Spring and the easing of lockdown

Bonnie enjoying the delights of the Sussex Downs in the chilly spring weather

Is it my imagination that spring seems to have arrived a little later this year?

The frosts and nip in the air do not seem to have deterred our magnolia from producing the most wonderful array of flowers and the brilliant white Blackthorn blossom in the hedgerows is especially fine this year against the backdrop of the deep blue skies.

Like our gardens and the countryside around our Sussex towns and villages we too are tentatively emerging after lockdown.

Monday 12th April brought the first day of steadily easing Covid restrictions. People gathered safely and happily outside pubs with British forbearance in the face of the chilly weather. Life began to slowly return to our county’s High Streets.

Bonnie and I were on appointment as we have been throughout lockdown. Our week took us from Arundel to Amberley, Steyning to Worthing, Brighton and Wimbledon. The weather seemed to improve throughout the week and as the blossom bravely emerged so the numbers of people steadily increased.

My little dog Bonnie really enjoyed rediscovering her favourite walks on top of the Sussex Downs which punctuate our days between valuation appointments. And we’ve been popping into our favourite shops across the county to support them.

Rupert Toovey on a valuation appointment in Arundel, West Sussex

It’s funny how quickly we have adapted to a new routine. As I arrive at people’s homes I am still ringing the doorbell running 2 metres back from the door and turning to greet them. It’s important to see a smile and exchange a greeting safely before putting on a face mask and disinfecting my hands. Once inside we perform a Covid dance as we seek to honour one another with social distancing and old fashioned good manners. We move around enjoying each other’s company and the treasures, the windows flung open to the crisp spring breeze.

The online auctions at Toovey’s have been very successful but I have missed gathering the collectors and dealers whose passions for art and objects I and my colleagues share. So I am excited to report that we have successfully reopened Toovey’s auction rooms to the public. We’ve refreshed our reception and valuations spaces for the public to bring their treasured possessions to Toovey’s for auction. For our live auctions next week we’ve put in place hand sanitizers, direction signs, queuing and viewing point mats to ensure social distancing. The numbers of people viewing our sales at any one time will be limited with timed slots available by appointment with masks. Listen to me being excited by Health and Safety but it’s at its best when it’s practical, empowering and keeps people safe!

Providing valuations, viewing and attendance for our sales by appointment is once again proving really popular whilst keeping people safe. And there has been strong demand for our home visit valuation service throughout.

I hope that lockdown will continue to ease and you will join me in supporting our local businesses, theatres, museums, art galleries, churches and newspapers who add so richly to the life of our community. If we do then there will be much cause for hope and optimism.

HRH Prince Philip

The Naval officer, HRH Prince Philip

Rarely has our nation’s common story, our long island history, our values of duty and service been as eloquently upheld as through the lives of HM Queen Elizabeth II and her husband HRH Prince Philip.

The Queen and Prince Philip have been bound up not only with the nation’s life but with our own lives as individuals. Together we have shared their joys and sorrows as they have shared ours. Together, here in Sussex and across the United Kingdom, we hold The Queen and her family in our hearts and our prayers as we mourn the loss of Prince Philip.

HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh has been the longest serving Royal Consort in history. His strength of character enabled a life of service supporting The Queen throughout her long reign and his family, at the heart of the nation and the Commonwealth.

Separated from his family in his youth through revolution and his mother’s illness he came to live with his Mountbatten relatives in England. He studied under the Jewish educational pioneer Kurt Hahn in Germany and then in Scotland at Gordonstoun after Hahn had fled the Nazis. He later claimed that Hahn was the inspiration for the remarkable Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which continues to encourage young people to challenge themselves and grow as individuals.

He first met the young Princess Elizabeth at the Britannia Royal Naval College where he was charged to escort both her and Princess Margaret.

With the war looming his family encouraged him into the Royal Navy. He played an important role as the officer in charge of HMS Valiant’s searchlights at the Battle of Cape Matapan in 1941 and was mentioned in dispatches. By the October of 1942 he was one of the youngest lieutenants in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Wallace.

Prince Philip was invited to stay with the Royal Family on a number of occasions. He and Princess Elizabeth corresponded and their affection for each other grew. In 1946 Prince Philip asked George VI for his daughter’s hand in marriage. They were married in 1947 at Westminster Abbey.

