Ancient Chinese Jade Ceremonial Blade Discovered

A rare archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th - 15th century BC) with important collectors’ labels, inscribed with a translation of the engraved Chinese calligraphy which reads: ‘In the Royal 12th year in the 1st Moon, and the fortunate 1st day of the King whilst staying in the Capital caused to be made this blade of jade. May it be for perpetual use.’
A rare archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th – 15th century BC) with important collectors’ labels, inscribed with a translation of the engraved Chinese calligraphy which reads: ‘In the Royal 12th year in the 1st Moon, and the fortunate 1st day of the King whilst staying in the Capital caused to be made this blade of jade. May it be for perpetual use.’

A rare and important archaistic Chinese jade ceremonial blade from the late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty (11th – 15th century BC) has been discovered by Toovey’s specialist, Mark Stonard. This remarkable object formed part of the collection of the late Fred Clark, a gifted and meticulous antiquarian, whose collector’s label it bears.

It is believed that Fred Clark bought it in the years immediately after the Second World War. The blade has an older hand written paper label which offers a translation of the Chinese calligraphy engraved into the jade and also a printed paper segment which reads ‘Beasley Collection’.

It is always the cause of some excitement when an archaic piece surfaces bearing the name of the early 20th century collector Harry Geoffrey Beasley (1882-1939).

Between 1895 and 1939 Beasley put together one of the largest collections of ethnographic material in Britain. The collection was formed of more than 10,000 objects from Asia, Africa, Scandinavia, and across the world. In the years after Beasley’s death in 1939 the majority of the collection was donated to leading British Museums.

The Chinese have always prized jade more highly than gold. This hard translucent stone has, over the centuries, been worked into decorative and ritual objects as well as ceremonial weapons.

Jade was worn by kings and nobles in life and was buried with them, affording the material a high status and associations with immortality.

The Chinese way of life was based on a combination of faith, tradition and ethics which bound families and communities together. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), emphasized the moral responsibility that accompanies authority. Confucius established a school with a radical new principal of accepting students of sufficient intelligence regardless of their background or ability to pay. He combined this belief in meritocracy with a faith in the generous order of a hierarchical society. The hierarchical principles expressed in Confucianism may, perhaps, give some insight into the use of this jade blade. A ruler had a right to obedience and respect but equally had a duty to act justly in the best interests of his subjects. Many academics believe that jade objects like this blade were symbols of office. If this is correct it is probable that blades of this type were used in a similar way to ceremonial jade Kuei tablets of the period. A high ranking courtier would have held the blade to his mouth and spoken through it when addressing the Emperor.

When you hold this ancient ceremonial blade you become aware of the exquisite workmanship employed in its making. The balance and line of the blade work in concert with the patterns in the jade. It has the power to move you and a particular, vital quality to it.

This late Shang/early Zhou Dynasty jade ceremonial blade has just returned from exhibition at the International Asian Art week in London where it attracted much attention and is expected to realise thousands of pounds when it is auctioned at Toovey’s specialist Asian Art sale on Thursday 30th November 2017.

Coins from Classical Antiquity

The late antiquarian and collector, Fred Clark
The late antiquarian and collector, Fred Clark

A remarkable collection of coins, predominately from Classical Antiquity, have been entered for auction at Toovey’s and is expected to realise tens of thousands of pounds. This single owner collection of coins was formed during the 1960s and 1970s by the late Fred Clark, a gifted and meticulous antiquarian.

Fred rode his BSA Bantham motorcycle all over Suffolk and the South East of England collecting not only coins but fossils and prehistoric flints too.

When his family moved to Woking in Surrey in the 1960s Fred opened a shop in Guildford which became a favourite haunt for collectors.

The study of the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome have had a profound influence on Western Civilisation and thinking over millennia. As we look through this remarkable collection it becomes apparent that nearly all the Roman Emperors are represented in the coins. Fred Clark was a gifted classicist.

A Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius, the reverse with Ceres standing left, holding corn ears and a long torch
A Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius, the reverse with Ceres standing left, holding corn ears and a long torch

Toovey’s specialist, Mark Stonard, draws my attention to the Roman Empire Hadrian (117-138AD) sestertius. He explains that on the reverse Ceres is depicted standing to the left, holding corn ears and a long torch. Mark says “Hadrian is such a well-known character to us. The natural patination of this bronze sestertius coin and its condition is very good.” There is an accompanying letter from the British Museum, dated 17th July 1970, remarking that this coin is ‘even better than their own example’. The finely penned label written by Fred Clark describes the coin and its history. Mark comments “Fred was meticulous with his recording.”

The coin reminds me that the Emperor Hadrian was a brilliant administrator and travelled the Empire visiting the Provinces and ensuring discipline in the Roman armies which he held in such high regard. Hadrian was also renowned for his love of architecture and building. The Pantheon which he rebuilt in Rome still stands.

Hadrian left his mark in Britain too. The Vallum Hadrian, known today as Hadrian’s Wall, was built around 122AD. It stretched from coast to coast and its ruins can still be seen today.

The British Empire looked to the Classical Antiquity for inspiration in its arts, architecture and objects.

A George IV crown dating from 1821
A George IV crown dating from 1821

This influence is apparent in the George IV crown dated 1821 which depicts the King as an Emperor from antiquity which is in fine condition.

With estimates ranging from the low hundreds into the thousands the collection is expected to realise tens of thousands of pounds. The Fred Clark coin collection will be auctioned at Toovey’s on Wednesday 1st November 2017 in the afternoon.

Coins connect us with the procession of human history in a remarkable way and delight in the quality of their aesthetic and manufacture. No wonder that they are a boom market.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

£26,000 for Louis Vuitton Trunk

A rare Louis Vuitton zinc covered cabin trunk (malle cabine), circa 1895, the interior with original printed label numbered '44...' sold for £26,000
A rare Louis Vuitton zinc covered cabin trunk (malle cabine), circa 1895, the interior with original printed label numbered ’44…’ sold for £26,000

You never know what will be brought to the salerooms for valuation. Recently an old trunk was brought to Toovey’s for valuation and sale. The owner’s hopes were confirmed, when it was identified as a rare early Louis Vuitton ‘malle cabine’ trunk dating from around 1895. It sold last week for £26,000.

The famous Louis Vuitton ‘LV’ monogram decoration was not introduced until 1896 as part of George Vuitton’s worldwide expansion of the firm. This early example was beautifully crafted but quite plain in comparison to the George Vuitton’s trunks. All Louis Vuitton trunks are numbered and it was the original numbered paper label in the interior which confirmed its authenticity and value.

The early story of Louis Vuitton is a romantic one caught up with the industrial and political revolutions of 19th century France. Its founder, Louis Vuitton, spent his early childhood in Anchay in the Jura region on the eastern borders of France. The 1830s witnessed a significant migration in France from countryside to city. In 1835 the thirteen year old Louis Vuitton left home. It took him two years to walk the 292 miles to Paris as he worked to feed himself along the way. He arrived in the city in 1837. These qualities of determination and hard work would inform his life and success.

At the age of sixteen Louis Vuitton was taken on as an apprentice in the workshop of the successful packer and box maker Monsieur Marechal where he quickly gained a reputation for his abilities in this fashionable field of enterprise.

A Louis Vuitton travelling trunk with overall LV monogram decoration on a brown ground and a paper label inscribed '1 Rue Scribe, Paris, Louis Vuitton, 149 New Bond St. London' and numbered '108407'
A Louis Vuitton travelling trunk with overall LV monogram decoration on a brown ground and a paper label inscribed ‘1 Rue Scribe, Paris, Louis Vuitton, 149 New Bond St. London’ and numbered ‘108407’

In 1854 he married Clemence-Emile Parriaux and left Marechal to found Louis Vuitton. To begin with he specialized in packing fashions and fragile objects. It was not until 1858 that he introduced his revolutionary rectangular, stackable trunks which were an immediate success and the business expanded. His reputation for boxes of the finest quality was assured.

