A letter from Umur Büktas concerning the collection to be featured in the upcoming December 5 auction, "The Doll as Theatre, Neapolitan and Continental Dolls of the 17th and 18th Centuries". It is a fascinating personal story of the genesis of the collection, and the steps many collectors will recognize from their own collecting beginnings.
To My Fellow Collectors,
I am Umur Büktas, Hanne Büktas's husband. This is the story of Hanne's collection.
It was 1959, I was 19 years old. I had just won a NATO scholarship and was allowed to select where I was to go to university and what I would study. I chose Munich and electronics.
Two years later, in Munich, on January the 14th, 1961 destiny caught up with me! It was a Saturday evening. Friends asked me to join them going to a Fasching or carnival ball in the Haus der Kunst. As I was strolling through the corridors, I saw a beautiful, I mean really beautiful, woman coming in my direction. As I approached, I looked into her green-blue eyes with long eye lashes, very long dark hair hanging over her shoulders and said "Fräulein wollen Sie mit mir tanzen" or "Miss, would you like to dance with me?" She answered with a smile and said "Yes!" and "My name is Hanne". We danced the whole night and met thereafter every day of the following weeks. This encounter on January the 14th, 1961 would change my life for all times. I had met the love of my life. After some months we became engaged and moved together to a small apartment. I continued my studies and in 1964 we married.
During our six years in Munich we started going on weekends to some flea markets we had discovered, like the one at Johanniskirchen or at the Auer Dult. We did not really know what we were looking for. Any object which we both found interesting and to our taste, we bargained for. We had each time the feeling that we might have hit the jackpot with nobody else having seen through the value of the item.
In retrospective, that is where we were bitten by the collector's bug. Our flea market excursions continued throughout our stay in Munich. We still had not enough knowledge nor money to concentrate on a certain field of arts. But we had fun each weekend. I returned to Istanbul in April 1967 with a lovely wife and a PhD. In Istanbul our quest for antiques became more serious. Every weekend saw us in the Kapali Carsi or "Closed Bazaar", or in the shops at Galata, Asmali Mescit and Üsküdar to name a few. I began seriously collecting Ottoman ceramics while Hanne found interest in Orientalist watercolours, oil paintings and Beykoz glass wares.
In 1970 I finished my military service in the Turkish navy as lieutenant of the reserve and joined the Istanbul division of Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands while we still continued our search for our growing collections. But as time went on, our son Timur, born in 1969, and our daughter Rana, born in 1975, were taking Hanne's full attention and mine on weekends, so that our tours of antique markets became second priority.
Then, in 1979, Philips asked us to join their headquarters in Eindhoven-Netherlands. Once we were there, Hanne began frequenting the Amsterdam auction houses of Christie's and Sotheby's. I was often on business trips world-wide while Hanne attended auctions. Once she surprised me completely with an 1805 Dutch painting, "het japon" ("The Dress") by Steffelaar that she had succeeded in winning in a bidding competition. She was very excited as it was the most expensive art object that she had ever purchased. It was the first of many to follow and still hangs in our home.
Our years in the Netherlands were focused on the search of Dutch Romantic period paintings. We enjoyed this immensely with some successes. It was at this time that Hanne made the first steps in direction of dolls and doll houses.
Ten years later we moved with Philips to Vienna-Austria. This was the beginning of a period of "intense" collecting and, I will admit, each interest area of Hanne's, within a short period of time, also became mine.
She collected French Art-Déco glass, 18th/19th century Viennese porcelain, further Dutch paintings and slowly but surely, she developed a huge appetite for beautiful antique doll houses and rooms and dolls, mainly French fashion poupées. The only field of arts I collected on my own was 16th to 18th century Iznik and Kütahy ceramics.
In the mid-1990s Hanne's collections had reached such dimensions that I decided to renovate the loft of our house. That space was then allocated to her collections.
Her French poupée collection had become such a beauty in all aspects that even I stopped in front of the displays in appreciation of the elegance and taste of it all.
Twice a year we traveled to London for a couple of weeks. There we found everything which gave us pleasure. Hanne completed her collections mainly there and, in the USA, where we had the luck and pleasure of meeting Florence Theriault and Stuart Holbrook whom we today call our friends. They were instrumental for Hanne to be able to complete her collections with top quality articles which I had the pleasure of bidding for.
Years before, Hanne had started collecting 17th and 18th century Neapolitan and Genovese dolls which are famous in Christmas cribs. Well, also here, Hanne did it differently. As always, very creative and with her own tasteful elegance, she arranged her dolls in scenes that reflected the social interaction of people of different professions in 18th century Naples, complete with the backdrop settings in which they became alive - just as they had been displayed in Continental homes in the 1700s. Expert friends in Munich helped Hanne very much in her endeavor. This fantastic collection has become over the years Hanne's most loved one. We did not know then that this would be her "last collection"!
The love of my life, my partner 60 years long, my wife Hanne has now serious health problems and is not able to enjoy her beloved collections. She therefore asked me to bring this last collection of hers to Theriault's to the USA, where we know it to be in the best hands of Florence and Stuart.
Vienna, October 2020
You can order the 2-volume collector's book here.