The Society for the History of Collecting

Invites you to its Online Lecture

Selling Pictures in Eighteenth-Century London – Visualizing a Tightly-Knit Profession

Dr. Bénédicte Miyamoto, Associate Professor. Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle

26 January 2021 at 6.30pm GMT 

In a century obsessed with the frenetic pace of novelty, and a world of art collecting regularly disrupted and fed by cycles of bankruptcy and dispersion, the world of the art market was surprisingly stable, its professionals well-connected, and its modus operandi well-honed already by the 1750s.

English sales took their blueprints from the Netherlands and France, but quickly developed their own original process of ascending bidding coupled with ascending price expectations. This home-grown sales strategy and the conditions of sales remained unchanged as the art market internationalised over the next decades. The London market became also more local and less influenced by consumption patterns prevalent abroad, as the new generations of English art lovers gained maturity and asserted their national preferences.

New perspectives reveal in particular the importance of dealers as sellers behind the scenes of the auction. They paint a more complex picture of the difference between the primary and the secondary market, given the multiple stages of recurring buying and selling.

The  picture sales in eighteenth-century London that my research has geolocalised can now be visualized on the Layers of London website. I will present the results of this visualisation, to show the three most important activity clusters (Royal Exchange, Covent Garden and Pall Mall), their different specialities and socio-economic reach. These localities were separate and specialized, but show evidence of a well organised and extensive professional field, and of strong delocalised social interaction, proving this extensive professional field was a tightly knit social network.

Bénédicte Miyamoto is an Associate Professor of British History at the Université Sorbonne-Nouvelle, 2019 short-term Fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

She has published her research in Marketing Art in the British Isles, 1700 to the Present, edited by Gould and Mesplède, Ashgate, 2012; Moving Pictures: Intra-European Trade in Images, 16th-18th Centuries, edited by De Marchi and Raux, Brepols, 2014; Art Crossing Borders: The International Art Market in the Age of Nation States, 1760-1914 edited by Baetens and Lyna, Brill, 2019, and London and the Emergence of a European Art Market, 1780-1820, edited by Huemer and Avery-Quash, Getty 2020.

She co-edited with Louisiane Ferlier Forms, Formats and the Circulation of Knowledge: British Printscape’s Innovations, 1688-1832. (Brill, Library of the Written Word, 2020). Her research focuses on the artistic culture and trade of Britain, 1600-1800.

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