I love being surprised by history. I know history shouldn’t be surprising since it is the past and it isn’t like being surprised when something happens in the moment like walking into a dark room and the lights suddenly go on as people shout “happy birthday”. This surprise came with the history of Christie’s. I knew Christie’s auction house had been around for a very long time. I just didn’t realize that their first sale was on this date in 1766. There is some information that sales were made prior to this date, but from the literature I have read December 5, 1766 is listed as the 1st sale.
“James Christie holds a sale from his Great Rooms in Pall Mall, his first permanent auction rooms, on 5 December. The sale includes 2 chamber pots, a pair of sheets, 2 pillowcases and 4 irons.” http://www.christies.comMy guess, had he limited himself to such sales, Christie’s would not be what it is today. I do wonder though, who would buy a chamberpot at an auction? Had someone famous used it?
Their website does report the following on their history page for 1778, however:
"James Christie values Sir RobertWalpole’s collection of pictures on behalf of his grandson George Walpole, 3rd Earl, and negotiates their sale from Houghton for £40,000 to the Empress ofRussia, Catherine the Great." http://www.christies.com
So, in two years he went from chamberpots and sheets to pictures (which I have decided translates to “art” - though I could be wrong), and one of the things Christie’s is known for today.
Did you know they became known for their international art trade after the French Revolution. The following sale reportedin their history for 1795:
The five-day sale of the contents of the studio of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A.. realizes £25,000. Following the execution in 1793 of Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XVI, her jewels are sold by James Christie for £8,791,4s 9d.http://www.christies.com
In 1823, the location of Christie’s moved to the current location, 8 King Street, St. James’s. I have been planning for a trip to London in the near future and I think this will be one stop added to my itinerary.
As we all know, Christie’s has grown far, far beyond great rooms on Pall Mall, to having auction houses all across the globe. I wonder if James Christie had any idea what his business would become the day he auctioned off chamberpots and sheets. Regardless, I am glad he did, because my hero is off to Pall Mall to unload some art to save him from a marriage to an heiress. I may even have him sell a few chamberpots just for fun.
Have you ever been surprised by history?
Countess of Content
Countess of Content