Inspired by Nature

A pair of Victorian novelty silver owl salt and pepper, London 1879, by Thomas Johnson II, height 6.5cm © Toovey’s 2021

As lockdown eases and the busyness of life begins to return I am making conscious punctuation marks in my life to continue to walk and be. To shut out the white noise of the demands of life, to inhabit the landscape and my garden and be truly present giving thanks to God for these blessings. Nature seems to have taken on an abundance and grown in our imaginations in these times. The delight in nesting Goldfinches, a Thrush busy tidying our garden of snails, the pickly Blackbirds flicking the soil from the borders onto the paths and terrace as they search for food, and the proud Robins at play in the bird bath as the Woodpecker taps out his tune against the old Weeping Pear.

The Victorians shared this fascination and delight in birds, wildlife and nature, made popular by Queen Victoria. Nature inspired their decorative arts and artists as it does today.

I love the expressions on the faces of the late Victorian novelty silver salt and pepper modelled as a pair of owls. Their glass eyes gift them with such life and character, they remind me a bit of E H Shepard’s wonderful depictions of Owl in Winnie the Pooh. As they stand looking at you their finely engraved plumage shimmers in the light. These fine objects were made by Thomas Johnson II who was well known for his novelty silver birds and animals. Hallmarked in London in 1879 they bear the mark of the Bond Street retailers, W. Thornhill & Co. If you fancy a pair of novelty silver owl condiments they and will be offered for sale in Toovey’s specialist silver auction on 12th May with an estimate of £800-£1200.

A pair of Elizabeth II novelty silver duck sauce boats, London 1973, By Asprey & Co Ltd, length 21.5cm © Toovey’s 2021

The pair of Asprey & Co Elizabeth II silver novelty sauceboats and stands are modelled as a pair of ducks and sold for £2200 earlier in the year highlighting the continued appeal of silver inspired by nature. They seem to glide as if on water, their finely cast and chased plumage giving them light and life. The oval stands are engraved with simulated water adding to the effect. And the matched silver ladles, engraved with feathers, are by Roberts & Belk.

There is a danger that as we return to our cars in our increasingly urbanised lives that we will once again be separated from the joys and importance of nature. I hope that our MPs and newly elected local politicians will use their positions and power to honour and maintain the rural, agricultural nature and needs of Sussex and her farmers with the undoubted need for more homes, and that the new developments will be designed to allow us to live and flourish with nature.