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French art collection

Here’s an ad from the March 24 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for what was billed as an auction of French art.

It was a very valuable and artistic French art collection!

I wanted to find out: was there really a Comte De Richemont, and did he really live at the Chateau de Verneuil? And, if so, why on earth was his estate being auctioned off at an art gallery in Toronto?

When I searched the Internet, I discovered that there was a Comte De Richemont whose title was hereditary, but the third Comte passed away in 1912, and his son died in 1941. There seems to be a Chateau de Verneuil in Moussy-Verneuil, but this French Wikipedia entry seems to indicate that the chateau had been owned by the same family since the 17th century. The family apparently is now extinct, but one member of it lived until 1948, which makes it less likely that the contents of the chateau had been spirited away to Toronto. I also could find no reference to an art expert named R. G. Sussman. So while I don’t know for sure that the text of this ad is all made up, that’s my best guess.

The Toronto city directory listed Jenkins B M & T, antique furniture dealers, at 28-30 College Street. The listing was in bold face, so they had paid for a premium entry in the city directory. Not only that: Thomas Jenkins, its president and manager, had paid for a bold-face entry for himself in the directory. So, clearly, he wanted to make an impression! Thomas E. Jenkins, the secretary-treasurer (and probably Thomas’s son) was also listed, but with a normal-sized entry.

I discovered that the firm had been in existence a long time: I found a Jenkins B M & T listing in the 1900 directory. Thomas Jenkins was still the proprietor. A comment in this post in the Occasional Toronto blog states that the firm was founded by Bridget Mary Burns Jenkins and her son, Thomas; this would explain the initials. (Oddly enough, the 1895 directory lists the firm as M B & T Jenkins; this might have been a typo.) The 1890 directory lists Thomas Jenkins with an occupation of “furniture”, so the firm was started after that.

I could find no listing for Bridget Jenkins in any Toronto directory. This might be because of sexism, or perhaps she might have started a branch of the firm in Montreal: the WorldCat global library catalogue website lists a book from 1900 that references a Montreal location for the Jenkins art galleries. The book is titled Jenkins’ palatial antique & art galleries, and is apparently ten pages of illustrations that were to serve as a “record of our activities during the past sixty years”. So either the Jenkins Galleries started in Montreal and branched out to Toronto, or this was all made up too. I could find no references to a Jenkins art gallery in Montreal, so I have no way of knowing.

Interestingly enough, there was a Thomas Jenkins who was a British painter and antiquities dealer who lived in Rome in the 18th century. So it’s either a coincidence that our Mr. Jenkins had the same name as a more famous antiquary from the past, or perhaps our man even made up his name. Either way, he dreamed and thought big, which makes him more interesting.

Jenkins Galleries is listed in the 1935 and 1940 directories, but in normal type, with Thomas E. Jenkins as proprietor, and located at 840 Yonge. Presumably, his father had passed on to the great art gallery in the sky.

The Jenkins Gallery is listed in the Art Canada Institute’s glossary of Canadian art history. The original facade for the gallery is still preserved at 23 Grenville Street; the building is now a condo named The Gallery. The Toronto Public Library has photos from 1927 from inside the gallery.

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