Tuesday 17 August 2021

Notes on the "Florent Dalcq Collection"


I really was not going to do any more on this black marble bust of Alexander the Great at the centre of a rich-guy legal battle... but then this post came up showing the dealer's catalogue from what seems to be the sale of this object.  To be honest,  though I like the stone, I was appalled by that head. Other commentators seem to be sure it is fake, I cant make my mind up what I think on that count, but I don't like it. The hair is very crude (and looks awfully greasy - a "Brylcreem Alexander"), the eyes are badly done and crooked, the lips pathetic. More to the point why is this "Alexander"? Compared to other representations all based on the same pattern, the face is the wrong shape, the nose too narrow at the bridge, the mouth is unlike any other... and that hair. Real or fake, I just don't see why it is him. But that's not what caught my eye.

For me, the most important information in any description of an antiquity is of course the collection history. How do we know it is a licit artefact that a responsible collector can buy with a clean conscience? This is by far not the only antiquity on the market at the moment where that information is missing. The catalogue screenshot tells us merely that, according to what the dealer wants us to know, the object "surfaces" (ahem) already in the "Florent Dalcq (1878-1950) Collection, Belgium, acquired in Brussels in the 1930s, with the assistance of the architect Baron Victor Horta" (a bit of serious name-dropping there - I wonder how that was documented). The capital 'C' of 'Collection' is in the original.  Victor Horta (1861 - 1947) [Baron after 1932] is a very well-known architect and designer working in both Art Nouveau and Art Deco style. We will come back to the collector. The latter died, we are told by the seller in 1950, and the object passed "then by descent" when it found its way into another collection: "ex-Dr. L. Collection, Switzerland, since 1950"'. What intrigued me was that "by descent" bit... the guy died and "Dr L." obtained it from his estate, no? What is the significance of "by descent"? So, when in 1950 did the collector die? Mr Google was asked.

Mr Google knows quite a lot about the "Florent Dalcq Collection" and also a "Florent Dalcq de Gilles Collection". Also another Florent Dalcq with different dates - in fact not living very long. There is also an Eugène Florent Dalcq (1886-1955), is that the same guy?  Among the objects from this collection are a lot of shabtis, one now in the Emory Museum has as its collection history: "Thence by descent to Andre Lagneau, Neuchatel, Switzerland. There is also one from Bonhams with the same. Also a LiveAuctioneers one sold on behalf of Artemis gallery. An Arte Primitivo (Howard S. Rose) item's collection history tells us that Florent Dalcq was Andre Lagneau's grandfather. So this would presumably be the Aboutaams' "Dr L" - so why can some dealers give the actual name, others hide it? What is gained by that? 

Although an initial Google search shows the Dalcq collection as dominated by Egyptian items bought in Cairo in 1923, it was rather more eclectic and contained other items. It might be worth looking into it in more detail, what did this private collection made between 1920s and 1950s look like? 

Here is information on André Lagneau, and an object bought from his collection by Phoenix Ancient Art. There are more objects known to Mr Google

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