A World Record £260,000 for a Japanese Gold Coin at Toovey’s

The obverse and reverse of the record breaking Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin from 1870

A Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin dating from 1870 has just sold at Toovey’s for £260,000. A world record price at auction.

Measuring just 3.2cm the coin’s obverse is decorated with a dragon design within a beaded border surrounded by a frame of characters, whilst the reverse has a sunburst flanked by banners between Imperial kiku and kiri mon. It is in extremely fine condition.

Toovey’s valuer and auctioneer William Rowsell, describes how he discovered the coin on a routine visit to a family home in Walberton, West Sussex. He says “There were a small group of gold coins in a brown envelope. This one coin particularly stood out as being Japanese and worth further research.”

William continues “I returned to Toovey’s salerooms with a car full of an eclectic array of collectors’ items including the coin. I showed it to our specialist Mark Stonard who immediately identified it as being an extremely rare Japanese Meiji ten yen Year 3 pattern gold coin, the first coin of its type after Japanese decimalisation in 1870.”

Mark Stonard explains “This type of coin was originally intended for general issue but it was too fragile and the design was changed to a smaller thicker design. Only four examples of this coin were known to exist before our discovery, one is in the British Museum, one is in the Bank of Japan Collection, and two were auctioned in the USA in 2011 and 2014. The die anomalies in the coin’s striking were identified as being correct by comparing them to those found on the example in the British Museum.”

William Rowsell describes how the seller, a keen genealogist, was able to provide the most remarkable provenance. He says “The coin had come to them by family descent from George Henry Williamson Esquire of Worcester [1845-1918]. George Williamson was a former mayor of Worcester, a manufacturer and a Conservative politician. But the vendor thought that it was likely that this coin was originally acquired by George’s father, William Blizard Williamson [1811-1878]. Mr Williamson was a tinsmith from Cork who eventually settled in Worcester, where he founded the Providence Tinplate Works in 1858. George and his brother William Blizard the younger took over the company after their father’s death. George Williamson deposited this coin with several others for some time at Lloyds Bank in Worcester, incorrectly labelling it ‘Chinese gold piece’, suggesting that he was unaware of its significance.”

It is always exciting to discover something that has lain undiscovered and forgotten, especially when it realises a world record price of £260,000. There is much talk about the value of precious metals but the collectors’ value is so often much higher than the bullion price.

William Rowsell, Mark Stonard and the seller are still celebrating this remarkable coin, its discovery and the result.

Joseph Farquharson: Scottish Realist Painter

Joseph Farquharson – Scottish Valley with Corn Stooks and River, early 20th century oil on canvas

Contemporary Scotland and her people bless our nation as they have always done with their entrepreneurial skills, internationalism, gifts of leadership, art and culture.

Scotland is often viewed through the lens of her art, literature and culture.

Amongst the leading Scottish realist painters was Joseph Farquharson RA (1846-1935). He was famous for his snow covered winter landscapes which often incorporated sheep and livestock native to his beloved Scotland. His finest works usually include figures working in the landscape.

Born in Edinburgh Farquharson painted from a young age and loved nothing more than being on the family Highland estate Finzean in Aberdeenshire which he inherited from his brother. He studied under the popular Scottish landscape painter Peter Graham whose influence is apparent in Farquharson’s own work. Like fellow Aberdeen artists John Philip and William Dyce, Joseph Farquharson moved to London

After 1880 Farquharson spent a number of winters in Paris where he was taught by Charles Auguste Émile Durand. Durand taught him to work directly onto the canvas and to think in terms of form and colour. Like the 19th century French realist artists Farquharson painted ‘en plein air’. Indeed the artist Walter Sickert compared Farquharson’s work to the famous French realist painter Gustave Courbet. With the harsh Scottish weather Farquharson constructed a painting hut on wheels complete with a large glass window and stove. His art, like his paintings’ titles, often drew inspiration from the poets Burns, Milton, Shakespeare and Gray

At the Royal Academy he was elected an Associate in 1900, a Royal Academician in 1915 and a senior Royal Academician in 1922. He was a prolific painter exhibiting not only at the Royal Academy but also at the Royal Society of Arts and Tate Gallery.

Joseph Farquharson – Girl playing Croquet on a Summers Day, late 19th/early 20th century oil on canvas

The two oils on canvas, both by Joseph Farquharson, sold at Toovey’s for £11000 and £5000.

Whilst the subjects of the two paintings you see here are not typical of Farquharson’s oeuvre they do display many of the qualities characteristic of his work.

The study of the young girl playing croquet on a lawn bordered by roses and summer flowers highlights Farquharson’s skill as a figurative painter. He handles the paint richly, employing light and colour to give form to his subject.

The summer landscape with its rows of corn stooks is bathed in the soft, warm dawn light for which he was famous. The meandering river is a common feature in his landscapes. This romantic view of Scotland still resonates with us today.

Contemporary Scotland and her people bless our nation, as they have always done, with their entrepreneurial skills, internationalism, gifts of leadership, art and culture. I hope the Scots realise the great affection in which they are held throughout the United Kingdom and will choose to continue to accompany us in the 21st century.

