“Rupert’s got his bow-tie on it’ll be alright now!”

Rupert Toovey with trademark bowtie on appointment in the downland village of Amberley, West Sussex amongst the hollyhocks, lavender and rambling roses bordering an abundant English country garden

My week has taken me from Amberley at the foot of the Sussex Downs to the villages and hamlets above Lewes, to Ferring, Shoreham Beach, Horsham and even Kensington – invited to value and share extraordinary collections with families and collectors. Each reflected the stories of their custodians, layered across generations and speaking of their lives and passions in that beautiful, eclectic English Country and Town House way.

Last week, for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak I donned my bowtie. I breezed into Toovey’s between appointments to find my friend and colleague William Rowsell valuing some beautiful Persian rugs. As he greeted me he remarked to our clients “Oh Rupert’s got his bow tie on it’ll all be alright now!” I have to own that I felt rather pleased. As you know I have a weakness for navy blue bowties with white spots – they’re joyful things. I have just managed to acquire three new ones – well Boris has asked us to shop for the nation – and I can now quarantine each of them for 72 hours as part of my health and safety policy for visiting people.

It’s funny how quickly we adapt to a new routine. As I arrive at people’s homes I ring the door bell and then, feeling rather like a naughty schoolboy, I run 2 metres back from the door turning to greet them. Well it’s important to see a smile and exchange a greeting safely before putting on a face mask and gloves.

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 breeze in the stunning early summer weather we’ve been enjoying. The blue skies and scudding clouds send my heart racing every day. Is it my imagination or are our skies bluer and more beautiful without the air pollution?

Amberley with its abundant cottage gardens filled with Hollyhocks, English Hidcote lavender and scented rambling roses provides a hope filled view as we move gently out of lockdown.

Our towns, villages and countryside have never looked more beautiful and even the bustling, leafy grandeur of Kensington has been slowed by Covid.

I am delighted to report that we have successfully reopened Toovey’s auction rooms to the public. Providing valuations and viewing for sales by appointment has proven really popular whilst keeping people safe, as has our home visit valuation service.

By the time you read this our first post Covid-19 auction of Chinese and Asian Ceramics and Works of Art, with an online catalogue, will have taken place. It has attracted strong interest from around the UK and the world. I’ll let you know how we get on!

Patrick Hughes – Reverspective

Patrick Hughes – ‘Poppish’, mixed media 3D multiple including archival inkjet and hand-painted acrylic, signed ‘A/P’, and editioned 13/15 in pencil, published by Reverspective Ltd, circa 2019

Patrick Hughes (b.1939) is acknowledged as being one of the major artists of contemporary British art.

He has been linked with the British Surrealists and Pop Art. However, in that very British way Patrick Hughes has followed his own particular artistic path.

He has been producing his reverse perspectives since 1970, calling them ‘reverspectives’. Speaking about his reverspectives Hughes is quoted as saying “When the principles of perspectives are reversed and solidified in sculpted paintings [and mixed media] something extraordinary happens; the mind is deceived into believing the impossible, that a static painting can move of its own accord.”

Born in Birmingham in October 1939 Patrick Hughes claims inspiration from his childhood whilst staying at his grandmother’s house. Growing up during the Second World War he would shelter from the bombing with his mother in a cupboard under the stairs. The reverse perspective afforded from seeing the stairs from below, and the infinite perspective formed by standing between two mirrors at his grandmother’s house speak into his reverspectives.

Today Patrick Hughes lives and works in London. His works are represented in many international collections including the British Library and the Tate Gallery.

The playful and visually arresting mixed media 3D multiple, ‘Poppish’, you see here was sold at Toovey’s for £2250. It initially appears to be a flat surface but even subtle movement by the viewer reveals the three-dimensional surface which underpins the composition, accentuating the depth of perspective which appears to shift with remarkable speed creating a sense of movement.

The illusion is created by depicting the scene in reverse to the relief surface – the most distant parts of the gallery interior are painted and printed on the bits of the relief surface which project the farthest. The rectilinear forms of the art gallery and paintings serve to heighten the illusory impact.

The surreal gallery space with its references to artists, in this case Roy Lichenstein, Damien Hirst, Keith Haring, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, Bansky and Hughes himself with his rainbow filled dustbin, is a common theme.

Patrick Hughes work allows us to explore our place in the world and our understanding of the space we inhabit in each moment of our lives.

Prints and editions range in date from the 15th to the 21st century and are one of the strongest markets at auction.

I remain excited by how strong the interest has been during the lockdown for a wide range of collectors’ items, antiques and art.

By the time you read this Toovey’s will have reopened and be able to welcome the public at its salerooms again by appointment. We have a series of specialist sales already scheduled for the coming weeks so do phone or email us to make an appointment to meet our valuers, virtually or in person.

Coronavirus COVID-19

We have now reopened. We have created a COVID Secure environment to ensure the safety of our staff and clients. As a result, certain aspects of our business will change in the short term.

We are returning with a temporarily smaller team, so please be patient when calling, emailing or visiting our salerooms.

For the latest information please visit https://www.tooveys.com/coronavirus/ 

We understand these are challenging times for everyone and very much appreciate your continued support.

