Controversy and renowned craftsmanship: John Hobbs' furniture goes to auction

Tomorrow (December 15), Dreweatts at Donnington Priory, UK, is selling the collection of John Hobbs, the internationally renowned furniture dealer known for superb English and Continental furniture with stratospheric prices and a second-to-none client list.

In recent years some of Hobbs' stock has been mired in controversy, as it has come to light that some items in his shop had been expertly embellished by the restorer Dennis Buggins. The court case has since been settled.

Dreweatts is now offering 125 pieces of furniture and works of art at attainable prices from £500 while four or five signature pieces will be estimated between £10,000-25,000. 

John Hobbs has enjoyed a reputation for dealing in beautiful furniture of exceptional craftsmanship and over the past twenty years he has attracted a following of élite clients, from decorators and collectors to institutions, many paying six figure sums. 

This collection from the stock of John Hobbs Fine Art Ltd will be sold at Dreweatts to raise funds for his long running legal fees.

The success of John Hobbs was not simply based on the quality of the antiques he sourced and sold, but also on the revamped reconstructed furniture made from salvaged period pieces. The collection, with its obvious decorative and aesthetic appeal, represents the broadest range of what can only be described as the 'John Hobbs style'.

A mahogany, parcel gilt and fret carved secretaire cabinet

Amongst the most striking pieces in the sale is the 3.3 metre high Apprentice's Model which is believed to date from the early to mid 19th century.  Whatever its age, its intricacy and detail make it a unique work of extraordinary quality by a very skilled craftsman.

It was purchased by John Hobbs from a French dealer at the Olympia Antiques Fair some years ago, reputedly for £50,000 and Dreweatts is now offering it with a £20,000-30,000 estimate. 

Another eye-catching lot is the handsome pair of recently crafted console tables of 'Italianate style', each sitting on a pair of griffins. Hobbs specially commissioned these tables and is said to have paid the furniture maker over £40,000 several years ago. Dreweatts estimates the pair at £8,000- 12,000.

John Hobbs Fine Art Ltd continues to trade by private appointment and John is now working on his autobiography 'Honest John', which will be published towards the end of next year. 

Whatever the market may feel about John Hobbs and his business methods, this tome is eagerly awaited and will undoubtedly be a page turner, a disarmingly candid account of his extraordinary life story and the fascinating machinations of the market for the finest antiques.

"The items selected for sale speak for themselves," said Stephan Ludwig, Executive Chairman of Dreweatts.

"Their craftsmanship and the 'story' behind them will not only ensure that they appeal to decorators and private individuals but one day they will also be regarded as collectors' pieces with interesting provenance, in their own right."


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