By the time you read this summer will have arrived and spirits, along with all things green, will be rising and brightening.
On the theme of the most popular season in the British calendar, given we have a decent amount of sunshine, there are two super pairs of urns in our sale. There are a nice pair of 75cm high (2.5 feet for those with elephantine memories) cast iron urns (lot 252) and a pair of campana urns with smart pedestals, standing an impressive 140cm high (about 4.5 feet; lot251). One of the former even comes with saxifrage! Interestingly, and unusually, one of the Chinese works of art has a strong link with gardens, in that it is a model of a ship, complete with trees (with blue enamelled leaves), flowers and pavilions on its large flat deck. This was inspired by a Chinese emperor’s antipathy to sea travel. Consequently, to make his ships look more like home he instructed his retinue to transform the decks into a palatial garden.
Continuing the botanical theme and, perish the thought, should al fresco be ‘off the menu’, why not focus on one’s interior and bring the outside into the home. Amongst a private collection of good quality rugs and carpets there is a Kashan example, decorated with the tree of life (lot 249). In the silver section there is an impressive model of the ‘Warwick Vase’ (lot 13) that is relief moulded with Bacchic heads and fruiting vines. The much larger original urn had been in the garden belonging to the emperor Hadrian. Moving from flora to fauna there is a collection of ornithological works by the New Zealand artist Ray Harris-Ching and a collection of taxidermy. It may surprise readers to learn that there is a very strong market for good taxidermy, by top makers, such as Rowland Ward, J.Hutchings of Aberystwyth, Peter Spicer and van Ingen and Ingen. It is a field that has been fashionable for some time and, though not to everyone’s taste, the wackier the better. For instance, the Victorian, Walter Potter’s anthropomorphic tableaux are keenly contested at auction. There are no examples of the latter, but there is a group of Widgeon by B.Cook, of Liverpool, a sitka stag’s head by Murray & Son of Carnforth, an eccentric elephant’s foot decanter stand and an eye catching ostrich! (lots:- 220, 221, 223 and 216).
In these worrying times and, especially following the last two tumultuous years, many have re-connected with the great outdoors for solace and calm. So, for the majority that have returned to their treadmill routine, physical reminders might provide a source of tranquillity as well as pleasure. After all walls painted green have been shown to elevate the mood of the onlooker.
It is worth emphasising that in the era of sustainability and concerns over pollution and seas of plastic and refuse, the beauty of antiques and vintage works is that they are the perfect antidote to the disease that is our ‘throw-away’ society. Furthermore, not everything in the art/antique world is solely about aesthetics. One can combine visual appeal with usefulness, such as the clocks in this sale. One has been working for nearly 300 years, providing a succession of owners with not only the time and date, but also one of twelve tunes if so desired; the 18th century equivalent of Sonos; albeit a very modest selection by comparison (lot 225).
Whatever attracts the buyer, there is one unifying factor for all and that is the object in question fulfils a need, whatever that might be. So, whether it is one of the many fine pieces of jewellery, or a piece of pottery or porcelain you can make the choice safe in the knowledge that there is no ‘carbon footprint’ for the piece concerned, the cost would be far less than a modern equivalent and, like good summer weather, it will brighten one’s life.