along with the coin cabinet. On the desk, I don't know if you could tell that the two lower drawers on the left were false, opening to a cabinet compartment.

  4. It's a shame that antiques stores like this are becoming scarce. I also want to say that I'm smitten with the Regency faux marble cellaret!

  5. TPoC, I agree on both counts. I have not yet visited Castle Howard, but I have wanted to ever since since the first filmed version of BRIDESHEAD REVISTED was shot there.

  6. Spectacular English furniture. I had a conversation with Mr. Jussel several weeks ago at a large public cocktail party, and he couldn't have been more charming. Reggie

  7. RD, he sent me the nicest note after seeing this post. He's the model of the gentleman antiquarian.

  8. I have the orIginal bill of sale for six Worcester Plates (Chamberlains Worcester 155) from Arthur S. Vernay dated Feb. 21, 1911, sold to my relative J. B. Van Schaick, Esq., for the grand total of $72.00 or &12.00 each. The plates have been inherited by me and are absolutely gorgeous! Mr. Vernay had impeccable taste!


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