A Dynasty of Antique Dealers
Jacob Stodel was born in Winschoten in 1859, the eldest son of Benediktus Stodel (1833), an antiques merchant, and his wife Marianne Slap (1838). In 1870 they settled down at Wijngaardstraat C 454 in the old city centre of Dordrecht, close to Rotterdam.
The range of wares in which they traded were primarily Dutch antiques such as copper and pewter, but also, Delft earthenware and Oriental porcelain. There was a considerable market for porcelain at that time in Dordrecht, the oldest city of the Province of Holland. It was also a time of renewed interest in antiques, likewise in England and France but also in Germany. From 1870 onwards, this period came to be known as “der Gründerjahre” (Foundation Years), in which many famous museums were also established. It is recorded that the Stodel family travelled extensively throughout these countries in search of merchandise.
Her twin sister Hannie de Löwe, had married the antiques dealer Aäron Salomon Hiegentlich from Assen in 1868. Their business was established in Amsterdam in 1893 at the Spiegelgracht 7 two doors away from today’s present address of the business of Salomon Stodel. Jette de Löwe’s family also traded in antiques and during the summer months conducted a business on the well-to-do northern Wadden Island of Norderney, where another Salomon Stodel was born.
In 1898 the Vecht antique dealers couple, Stodel-de Löwe, established their business at Zanddwarsstraat 9 in Amsterdam at the foot of the Zuiderkerk in 1898. It was here that six children were born. Maria (1888), married the antiques dealer Aäron Vecht from Elburg; Suzanna (1889), Salomon (1891), referred to as Boedie, a nickname given to the first boy in a Jewish family and always referred to by his German mother as Bubbie.
Clara was born in 1893 followed by Johanna (1894), and the last child and second son in the family, Bernhard, in 1897.
Johanna married the antiques dealer David Sandor from Budapest in 1925 who emigrated to England before eventually settling down in the United States of America.
Salomon and his youngest brother Bernhard became, like their father Jacob, antique dealers and entered their father’s business in the 1920’s. From 1910 until 1919 Jacob Stodel’s business was called A. Vecht & Co until the termination of the partnership with his son-in-law Aaron Vecht. Aaron no longer desired to work with his brothers-in-law on the Nieuwe Hoogstraat 15 in Amsterdam and decided to establish his own business.
Jacob however remained an advisor until 1921. In that year the business was registered as Firma Jacob Stodel with the Chamber of Commerce in Amsterdam and Salomon and Bernhard named as partners.
The businesses of the Stodel and Vecht families thrived considerably during this period and they became internationally renowned. It is recorded that Salomon Stodel worked for the long-standing auction house Kurt Glückselig in Vienna to further himself in the business whilst his younger brother Bernhard, during the 1920’s of the last century, associated himself with specialists in porcelain, the family Lissauer in Berlin. The Lissauer’s departed in the latter half of the 1920’s to London in order to further their prospects in Meissen porcelain.
In 1929 a shop space was rented on the Rokin 128 in Amsterdam for the grand sum of six thousand guilders per annum. Business flourished to such an extent that the Berlin address unfortunately had to be closed in 1931.
Salomon Stodel married Elisabeth Morpurgo in 1925, the daughter of the Amsterdam antiques dealer Raphaël Morpurgo. On the 11th October 1927, Jacob Junior (named after Salomon’s father), was born and in 1931, his sister Selly, named after her mother Elisabeth, arrived.
During World War II, (1940-1945), the business came under the jurisdiction of the German occupation. Salomon Stodel and his family sought refuge first in Breda and later fled to Brussels where Bernhard also eventually joined them. Brussels was liberated in the Autumn of 1944 whilst the hunger winter in The Netherlands had yet to begin. Salomon Stodel lived at Avenue Louise 377 in Brussels until 1947. His wife had no desire to return to The Netherlands. After all, they had led a reasonably affluent life in Brussels and had established in the course of time, a prominent business.
On the 3rd July 1945, Bernhard Stodel renewed his registration in Amsterdam as an antiques dealer. His marriage to his non-Jewish wife Annie Verhulst had in the meantime been annulled in the Spring of 1941.
It was Bernhard who oversaw the re-establishment of the business founded on 3rd May 1935, at the large premises of the Rokin 70 in Amsterdam. Merchandise however was practically unavailable, the premises had been stripped of its soft furnishings, typewriters and telephones were missing.
Through sheer hard work and perseverance, the Stodel family re-opened their business once again to rebuild and acquire the international reputation they had held before the war, this time, with the name of Jacob Stodel.
Whilst Salomon Stodel commuted from Brussels to assist his brother and his wife Elisabeth during the week, their children Jacob and Selly attended school.
