Magazine article The Spectator

Hidden Gems

Magazine article The Spectator

Hidden Gems

Article excerpt

The Antiques Magpie by Marc Allum Icon Books £12.99, pp. 224 ISBN 97819848316034 No one watches Antiques Roadshow for the antiques. Instead we're hanging on the punter's reaction to his three-grand valuation.

'It was very precious to Aunt Mabel; we'd never dream of selling it, ' says the mouth.

'Fortnight in Barbados, ' say the eyes.

The Antiques Magpie by the Roadshow's Marc Allum exhibits the same preference for stories over objects. Allum tells us that 'drop-dead gorgeous' comes from Victorian dresses (as in Winterhalter's painting above) whose green dye contained arsenic, and that French forks have their crests on the back because they were laid face down on the table.

One auction house used to attribute unknown Dutch paintings to 'Hertz van Rentall', while the key to the Titanic's binocular cabinet was accidentally left ashore (would they have spotted the iceberg? …

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