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Dealers and collectors

Compiled and edited by Dr Yupin Chung, Department of History of Art, University of Glasgow

Page 1 - Thomas Agnew to Edgar Gorer | Page 2 - CS Holberton to John Sparks

Thomas Agnew

Label reads: Thos. Agnew and Sons, London Manchester and Liverpool

Art dealer. Agnew's was founded by Thomas Agnew (1794-1871), who joined the firm of Vittore Zanetti as an apprentice at the age of sixteen. The firm later became Zanetti and Agnew and dealt in a wide variety of stock. From the 1850s onward, they became known as painting specialists and moved to premises at 5 Waterloo Place in London. In 1860, Agnew's opened a shop in Dale Street in Liverpool. The firm's great period of expansion was between 1861 and 1895, under the direction of Thomas' son, William, when it gained an international reputation.


  • Geoffrey Agnew, Agnew's 1817-1967, London 1967.


Richard Bennett

Richard Bennett's label

Richard Bennett (b. 1849) was from Horwich, near Bolton, in Lancashire. Despite being a major collector of books and manuscripts, as well as Chinese porcelain, Bennett is somewhat an obscure figure. By 1881 he was living at Great Lever Hall and was owner or manager of John Smith Junior & Co., a bleaching and chemical manufacturing company in Great Lever. During 1890/91, Bennett moved to Southport and then to Manchester and by 1902 he was living at Thornby Hall in Northamptonshire, his residence when, in 1911, his collection was sold to William Hesketh Lever by Gorer for £275,000.


  • Gorer, Edgar, 'Catalogue of the Collection of old Chinese Porcelains formed by Richard Bennett, Esq. Thornby Hall, Northampton', London, 1911.
  • Impey, Oliver, 'Lever as a collector of Chinese porcelain' in Morris, Edward (ed.), "Art and Business in Edwardian England: The Making of The Lady Lever Art Gallery", Journal of the History of Collections, volume 4, number 2, 1992, p.234.

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Sir William Bennett

Catalogue cover which reads: A collection of rare old Chinese porcelains collected by Sir William Bennett, KCVO

Sir William Henry Bennett, KCVO (1852 - 1931), was an eminent surgeon, of 3 Hyde Park Place, London. He was elected Fellow of several learned societies (RCS England, Royal Society of Medicine, the Zoological and Horticultural Societies). He published on surgical subjects and his appointments included Examiner in Surgery at Cambridge University, Lecturer on Anatomy and Surgery at St George's Hospital, and Surgeon-in-Chief for St John's Ambulance Brigade. For his services to sick & wounded of Boer War, he was made a KCVO in 1901.

He collected paintings, furniture, Chinese porcelain (from Duveen, 1905-1906) & bronzes. The major part of his Chinese collections was sold in 1906. Gorer is said to have been instrumental in taking the best of this collection to the U.S. where it formed the nucleus of some of the finest American collections.


  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, Duveen Client Summary Books 1894-1918 (copy at the Getty Research Institute)
  • American Art Association, Sir William Bennett, 'Distinguished Paintings…Rare Bronzes, etc', Sale no.5971, Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April 1932, by order of Lady Bennett, Anderson Galleries, 30 East 57th Street, New York. Lots 77-125 are Chinese works of art.
  • Gorer, Edgar, 'A collection of rare old Chinese porcelains collected by Sir William Bennett, K.C.V.O'. Purchased & exhibited by Gorer, London, May-June 1910.
  • 'Who Was Who', Vol 3,1929-40, pp.95-96.

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RH Benson

Label reads: Lent by RH Benson Esq. No. 84 359

Robert Henry Benson (1850-1929), senior partner of Robert Benson & Co., Ltd., merchant bankers, London, was a Trustee of the National Gallery from 1912 and a collector of paintings, mostly early Italian, early Chinese porcelain, and other works of art. His properties included Walpole House, Chiswick Mall, W4, though by 1924 he was living at 16 South Street, Park Lane. His country house was Buckhurst Park, Withyham, Sussex.

He married Evelyn Holford (1857-1943) in 1887 and who was herself a collector of Chinese porcelain and was joint owner of the Benson collection of Renaissance paintings, sold to Joseph Duveen in 1927 for US$2.5 million and dispersed to collectors such as Kress, Frick and Rockefeller.

Robert Benson was a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club and lent generously to public museums, for instance to the City of Manchester Art Gallery 'Exhibition of Chinese Applied Art', 1913, to the V&A prior to his major Chinese ceramics sale in 1924, and the Benson Collection of paintings loaned to Manchester in 1927, which was subsequently purchased by Duveen. The 1924 Christie's sale catalogue, for which much of the information came from the collector, has been cited by Oliver Impey (1992 p.231) as the first learned auction house catalogue. The Christie's catalogue refers to a private catalogue produced by Rackham for R.H. Benson some years ago.


  • Christie, Manson & Woods, 1 July 1924, Catalogue of a portion of the collection of early Chinese porcelain and pottery formed by Robert H. Benson, Esq, now the property of Major Rex Benson, Guy Benson Esq. and Con Benson Esq.
  • Reitlinger, Gerald, 'The Economics of Taste' 2 volumes, London 1963, volume 2, p.252 refers to record prices made at the 1924 Christie's sale.
  • 'Who Was Who', Vol 3, 1929-40, 1967 p.97.
  • Oliver Impey, 'Lever as a collector of Chinese porcelain', in 'Art and Business in Edwardian England: The Making of the Lady Lever Art Gallery', Journal of the History of Collections, Vol.4, No.2, 1992, pp.227-238.
  • The Times, Obituary, April 8 1929, p.14.

