I am sorry to say that Jan van den Bosch, founder of the  Van den Bosch gallery,  passed away last Friday, aged 86. Many of you will have known Jan and his gallery. Firstly based in Camden Passage and then based in Grays Antique Centre. Jan holds a very special place in my heart having introduced me to, and educated me on, the wonderful world of artistic silver and all things Knox, Ashbee, Baker, Harris and many others. 

Jan was fundamentally a very lovely man. He always would engage deeply and share his passion for arts and crafts silver and jewellery  His knowledge was unparalleled. Little unsourced snippets would get causally dropped into conversation “Oliver Baker, you see, he was always keen on the money”.  How on earth did Jan know that? And yet Baker’s diaries, burried in an archive in Stratford, meticulously  record what he was owed for the sale of his designs.  Show Jan a John Paul Cooper piece of jewellery and he would gently say he thought it was by Edward Spencer.  You would undoubtedly then find the original drawing in Spencer’s archive weeks later.

His enthusiasm certainly rubbed off on me.  It only took one fortuitous visit to his Camden Passage gallery in around 2002 and I was smitten. I think I spent about two hours listening  to Jan regale stories about the pieces in his gallery,  the designers, and their “genius”.   More wisdom was to be imparted over the following years. “Ashbee’s the one” he would say, recognising not only the brilliance of his designs but also his design and social influence on a global scale.  He was of course right.  Mention Kate Harris and he would do small jumps up and down as he explained her unique position as a woman designer in British history. 

He was a brilliant dealer because of, not inspite of, his generous nature. His enthusiasm and imparted knowledge would turn a causal shopper to a passionate collector and client.  And clients soon learnt that Jan truly only stocked the best. Not for Jan damaged or over restored items.  Soft enamelling would get his “hot pin” treatment, and be sent back to the vendor without compromise. His commercialism was bolstered by his A4 green folder containing all his stock prices.  Meticulously adhered to, he would conjure up the image of a very irate Carole, his wonderful and surviving wife, were he to depart even a fraction from what she had written down.  

I know only a little of Jan’s prior life.  But  it was certainly rich and unusal as you might expect. He was in one of the  most successful skiffle bands (think pre-Elvis, pre guitar, 50’s rock), still enjoying royalties right up until his death. He was also, I believe , a maths or physics graduate of some note. Fortunately for me, and many others, he turned to his dealing passion some time in the 70’s.

He was dealing and collecting  right up until the end of his life. It was quite clear that he was just happy to sit in his gallery surrounded by all his beautiful pieces, selling perhaps being just an occupational hazard. We can all toast to that.