Once Behind Royal Art Collections - Roger Keverne To Sell His Treasure Trove

Just as James J. Lally recently announced the closure of his gallery of 35 years in New York, the antique circle is kept busy.

A distinguished London-based Asian art dealer Roger Keverne decided to close down his Clifford Street gallery last June. The entire contents that the long-established Roger Keverne Ltd left behind, are going under the hammer in Bonhams London’s two-part sale, taking place in May and June. 

Asaph Hyman, Bonham’s Global Head of Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art talked to us about the legendary collector, and showed us the highlights of the forthcoming sales.

 

Roger Keverne, an esteemed Asian art dealer based in London

An underglaze blue and yellow-ground dragon and "ruyi" bowl | 1662-1722
Kangxi six-character mark and of the period 
Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000

 

All lots offered at no reserve, the grand finale “Roger Keverne Ltd Moving On” sale will cover over 800 lots in total, featuring a vast array of Chinese works of art, including ceramics, bronzes, jades, lacquers, cloisonné and painted enamels assembled for over half a century.

As a child of a Yorkshire coal-mining engineer, Keverne decided not to follow the footsteps of his father but to instead, go with his passion of history and art. At the young age of 28, Keverne was appointed the director of the venerable Mayfair dealership - also one of the British Royal Warrant holders, Spink & Son, and that was when his tie with the royal family began.

For 17 years, Keverne served as a senior director in charge of the Asian Departments - overseeing Chinese, Japanese, Islamic and South-east Asian arts, and served both royal patrons and prominent collectors, including the British diplomat Sir Michael Butler, the Rockefeller family, as well as Florence and Herbert Irving, just to name a few.

 

Roger Keverne (right) introducing a bronze incense burner to Prince Charles 


Roger Keverne (right) meeting Princess Margaret

He was also a governor of Compton Verney Art Gallery - one of the top three important collections of early Chinese bronzes in Europe. Over the years, Keverne assisted in providing advisory services for the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. Besides counselling Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue, Director of the Royal Collection and Surveyor of The Queen's Works of Art, outside of his homeland, Gustav VI Adolf, King of Sweden was also one of his many clients. 

“He was consulted by the Royal household on matters related to Chinese art, particularly in the areas of conservation and dating of the important collection of Chinese art in the Royal Collection,” said Hyman.

 

Asaph Hyman, Bonham’s Global Head of Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art 


A polychromed limestone figure of a luohan | 9th/10th century 
Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000

In 1992, the antique lover decided to embark on a new chapter and to take his expertise to the heart of Mayfair. He established his namesake gallery Roger Keverne Ltd with his wife Miranda Clarke, specializing in Chinese antiques, primarily lacquers, jades and cloisonné.

When asked about his encounter with Keverne, Hyman recalled: “Roger Keverne is distinct in his personal warmth and welcome, sense of humour and willingness to share his vast experience with all, from the most knowledgeable persons to students who have just entered the Chinese art field. It was this welcome which made his gallery at Mayfair a ‘pit-stop’ for numerous collectors, curators, academics, dealers and auction house specialists.”

 

An archaic bronze ritual wine vessel, Fanglei | Shang Dynasty (13th/12th century BC)
Estimate: £50,000 - 80,000

A fine blue and white rectangular box and domed cover | Wanli (1573-1619)
Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000

 

The dedicated sale held in 2007, from the Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo was when Keverne bidded the prized archaic bronze vessel, on behalf of the Compton Verney museum, established by British philanthropist Sir Peter Moores. The late Shang (13th-11th century BC) archaic bronze wine vessel with cover (fangjia) was sold for US$8.1m with fees.

 

A magnificent very pale green jade marriage bowl | Qianlong (1736-1795) 
Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000

 

As Roger Keverne took a step back from his gallery, the collection - every one of the over 800 items, will hopefully find its new owners at the upcoming Bonhams sales with no reserve.

“Roger Keverne and Miranda Clarke decided it is time for them to move on from the totally immersive day to day running of a dealership. They have recently moved from London to the beautiful countryside and would like to enjoy a different pace of life, hence the end of this chapter,” Hyman said.

Before the pandemic subsides, however, interested collectors might not be able to handle the items in person this time. The auction house will host instead, a virtual 3D exhibition, with additional images, videos, and condition reports made available to enhance the experience.


Auction Details:

Auction house: Bonhams London
Sale: Roger Keverne Ltd Moving On (Two parts)
Dates: May 11, 2021 and June 2021