Worth the weight? ~ Rare silver sold at auction by Toovey’s

A rare Scottish provincial silver teaspoon, Stonehaven, circa 1840

There has been plenty of media attention recently regarding the price of precious metals as a commodity. Most newspapers and magazines will have an advert for a company offering to pay ‘top prices’ for gold and silver. Some companies have even resorted to pay for advertising on television to attract large quantities of precious metals. The government is also in the process of passing new laws to try and combat the rise in metal thefts. With prices for ‘scrap’ metal so high, many people overlook the antique object to literally cash-in on its more obvious intrinsic value in ounces. Toovey’s January auction of Antiques, Fine Art & Collectors’ Items included a privately entered single-owner collection of early English and Scottish provincial spoons and other silverware (Lots 350 to 394). The oldest example was a seal top spoon from 1580, made by Nicholas Bartholomew during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. One would hope, having survived this long, it was never in danger of ending up in the melting pot. Early pieces of silver have always been prized amongst collectors, this example was no exception, selling for £2000.

The rarest spoon in the collection however, was arguably a little less obvious. Lot 380 was a rare Scottish provincial Fiddle pattern teaspoon (illustrated above). Like many items of cutlery it was engraved with a previous owner’s initials ‘WSD’. As a provincial Scottish item it did not display the usual hallmarks one would associate with silver from England of the same date. English hallmarks generally would comprise of five marks: sterling, town of assay, date letter, maker’s mark and sovereign’s head. Instead it was marked ‘A.G, S, T, O, N, H, N’ (illustrated below). The ‘A.G.’ is the maker’s mark for Alexander Glenny, the remaining combination of letters indicate that the spoon was made at Stonehaven where Glenny worked circa 1840. This is of particular importance as it is one of the rarest of all Scottish provincial town marks. As Toovey’s catalogue stated, items of Stonehaven silver that can be confidently ascribed are extremely rare with only a handful known to survive. Only items with this combination of marks should be considered of definite Stonehaven manufacture. Because of this collectable mark and its rarity, this 13.5cm long teaspoon attracted the interest of commission and telephone bidders, but finally sold in the room against this competition for £2900. Being a teaspoon it weighed very little, just 13 grams – if it had been condemned to the melting pot on its weight alone, one would have received under £10 for it at the current prices paid for silver. Thus, reinforcing the importance of checking the collectable and rarity value of silver and gold with our team of specialist valuers before ‘cashing-in’ on an object’s scrap value. If you would like to organise a free pre-sale valuation of your silver, please do not hesitate to contact Toovey’s for more information.

Stonehaven silver marks on the rare teaspoon

Consumed by Art: Jim Sanders

04 Shrines in the artist's kitchen
Shrines by Jim Sanders in the artist's kitchen

Jim Sanders is a Brighton-based artist who believes art should be timeless, as opposed to a fashion-led commodity. Through his art, he wants to convey the common concerns, or fundamentals of life: religion, birth, love, sex and death. Nicholas Toovey tells us more.

Jim Sanders

Jim was born in Solihull and raised in Redditch, he did a degree in graphic design and illustration, but soon discovered that the industry was heavily reliant on computers rather than drawing. The degree did however reinforce his love for assemblage and creativity. He moved to Brighton in 1998 deciding to escape his “red brick and concrete 1960s overspill” town in Warwickshire. Does Sussex inspire him? Only in part, he loves spending time ‘people-watching’ in town, and as his work is often figurative, he admits that must be an inspiration. Jim’s work however, is far more influenced by his childhood and his catholic upbringing. He is now interested in all manner of beliefs for what they convey – “I like the imagination of it and the related stories”.

Hybris by Jim Sanders
Totems by Jim Sanders
The Solitaires by Jim Sanders

With the exception of his graphic design degree, Jim received no formal training in fine art. This creates a refreshingly naive appeal to his work. His ethos is most akin to ‘outsider art’, this is work usually created by the mentally ill who are untrained and unaware of the art world or art history but whom enjoy the process of making art. Because he is of sound mind and often dips into reference books to further his appreciation of art he quips “I am outside the outsiders, but also outside the insiders!”. His output is primitive and this is often achieved by working with children; they have an unrivalled naivety when painting, born from their unique imagination and executed with an undiluted freshness that is not constrained by conformity. This process first started whilst teaching art to home-schooled children, but developed with the help of two boys, Apollo and Hermes. The eight and ten year-olds often visit Jim’s studio and collaborate with him. The three work together, doodling and getting basics on the canvas, sometimes with direction from Jim, but more often without. Jim then continues to work and develop these basics into a finished work of art. In addition to Apollo and Hermes, Jim often collaborates with other creative types, including poets, musicians and other artists.

