DE MORGAN, HENRI

Copyright 2011-2017 John N. Lupia, III

Henri de Morgan was an archaeologist, numismatist and coin dealer who also catalogued for several auctions in New York City where he kept a shop. He was an expert in French medieval, Greek, Persian, and Egyptian antiquities. In New York he was an associate of Thomas Benedict Clarke (1848-1931). In the winter months of 1906 through 1908 he directed excavations of prehistoric, i.e., predynastic sites in Upper Egypt between Esneh and Edfu for the Brooklyn Institute Museum. The objects he excavated and collected were divided between three disparate museum collections  : the Brooklyn Museum, the Musée des Antiquités Nationales in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in Paris, and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. He is the elder brother of Jacques Jean-Marie de Morgan (1857-1924)Director of the Department of Antiquities in Egypt (1892-1897), also a very well-known archaeologist who discovered the Stele of Hammurabi now in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

Henri de Morgan (1854-1909), was born at Huisseau, sur, Cossonay, Cher, Centre, France, son of Eugène de Morgan (1829-) and Louise Marie Caroline Henrietta de Calonne d'Avesnes de Morgan (1832-1864). He and his younger brother Jacques were students of antiquities at l'Ecole des mines de Paris, studying mining engineering in the footsteps of their father.

In 1872, a teenager of eighteen, he and his younger brother became associated with French archaeologists : Abbot Cochet, Alexandre Bertrand, Louis Laurent Gabriel de Mortillet (1821-1898) a noted archaeologist and anthropologist specializing in Paleolithic man, at the Neolithic excavation site Le Campigny near Rouen, where they discovered prehistoric pottery.

In 1878 he moved to New York on Lafayette Place, traveling back and forth abroad to various excavations over the next thirty-one years. He also kept a home in France. Consequently, he was a frequent traveler the remainder of his life. During his early years at New York De Morgan quickly became acquainted with the American numismatic community and early in 1878 was actively selling. He is listed as a member of the ANS since May 21, 1878. However, giving De Morgan the benefit of doubt it seems he was unfamiliar with U. S. Customs requirements and got into trouble. He was arrested in August 1880 for smuggling, and the U.S. government claimed they were hunting him down since March 1880. The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday, September 7, 1880, page 7, reported that U.S. Commissioner Deuel held him on $2,000 bail and held for the Grand Jury trial in October at the U.S. Court, Auburn, New York.


Figs. Henri DeMorgan was arrested in August 1880 for smuggling old coins and antiques into America from Canada. Above : Baltimore Sun, Friday, August 27, 1880, page 4. Below : Democrat & Chronicle, Friday, August 27, 1880, page 2.



Fig. A very early piece of De Morgan's correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postdated November 25, 1885, New York, New York, Station D. 
Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive. Available for sale at $250. Write john@numismaticmall.com


In 1888, Thomas Benedict Clarke (1848-1931), retired from the linen manufacturing industry and became a full-time art dealer at his gallery Art House on Fifth Avenue (later in 1891 known as Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, or Ortgies, 366 Fifth Avenue). Henri de Morgan became associated with Clarke and imported art and antiquities including coins supplying him and his clientele. Below is a letter from de Morgan to a patron directing her to visit his New York shop. He also catalogued for Clarke's auctions at his Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, 546 Fifth Avenue, separate and distinct from the Fifth Avenue Auction Rooms, 341 Fourth Avenue operating from 1890-1920. Noted among these is his final sale January 16, 1909, of the Greek Vases, Glass, and Coins which  he excavated belonging to the Greco-Roman period. (See Bibliography below. Gengerke, page 163)

In the September 1888 issue of the Art Amateur, De Morgan gave an interview on antique Greek Vases and allowed his items to illustrate the magazine.


Fig. Letterhead of Henri de Morgan at his shop in New York with correspondence text. The letterhead reads H. de Morgan/ Importer of/ Coins and Antiquities/ 149 West 49th St./ New York. The letter (holograph) is addressed to a non New Yorker, a lady collector, dated December 4, 1889: "Madame : I beg to take your attention to my new address. I hope also that when in New York you will favor my collection with a visit. I have imported this year besides gems and coins some very fine Greek terracottas. Illustrations of which have already been published in the "Harper's Weekly" and will soon also appear in the "Century Magazine". Believe me, Madame, yours very respectfully, H. de Morgan." Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library. Available for sale at $350. Write john@numismaticmall.com

In 1892 he was excavating in Memphis, Egypt at a site rich in artifacts and statues of Ramses II.
Fig. On March 11-12, 1895, De Morgan sold at auction antiquities and most probably ancient coins at Ortgies, New York. The New York Times, Sunday, March 3, 1895, page 17. Another more elaborate article was also published in the New York Times, Thursday, March 7, 1895, page 4.

Fig.  
De Morgan's correspondence with the Chapman Brothers postdated March 25, 1896, New York, New York, Station F. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive. Available for sale at $250. Write john@numismaticmall.com

On February 10, 1898, De Morgan lectured on "Prehistoric Egypt" at the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society at the Academy of Medicine Building. The lecture largely debunked the mendacious article "Remarkable Discoveries by Archaeologists in the Valley of the Nile," New York Herald, July 4, 1898, illustrated with photos purportedly by Henri De Morgan. De Morgan showed how the article was contrived and the photographs fakes and not by him. A very lengthy piece reporting this in detail was published the following day in the New York Times, Friday, February 11, 1898 on page 7.

In the August 1899 issue on page 48 of the Proceedings of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society  was an article by De Morgan, "Royal Jewelry Discovered at Dashur, Egypt."

On October 17, 1909 he became incapacitated by cerebral hemorrhage and died nearly a month later at his home in  le château d'Orliénas, Francescas, Lot-et-Garonne, Aquitaine, Franceon November 13, 1909.



Auctions :
March 11-12, 1895, Ortgies
April 13, 1896
January 16, 1909, Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, 164 lots.

Bibliography :

American Journal of Numismatics, October (1878) : 46 De Morgan elected resident member
Baltimore Sun, Friday, August 27, 1880, page 4.
Democrat & Chronicle, Friday, August 27, 1880, page 2.
Philadelphia Inquirer, Tuesday, September 7, 1880, page 7
Art Amateur, September 1888 
New York Times, Sunday, March 3, 1895, page 17.
"Remarkable Discoveries by Archaeologists in the Valley of the Nile," New York Herald, July 4, 1898, photos purportedly by Henri De Morgan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Wednesday, December 8, 1909, page 3 Obit
New York TimesWednesdayDecember 8, 1909, page 11 Obit
American Art News, Volume 8, December 11, 1909, page 4 Obit
The Numismatist, Vol. 23, January (1910) : 12 Obit
C. Lorre, "Henri de Morgan : l’inventeur d’El Adaïma (1854-1909)", L' Archéo-Nil, n°8, (1998) :11-30.
Martin Gengerke, American Numismatic Auctions (2009) : 163


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