The West Horsley Place Collection

West Horsley Place – Photo © Richard Lewisohn

Toovey’s are pleased to announce that our forthcoming specialist sale of books on 15th May includes a collection of volumes from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.Lots 3001-3179 in this auction have been consigned from the library of West Horsley Place, the medieval manor house in Surrey.

The estate was inherited in 2014 by Bamber Gascoigne from his great aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. In 2015 Bamber gave ownership of the house and estate to a newly created charitable trust: the Mary Roxburghe Trust. The Trust’s mission is to restore the Grade I listed manor house (currently on Historic England’s ‘Heritage At Risk Register’) and its estate, with the aim of creating a vibrant centre for the performing and visual arts as well as the teaching of crafts. An expert on prints and the writer of many books himself, Bamber is popularly known as the original host of University Challenge. While not living in the house itself, he has been overseeing its conservation and transformation, which has included the building within the grounds of the 700-seat Theatre in the Woods by Grange Place Opera, who hold a summer opera season at West Horsley Place. Funds raised from this sale of selected volumes from the library will be used towards the ongoing restoration work, all part of the Mary Roxburghe Trust’s long-term plan. For more information on the house and the work of the Mary Roxburghe Trust, visit www.westhorsleyplace.org.

The Library at West Horsley Place

The library was assembled by Robert Milnes-Crewe, 1st Marquess of Crewe (1858-1945) and his father Richard Monckton-Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton (1809-1885). Lord Houghton was a great man of letters, a poet, politician and patron of literature. He wrote the first biography of Keats in 1848, was a close friend of Alfred Lord Tennyson and helped to make Ralph Waldo Emerson become known in Britain. His particular interest was in French literature, especially of the revolutionary period.

Lord Houghton’s son, Lord Crewe, (bookplate above) was a Liberal statesman, who served as Secretary of State for India between 1910 and 1915. He was also Leader of the House of Lords, where he played a very significant and progressive role in removing their own veto, as well as various positions within the education sector. He was a contemporary of Winston Churchill, friend of H.H. Asquith and son-in-law to Prime Minister Lord Rosebery. The astonishing library of books, collected over generations, mainly reflects Lord Crewe’s wide interests, including his literary friendships with war-time poets, his travels to India and the East, his political career and his cultural connections. The books provide an intimate window onto the period and give the sense of a decent, moderate man who was administratively overseeing considerable change.

“Sorting through and cataloguing the books of both father and son has been an absolute pleasure. It’s been a chance to speculate on the changes England underwent from Victorian times, through the trauma of a World War and into a changed 20th century” says Toovey’s Book Specialist Charlie Howe.

The collection will be offered at Toovey’s Spring Gardens rooms on May 15th 2018. View the collection via the online catalogue here.

Collectors’ Objects from around the World

A 6th century BC, Ancient Greek Siana black figure kylix (wine cup)
A 6th century BC, Ancient Greek Siana black figure kylix (wine cup)

Toovey’s new specialist sales of Tribal Art, Antiquities and Natural history cover a diversity of collecting interests ranging from sea shells, fossils and minerals to tribal art and antiquities.

They combine the delights of the Renaissance cabinet of curiosity with the enquiry of the 18th century Enlightenment. Between 1680 and 1820 the imaginations of some of Britain, Europe and America’s leading philosophers, scientists and writers were inspired by a new age of reason and learning which became known as the Enlightenment.

During the Renaissance rooms and cabinets of curiosities housed encyclopaedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were yet to be defined. They were often known as wonder cabinets and rooms. Similarly 18th century collectors, antiquaries and travellers brought together, but also sought to classify, objects from the world around them. Many of these objects were categorised according to the seven major new areas of enquiry during the Enlightenment. These included: natural history, art and civilisation, religion and ritual, the birth of archaeology, discovery and trade, the translation of ancient scripts and classification.

Toovey’s first specialist sales of Tribal Art, Antiquities and Natural history earlier this year highlighted the strength of demand for these pieces.

A Senufo carved and painted figure of a hornbill, Ivory Coast, used by the Poro society
A Senufo carved and painted figure of a hornbill, Ivory Coast, used by the Poro society

The large Senufo carved and painted ritual figure of a hornbill would have been used by the Poro hunters. The Senufo people come from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Standing 142cm high this impressive example was modelled with large flat rectangular wings, the long beak centred to the swollen stomach and the surface painted with red and black pigments on a pale ground. It realised £1500.

The delicate 6th century BC Ancient Greek Siana black figure kylix (wine cup) was just 8cm high and came from the Edouard Will collection. The delicate painted depiction of swans and hens was attributed to the Griffin-Bird painter. It realised £1900.