Napolean III and the French Empire was re-established in 1852 and Louis Vuitton was hired as the personal box maker to the Empress of France, Eugine de Montijo. This patronage and the period of urbanization and industrialization that ensured brought Europe’s elite to his firm.

The quality of Louis Vuitton’s work, his determination and hard work continued until his death in 1892. His son George Vuitton would build on his father’s foundations and establish Louis Vuitton as a worldwide company.

It was George who launched the famous LV monogram on a brown ground that you can see on the larger Louis Vuitton travelling trunk illustrated. It had a paper label to its interior inscribed ‘1 Rue Scribe, Paris, Louis Vuitton, 149 New Bond St. London’ and numbered ‘108407’. The other Louis Vuitton trunk illustrated is more reminiscent in its size and shape of the earlier plain example. It too had its original paper label. Both trunks dated from the late 19th/early 20th century and sold recently at Toovey’s for £5500 and £2200 respectively.

The story of the founder, Louis Vuitton, together with the beautiful craftsmanship which he established ensure that the earliest and rarest examples of the company’s work attract international attention at auction and underpin the continued reputation of this luxury brand today.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Outstanding Porcelain from Worcester

A Barr, Flight & Barr Worcester porcelain chocolate cup, cover with gilt loop finial and stand, circa 1807-1813
A Barr, Flight & Barr Worcester porcelain chocolate cup, cover with gilt loop finial and stand, circa 1807-1813

The Worcester porcelain factory is amongst the finest and longest lived of the English porcelain manufacturers. The pieces made in the late 18th and early 19th centuries are outstanding.

The first period of Worcester porcelain manufacture is known as the ‘Dr Wall Period’ (1751-1776) after one of its founding shareholders John Wall. In 1783 the firm’s London agent, Thomas Flight, bought the Worcester factory for his sons Joseph and John. This new period was marked by a new paste which produced a more pearly white body. The style changed too reflecting the fashion for the Neo-Classical in both decoration and form. John Flight travelled in France to study the latest French porcelain designs. In 1788 King George III and Queen Charlotte toured Flight’s Worcester Porcelain factory and ordered a breakfast service.

After his father’s death in 1792 Joseph Flight formed a partnership with Martin Barr. The firm traded as Flight & Barr between 1792 and 1804, then as the partnership between the families changed it became Barr, Flight & Barr until 1813 when Martin Barr died and the company became Flight, Barr and Barr.

After 1780 the gilding was applied with mercury and burnished to a bright finish. This can be seen in the examples illustrated from Toovey’s auctions.

I adore the richness of the japanesery decoration on the Barr, Flight & Barr Worcester porcelain chocolate cup, cover and stand which dates from between 1807 and 1813. The tapering cup, flanked by its angular gilt handles, is painted with a pagoda, exotic birds and flowers in a fenced garden scene. It sold for £500.

It was during the later Flight, Barr and Barr period (1813-1840) that some of the finest quality wares were produced.

The wares from this period were often decorated with finely enamelled panels on coloured grounds. These grounds were applied by the oil and dusting process which gave a smoother, deeper finish than those achieved with a brush.

Unusually the painters at Worcester were paid by the hour, not by the number of pieces decorated. The factory employed some of the leading ceramic painters of the period including Charles Stinton. Charles was celebrated for his depictions of exotic birds and flowers.

A group of early 19th century Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain including two dessert bowls and a dish attributed to Charles Stinton decorated with exotic birds
A group of early 19th century Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain including two dessert bowls and a dish attributed to Charles Stinton decorated with exotic birds

His fine enamel work can be seen in the panels of birds and flowers on the Flight, Barr and Barr dessert dishes. Each is framed with gilded decoration in a stylized seaweed design against a white ground. The collection made £380.

A Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea and coffee service, circa 1820
A Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain part tea and coffee service, circa 1820

The autumnal colours of the painted bands of brown and gilt leaf sprays and small red flowers on the Flight Barr & Barr Worcester porcelain tea and coffee service are beautifully conceived and executed. It dates from around 1820 and was remarkably complete comprising of twenty tea cups, sixteen coffee cans, twenty-eight saucers, milk jug, sugar basin, two slop bowls and two saucer dishes. The part set realised £1900.

