Sworders to auction property of celebrated British antiques dealer Dick Turpin

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Jan. 25 sale includes furniture, paintings and other art from Turpin’s West London flat

A George III padouk and kingwood commode attributed to John Cobb
A George III padouk and kingwood commode attributed to John Cobb

STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET, UK – On January 25, 2024, the British fine art and antiques auction house Sworders will conduct a single-owner sale devoted to the contents of the Barons Court, West London, flat of Maurice Turpin (1928-2005). Known throughout the trade as “Dick,” Turpin was one of Britain’s foremost antiques dealers of the second half of the 20th century, achieving near-legendary status over a 50-year career.

Born in Bow in 1928, the son of an East End fruit seller, Turpin originally trained as a sound engineer for the BBC, before taking work as an “runner” in the summer of 1948. He began searching provincial shops and markets for objects he could sell to the London antiques trade before opening his own small premises on Portobello Road.

During the “golden age” of the antique furniture business, Turpin was a familiar sight at regional UK salerooms and one of the first British dealers to undertake frequent buying trips to America. He opened a shop at 27 Bruton Street in the late 1980s.

The caliber of the pieces that he bought and sold was surpassed only by his persona. He was a giant of a man with a large walrus moustache who wore thick-rimmed spectacles and a trilby hat, all of which mixed incongruously with a curiously high-pitched voice.

While never a man to cross, his friends credited him with extraordinary kindness, good humor and generosity. Fellow dealer Lennox Cato of Kent, England, remembers Turpin with great affection: “Dick enjoyed life immensely, he was never far from good food, fine wine, great antiques, and close friends.”

Following his death in 2005, his remaining stock was sold in two sales at Christie’s, titled “The Legend of Dick Turpin.” Sworders’ sale will include the contents of the Barons Keep, London W14 residence he shared with partner Jackie Mann. The assemblage includes hundreds of meticulously chosen pieces of furniture, paintings and other works of art. The sale of 267 lots will be titled “Dick Turpin: The Legend Lives On.”

Leading the sale is a George III padouk and kingwood commode attributed to one of the great figures of British furniture history, John Cobb (circa 1715-1778). Of serpentine outline with ormolu mounts and a matched-veneered top, the 88cm-high by 125cm-wide piece carries an estimate of £30,000-£50,000 ($38,110-$63,520). 

The auction also includes spectacular classics, such as a pair of George III blue john and ormolu “Cleopatra” candle vases attributed Matthew Boulton, estimate £2,000-£4,000 ($2,540-$5,080); and an Italian bronze group depicting Hercules and the Nemean Lion, after the antique, estimated at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,810-$6,350). Both reflect areas in which Turpin held considerable expertise.

A pair of the distinctive basso relievo embossed bird pictures by Samuel Dixon of Dublin, circa 1750, includes hand-colored prints titled Canary Bird with a Group of Flowers and The Cock Butcher Bird with a Group of Flowers. Each is signed and dedicated To Her Grace the Duchess of Hamilton. They are guided at £3,000-£5,000 ($3,810-$6,350).

Less expected from a dealer who bought period antiques are four inter-war bronzes by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). The quartet of portrait busts includes casts of the First Portrait of Lillian Shelley and Eighth Portrait of Peggy Jean estimated at £2,000-£3,000 ($2,540-$3,810) and £1,500-£2,000 ($1,905-$2,540) respectively.

For more information, visit Sworders online at www.sworder.co.uk. The online auction catalogue may be viewed at: https://www.sworder.co.uk/auction/details/a1131-dick-turpin–the-legend-lives-on/?au=1147 

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