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Duveen Brothers

Label reads: From Duveen

Art dealers. Founded by Henry Duveen (1854-1919) and his brother, Joseph Joel (1843-1908), in 1871, in Oxford Street London, they were initially dealers in furniture and objects of virtu. The family were originally from Meppel in Holland and were sent to England by their mother to sell Delftware. The two brothers were so successful that they opened a new shop at 21 Old Bond Street and Henry established premises in New York, winning clients such as John Pierpont Morgan, Benjamin Altman and Henry Clay Frick. Both Henry and Joseph Joel were dealers in Chinese porcelains. Joseph Joel's son Joseph (1869-1939) joined the firm in 1887, becoming President of the firm (1909-39), and being raised to the Peerage as Lord Duveen of Millbank. He was the most flamboyant and successful member of the family and dealt mostly in Old Master paintings.


  • Meryle Secrest, Duveen: a life in art, New York 2004.
  • SN Behrman, Duveen, London 1952;
  • James Henry Duveen, Collections and Recollections. A century and a half of art deals, London 1935.

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James Henry Duveen

Label reads: Duveen Liverpool

Art dealer and author. James Henry Duveen (b.1873), known as Jack, or Jacques, was the cousin of Joseph Duveen (Lord Duveen of Millbank). He ran the family's Liverpool gallery before moving to 38 Dover Street in London in 1906 and then to 9 Old Bond Street in 1908. He initiated a lawsuit for slander against his cousin Joseph in 1910, when the latter tried to compromise a number of sales to clients Sir William Bennett and William Lever. James Henry was author of Collections and Recollections. A century and a half of art deals, London 1935.


  • Meryle Secrest, Duveen: a life in art, New York 2004.

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Edgar Gorer

Letterhead reads: Old Chinese porcelain and works of art. Sole agents for the United States and Canada, Dreicer and Co., (Jewels) 560 Fifth Avenue, New York.
Gorer, 170 New Bond Street, London, W

Art dealer. S. Gorer & Son was founded by Solomon Lewis Gorer (1840-1907), and had premises at 170 New Bond Street, London. The company's agent in New York was the jeweller Dreicer & Co., at 560 Fifth Avenue. It was in the hands of Solomon's son, Edgar Ezekiel Gorer (1872-1915), that 'Gorer', as it became known, became an international dealer in Chinese art, particularly Chinese ceramics, boasting major clients in Britain and across the Atlantic. Edgar Gorer was ambitious and gained a reputation for buying up important collections, such as that formed by Richard Bennett, Sir William Bennett, George R. Davies and Alfred Trapnell, and promoting them through exhibition and privately printed catalogues, often with colour plates. Gerald Reitlinger, in his 'Economics of Taste', aptly described Gorer as being 'the meteoric rival of the Duveens'. He entered into two lawsuits as a result of his high profile activities, one with William Hesketh Lever over the purchase of the Richard Bennett Collection and Duveen over a Kangxi vase, which Gorer had offered to Frick but which Duveen had claimed was a fake. The latter lawsuit was never heard in court. On the day of its announcement, 7th May 1915, Gorer was crossing the Atlantic on the Lusitania which was torpedoed and he lost his life. He was 43. Edgar Gorer married Rachel Alice Cohen (1873-1954) in 1902 and lived in some elegance at 45 Netherhall Gardens in South Hampstead. Their three sons were the writer and social anthropologist, Geoffrey Gorer, geneticist, Peter Gorer and the horticulturalist, Richard Gorer.

Edgar Gorer's publications include: (with J.F. Blacker),'Chinese Porcelain and Hardstones', 2 volumes, London 1911 (this was a limited edition of 1000) and catalogues of exhibitions of collections including Alfred Trapnell (S. Gorer, 1906), Sir William Henry Bennett (Edgar Gorer & Sir William Henry Bennett, 1910), Richard Bennett (Edgar Gorer, 1911) and George R. Davies (G.R. Davies and Gorer, 1913). He also published 'A catalogue of rare specimens of Ming and early Kang-He porcelain' (S. Gorer, 1907) and 'Old Chinese Porcelain', (Edgar Gorer, 1910).


  • Christian Jorg, 'Chinese Ceramics in the Collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam: The Ming and Qing Dynasties', Amsterdam 1997, pp.16, 19.
  • Oliver Impey, Lever as a Collector of Chinese Porcelain, in 'Art and Business in Edwardian England: The Making of the Lady Lever Art Gallery', Journal of the History of Collections, vol.4, no.2, 1992, pp.227-238.
  • Gerald Reitlinger, 'The Economics of Taste: The rise and fall of objets d'art prices since 1750, London 1963', vol.2, pp.213-215.
  • Website: The Lusitania Resource
  • Jeremy MacClancy, 'Geoffrey Gorer (1905-85)', Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
  • D.B. Amos, 'Peter Alfred Isaac Gorer (1907-61)', Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.
  • P.B. Medawar, 'Peter Alfred Gorer 1907-61', Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, vol.7, November 1961, pp.95-109.


Page 1 - Thomas Agnew to Edgar Gorer | Page 2 - CS Holberton to John Sparks