Obituary: Anthony Roth

Philip Anthony Roth, art historian and fine art dealer, born Los Angeles 25 January 1943, married 1966 Priscilla Brandchaft (two sons), died London 15 July 1992.

WITH the death at the age of 49 of Anthony Roth, both the London art market and the international art-historical community have been deprived prematurely of one of their liveliest and most gifted members.

Born in Los Angeles in 1943, Tony Roth first pursued what promised to be a particularly rewarding career as a historian of Italian sculpture, later shifting his focus to the fine-art market with a speciality in sculpture. He first studied the history of art at Princeton, moving to Harvard for his graduate studies. His special field of research was the neglected one of Lombard Renaissance sculpture and he chose as the subject for his doctoral thesis the difficult one of the sculptor Bambaia. This work took him to Milan and to Florence where he studied at the Kunsthistorisches Institut.

In 1966 he won a Kress Foundation fellowship to go to Florence to catalogue works of art which had been damaged by flooding, and it must have been the following year that I first got to know him in London, when he was working for a time at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I was captivated not only by his methodical approach to his subject, the product of a naturally orderly mind nurtured in the best American scholarly traditions, but by his obvious immense enjoyment of works of art. We became good friends, and I was delighted when in 1968 he and his wife Priscilla, a distinguished psychoanalyst, decided to settle in London. Despite a long friendship, I am now aware there was much in his life I knew little about.

Outgoing and generous as a scholar, good company, although not gregarious, he was a very private man, and I was never in any doubt that he was especially fortunate in his marriage and his children and that his family was the hub of his life. It was characteristic of him that he went to great lengths over a long period to conceal the fact of his illness, so that many of his friends and colleagues were unaware of it until, just recently, it became tragically obvious.

Roth taught for some years at Beaver College, an American college in London, where he was chairman of the art-historical programme, and then moved gradually into private dealing, at first with small items such as medals, in time with success handling sculptures of increasing importance. In 1984 he opened in partnership with the drawing specialist Kate Ganz his first gallery in London, in Maddox Street, Mayfair, and in 1989 they moved to remarkably beautiful new premises at South Street, where the works of art on display always looked marvellous.

As a dealer he rarely went in for the obvious, having a flair for finding unusual works of art in unusual places, and his scholarly background equipped him to make some brilliant identifications, such as that of the beautiful marble bust of a youth, which he recognised as a rare work by the eccentric sculptor Francesco Mochi.

This he sold recently to the Art Institute of Chicago and over the years he sold major pieces to many of the other great museums in the United States and Europe, including the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, the National Gallery of Scotland, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Just recently there passed through his hands the most important piece of his career, a terracotta sketch-model by Andrea del Verrocchio.

As a scholar, he continued to work seriously in his field, and was a mine of information to colleagues, but it will be forever regretted by those who admired his clever mind that he never brought to completion his thesis on Bambaia. The late Professor Ulrich Middeldorf, under whom he studied in Florence, and who used to speak of him as one of the most brilliant pupils he had ever had, had seen the work in progress, and would pester me constantly to persuade or bully Tony to complete it.

As a result of my failure, Tony Roth's reputation as a scholar rests on two articles which are major contributions to his field of study: one, written in collaboration with his friend Hanno Walter Krufft, on Gian Giacomo della Porta, and the other, published in the Burlington Magazine in 1980, on Benedetto Briosco, which is a model of art-historical method.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn