Ely House is on Dover St, off Piccadilly, in the heart of the pricey art gallery district. It’s where Mallett show their antiques to people with a few hundred thousand to spare. But it’s not like your average shop; it’s housed in the most amazing restored 18th century house. If you get there by 20th July you can catch their current free exhibition, The Age of Elegance: Treasures from the Eighteenth Century Town House, which combines Mallett’s antiques with some splendid pictures from Old Master dealer Colnaghi.
To be honest, I’d never heard of Ely House until Yannick asked me if I wanted to go along and take a look at it with our friends Tina and Claudia. Of course I said yes – it sounded like an amusing way to pass a sunny afternoon in air-conditioned comfort. So I wasn’t prepared for the sheer splendour of the place, nor for the stunning array of antiques and works of art inside. As Yannick said, it was like falling down an 18th century rabbit hole and finding a dazzling treasure at the bottom. Take a look at some of the rooms and you’ll see what I mean.
Grade I listed Ely House was designed by the neo-classical architect Robert Taylor in 1772 for Robert Keene, the Bishop of Ely. In 1894 it became the home of the Albemarle Club when it moved from its original Albemarle St premises, so presumably the entrance hall in the picture below was the place where, in 1895, the Marquess of Queensbury gave the club’s porter his infamous note for Oscar Wilde that led to Wilde’s downfall.
It was interesting how the four members of our party all had different obsessions and gravitated towards the particular periods and styles that fitted our interests. For me, it was Japanese antiquities and, as you would expect, I tracked down some Japanese works among the antiques on show. I was particularly taken with this set of twelve watercolour panels of hawks from 1880 which were hung beside the staircase.
And I loved these three silvered and gilt bronze quails from the Meiji period.
Continuing the animal theme, here’s a pair of Japanese bronze rabbits from 1860.
And I couldn’t resist including this porcelain cat, one of a pair, though they’re Chinese, not Japanese.
This cabinet is not strictly Japanese either – it’s German but it’s lacquered (Japanned) in the Japanese style. It dates from around 1720.
We were so stunned by the amount and quality of the work on display we could hardly take it all in. There’s still time to go back for another look as The Age of Elegance exhibition continues until 20th July, but if you want to see it you should hurry. (Sorry for the late notice – I hope you can make it in time.) It’s open Monday-Friday 9:30-6 and Saturday 11-5 and it’s at 37 Dover St.