David Martin Currie
David Martin Currie was a wealthy shipowner who loaned numerous objects (including ceramics, manuscripts, metalwork and woodwork) to the Museum between 1887 and 1920. On his death, the objects exhibited on loan became part of the permanent collection.
David Martin Currie was born in Greenock, Scotland, in 1837, the youngest son of James and Elizabeth Currie. He was a partner with the family enterprise Messrs Donald Currie & Co, a firm of shipowners with offices in Fenchurch Street, London. In 1904 an office clerk was prosecuted for the theft of valuable works of art (including 30 miniatures and a gold snuff box) from Currie’s office seven years earlier; several of these were discovered by chance when a dealer invited Currie to inspect a collection of objects that he hoped to sell him and Currie recognised them as his own. According to a notice in The Times, ‘during the Crimea War [Currie] served with the Cunard Line, taking troops to the Crimea, and succeeded in getting into the trenches before Sevastopol until he was discovered and sent back to his ship’.
The success of the shipping firm enabled him to pursue his interest in works of art and he was a well-known figure in the sale rooms both in London and on the Continent and ranked alongside George Salting and John Henry Fitzhenry as a connoisseur and collector. Currie died at Camden Hill Court, Kensington, on 16 September 1920, aged 84. He bequeathed to the Museum ‘all the works of art belonging to him, including arms, armour, bronze, metalwork, enamel, Sevres and other porcelain, majolica, missals, tapestry, and other things which may be on loan at the museum’. The residue of his collection was auctioned at Christie’s.
Information in the V&A Archive
MA/1/C3543/1-2: Nominal file – David M. Currie
MA/30/263-264: Central Inventory registers
MA/31/6: Register of loans in
MA/49/2/101: Press cuttings
List of the Principal Acquisitions for the Year 1921. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1925
Selected printed works
‘The Charge of Stealing Curios.’ The Times. 25 February 1904
‘Central Criminal Court.’ The Times. 2 March 1904
Murray, Miraschal. Union-Castle Chronicle, 1853-1953. London: Longman, Green and C0., 1953
Porter, Andrew. ‘Currie, Sir Donald (1825–1909).’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004
To locate material in the National Art Library, please search the Library Catalogue.