Sunday, 7 May 2006

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


Comment by Stitchwort
“The teapot's quite pretty, and the 18th century script is beautiful, but to pay that much money for a teapot with no knob on the lid... How are you going to make tea in it? I bet the spout dribbles too.
I hope the purchaser gives at least the same amount of money to the Darfur appeal (as they obviously have more money than they need).”

I read this and then went to church, where I did the Epistle reading; Johns’ first letter, chapter 3, verses 16 – 24.
Verses 17 and 18 say this:
‘How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.’

Indeed, Stitchwort, point taken. I think the modest little teapot is a bit of an innocent target, in truth. £8,800 is not a huge amount of money. A piece of similar age from Chelsea, Sevres or Meissen would cost many times that, and what about the art market; Picasso, Van Gogh, Vermeer and others go for millions. If I had a few thousand pounds to spend, I’d rather buy something I loved, that would give me a great deal of pleasure, than have my hair done every day during an election campaign.

But it is true that, in this country, most of us have more money than we really need to live on and, whether we buy a cup of coffee and a cake in a café, a breadmaker when we could knead our own, an M&S ready meal which we could cook or a decorative object, just because it’s pretty and we like it – whether we can easily afford it or have to save up is beside the point, if we chose to live more simply and gave away the surplus, it is possible that the world overall would be a kinder, better, even, place.

One can say that, by buying consumer goods we are providing employment, in this country and abroad. Yes, and deepening our consumer footprints too, using resources and adding to pollution and climate change. I bought two pairs of shoes (as it happens, having mentioned metaphorical footprints) the other day – I needed shoes, mine were worn out (literally). But I could have managed with one, and given the rest of the money away. Even less justifiable is my recent trip to Venice; there is little worse, ecologically, than an aeroplane trip and I was spending money simply on my own amusement that could have been donated to a worthwhile cause.

I don’t have answers. We each have our own small extravagances and carefulnesses, our own generosities and meannesses. I don’t know if I’m more or less culpable than you are. Thanks, Stitchwort, for food for thought. I’ll try to do better in future. Though I stand by our auctions. Yes, 18th century china may not be used, except for decoration, nowadays but the items we sold on Friday were made and painted by hand, by people who would be unremembered if it were not for those who love and buy their work. I can’t think that is a bad thing.


stitchwort said...

It's all a balance, isn't it? There is always a choice in any action, and we all make different choices, and those different choices have different results, which we then have to accept.
And yes, if I had a few thousand pounds to spend, I'd rather go abroad than waste it on hairdressing.
And I know there are a lot of people to whom £8,800 is just a trifle, but it's more than I earned last year, and more than my pension will be, and to me it's an awful lot of money.

Z said...

When I said 'culpable than you are' I meant 'you the reader' not 'you Stitchwort', I do hope you realised that.

It's a lot of money to me too. But auctioneering is our job. And antiques go up in value, on the whole, so he was making an investment, and instead of interest he will gain enjoyment.

Do keep posting the photographs, I really enjoy them