He was given his first command of the sloop HMS Magpie in 1950. In 1951 he took leave from the Royal Navy to support his wife as the King’s deteriorating health meant increasing Royal duties.

Elizabeth acceded to the throne upon her father’s death in 1952 and was crowned in 1953.

HM Queen Elizabeth II, HRH Prince Philip with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1957

Photographs can give such an insight into a moment in time. The portrait of HRH Prince Philip in naval uniform provides a glimpse of the energy and vigour which would define his life. The photograph from 1957 of The Queen and Prince Philip with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne shows a family happy and at ease.

Prince Philip’s passion for creating opportunity for individuals, conservation, his ability to embrace and lead change, his excitement in science, technology and industry remained undiminished.

Throughout his life he pressed on regardless of undoubted challenges serving his Queen, his family and the nation with unswerving service and duty born out of faith. And it is to this example that we must look as our nation emerges from the challenges of Covid-19.

The Art of Victorian Jewellery

A Victorian gold, diamond set brooch of floral and foliate spray design, circa 1880

From the mid-19th century an increasingly affluent middle class combined with a growing supply of gold and precious metals from California and Australia creating an explosion in demand for jewellery.

From the 1840s the classical world, Renaissance and the natural world continued to inspire jewellery designs which evolved to adorn the fashion of the times.

A mid-19th century circular gold, garnet and diamond brooch by the Neapolitan jeweller Giacinto Melillo, circa 1860

The small mid-19th century circular gold, garnet and diamond brooch is by the Neapolitan jeweller Giacinto Melillo. Melillo trained in the workshop of Alessandro Castellani. The Castellani workshop was famous for its copies of ancient jewellery. An inch in diameter this brooch was modelled on a typically classical design and realised £2200 at Toovey’s.

A Victorian gold and coral pendant brooch, circa 1860

From the 1860s, influenced by the fashion for décolletage neck lines, many brooches changed from horizontal to vertical axis designs. Coral was particularly fashionable between 1845 and 1865. The Victorian gold and pendant brooch measures some 3 ¼ inches. It, too, is classically inspired with its vertical design, classical amphora pendant drop and delicate applied wire work.

In contrast to the earlier corsets and crinolines from the late 19th century women’s fashion sought to enhance rather than alter the wearer’s figure employing softer materials. As a consequence brooches became smaller and lighter.

The Romantic Movement of the 1840s had stimulated designs in the forms of flowers and foliage. These designs remained popular throughout the second half of the 19th century. The late Victorian diamond set brooch is a typical example with its beautifully conceived scrolls. You can imagine it moving in a spring breeze as the light moves across the diamonds. It measured 2 ¼ inches.

Late 19th century Fin de siècle brooches of smaller, delicate design became popular. They were worn pinned to the lace and tulle draped around the décolletage. It did not matter whether the brooches matched, the fashion was for wearing numerous brooches at the same time.

A Victorian diamond and half pearl set pendant star brooch, circa 188

The late Victorian gold, diamond and half pearl set pendant brooch with its detachable brooch fitting measured just 1 ¾ inches. Its delicate design and scale is characteristic of the late 19th century.

Jewellery at its best adds to the beauty of the wearer and speaks across generations of love and precious moments in our human lives. These examples sold for £700, £1000 and £550 respectively. The appeal of jewellery is timeless.

Online has been an incredible blessing in these times with strong interest and prices for jewellery and across all the specialist auctions throughout lockdown. But nothing beats real life human encounters and we are now excitedly making preparations so that, ‘R’ number willing, we will be able to welcome you once again at the salerooms for valuations and auctions from the 12th April by appointment. Until then I look forward to seeing you for valuations online and at your homes.

Easter Marks, Love, Hope and Renewal

An altar laid with a Chalice and Paten by the Sussex potters Eric Mellon and Josse Davies framed by a Victorian Arts and Crafts Alms dish for an Easter Communion

It is just over a year since the first lockdown began. There has been much to celebrate in the courage and generous offering of service to the vulnerable and elderly in our communities by the men and women of our NHS, our care and essential workers – often at great personal cost. Our scientists have blessed us with hope through their remarkable endeavours and vaccines.

Nevertheless our shared story of Covid-19 is one of joys and sorrows. Intimate stories of loss and separation have reminded us how precious love is.

Easter provides a poignant, liminal moment in the year marking love, hope and renewal.