In the summer of 1947 an idea was launched by the Oude Delft medical practitioners Ressing and the in Brussels born Jean Gondrexon (1906), to initiate an art and antiques fair of some form. A fair was held in the former urban palace of Prinsenhof in Delft and became instantly well established. It was only surpassed by the older and internationally renowned Grosvenor House Antiques Fair in London which had originated before the outbreak of the war.
The photographed objects for the annual Delft fair catalogue reflected not only the highest quality available, but also the enormous variety of objects in which the Stodel business traded.
For the fourth edition of the fair in 1952, the crowning glory for their efforts was the allocation of the “Kapittel Room”, the grandest and most impressive of rooms of the Prinsenhof Palace. An illustration of the 1952 presentation is recorded in a magazine and illustrated the wide range of objects which the Stodel business had on offer. After an unfortunate period of discord within the family, the Stodel’s decided to split the business in half in 1957. Both brothers continued under their own name but operated in the same building at the Rokin 70 in Amsterdam.
Salomon Stodel, the patriarch of the family had the use of the ground and second floor whilst Bernhard, the junior, conducted his business from the first and third floors.
Salomon Stodel continued to participate at the Delft Fair until 1960 but passed away in 1971. Bernhard Stodel however, participated annually at Delft with grand presentations from 1949-1977.
The business was continued by the fourth generation of the family upon the death of Salomon Stodel in 1971; by his son Jacob (1927-2007) and his sister Selly, (Mrs S. Lilian née Stodel). They too, continued the tradition of exhibiting at Delft.
At the end of the 1930’s, the Stodel family decided upon a representative office in London.
Sam and Mau Morpurgo, Elisabeth’s brothers were flourishing merchants as well as being members of the well-known antique dealers Staal family, who were related on the maternal side of the Morpurgo’s.
They were one of the first Dutch families who had migrated to London for business purposes. The Morpurgo business was situated at Wigmore Street in the direct vicinity of the Wallace Collection on Manchester Square. For many years one of the brothers had also managed the business interests and international buying of A.C. Beeling & Zoon on Nieuwstad 91 in Leeuwarden, Friesland.
Jacob Stodel returned with his parents and sister to his native city, Amsterdam in 1947 and planned to study at the Amsterdam University at “de Oude Manhuispoort”. During lecture intervals and in his spare time he paid many a visit to his father’s and uncle’s premises at the Rokin. It was during one of these intervals, whilst making an excellent sale in the absence of his father, that he suddenly decided to abandon his promising academic career and further his knowledge as an antiques dealer, much to his mother’s regret. Military conscription to the former Dutch East Indies however, nearly spoiled his chances but by being assigned by his father and uncle to develop the business interests on an international level he was permitted to be released from military service.
The business had already been granted a license in 1939 to pursue business from “the office” established on the third floor of 2 Ryder Street, St. James’s, London next door to Christie’s auction house where a rented apartment was stocked with merchandise.
In 1954 a retail space was acquired from the Sandor family, a relation of Johanna Stodel, at 144 Brompton Road SW3, Knightsbridge, London. Jacob Stodel married Jenny Weyl in 1955, originally from Scheveningen, The Netherlands, who was employed in London at the time. Their daughter Louisette Elisabeth was born that same year and named after both her grandmothers. Jacob had initially been sent to London by his father and uncle however following the lamentable episode within the family in Amsterdam he decided to go independent and set up shop in a large retail space at 172 Brompton Road, SW3 London. It was adjacent to a large storage space at Cheval Place, not far from the well-known auction house Bonhams on Montpelier Street. Business prospered, and a partnership was established with Anthony Embden whose young widowed mother was a specialist of old porcelain at Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge. Anthony developed into a connoisseur of Renaissance bronze objets d’arts as well as German porcelain, especially Meissen.
In 1971 a magnificent exhibition titled “Meissen and Science” was organized at their premises at Brompton Road. An accompanying stenciled catalogue including a detachable colour supplement (unfortunately no longer traceable), was published and contained no less than 246 objects.
During the Meissen exhibition only one piece of furniture remained standing. It was the David Roentgen writing desk commissioned by Charles de Lorraine (1712-1780), Governor General of the Southern Dutch Provinces who had lived in the appropriate style and grandeur in Brussels, Belgium.
It was such a museum piece that Jacob Stodel and Anthony Embden had it transported to Amsterdam, first, to be exhibited at the CINOA exhibition, “Art Dealer and Collector” held in the newly founded Amsterdam Historisch Museum directed by Dr Simon Levie. It was sold at a later date to a famous German art historian.
Anthony Embden married a French lady and eventually decided to establish his business in Paris on 15 Quai Voltaire where it remains to this day. During the summer months, Jacob and his wife spent most of their time in Cannes and took moving to France into consideration. On the expiry of their lease of Brompton Road they closed the business and traded for a number of years from their warehouse at Cheval Place. Eventually in 1981, new premises were established at 116 Kensington Church Street in 1981 which today is occupied by Luis Alegria, a specialist of Chinese export porcelain.
