‘One of the nicest things about the antiquities world is that most people who collect are passionate, real specialists and very committed to furthering the study of the ancient world and its artefacts,’ says the charming Madeleine Perridge, who joined Kallos as gallery director in 2016 from her role as head of the antiquities department at Bonham’s. She joined Bonham’s in 2006 and worked her way up: ‘It was such a great place to learn, and have me the broadest experience of objects,’ she explains.
Kallos, which means beauty in ancient Greek, was originally founded to deal in the finest quality ancient Greek art, but has since ‘broadened its focus while staying true to its founding aim’, explains Perridge. Based in Mayfair, the three-woman team now focuses on a broad range of antiquities, from ancient Greek art to Roman, Egyptian, Middle Eastern and jewellery. ‘Astonishing quality’ is the focus, says Perridge, and the importance of provenance is at the centre of the operations.
The gallery was founded by Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, one of the world’s great private collectors of artwork from the ancient world, who comes from a dynasty of collectors in the field. His father, Baron Hans Heinrich, founded the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid in 1992, which now displays over 1,600 Old Master paintings from his private collection. Thyssen is also heavily engaged in classical and archaeological research, regularly funding institutional archaeological excavations around the world.
Because it’s a specialist market, it’s buoyant, says Perridge, who studied classical archaeology and ancient history at university. As the number of objects circulated is shrinking by the day, ‘there’s a finite amount of pieces with good provenance and prices just go up and up. All it takes is a few new people and the prices rocket.’
Perridge and her team are very much part of the furniture at Frieze and similar fairs globally, where they are sought out by a global base of private collectors, museums, foundations and more. The events are in turn a joy for Perridge, whose job brings her into contact with the finest artworks in the world. She currently has her eye on a corner sculpture from a sarcophagus, ‘which takes the form of a striking Greek-style theatre mask with a gaping mouth and corkscrew curls from the collection of Philip Sassoon. ‘It ticks all the boxes.’
Although her passion is classical marble sculpture – ‘it’s the realism, you’re looking straight into the faces of people who lived two thousand years ago’ – if she could get her hands on a single item of antiquity, it would have to be an intaglio necklace. ‘There’s something wonderful about jewellery, the fact that you can wear it,’ she says. ‘A whole set of beautifully cut intaglio stones. Oh! It looks magnificent.’