It is the finest pieces which attract strong competition from collectors, and condition is important. However, single cups and saucers, coffee cans, dishes and bowls can be found at auction very reasonably and provide a great way to begin to collect George III and Regency English porcelain from the late 18th and early 19th centuries with its rich variety of designs and beautiful decoration.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Aeronautical Discovery Fetches Thousands

Major Robert Hobart Mayo, O.B.E., M.A. (Cantab), Assoc.M.Inst.C.E., F.R.Ae.S., M.Inst.T. with medals

I was recently on a routine visit to a bungalow in Henfield, West Sussex when I discovered a trunk filled with the most remarkable collection of photographs, documents and medals relating to the late Major Robert Hobart Mayo, M.B.E., M.A.(Cantab)., Assoc. M. Inst. C.E. F.R.Ae.S., M. Inst. T. The collection sold for more than £10,000 including premium at Toovey’s.

Major Mayo was the designer of the Short-Mayo Composite flying boats. He would become a consulting aeronautical engineer alongside some of the most significant moments in 20th century aviation history.

Robert Mayo joined the staff of the Royal Aircraft Factory in 1913 and became head of the experimental department. He qualified as a pilot in December 1914 and went on to serve in the Royal Flying Corps in France during the First World War. On returning to England, he became Flight Commander in the Testing Squadron at Martlesham Heath and was personally responsible for the flying trials of a wide variety of new types of aircraft. In 1917 he was appointed head of the Design (Aeroplane) Section at the Air Ministry and he retained this post until 1919, when he resigned in order to take up Consulting Engineering. He was consulting engineer and technical manager to Instone Air Lines (later Imperial Airways) from 1923 to 1924.

Robert Mayo became a prominent official in competition flying; he was a timekeeper for the Schneider Trophy Contest in 1929 and chairman of the Records, Racing and Competition Committee of the Royal Aero Club in later years. He flew over one hundred different types of aircraft and had a thorough knowledge of aircraft and engines used in various commercial services.

A small section of original fabric from the Wright brothers Kitty Hawk ‘Wright Flyer’ with a printed certification from Major Robert H. Mayo
A small section of original fabric from the Wright brothers Kitty Hawk ‘Wright Flyer’ with a printed certification from Major Robert H. Mayo

On the 17th December 1903 the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, famously made the first controlled flight of a ‘heavier than air’, powered aircraft known as the Kitty Hawk. Amongst the highlights of the collection was a framed fragment of material used to cover the wings from the original plane with a certificate of authenticity from Robert H. Mayo. He writes ‘When Orville Wright, at my suggestion, assembled the Kitty Hawk machine for public exhibition for the first time, in 1916, at the opening the new buildings of M.I.T. in Cambridge, he found that the original fabric could not be used and substituted new fabric of the identical material. When he died, his executors found that he had preserved some of the original coverings of the wings and entrusted several pieces of this most valuable relic to me for distribution to notable aeronautical friends. I certify that this piece was used in the first successful flight in history by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N. C.’ It realised £2600.

A letter, signatures and photograph relating to the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919
A letter, signatures and photograph relating to the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic by John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919

Technical advances in aviation continued at great pace. On the 14th June1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown took off from Newfoundland in a converted Vickers Vimy bomber. They landed in Ireland 16 hours and 12 minutes later on 15th June 1919, having faced great challenges, to win the £10,000 Daily Mail newspaper prize for the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Robert Mayo had in his collection a gold engraved presentation match vesta, a letter and photographs relating to this first non-stop flight across the Atlantic which sold for £4000.

These and objects like them bring history to life in a vivid and exciting way which is reflected in their values.

The spirit of courage, adventure and engineering inventiveness expressed in the life of Major Robert H. Mayo will continue to be told through the pieces from this extraordinary historical archive.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.