After Jacob’s death in 2007 it was decided to cease trading from the United Kingdom. The family then decided to conduct business only from Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The annual “Oude Kunst-en Antiekbeurs” in Delft organised by the “Society of Dealers in Oude Kunst” in The Netherlands, had long remained the most prominent fair in The Netherlands followed by the Spring Fair in Breda which was established in the 1960’s.
In 1975 a gathering of Old Master Art dealers took the initiative to organize a biannual fair at the Eurohal situated on the banks of the river Maas in Maastricht. The fair, specializing only in Old Master paintings, drawings and some sculpture became an instant success attracting many visitors within the immediate Euro zone.
In 1977 the Eurohal organization decided to expand the venue with a fair for antique dealers which proved unsuccessful. Not willing to admit defeat, the organization embarked on a mission of research to establish how a quality fair like Pictura was successful instead of one with antique dealers. Jacob Stodel based in England was approached in 1978 to become the first chairman of an entirely new fair called “Antiqua”. His excellent connections with international contacts were, one thought, a prerequisite for its success.
The prominent and famous French businesses who suffered under the French system of export licenses and many other forms of bureaucratic protocol signed up immediately. Jacques Kugel the initial French exhibitor was followed by Didier Aaron, Kreamer & Cie, Michel Meyer, Jacques Perrin, Maurice Segoura and Bernard Steinitz.
The driving force behind Antiqua’s concept, organization and vetting of objects for the highest quality, was formed besides Jacob Stodel, with Jan and Josephine Dirven and Clemens and Neeltje Van der Ven.
The original idea of this small group of Dutch, internationally orientated antique dealers, was to organize a fair, by and for, antique dealers. Their vision became very successful, similar to the same set of principles of the Delft Fair after the Second World War in 1947.
Due to its overwhelming success, the relationship between the small committee of antique dealers became strained with the organization of the Eurohal. In 1982 the committee of antique dealers declined the further use of the exhibition centre and, with a new name, “Antiquairs International”, exhibited at the Geul Hall in Valkenburg.
The Pictura branch remained faithful to Maastricht and it’s Eurohal. Successful negotiations between both fair organizations resulted in 1985 to a return to the Eurohal in Maastricht with a joint annual fair resulting in the founding of Tefaf, The European Fine Art Fair.
The city of Maastricht realizing the lucrative business generated from a fair of this stature built a new exhibition centre. In 1987 the MECC (Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre), opened its doors to the most international of art fairs in the world, attracting collectors, connoisseurs and curators from all over the world and became a major highlight in anyone’s cultural diary. It became the number one art and antiques fair in the world.
The board of the “Vereniging van Handelaren in Oude Kunst” in The Netherlands, established in 1911, not wanting to be left behind with the changing times, decided to stage a jubilee exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, to celebrate their seventieth anniversary, somewhat later than planned.
Many society members exhibited at the venue however what was meant to have been a single and one-of presentation, evolved into an annual event primarily caused by two fairs held outside of Amsterdam with dwindling numbers of visitors and sales especially from the annual fair in Delft.
A turn of events came to a head during the Delft Fair in 1985 when six of the participants, Kunsthandel Gebroeders Douwes, Jan Dirven, Robert Noortman, Salomon Stodel Antiquites, Vander Ven & Vander Ven en Kunstzalen A. Vecht decided no longer to participate. The Prinsenhof palace could no longer adapt to the changing times. Parking became problematic, facilities for less mobile visitors were non-existent and appropriate electricity and telephone lines were outdated. Time for a radical change had dawned.
To avoid expulsion from the “Vereniging van Handelaren in Oude Kunst” in The Netherlands, the six dissidents, as they became known, tendered their membership. Salomon Stodel had been a founding member since 1911. It was only in 1998 that the board of “Vereniging van Handelaren in Oude Kunst”, invited the now successfully accomplished dealers back to their society and registered them once again as members.
The exhibitors of the Delft Fair integrated with those of the Antiques Fair and established PAN (Pictura Antiquairs Nationaal), in Amsterdam in 1993.
Salomon Stodel, as a founding member, participated annually with the exception of 2012. The participation at Tefaf has remained uninterrupted since 1978 and both fairs remain the only ones at which Salomon Stodel Antiquites exhibits.
In 2014 it was decided to close the premises at the Rokin after serving as the main address for more than eighty years.
The old city centre of Amsterdam and its infra structure had suffered considerably with the construction of its new underground system, the “Noord-Zuidlijn”, and had taken its toll on business.
In 2015 a new and smaller address was acquired at the Spiegelgracht no.11, a stone’s throw away from the Rijksmuseum, fully adapted to the changing times we live in and to the interests of the buying public at large.
Today, as always, since its foundation in 1870, one can always be assured of the widest range of finest quality antiques on offer. Salomon Stodel Antiquites is open on a daily basis but an appointment is always recommended.