John Liston (c.1776-1846), the serious actor turned impressionist-comedian, remains a recognisable personality for some collectors because like many 19th century celebrities he was immortalised in ceramic figurines.
Born in London, he tried his hand at tragic roles before finding his niche playing old men, country boys and impersonating famous people of the day.
From 1805-30 he appeared mainly at the Haymarket. By the time of his retirement in 1837 he had been on stage for more than 30 years and became the first comic actor to earn more than a tragedian, commanding around £60-100 a week with Madame Vestris’ company at the Olympic Theatre.
Liston was best known for playing the title character in Paul Pry (1825) – a role immortalised in figurines by the Staffordshire, Rockingham, Derby and Worcestershire factories – but he was also rendered as Lubin Log from James Kenney’s satirical play Love, Law and Physic (1812).
At Art & Antiques for Everyone, which runs from July 18-21 at Birmingham’s NEC, pottery specialist dealer Roger de Ville Antiques offers a Staffordshire pearlware figure of Liston in the Lubin Log role by Enoch Wood for £595.
De Ville is among 180 dealers at the summer event – the second of the three A&AFE fairs held annually.
Exhibitors at the now 33-year-old fair continue to show a range of traditional items. Other standout offerings include a solid oak pew end from St Mary’s Church in Croscombe, Somerset, from the 16th century, offered by J Collins & Sons Antiques for £1850, a Linthorpe factory terracotta pot by Christopher Dresser, c.1880, for £1850 from La Belle Antiques and an Arts & Crafts copper fire screen available from Levels Antiques for £195.
Business as usual
In April, the fair sold to MaD Events, run by Dan Leyland and Marisa Beckman, former employees of Clarion, the event’s previous long-time organiser. Leyland was quick to reassure clients that it is “very much business as usual” following the purchase. However, in a bid to expand the exhibitor list and increase footfall (currently around 9000 per staging) he has emphasised the need to broaden the selection on offer.
“Collectors’ fairs are great but never that high in visitor numbers, unlike fairs with choice,” he says. “We would like to start to see more Contemporary and decorative items at A&AFE.”
Organisers will also assess the size of the vetting committees, although Leyland has stressed that “innovations need to be gradual”.
Meanwhile, the Weekend Collective, first introduced in spring 2018, has been scrapped in a bid to cut down on logistics for organisers and vetters. Around 12 dealers formerly in that section move into the fair proper.
MaD has also adjusted the pricing plan for stands. Several businesses have taken larger spaces for this staging including furniture dealer Melody Antiques and Mark Buckley Antiques, Art Deco dealer Jeroen Markies and illustration specialist Art of the Imagination.
First-timers include silver specialist Linda Jackson, Czech glass dealer La Boheme and Sue Gray offering jewellery.
As usual, dealers are divided into two sections, one of which has no dateline and the other of which focuses on objects pre-dating 1970 (with some exceptions).
Leyland said that further plans would not be divulged “before we have consulted with the dealers at the July fair”.