Elihu Yale: Merchant, Collector & Patron
Please join us on the Beinecke's mezzanine Friday morning for a talk by Benjamin Zucker, a 1962 graduate of Yale College and coauthor with Diana Scarisbrick of Elihu Yale: Merchant, Collector & Patron, a new book that details the life and interests of Yale Univeristy's early benefactor.
Yale made his fortune in India, mostly through trading in diamonds. Arriving in Madras in 1672, through his outstanding abilities he rose through the hierarchy of the East India Company from clerk to governor. When he returned from India in 1699 he brought with him Indian gems, furniture, and textiles. In the milieu of portrait painter Sir Godfrey Kneller and physician Sir Hans Sloane he established a fashionable household in which, by the end, he had assembled a collection of some ten thousand items, including fine English furniture.
Yale's collection was dispersed at seven auction sales after his death in 1721, and the catalogues of those sales survive, providing information about the lively London art market of the period. Hitherto neglected by historians, the Yale sales prove to be a landmark in the history both of collecting and of auctioneering art in early 18th-century England. In addition, the detailed analyses of the various categories bring Yale's personality and interests to life: He is revealed as a Fellow of the Royal Society, a dedicated churchman, and a philanthropist, totally in tune with the English Enlightenment.