New York-based antique dealer Christopher Cawley, 32, is undoubtedly an old soul. He shows Liz Gardner and Taylor Hall O'Brien around his beautiful treasure trove in the city, and shares his 'Finders Keepers': a serendipitous tapestry and the preternatural find that could be his origin story. 



The Verdure (foliage) tapestry that 'fell into place' and travelled to New York from the South of France; © William Jess Laird 


My Greatest Find: 17th-century Verdure tapestry

"I care so much about creating an environment, so decorating my space is as important to me as just having good objects. For the opening of my studio, I really wanted a tapestry. I missed out on a few at auction. In the middle of the night, a dealer I follow shared a sliver of a photo of a swan's head. I just happened to be up late filling out business paperwork. I wrote to him and said, “What is this?” He responded, “it's a tapestry I just bought out of a chateau in Avignon, and I'm going to list it this week”.

I said, “Where are you?” Because he’s English, I thought he was in London. He said, “I’m actually in the South of France”, which was fortuitous as my girlfriend, Julie, was staying in France at the time. “Well, how close are you to Nice?”, I asked. And he said, “I'm actually passing through Nice in two days.” I bought the tapestry, he dropped it off in a duffel bag with Julie, and she took a flight the next morning to New York City.

The tapestry was installed the day of the opening. Everything just came together in this great serendipity, which is kind of how my life has worked out so far. But had I not had that piece to really anchor the room, I wouldn't have been as content as I was that night. And it's really helped my business, because tapestries are highly requested. And they're really what I love most, their history and beauty really does it for me."

The Piece I'll Keep Forever: 17th-century Spanish candlestick

"I'm young. I'm 32. While I’ve discovered some very nice things, I haven't found all my treasures yet. And that's why I'm constantly on the road and traveling. Yet, the piece I’ll keep forever is something I bought in my teenage years, when I first started to pay attention to antiques and grasp the idea that you can buy something that's 400 years old for under $100 and rich with history.

"I bought a 17th-century brass candlestick, probably Spanish. And it's really kind of tattered and worn and almost looks like it kind of went through a fire or a bombing. I'd look at it and conjure up stories: that it was on a Spanish galleon, and it had been through some kind of naval warfare, or it was in a palace, and there was a fire, and something melted down the brass, because, as you can see in the photos, it's a bit wonky. And normally, they're very clean and polished.

"That's kind of the way I grew up, with clean, polished brass candlesticks and irons that were never used. And as I said, that doesn't interest me. I like things that have been really worn and used for their purpose. So, while the candlestick is not grand or rare, the stories that it created for me are what really set me off officially into buying antiques. It’s my origin story."


A 'tattered and worn' 17th-century candlestick that set Christopher on his path to antique dealing; © Taylor Hall O'Brien

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