Jim regularly creates work in a series; arguably one of the most imposing of these was a group of twenty ‘Totems’ that show his passion for assemblage. Created from found and salvaged materials, such as bottle tops and rusty tools, the totems adopt an autobiographical element, particularly his Catholic background, with each totem reflecting altarpieces and votive offerings. They were exhibited at the Pheonix Gallery, Brighton in 2007. The ‘Totems’ informed his next series, the ‘Shrines’, these are created in his kitchen also from found materials, the Shrines are continually added to with objects sourced for the unknown stories that they tell.

The route of all of Jim’s work is drawing. Whether it be from sketches created with the children he taught, drawings he makes whilst out and about, or ‘automatic’ doodles he makes at the kitchen table whilst cooking dinner. From a selection of over 400 drawings on scraps of paper, twenty figures have been translated in mixed media onto 2.5m high hessian banners, the reverse is plain black with poetry supplied by Xelis de Toro, when displayed in an installation this is all the viewer sees at first. After being lead through, the viewer turns to face ‘The Solitaires’, a powerful crowd of imposing figures that mirror facets of the viewer’s own personality.

Jim Sanders' Studio
Apostasy by Jim Sanders
Now That The Living Outnumber The Dead by Jim Sanders

Jim works from his Brighton home, one room is dedicated to his studio, where pictures in progress cover every wall. Hessian is stacked on the floor, which doubles up as the artist’s easel. Due to the courser weave of the hessian, paint seeps through to the sheets below creating all important layers and textures for future paintings. The rest of the house is dedicated to his work, the utilitarian bedroom has a bed and a wardrobe, but the walls are yet again filled with paintings, as is the staircase, kitchen and music room (he is the drummer in the Country-Punk band ‘The Crucks’), even the bathroom has works of art above and even in the bath. Jim has no settee in the house – “sofa’s are for people who watch tv” and with the absence of a television in his home you cannot argue with his logic. Every waking hour Jim dedicates to the creative process, art is his life and he is consumed by it. Jim’s work can often be obtained at Ink’d, Brighton, or direct from the artist. He hopes one day to own a building, ideally a church, filled with a lifetime of his work, creating a permanent museum or ornate temple of his work. For now his home is a diminutive version of what he will hopefully one day create. He is always open to showing people around his house and studio, in its ever fluctuating state, and a visit can be arranged by contacting him via his website.

The thought of penniless artists was arguably a romanticised Victorian notion intended to encourage patronage, but Jim, choosing to fulfil his desire for creativity, probably does fit into this category. More often than not he lives off £50 a week, but remains incredibly upbeat, “I’m not poor, I am rich from the art that surrounds me… the only time I get frustrated is when I have to choose between buying new paint or a loaf of bread”. Although his work is instantly recognisable as his own, he signs his work ‘SANS’, a shortened version of his surname and a synonym of without.

The imagery Jim creates is without question intriguing, even if it sometimes borders on the macabre. The dark undertones of some works only reflect the rudimentary elements of life, it is our own fears and taboos of the subject that can make his work haunting and uncomfortable. This does not make it any less brilliant. Jim paints and creates for himself, driven solely by his desire to be artistic. Although pound notes are always welcome, appreciation of his oeuvre, it seems, is payment enough.

Words such as ‘naive’ and ‘primitive’ may appear derogatory, but the art world has always had a place for this approach to creating work and if anything, it is often considered an accolade. One can look at the folk art of the 19th century or artists of the 20th century, such as Lawrence Stephen Lowry, Helen Bradbury, Fred Yeats and Alfred Williams, all of whom are highly collected names on the resale market today. Will Jim Sanders join this list of artists in the future? You can never be certain, but one thing is for sure – he definitely deserves to.

For more visit www.jimsanders-sans.com

Nicholas’ article was originally published in Sussex Life magazine in January 2012.

The Forester and Troughton-Smith Family Archive

A selection of items from The Forester and Troughton-Smith Family Archive

Toovey’s are pleased to announce that they have been instructed to offer at auction a unique archive chronicling the life and career of the author C.S. Forester. This exceptional collection offers a combination of books that belonged to Forester himself, books inscribed to his second wife, and books which he presented to his nephew. In addition to these books, the archive includes various material relating to C.S. Forester, including a bronze sculpture, documents, letters and some fascinating ephemera.

