By Hadrien Rambach
Don Manuel Vidal Quadras was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He moved to Cuba in his twenties, but by 1849 he was back at the family trading and banking house in Barcelona, Spain. He was married, but had no children, and he could devote time and funds to his passion for coins, which he had developed in his youth.
Vidal Quadras, who encouraged the creation of the periodical Memorial Numismático Español (1866-1880), was a known and active collector in the Catalan numismatic world. Like Brand (an accountant), Vidal Quadras’s banking background is reflected in the carefully tabulated catalogues of his collection. A selection of his coins was exhibited in 1888 at the Museo Martorell for the Barcelona World Fair, and a short catalogue was published on this occasion, with a complete catalogue four years later: it contained 14,415 coins from the Roman Empire, including 500 aurei and solidi, and also from Spain (from ancient times to the modern period).
The group contained the important collection of Aloïs Hess (1820-1893), the author of the Description générale des monnaies antiques de l’Espagne (Paris 1870), which Vidal Quadras had acquired en bloc except for the Visigothic coins which the Museo Arqueológico Nacional had bought in 1871. He had also acquired other entire collections, notably those of Rafael Cervera y Royo (1828-1903), Alejandro J. Fustagueras, Jean Pierre Meynaerts (1786-1856), Juan Prat y Sancho and Jaime de Puiguriguer.
The collection – by far the largest and most valuable collection in Spain – was inherited by his brother and his nephews, and it was moved in 1898 to the vault of the Banque J. Allard in Paris – for fear of political instability in Barcelona. Negotiation for the sale began as early as December 1903, when the collector’s heirs were asking 1,100,000 francs for the entire collection. By August 1904, the price had come down to 800,000 francs – presumably because of the purchase-refusal by Huntington who had said that there were too many duplicates with his own collection. The price was reduced again, first to 600,000 francs (September 1905) and then 500,000 francs (January 1909). A deal was finally made on 16 July 1913, when the Parisian dealer Etienne Bourgey acquired the coins for “only” 275,000 francs. Bourgey auctioned some of the Roman coins in November-December 1913, and Papal medals in June 1914; the remainder was sold over the years by the family firm.
- Compendio del Catálogo de la colección de monedas y medallas de Manuel Vidal y Quadras y Ramón, Barcelona 1888; [D. Arturo Pedrals y Moliné (ed.)], Catálogo de la colección de monedas y medallas de Manuel Vidal Quadras y Ramón de Barcelona, Barcelona 1892 (reprinted in 1975), four volumes; Lluís Castañeda Peirón and Martín Rodrigo y Alharilla, “Los Vidal Quadras: familia y negocios, 1833-1871”, in Barcelona Quaderns d’Historia, vol. 11 (2006), pp. 115-144; John Spring, Ancient Coins Auction Catalogues 1880-1980, London 2009, 10; Alberto Velasco Gonzàlez, Jaume Pasqual, antiquari i col.leccionista a la Catalunya de la Il.lustració, Lleida 2001, pp. 156-162; Gloria Mora, “Rafael Cervera, médico, político y coleccionista de monedas”, in M.P. García-Bellido and W.W. Metcalf (eds.), La Colección Cervera. Moneda antigua de Hispania, Madrid, CSIC & Ediciones Polifemo, 2014, pp. 29-46; Antonio Roma Valdés, Numismática española e iberoamericana. Su origen como disciplina y sus protagonistas, s. l. 2016, pp. 107-108 (who mistakenly wrote that additional coins from the collection were auctioned by Aureo & Calicó in 2014: all coins had in fact been acquired by Bourgey); Gloria Mora, “Manuel Vidal Quadras y Ramón (1818-1894)”, in International Numismatic Council. Compte rendu, vol. 63 (2016), pp. 32-38.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 91: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part I, Zurich, 23 May 2016, pp. -.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 99: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part II, Zurich, 29 May 2017, pp. 47-63.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 105: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part III, Zurich, 9 May 2018, pp. 82-105.
This article was first published in a catalogue of auction house Numismatica Ars Classica.