Alfred began collecting in earnest at the age of 42 – five years after his father’s death – when he made significant purchases at the 1862 London International Exhibition. This was also the occasion when he first came across many of the manufacturers whom he would soon patronise in depth. Indeed, in this respect, Alfred’s purchases demonstrate how such World’s Fairs acted as a shop window for inventions and novelties of all kinds. By the end of the International Exhibition in 1862, Morrison had spent over £7,500, in a major commitment to predominantly ‘decorative arts’.
Exhibits from the Indian Court at the Great Exhibition, 1851, had entered the British Royal Collection, and Morrison himself made extensive purchases from the Indian Section of the 1862 exhibition. Indeed, numerically if not financially, this is where he appears to have been most active. He also bought some contemporary paintings, but often it is the origin rather than the artist that is noted. For example, he bought a Snow Storm, a Bear Hunt, a Picture of a Wedding, and a Mare and Foal from Russia. Other purchases were made from Saxony, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Bavaria. Titles included Catching Horses and Summer and Winter.
Other retailers and manufacturers that appear in Morrison’s address/note book in the late 1850s and early 1860s, as well as later, include [James] Powell (the glass manufacturer), Thomas Goode (retailer of ceramics), Hatfield (‘Brass Cleaner’), Fannière Frères (silversmiths), Arnoot, a cabinet-maker also employed by Ralph Bernal, another great collector of the era, Arthur Hughes (presumably the artist), Beurdeley, the Parisian cabinet and ornament maker, Quaritch the bookseller, Charles Duron and Plácido Zuloaga, Castellani, and Bapst and Falize.
A name absent from the address/note book is the Parisian glassmaker Philippe-Joseph Brocard (1831-96), who revived Islamic-style glass, which he first exhibited at the Paris 1867 exhibition. However, Brocard made for Morrison the pair of flasks (fig. 5). Evidence that these were a specific commission, rather than a random purchase, is established by the presence of Morrison’s monogram as part of the decoration.
In 1866 Charles Duron (1814-72), who is best known for his enamel and gold-mounted hard stone objects, invoiced Morrison for ‘1 bracelette emaux’ and ‘1 brooch’. But Morrison also acquired hard stone objects from Duron, including the coupe (fig. 6) exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle, 1867.
The Spaniard Eusebio Zuloaga (1808-98) initiated the revival of damascening (the inlaying of silver and gold into iron), first shown by him at a national exhibition in Madrid (1845). However, it was his son Plácido (1834-1910) who improved the technique and widened the range of objects in this medium. Eusebio exhibited at the London Great Exhibition, 1851, but Placido, through his participation at the Paris Exposition Universelle, 1855, achieved the greater international recognition. Zuloaga, with whom, like Lepec, Morrison developed a close relationship, supplied Morrison with more than forty outstanding examples of his work. Perhaps the most remarkable commission is the monogrammed centre table, now at Buckingham Palace, spotted by Clive Wainwright during a privileged Furniture History Society visit.
Another one of the nineteenth-century’s outstanding artisans patronised by Morrison was Lucien Falize (1839-97). The gothic-revival case, shown at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle, takes the form of a late Gothic tower, decorated elaborately with sculptural and architectural motifs. Its craftsmanship confirmed Falize’s reputation as an enameller of the highest order (fig. 7). The clock was made in cooperation with Germain Bapst (1853–1921).
But how and where did Morrison display his growing collections? Here is another aspect of this enormously wealthy man’s enlightened patronage. In 1863 Morrison acquired the lease on 16, Carlton House Terrace, London, a prestigious London address overlooking St James’s Park. For the designs of its interiors and furnishing he turned to Owen Jones. The same architect and designer would also create a remarkable set of cabinets for Chinese ceramics and enamels at Fonthill (fig. 8). The manufacturer chosen for this extraordinary commission was the London cabinet-maker Jackson & Graham. The interiors of Carlton House Terrace, although depleted (fig. 9) and lacking their original furnishings, survive sufficiently for us to appreciate a couple of contemporary descriptions, extracts from which are worth quoting.
Mrs Haweis, in Beautiful Houses (1882) wrote: ‘The house has been entirely decorated from designs by Owen Jones, carried out by Mr. Jackson of the firm of Jackson and Graham, and presents an appearance therefore, of general unity seldom seen in houses so large.’ Mary Eliza Haweis (1848-98) continues: ‘The ceilings are very fine; the doors, wainscots, and many suites of furniture throughout the house are made of the finest marqueterie of inlaid natural woods, and satisfactorily answer the common complaint that modern workmen cannot, or will not, do the good work which ancient workmen did.’ (fig. 9)
Writing in Travels in South Kensington (1882), Moncure Daniel Conway (1832-1907) noted that at Carlton House Terrace, ‘Every chair is as philosophically as it is beautifully constructed’ and, perhaps referring to the chair (fig. 10), pointed out designs reminiscent of ‘the perforated chairs of Delhi palaces’.
It seems that no part of the furnishings went unnoticed. Mrs Haweis was surely referring to one of these monogrammed Minton plates (fig. 11) when she observed rather acidly ‘One of the most curious features of the house – an enormous cabinet, filled with a pretentious service of Minton’s ware…’
This note gives just a broad outline of the collections formed by Alfred Morrison, but plans are underway, spearheaded by Caroline Dakers, for an in-depth study. The present note is based on a lecture given by the compiler at the Art Institute of Chicago, May 2016.
All photographs are by Prudence Cuming Associates, London and are the copyright of H. Blairman & Sons, London, except the header and fig. 1 Fonthill Estate Archive, fig. 3 Christie’s Images and fig. 7 Metropolitan Museum of Art.