This week millions of Christians will mark Holy Week. As they process towards Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection they will reflect on the words from St John’s gospel “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.

I think it was The Revd Canon Dr Giles Fraser who said that “the Cross is the offer of love in exchange for hate, whatever the cost, whatever it takes. And that’s why the cross is the central image of Christianity. It’s the pivot on which the Christian narrative turns. A representation of love – absolutely not a celebration of death – even though death is sometimes the cost of love.”

These threads of love, hope and renewal are expressed in the Easter communion illustrated.

The cross is delicately portrayed in a universal way on the Chalice by the potter Eric Mellon, whilst the Arundel potter Josse Davies’ beautiful Paten depicts the Holy Spirit as a Dove within the Crown of Thorns.

The Victorian Arts and Crafts gilt-metal Alms dish, decorated after the Byzantine, is encrusted with semi-precious stones. It depicts Christ crucified surrounded by the apostles. Its inscription translates from the Greek as “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you for the forgiveness of your sins”, the words spoken by Jesus as he gathered his friends at the Last Supper.

St Benedict held invitation and hospitality as being central to faith in his rule of life.

I know that amongst the things I have missed this year is being able to offer invitation and hospitality – welcoming people to my home, the auction rooms and church. Boris Johnson once again had to ask us to stay away from one another, a sign of our love for one another, to keep us and others safe. But now, with the advent of spring and Easter, we are once again able to gather in groups of six, or two separate households in our gardens, outdoors, and at church. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

I hope that lockdown will continue to ease and you will join me in supporting our local businesses, theatres, museums, art galleries, churches and newspapers who add so richly to the life of our community.

Rembert Doedons, the Father of Botany

An early English translation of Rembert Dodoens’ Cruydeboeck, A Nievve Herball, or Historie of Plantes…, circa 1578 © Toovey’s 2021

Nature has often provided the inspiration and components of our most effective and radical medicines, even in our modern scientific age.

Rembert Dodoens (1517-1585) is often described as the father of botany.

From the 1530s Europe’s fascination with natural history grew leading to a botanical Renaissance.

In Tudor times herbs were used for their culinary, medicinal and strewing properties. Herbs would be strewn on the floors and surfaces of homes to deter insects and to disinfect, as well as for their fragrant qualities. From Medieval times, and no doubt before, herbs were associated with medicine, including in the monastic tradition

Rembert Dodoens was born Rembert Van Joenckema in Mechelen in 1517. At the time Mechelen was part of the Spanish Netherlands. Dodoens worked and travelled widely in Europe returning to his hometown in 1538 where he served as the town physician.

A physician and botanist, Dodoens’ beautifully illustrated Cruydeboeck (plant book) was first published in 1554. Dodoens divided the plant kingdom into six categories based on their properties. The work was published in the vernacular rather than Latin which heightened its popularity. In its various editions it became the most important botanical work of the late 16th century and the most translated book after the Bible.

In particular it dealt in detail with the medicinal properties of herbs. Many at that time would have seen it as a pharmacopoeia identifying plant-based compound medicines.

Dodoens’ Cruydeboeck was translated into English by the botanist and antiquary Henry Lyte (c.1529-1607) during Elizabeth I’s reign. Published under the title ‘A Nievve Herball, or Historie of Plantes: wherein is contained the whole discourse and perfect description of all sorts of Herbes and Plantes: their divers and sundry kindes, their strange Figures, Fashions, and Shapes…’ in 1578, the English version became a standard work and remained in use for some 200 years.

The early English translation illustrated, bound in later, early 20th century panelled calf binding, dates from 1578 and realised £3000 at Toovey’s.

In 1572 the Dutch population rose up against the Spanish occupation. Dodoens’ house was looted and burned. His reputation was such that the King of Spain, Philip II (1527-1598) invited him to become his personal physician. Dodoens instead chose to serve the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II (1527 1576) and his successor Rudolf II (1552-1612) as physician.

In 1582 Dodoens returned to the Netherlands where he took up the post of Professor of Medicine at the University of Leiden until he died in 1585.

Today we continue to explore the extraordinary possibilities of cures for diseases from and inspired by the natural world. There is still so much we do not understand more than 450 years after Dodoens wrote his Cruydeboeck. I hope the nations of the world will come together to protect the precious resource of the world’s forests and plants before they, their wonders and their blessings are lost to us.