A Palaeolithic flint stone hand axe found near West Dean in West Sussex
A Palaeolithic flint stone hand axe found near West Dean in West Sussex

Although the rarest pieces command high prices many of these collectors’ items are great value. Take for example the Palaeolithic flint stone hand axe, found at West Dean in West Sussex, near the Trundle which sold for £65. Holding this humbling object gave me a real sense of connection with stone-age man in Sussex and my place in the procession of human history.

These new specialist sales cover a diversity of collecting interests ranging from sea shells, fossils and minerals to tribal art and antiquities.

Toovey’s specialists, William Rowsell and Mark Stonard, are passionate about these collecting fields and are always pleased to offer advice and meet with collectors. They can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955 or emailing auctions@tooveys.com.

Toovey’s next specialist sales of Tribal Art, Antiquities and Natural History will be held on Wednesday 13th June 2018 and entries are still being accepted.

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.

Verrio Tour Provides a Window into a Historic School

Verrio Tour guides Nana, Max, Rebecca and Helena with The Verrio at Christ’s Hospital
Verrio Tour guides Nana, Max, Rebecca and Helena with The Verrio at Christ’s Hospital

This week I am in the company of four Christ’s Hospital students who are part of a cohort of pupils who lead The Verrio Tours at the school. The Verrio Tours provide visitors with a rare window into the, history, traditions and life of this historic institution.

Detail of Antonio Verrio?s 'The granting of the Royal Charter by Charles II to the Royal Mathematical School' in the Dining Hall at Christ's Hospital. Pub Orig CL 21/04/2005
Part of Antonio Verrio?s ‘The granting of the Royal Charter by Charles II to the Royal Mathematical School’ in the Dining Hall at Christ’s Hospital.
Pub Orig CL 21/04/2005

Helena, Rebecca, Nana and Max explain how The Verrio Tours take their name from the eighty-six foot long painting by the Italian born artist Antonio Verrio (c.1636-1707) who received royal patronage from both Charles II and James II.

They tell me how this painting commemorates the founding of the Royal Mathematical School by Charles II in 1673 and is known as The Verrio. It hung in two of the school’s Great Halls in London before being brought to the new campus at Horsham in the first years of the 20th century. Today the painting hangs in the Dining Hall.

The Verrio painting
The Verrio painting

My enthusiastic guides describe how Charles II died during its painting. 17th century convention dictated that only a ruling monarch could be depicted on the throne. To avoid a treasonous act James II was painted in Charles’ place at the centre of the composition. To the left of the throne you can see Samuel Pepys who became the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both Charles II and James II. He is painted wearing a red cloak and holding a large book.

Our conversation turns to the breadth of the tour which gives the visitor an opportunity to explore Christ’s Hospital’s unique campus and buildings including the ‘Wren’ Portico, the Chapel with its wonderful Frank Brangwyn murals and, weather permitting, witness the famous School Band in action.

I ask how visitors react to the experience, Rebecca responds “Everyone wants to know about the school.” Nana continues “People are fascinated by what you are saying.” Max concludes “The Verrio Tour gives the outside world a chance to look in.” It quickly becomes apparent how much these outward facing and generous young people enjoy sharing Christ’s Hospital with others.

This quality of welcome is always evident when you visit Christ’s Hospital.

Our discussion turns to life at the school. I remark upon how people from diverse backgrounds seem to be welcomed and celebrated. Helena agrees and says “There is a real mix of backgrounds here. When we start the only common ground is our academic ability.” She goes on to explain how the shared history and traditions of Christ’s Hospital builds respect and friendships.

I ask what they most enjoy about the tours and they are unanimous that it is meeting with the public.

This inclusive school continues to celebrate its history and traditions whilst looking confidently to the future. Most importantly and above all else it celebrates its students – the talented young people who are shaped and inspired by its traditions and the quality of its education.

An afternoon in the company of these outward facing and generous young people is really inspiring.

The Verrio Tours are available on Thursdays by prior arrangement only. To discover more visit www.christs-hospital.org.uk/school-life/community/verrio-tours/ or to book a tour telephone Michelle Smith on 01403 247407.

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.

Lillie Langtry, Love and Life Expressed in a Jewel

A gold, diamond, ruby and enamelled brooch in the form of the King’s Royal Cypher, given by Edward VII to Lillie Langtry

This week I am returning to the Parish of St Saviour on the Island of Jersey.

The church has a particular place in my heart as it was here that I was blessed to marry Teresa a little more than twenty-five years ago.

Today, though, my visit has been inspired by a jewel that was discovered and sold recently by Toovey’s. This gold, diamond, ruby and enamelled brooch in the form of the King’s Royal Cypher is set with rose cut diamonds, designed as a crown above the initial ‘E’ and a ruby set number ‘7’ against a blue enamelled ground. It was accompanied by a note from Lillie Langtry’s granddaughter, Mary Malcolm, in which she writes ‘this jewellery was given to my Grandmother Lillie Langtry in 1879 by Edward VII (she was his mistress)’.

