New digitisation project: the Agnew’s stock books

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As the Burlington Magazine project of cataloguing and indexing dealers advertisements is well under way, we are pleased to hear that other projects flourish too. We have received this communication from Richard Wragg, Archivist at the National Gallery, and we are happy to share it with our readers:

The National Gallery has recently digitised eleven stock books from the extensive archive of the art dealers Thos. Agnew & Sons. The manuscripts can now be consulted online via the Gallery’s website here. The stock books, which date from 1853 to the beginning of the First World War, are a crucial source of information for anyone researching the history of art collecting and the market for contemporary and Old Master artworks during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Digitisation is the first stage of a project to make the information contained within the stock books more accessible. It is hoped that a searchable database can be produced and made freely available to the public. A short survey has been set up for anyone wishing to comment on the project and is available here. The information gained from the survey will help to ensure that the project results in a resource that is of real value to the research community.

Who were art dealers Agnew’s? The firm grew from a partnership entered into by Thomas Agnew (1794–1871) and Vittore Zanetti, an Italian print seller, picture-frame maker, gilder and dealer in Old Master paintings. The Agnew-Zanetti partnership was dissolved in 1835, leaving Agnew as the business’s sole proprietor. Under his stewardship, the business expanded from its base in Manchester to become one of the country’s leading print sellers and publishers. In 1851, the business became Thos. Agnew & Sons when Thomas Agnew entering into partnership with his sons William and Thomas. The company flourished, dealing in modern British and European Old Master paintings and drawings.

The archive of Thos. Agnew & Sons, acquired by the National Gallery in 2014, is housed within the Gallery’s Research Centre. A full catalogue record for the archive can be viewed here

Richard Wragg, Archivist, The National Gallery

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