Imagens das páginas

were of the humblest order, in a few years become independent, nay wealthy. This may be accounted for, in the first place, by the fact that the love for collecting the fine arts has become notorious, and secondly, that what was formerly purchased for a song, is now sold for fol., with tenfold the buyers. Thus, amid the numerous shops in Paris filled with bric-à-brac,-good, bad, and indifferent,nothing is now to be had cheap. The man who has great knowledge may occasionally pick up something at a fair but full value; all others pay twice that for which it might formerly have been obtained. In Paris, as indeed in all the small cities and towns in France, the rage for bric-à-brac is a furor. Only recently I visited the curious, but dull old town of Abbeville, where there are two or three small bric-à-brac shops; in both I selected one or two trifles, the sum asked for which was most exorbitant, and yet they sell. There is nothing good, bad, or indifferent to be had in Paris, save for a large outlay, and as for Sèvres, if it is even tolerable, it is estimated as bullion. In London, as in Paris, there are crowds of bric-à

brac dealers, with and without great knowledge; all that is really good, however, in London deservedly commands high prices and obtains them; ordinary, but by no means to be despised specimens, are far cheaper than abroad, and among the first-class dealers, I must do them the justice to say, a novice may purchase without fear. I have abstained from naming any dealers, because I neither desire to praise, nor give offence. Again and again it has been asserted to me by London dealers, that France comes over to purchase; in like manner France asserts in language which courtesy dare not contradict, that England acts in like manner; all I can assert is that, speaking from my own experience, if England does purchase in France, and gives a third of the price asked, the profit made must be nil. I am aware that firstrate dealers do come to Paris, and do advertise : that they are coming with money in their pockets, and are ready to purchase; and I conclude they are thoroughly aware of the effects of such advertisements, and it pays, or they would not risk the outlay of a journey and Paris expenses; but to an

amateur collector, unless he is determined to have this or that object, regardless of expense, Paris is not his market.

Previous to the advent of railways, when continental travellers were as one to fifty, when rich men travelled for pleasure, and employés were well paid for their wanderings, much might be found by the experienced collector and purchased fairly, sometimes luckily; but that period is over, and, in those days, I conclude dealers were more or less dependent on home sales, or those who brought wares to them for purchase. Now there is scarcely a first-rate dealer who does not go or send all over Europe, regardless of expense; they are to be met

with, go where you will, at Petersburg and Moscow, · Constantinople and Rome; so I conclude it must

pay. That it does so, however, is solely because the value of bric-à-brac is quadrupled. In London the valuable sales at Christy's, Phillips', and other first-class auctions are constant, and generally it is wonderful the prices obtained during the season, for even moderate works of art.

In like manner at Paris, almost daily sales take

place in the Rue Drouet, where every species of bric-à-brac is offered for sale-pictures of value, and mere daubs by hundreds ; old and modern furniture, china, glass, in fact everything coming under the denomination of bric-à-brac, or of household goods. An occasional visit to these sales is highly amusing, even to those not afflicted with the mania for bric-à-brac hunting. Yet I must confess it is difficult for any one having a decent coat on his back to purchase anything cheaply. There appears in fact to be a combination among dealers high and low, men and women, which utterly upsets the hopes and expectations of an amateur: However, there must be some freemasonry among them; as I have witnessed the selling of a piece of china to a dealer, which I have subsequently purchased in his shop at a less price than that he paid for it at the sale; and I cannot but believe that a small capital and much knowledge of the ceramic art will soon convert the small into large; moreover, the knowledge is always on the increase, however few there may be who absolutely ever attain to the perfect acquirements of a connoisseur. During the many years it has been my pleasure to search in every capital and town, in which I may chance to find myself, for bric-à-brac dealers, whether at home or abroad, I have had practical proof of the above assertion; for I have known men who apparently, not ten years lang syne, were in the lowest possible position, bordering on apparent poverty, in that brief space become rich. In fact their history may be written in the following lines :

" Autrefois j'étais villageois :

On peut s'en souvenir :
Un peu sauvage, un peu sournois,

Pensant à l'avenir-
Pour te conter mes aventures,

Il faudrait peu de mots,
J'ai maintenant quatre voitures,

Au lieu de deux sabots.”

Of course I do not include the higher, and wellknown class of dealers, though who dare say that they have not had their early struggles ? As an illustration, however, of the rapid rise in the fortunes of those to whom I more particularly allude, I perfectly recollect one fine summer's evening,—when enjoying the al fresco in company

« AnteriorContinuar »