Finders Keepers: In the first of a new series of interviews with antiquarians and collectors, British antique dealer Drew Pritchard tells Camilla Frances the story of two extraordinary objects that have passed through his hands: his greatest find and the piece he’ll keep forever.



A painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff © Eleri Griffiths Photography


My greatest find…

"I was in a little shop in England when I spotted this small painting lying among boxes of junk. I had no idea who it was by, but loved it immediately. I paid the asking price, which was nothing—lunch money—took it home, and propped it up in my kitchen. I was completely enamored; it just got me. It’s a painting of a Zulu tribeswoman, and the translucency of her skin, her jewelry, her traditional dress, and beads; it’s just beautiful.

One day—I think I’d had it about six months by this point—I was moving it around the house when I noticed the signature: ‘Tretchikoff, 1964’. It was like a shiver going down my spine; I don’t know how I could have missed it before. Vladimir Tretchikoff was a self-taught Russian artist whose painting, Chinese Girl, remains one of the best-selling prints of the 20th century. His work was popular and commercial, but he has an interesting backstory and there’s been renewed interest in his work.

The lovely thing though, is that I fell in love with the painting without knowing anything about it or whether it was worth anything. I think that’s a good measure of what I do: it doesn’t matter whether something is worth a lot of money; it’s the inherent beauty I’m interested in. All I do every day is go out and look for things I like; I’ll have to actually take a day off, or I’ll never stop."

Drew's home in Wales © Eleri Griffiths Photography


The piece I’ll keep forever…

"I’ve had this piece for about seven or eight years, and it just gets better and better; that doesn’t happen very often, that you sit with something, and it gets better. Despite having a house and warehouse full of antiques and objects, I’m not a materialistic person, but this is one of my most prized possessions, and the more I look at it, the more I love it. It’s an 18th-century plaster model of a piece of the Parthenon Frieze; I believe mine is the West Frieze.

When Lord Elgin took the Elgin marbles on holiday to England, let’s say, he apparently made two life-size plaster casts of each piece, which were numbered and framed. What I have is one of those pieces, in a period 18th-century travel frame, which is charming in itself. It’s so basic and simple for such an important thing. I keep it in my cottage in Wales; we had to put timber supports in to keep it on the wall. It’s completely magical. The detail and movement is unbelievable; you can feel the power inside the horses as they’re running. I’ve seen the real pieces, which are amazing, but I get to see this one up close every day while sitting at home drinking my coffee.

I found it in the garage of a private girls’ school, stored between old kitchen cupboards. They had no idea what it was, and everything in there was about to be moved or thrown away. Scholars have contacted me since to say that Elgin made these copies and distributed them around the great schools of England in the 18th century. So, that smells right to me. I’ve been offered a lot of money for it, but it’s not for sale. It would be the last thing out of the door."


Plaster model, Parthenon Frieze © Eleri Griffiths Photography


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A version of this article appears in Cabana Magazine Issue 20

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Camilla Frances is Cabana Magazine's Digital Editorial Director | Follow Camilla on Instagram: @housetowrite

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