Lillie Langtry, née Le Breton, (1853-1929) was the youngest child of the Dean of Jersey, The Very Reverend William Corbet Le Breton.

Lillie met her husband Edward Langtry, a wealthy widower, at the wedding of her brother. They were engaged and six weeks later they married at St Saviour’s Church on the 9th March 1874.

During her first season in London she was acclaimed as a great beauty. Her beauty and character was captured in portraits by artists including Millais, Watts, Whistler and Burne-Jones, Oscar Wilde even published a poem about her. It was this same beauty which drew the attention of a series of wealthy admirers and lovers as the years went by, including the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII.

The Prince of Wales had arranged to be seated next to Lillie Langtry at a dinner party given by Sir Allen Young in the May of 1877. As his infatuation with her grew Lillie became his mistress and she was even presented to his mother, Queen Victoria. The affair lasted until 1880 and the diamond and ruby encrusted brooch would have been given during this time. They remained friends even after the affair had ended.

Lillie Langtry turned to acting touring Britain and the United States filling theatres and attracting huge crowds. The scale of her fame is difficult to imagine even in our own age of mass media and celebrity.

She bred racehorses in America and Britain which connected her with high society on both sides of the Atlantic.

In 1918 Lillie Langtry retired from the stage and built a villa at Monte Carlo where she lived until her death in 1929. In America she had been known as the Jersey Lily and in accordance with her wishes her body was returned to the island of her birth and she was buried at St Saviour’s. As you can see her grave is marked by a carved marble bust portrait by J Galle.

Rupert Toovey at Lillie Langtry’s grave in St Saviour’s, Jersey

As an antiquarian it delights me that objects give us a window onto the past and it seems fitting that this small brooch is returning to Jersey too where it will be on display at the Jersey Museum in St Helier with a number of items left to it by Lillie Langtry herself.

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.

Pop Art Records a Changing Britain

Pop artist Peter Blake and exhibition curators Claudia Milburn and Louis Weller with his iconic ‘The Beatles 1962’and ‘Girls with their Hero’ © Christopher Ison / Pallant House Gallery

Pallant House Gallery’s major spring exhibition ‘POP! Art in a Changing Britain’ celebrates the diversity of art created in the two decades after the Second World War.

This visually arresting exhibition has been put together by the Gallery’s new Senior Curator Claudia Milburn, and Curator Louise Weller.

Claudia Milburn explains “The key themes which emerged in Pop Art included American consumerism, popular culture, advertising, sex, glamour, celebrity, technology, science fiction and politics.” These themes are vividly explored through the works in the show. Many of them were generously gifted through the Art Fund by the architect Professor Sir Colin St John Wilson and his wife and fellow architect M.J. Long to Pallant House in 2006.

Wilson participated in the London Independent Group meetings in the 1950s where a generation of Post-War artists and architects came together. His very personal collection reflects his relationships with these artists. The members’ disparate approaches were united by a shared vision of a new era. Claudia says “Pop came about as a resistance movement, youthful in energy and spirit, breaking through in response to a time when traditional values were being challenged as never before. It was an attempt to redefine the boundaries between popular culture and fine art merging high and low culture.”

After post-war rationing and austerity these dramatic images signalled a new youth culture and unparalleled access to an explosion of images, film and popular music.

The artist Richard Hamilton would remark ‘…somehow it didn’t seem necessary to hold on to that older tradition of direct contact with the world.’

Peter Blake’s work offered a dialogue between new and traditional forms of popular culture. In his painting ‘The Beatles 1962’ (c.1963-68) he reflects on the nature of celebrity. This theme is repeated in the earlier ‘Girls with their Hero’ (c.1959-62) where the Elvis phenomenon is expressed through the imagery of mass-produced pictures in newspapers, photographs and posters.

Richard Hamilton, Swingeing London ’67, 1968, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006) © The Estate of the Artist. All rights reserved, DACS 2018

One of my favourite images in the show is Richard Hamilton’s ‘Swingeing London 67’ (c.1968). Louise Weller describes how it actually relates to an incident in Chichester rather than London. The piece was based on a press photograph which ‘shows Mick Jagger and gallery owner Robert Fraser handcuffed together, seen through the window of a police van as they arrive at the court in Chichester to be charged for unlawful possession of drugs.’ Hamilton’s depiction brings into focus the tension between the liberalism of the sixties and societal restraints on personal choice. The image also provides a commentary on our relationship with the motor vehicle whilst the framing gives it a cinematic quality.

These works provide as relevant a commentary on our society today as they did when they were produced some fifty years ago and it is this spring’s must see show in Sussex. ‘POP! Art in a Changing Britain’ runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 7th May 2018 for more information go to www.pallant.org.uk.

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.