Oscar Charles Raphael was a collector of Oriental art, a fine cricketer, a member of the OW Lodge for some 32 years and our Treasurer for many of those.
Born in 1874, he was in the Picton under the Rev C W Penny from 1887, one of eight members of the Lodge from that year along with Frederick Lawrence, Warren, Weigall, Manisty, Fox, Lees-Smith and Browell.
Raphael was a member of the XI for two years, receiving his colours in 1891 after a fine 56 not out and then 44 in the win against Cheltenham that saw him play alongside (and outscore) his brother R H Raphael, who won the Public School’s Racket’s Cup in 1891. The next time Wellington would win the Cup was in 1907 when the pair was led by Bro Henry Brougham.
He also played in the 2nd XV being noted as “A good three-quarter at times, has made some very strong runs, passes well, but lacks kicking and collaring powers.” He was like his older brother a fine rackets player, and a decent athlete.
He was the eighth of eleven children, the fourth of five brothers, and the youngest of the four who went to Wellington, all in what would become the Picton. His older brother Frederick was killed at Spion Kop in 1900, the only officer of Jewish heritage to be killed in the South African War.
He went to Pembroke in 1892, a popular choice amongst the brethren, Raphael being the first of six members of the Lodge to spend their Cambridge days there.
He was a Voluntary Assistant Curator at the British Museum and an Hon. Curator at the Fitzwilliam reflecting his expertise in Oriental art and his personal collection, which itself was recognised as being of “outstanding importance”, which he left to the Fitzwilliam’s Department of Applied Arts and the Department of Antiquities and the BM 1.
At his death these collections comprised some 1200 pieces, principally Chinese bronzes, sculpture and jades (including ritual and burial jades), as well as Korean Celadon, ceramics, pottery from the Near East and a collection of Japanese Lacquer and prints. 2 Highlights of the collection that can be seen at the Fitzwilliam include large jade buffalo and horse sculptures, two remarkable Chinese bronze axe-heads and a bronze in the form of two owls back to back as well as the Buddist bronze mask from Siam. 3 He was also a leading authority on Persian “Luristan Bronzes” which he collected personally and advised the BM on acquiring. He was a member of the Karlbeck Syndicate.
He was not one of those collectors who kept their pieces locked away from public gaze and academic study. He constantly lent his treasures to exhibitions here and abroad, and the French Government expressed their gratitude by giving him the Legion of Honour, while Cambridge University conferred on him an honorary degree in recognition of his wide learning and his connexion with the Fitzwilliam.
He was initiated into Isaac Newton University Lodge No 859 whilst up at Cambridge, and became a joining member of the Lodge in January 1910 soon after its consecration. Isaac Newton was a popular lodge among OWs with Bryant, Van Duzer, Larmour, Stoney, Stephenson, and Coles all being members.
He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, Founder and at the time of his death President of the Oriental Ceramic Society, and a member of the MCC. He was a keen OW, and served on the Committee of the OW Society, even allowing the use of his house for its meetings for many years. 4
Raphael died in 1941 at Northwick Park, Blockley, Gloucestershire.
Sources: (1) EG Spencer-churchill, London Times, 8-9-1941. (2) British Museum. (3) Fitzwilliam Museum. (4) The Wellingtonian, December 1941.