The Art and Science of Fine Porcelain

The art of porcelain expressed in a pair of late 18th century Meissen Rococo bouquetière figures, a pair of early 19th century Coalport bucket shaped jardinères, and a later 19th century Vienna Neo-Classical charger

In the late 17th century ‘porcelain fever’ struck Europe. Petworth’s Elizabeth, Duchess of Somerset, was an avid collector of Chinese blue and white porcelain, a passion she shared with her friend, Queen Anne. Porcelain became associated with wealth and status and the balance of payments with China worsened.

The search for the mysteries of making hard-paste porcelain became the focus of alchemists (18th century chemical engineers) across Europe.

It was Johaan Friedrich Böttger (1682-1719) who invented European hard-paste porcelain at the Meissen factory under the patronage of Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. It is humbling to reflect that more money was invested to invent porcelain in Europe than it cost a later generation to put a man on the moon.

In 1731 Johaan Joachim Kändler (1706-1775) joined Meissen, becoming the chief modeller at the factory in 1733. Art and science came together to make Meissen the first and pre-eminent

Porcelain manufactory in Europe for much of the 18th century. Kändler moved effortlessly from the Baroque to the Rococo style.

The pair of late 18th centuy Meissen porcelain bouquetière figures illustrated are modelled after Kändler. They depict a lady and gentleman seated on rococo rockwork bases holding oval baskets. The vivid broad patches of coloured glazes in the costumes sets off the undecorated glittering areas of precious hard-paste porcelain. The figures are typically marked with underglaze blue crossed swords and incised numerals.

The beautiful Coalport porcelain jardinères, seen here without their stands, date from 1805, the same date as Nelson’s famous and tragic victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Based in Shropshire the factory was founded by John Rose. He ran it successfully until hs death in 1841. Although influenced by Sèvres porcelain Coalport has a particular English quality. The jardinères’ delicious bucket shape, yellow ground and soft gilt lines frame botanical studies of extraordinary delicacy and quality. They bear no marks and yet are perhaps the most valuable pieces shown here. Their attribution to Coalport was possible by comparison with a similar known jardinère illustrated in Michael Messenger’s ‘Coalport 1795-1926’.

The elaborately decorated porcelain charger was made at the Vienna factory in the 19th century. Vienna was the second factory to make hard-paste porcelain in Europe. From 1784 Konrad von Sorgenthal took over direction of the Vienna factory. Much of its output was influenced by the French late Neo-Classical style so closely associated with the tastes of Napolean Bonaparte, later Napolean I.

19th century production at the factory continued in the Sorgenthal style with Neo-Classical shapes and Empire decoration, though it was also influenced by the middle-class sensibilities of the Biedermeir.

The later 19th century Vienna porcelain charger is richly painted with classical figures in a harbourside setting. The pink ground border with its alternating chocolate brown enamelled and gilded panels opulently frames the scene. You see here that the decoration now entirely covers the porcelain. It is marked with an underglaze blue shield mark to the base.

At auction today these pieces would range from mid to high hundreds of pounds.

I am excited by how strong the interest has been during the lockdown for a wide range of collectors’ items, antiques and art.

All being well, and the ‘R’ number willing, Toovey’s will reopen to the public by appointment this coming Monday 15th June 2020. We have a series of specialist sales already scheduled for the coming weeks so do email us to make an appointment to meet our valuers, virtually or in person.

In an English Country Garden

Alfred William Parsons (1847-1929) – Garden Scene with Figure and Dogs, early 20th century oil on canvas, signed recto

Like so many of us I was blessed to spend the weekend in my English Country Garden. The purple Alliums that line the borders have been joined by brilliant orange Geums and an array of abundant, scented Roses whose colours and texture soothes the heart. They are complimented by violet Geraniums and the blue of the Salvia, their hues evolving in the light and heat of the day. As you process up the gravel path between the beds on either side the plants enfold and hold you.

It has once again caused me to reflect on how it must been for those who do not have a garden or access to a green space during the Covid-19 lockdown. I hope they will be blessed by the easing of restrictions with good social distancing allowing them to see some loved ones and keep safe.

Being in my garden brings to mind a Garden Scene we sold recently at Toovey’s for £2000. It was painted by Alfred William Parsons (1847-1920) in the early 20th century. Parsons was a Royal Academician. A very English artist, he worked as an illustrator, landscape artist and garden designer. He was recognised for giving voice to an ‘Englishness’ in his work which resonated with the American imagination.

Alfred Parsons brought art to the garden and his designs. He would produce ‘portraits’ of gardens and precise illustrations of botanical specimens. Parsons worked with the famous gardener, William Robinson, on several books. Alfred Parsons would design gardens in Britain and the United States. His transatlantic connections were strengthened through his membership of the Anglo-American ‘Broadway Group’. It was made up of artists and writers that included the author Henry James and artist John Singer Sargent. Broadway in the Cotswolds drew composers too, like Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The painting, Garden Scene, depicts that moment where spring turns to summer.

A black terrier lies panting, cooling herself on the stone flags beneath the scented Jasmine. The striking blue Agapanthus line the path and invite us into the scene as a young woman, carrying a wicker basket, catches the attention of a Jack Russell with a treat. At the back of the border a climbing rose holds our eye.

I am excited by how strong the demand is for a wide range of collectors’ items, antiques and art like this Alfred Parsons oil at the moment, and by the number of people booking appointments for auction valuations.