The Dallas-based collector and author Myrna Schkolne has recently published – as an ebook rather than in print – the myriad early English pottery figure groups she and husband Benson pieced together since the 1980s. At over 700 pages, the title – Obsession: The Myrna & Benson Schkolne Collection of Early English Pottery – is well chosen.
Hundreds of riotously colourful pre- Victorian figures, groups, plaques and toby jugs have been photographed and arranged into 24 themed chapters – each subject placed in its social and historical context, each piece with a similar historical vignette and a revealing commentary on its place in the collecting hierarchy. Many come with anecdotes regarding the circumstances of their purchase.
For this reason, it is as much a book about collecting as it is a book about a collection.
Like many dealers and collectors, the author recalls with 20-20 vision the ‘where, when, who and how’ of key acquisitions. Some were the trophy auction lots of the past 30 years or so – the $16,800 battle with Jonathan Horne for a Walton group of the boxers Thomas Spring and Jack Langan at Sotheby’s New York in 2005 or the elephant and howdah group that surfaced on Antiques Road Trip, selling to Schkolne at £2700.
Others candidly reveal relationships built with members of the British dealing community. Not all of them escape unscathed!
As Schkolne says: “What makes our collection different from all others is that it reflects my journey through the pottery world. Each object is a small piece of my life.”
As an ebook, Obsession… has obvious limitations, but advantages too: the quality of the images on-screen, the ability to word-search and the small matter of cost. A book of this size (over 700 pages) would have run to at least two volumes and cost a small fortune.
As it stands, this superb reference work for English pottery figures c.1780-1835, is available for a free download.