John Webb

Hat badge, gold, cast and enamelled, France, about 1500-1525, sold to the V&A by John Webb in 1873

Hat badge, gold, cast and enamelled, France, about 1500-1525, sold to the V&A by John Webb in 1873

John Webb acted as an auction sales agent for the Museum, initially lending and later selling his diverse collection to the Museum.

John Webb, a dealer and adviser to the South Kensington Museum, was born in 1799, the son of Charles Webb, a ‘Gold laceman’. He was charged with the responsibility of purchasing objects from the sales of several high profile collections, notably the Ralph Bernal, Jules Soulages, and Prince Peter Soltykoff collections. He also selected for the Museum objects at the Paris Exhibition 1867. In his obituary for The Times, Sir Henry Cole outlined the diversity of Webb’s collection, which was first loaned to the Museum and subsequently sold to it on his retirement from business: ‘ivory carvings … ancient glass, metal works for ecclesiastical purposes, such as chalices, reliquaries, crucifixes and shrines, specimens of 14th and 15th-century enamel work, choice little ornaments and articles de luxe, onyx cups, &c.’

Webb retired to his villa at Cannes, France, but died at Wrotham Place, near Sevenoaks, Kent, on 14 June 1880.


Information in the V&A Archive

MA/1/W984/1-2: Nominal file – John Webb

MA/31/1-3: Register of loans in

MA/3/2-3, 5, 6-7, 11, 16, 18-20, 23, 31, 37, 43 & 46: Art Referees' reports, 1863-1886

ED84/35 & 36: Precis of the Board minutes of the Science and Art Department, 1865-1877

ED84/44: Minutes relative to the acquisition of Art Objects – for the benefit of the Schools of Art

Thirteenth Report of the Science and Art Department. London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for HMSO, 1866

Fourteenth Report of the Science and Art Department. London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for HMSO, 1867

Henry Cole: diaries: typed transcripts, 1822-1882

A0331: Clive Wainwright research papers

A0454: Correspondence with John Webb and lists of his objects purchased by and lent to the South Kensington Museum (1863-1875)

Selected printed sources

Webb, John. ‘Catalogue of a collection of objects of ornamental art formed by M. Soulages of Toulouse.’ In Soulages Collection Reports 1856. NAL pressmark: VA.1856.0001

‘Mr Webb's report on the collection of ornamental art at Toulouse: to Henry Cole, Esq., C.B., Inspector General of the Department of Science and Art.’ In Soulages Collection Reports 1856. NAL pressmark: VA.1856.0001

Webb, John. Report on the collection of Prince Soltykoff. London, 1860. NAL pressmark: NL.97.0635

[Obituary]. The Times (21 June 1880)

Wainwright, Clive. ‘The making of the South Kensington Museum, IV: relationships with the trade; Webb and Bardini.’ Journal of the History of Collections 14, no.1 (2002): 63-78. NAL pressmark: PP.69.E

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