Property Sold by the Order of the Trustees of the
JOHN WOODMAN HIGGINS ARMORY COLLECTION
To Benefit its Ongoing Study and Display at the Worcester Art Museum, USA
At Thomas Del Mar Ltd (in Association with Sotheby’s) on 7th May 2014.
This collection was put together by American industrialist John Woodman Higgins (1874 – 1961) whose fortune came from the Worcester Pressed Steel Company, Massachusetts, which was founded in 1905.
By the late 1920s Higgins was building a museum that would show the uses of steel over the centuries and obviously antique arms and armour fitted the bill perfectly. In 1927, the year he started collecting it, he wrote to the French dealer Louis Bachereau: ‘I am compiling a considerable collection of antique armor and arms, also including statues, portraits, tapestries and stained glass showing men on horses in armour, flags, pennants, chain mail coats, shields, pole arms, etc.’
It was a great time to collect as in the first half of the 20th century tales of Gothic chivalry and romance beguiled collectors such as William Randolph Hearst, Clarence Mackay and Rutherfurd Stuyvesant to collect medieval works of art, including armour. They competed strongly for their purchases as European collections were being broken up and disposed of through leading dealers of the day, including Jacques Seligmann and Joseph Duveen. Museum curators, such as the Metropolitan Museum’s Bashford Dean, also influenced collectors. The Higgins Armory Museum housed over 5000 pieces of armour, arms and related objects.
Over the succeeding years the collection has been refined due to modern scholarship and museology and it was decided that the core collection would become part of the Worcester Art Museum. The resultant deaccession process was divided into two parts with a sell-out auction last year at Thomas Del Mar Ltd (in association with Sotheby’s) and this year’s final part at the same auction house.
There are over a 300 lots, including European and Japanese full armours, helmets, and individual elements of armour such as breastplates and gauntlets as well as edged weapons and firearms, pictures, stained glass, sculpture and antiquities. The majority of these items were bought by Higgins in the second quarter of the last century such as the suit of boy’s armour he acquired from the William Randolph Hearst collection. This sale provides a fantastic opportunity to acquire not only wonderful examples of arms and armour but also a bit of American collecting history.
Thomas Del Mar Ltd (In Association With Sotheby’s), 25 Blythe Road, London W14 0PD Tel + 44 207 602 4805, firstname.lastname@example.org