Much like his most famous literary creations, Forester was in a number of ways a contradictory character. Born in Egypt to English parents on 27 August 1899, Forester’s birth certificate gives his name as Cecil Louis Troughton Smith but he took up the nom de plume of Cecil Scott Forester when he started writing. Unusually, he then took the reinvention a stage further and used ‘C.S. Forester’ in his everyday as well as his literary life. Brought up in England, the product of the English Public school system, Forester chose to spend much of his working life in California but nevertheless found his greatest success with a book about an unlikely odd couple in Central Africa during the 1st World War (The African Queen), and a whole series about an English naval hero during the Napoleonic war (the story of Horatio Hornblower). The creator of an archetypal action hero, Forester was in contrast left a partial invalid in his forties as a result of arteriosclerosis. In 1961 he suffered a severe heart attack and was largely immobilized in 1964 after a stroke. He died in California on 2nd April 1966.

Forester married his first wife, Kathleen Belcher, in 1926. They had two children, John and George, but divorced in 1945. In 1947, he married Dorothy Ellen Foster; the marriage was initially kept secret and was not publicly acknowledged until February 1949. The couple continued to live in California until Forester’s death. They had remained close to Forester’s nephew Stephen Troughton-Smith, who viewed Forester as a father-like figure. Sometime after Forester’s death, Dorothy chose to move back to Sussex, England, to be closer to her family. Later, Dorothy was looked after by Stephen and his wife, who, when she became increasingly frail, moved in with her.

After Dorothy’s death on 10th June 1998, the books, sculpture and other important related items that her husband had given or bequeathed to her, together with the books that they had both been given by grateful publishers, were left to Stephen Troughton-Smith. Mr Troughton-Smith combined these books with the books that C.S Forester had inscribed to him and a few other related items to form the Forester and Troughton-Smith Family Archive. Stephen Troughton-Smith died earlier this year and a family decision was made to offer the contents of the archive to a wider audience and thus enhance C.S. Forester’s already solid reputation as one of the great British novelists of the 20th Century.

The archive will be offered for sale at Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms as part of their Antiquarian and Collectors’ Books auction on 21st February 2012, to view the free online auction catalogue click here.

Further images of the Forester and Troughton-Smith Family Archive:

(Please click on an image for full-view and again for further magnification)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel & The Great Eastern ABC

Great Eastern A.B.C., or Big Ship Alphabet Children's Book

Many regular followers of Toovey’s auctions will remember the remarkable single-owner collection, the Brunel Hawes Archive, offered for sale in November 2010. All items were entered by a descendant of Sir Marc Isambard Brunel. Sir Marc was an eminent engineer, but arguably overshadowed by his son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The prices realised at the single-owner sale undoubtedly provided a market correction in values for items relating to the Brunel family at auction. With the accompanying national press attention after such a sale, some other Brunel-related material was entered by other vendors and successfully sold at Toovey’s Sussex auction house throughout 2011. This year looks set to be no different, with a very interesting children’s book already consigned and entered for the specialist Antiquarian and Collectors’ Book auction on 21st February. Titled The Great Eastern ABC, or, Big Ship Alphabet. Designed alike for the instruction of youth and the entertainment of all ages and conditions, the 16-page book (including the printed wrappers) is a surprising rarity, published just after the death by drowning of Captain Harrison on 21st January 1860.

It has 26 hand-coloured wood-engraved vignettes, one for each alphabetic couplet, including a pasted-over slip below a portrait of Harrison standing on deck, stating ‘H stood for poor Harrison – How sad was his fate! / It now stands for Hall, appointed of late’, perhaps making this charming book an unrecorded variant or second issue of an already scarce title. The original version published in time to be noted in ‘The Athenaeum Journal’ of 28th January 1860 and ‘The Economist’ of 14 January 1860, stated ‘H is for Harrison her skilful commander, / None can excel him (without any slander)’.

Every page in the book has delightful vignette illustrations but perhaps the most interesting from a collector’s point of view is a portrait of Isambard Kingdom Brunel above ‘B stands for Brunel that famed engineer, / With whom, it is said, arose the idea’. The children’s book is bound in the original printed thin card wrappers, the upper cover blocked with the title and integral vignette, the backstrip reinforced with 19th Century paper. The little book does have minor condition issues, including a little damp-staining, but for a paperback book of this age, intended for the use of children, it has survived in remarkably good condition. Perhaps this is the reason it is such a rarity, or perhaps it is because sales were poor as the boat’s subsequent ill-fated career proved to be a far from ideal example for young children. This is speculation, but Toovey’s have not been able to find another copy of the same title selling at auction in the last thirty years. This wonderful collector’s book will be offered at Toovey’s Washington salerooms with the potentially conservative pre-sale estimate of £1000-1500. (Please click on an image to make it larger, and again for further magnification)