"I realized that I was in probably in the greatest sweets shop I shall ever find."
November 9, 2010 8:03 PM   Subscribe

"It had a sign outside it saying Museum of the Americas, but no one ever visited it. Anyway, so he opened this door, turned on the lights one by one, and the sight that met my eyes is something I shall never, ever forget because instead of a congregation of people in this disused church, it was a congregation of portraits." Philip Mould, an art expert and a host of the British version of Antiques Roadshow, describes an early business trip where he met Earle Newton. Newton's home grown Museum of the Americas, a collection of over 300 rare 17th- and 18th-century English and American portraits, was housed in a nondescript church on the side of a road in rural Vermont. The collection, later valued at over nine million dollars, became the Earle W. Newton Center for British and American Studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design upon Newton's death. [via]
posted by jessamyn (14 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Astute readers may notice this is the second installment in my Orange County Hoarders series.
posted by jessamyn at 8:11 PM on November 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

I love how Mr. Mould initially believed he was being led astray. It gives me hope for all of us cynics.
posted by wv kay in ga at 8:28 PM on November 9, 2010

this is like porn to me.
posted by The Whelk at 8:30 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this, I went to SCAD and never knew the story behind the collection. I always assumed it was just a stuffy 18th century museum.
posted by Sreiny at 8:33 PM on November 9, 2010

That story about the cars stuck with me. This is likewise awesome.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:49 PM on November 9, 2010

Treasures.. there're still treasures to be found.. Hidden away.. Just need to search harder..

(Also - completely awesome that he donated them to a college gallery!)
posted by Ahab at 10:25 PM on November 9, 2010

Love this show. It's on just before the news over here, so I regularly catch the last 10 minutes.

But, "the British version"?! Come come.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:34 AM on November 10, 2010

Enjoyed immensely, this post.
posted by jadepearl at 5:35 AM on November 10, 2010

Just to quibble for quibblin' sake.

Isn't every painting "rare?" They're all one-of-a-kind.
posted by keratacon at 5:52 AM on November 10, 2010

It's like porn to me too.

I'd highly recommend Mould's book Sleuth (rebranded in the US.) The research he has done in the field of Tudor portraiture is remarkable, especially his work with David Starkey on the Hampden portrait of Elizabeth I. From crouching on his knees in front of it with a halogen torch to the detective work which linked it to one of Elizabeth's most important speeches, it's a fascinating tale. You can browse some of the historically important works Mould has uncovered a sold via his image library. His website is second to none for the provenance and history which accompanies each work he has for sale, it is well worth a browse.

You can read about some other discoveries here.
He found a Gainsborough on eBay.
He uncovered one of Gainsborough's earliest landscapes.
Uncovered the only life portrait of Arthur Prince of Wales, older brother of Henry VIII. One of the earliest surviving British easel portraits.
Extensive profile here.
A general overview of the hunt for "sleepers."

His gallery staff are also some of the most friendly and accomodating in the business. The man is a legend.
posted by fire&wings at 6:29 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

The weird church building was for sale a while ago. I guess Newton left it to SCAD who eventually unloaded it, but it still had the sign on it for years after. I remember the first time I ever saw the building, driving by it, thinking "what the hell is that place?" and thinking I should have bought it when I had the chance. It's now been built up into some sort of weird compound. You can see how middle of noplace the place was on this map.

But, "the British version"?! Come come.

Consider me schooled. I was doing a cut/paste from a bio of Mould and didn't know about the history of AR. Thanks for the additional background fire&wings, I've been reading his book in the US which is where I learned about this story in the first place. It was really odd looking at the photos of all these great paintings and then seeing a photo of the weird church from up the road.
posted by jessamyn at 8:30 AM on November 10, 2010

Treasures.. there're still treasures to be found.. Hidden away.. Just need to search harder..

It happens. My ex-wife recently found a Dali print like this one at the goodwill.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:22 PM on November 10, 2010

It happens. My ex-wife recently found a Dali print like this one at the goodwill.

Awesome. Just pure awesome.

My best ever op-shop find was a Zsolnay eosin snake and lobster plate very much like the one pictured here. Porcelain is not what I collect, and I had no idea what it was. But it screamed art nouveau and it was pretty, so I haggled it down to 50c and bought it. I then spent a couple of days on the internet finding dated Zsolnay base stamps and confirming that it was original, not a post-Soviet reproduction.

When I was done, I was a rather happy chap. But it was also my moment of realization about the internet shrinking the world. If the thing had been dropped off at most of the op-shops around here now, it would have been trundled off to a back room, checked for value online, and then diverted to a specialist auction. But if I didn't have the internet, I probably would have assumed it was something recent, cheap and eastern European. Then I would have given it away to one of my friends who like pottery or shiny things.

Which is all a kind of long winded way of agreeing with both you, Devils Rancher, and Mould. The sleepers are still out there, and specialist knowledge like Earle Newton's still goes a long way towards putting together a pile of.. preciousssesss.. But I'm also with Mould in thinking that Newton couldn't have put together a similar collection these days. Not for the same price, anyhow.
posted by Ahab at 9:16 PM on November 10, 2010

My parents found an original Hitler in an antique shop somewhere in upper New York state. Yes, that's correct. An original architectural drawing from the failed art student. It was real. It was priced at a measly hundred bucks. And they didn't buy it.

When they told me this I was livid. "What if someone offered you an original sculpture by Genghis Khan? Would you turn that down, as well?" Yeah, but it was a Hitler, they'd retort.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:43 PM on November 11, 2010

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