Lars Tharp and the Art of Chinese Porcelain

Antiques Roadshow specialist Lars Tharp holding a Chinese Imari dish

It is always a pleasure to find my friend Lars Tharp, the regular Antiques Roadshow contributor, at Toovey’s salerooms. Lars has worked at Toovey’s as a consultant specialist for more than twenty-five years with Tom Rowsell.

I find Lars in the oriental department where he is discussing a beautifully decorated early 18th century Chinese Imari porcelain dish with Tom. They explain that the dish has been entered for auction at Toovey’s on 27th January 2022 with an estimate of £500-£1000.

Lars Tharp says “Millions of pieces of Chinese porcelain arrived in Europe each year during the 1700s.”

“The Europe-China trade started from the 1300s transported at first overland along the so-called Silk Road, and later in larger quantities by sea via the Portuguese, then the Dutch and then via the English and other European East India companies.”

“This piece, for display or for a dinner service, reached Europe shortly after 1710, [it’s contemporary to] the start of the Meissen factory, Europe’s first maker of true porcelain.”

A Chinese Imari porcelain dish, circa 1720

Lars’ hand moves across the dish as he describes the decoration “The pattern is a playful trompe l’oeil-it deceives the eye with one design seemingly laid upon another. The ‘scroll’ – an all-but-empty oblong – depicts a traditional Chinese (or Japanese) ‘hand-scroll’ painting, unfurled from the left, with the already viewed portion rolling up on the right. Its exposed four corners reach the very rim of the dish and partially overlap a vigorous blue scroll strewn with gold lotus flowers. The hollowed-out fleshy scrolls are more European than Chinese in form. They are painted using a pencilling technique, typical of blue and white designs of the 1720s.”

“While the dish employs a Japanese ‘Imari’ colour scheme (underglaze blue, overglaze iron red and gold), this piece is clearly Chinese, as seen in the sharpness of the rim and underside edges as well as the clarity of the transparent glaze. It was made around 1720 when Japanese manufacturers were beginning to charge more for their wares than those emerging from the revived Chinese kilns in Jingdezhen. A tiny detail points to the circa 1720 date, the painting of the bird, it is minutely picked out in green and yellow – transparent enamels from the so-called famille-verte (green family) palette which in the 1720s was soon to be overtaken by the famille-rose palette of opaque enamels.”

He concludes “The plate wittily combines many influences and further examples of the pattern are recorded in the Mottahedeh Collection, in the Peabody Museum, the British Museum and in the Dresden Porzellan Samlung.”

Lars Tharp has always been a passionate advocate for the Art of Chinese Porcelain – a specialist field which continues to delight collectors from across the world and the market remains strong. Alongside this there are once again signs of growth as Japanese ceramics and objects begin to rise in value.

Eric Ravilious Exhibition Unites Sussex and Wiltshire

Eric Ravilious – The Wilmington Giant, watercolour © V&A

The artist Eric Ravilious found inspiration in the Downland landscapes of Sussex and Wiltshire This inspiration is central to the exhibition Eric Ravilious Downland Man at the Wiltshire Museum Devizes.

The exhibition highlights how Ravilious’ work was rooted in the landscape and life of England.

During Eric Ravilious’ lifetime watercolour painting underwent a revival. This most English of mediums and traditions was fused with modern ways of seeing and painting. He found a very English corrective to modernism resulting in his emotionally cool and intensely structural paintings.

These Downland watercolours are all the more extraordinary when considered against the backdrop of the outbreak of war and highlight Ravilious’ fascination with the importance of place and moments in time.

In December, shortly after the outbreak of war on the 3rd September 1939 Ravilious toured and recorded England’s chalk figure sites. The Long Man of Wilmington was familiar to Ravilious from his childhood. Ravilious likened the ‘Wilmington Giant’, near Eastbourne, with a figure of Virgo holding staves in the frescoes of San Gimignano by Bartolo di Fredi of ‘Scenes from Creation’.

Ravilious painted The Wilmington Giant in watercolour. He employed a dry brush leaving plenty of the white paper showing through. You can see the influence of the artist’s printmaking. The textures are reminiscent of hatching adding to the suggestion of distant hills, the corn moving in the breeze and the scudding light over the surface of the landscape. The taut, purposeful barbed wire fence draws our eye through the composition to the giant’s feet. The irregular square mesh of the fence adds to the sense of movement. Wire from a leaning post frames the giant. This is a landscape which speaks of the English and the ancient.

Eric Ravilious – The Westbury Horse, watercolour © Towner Gallery

Like the Long Man at Wilmington the Westbury Horse in Wiltshire would have been visible from the train. The white horse is carved into the uneven contours of the hillside which are accentuated once again in the hatched brush strokes. I love the train crossing the grey plain beyond the ridge set beneath the shimmering sky.

The exhibition highlights that Ravilious’ sensibility was modern but his techniques were not. Texture, light and movement connect the artist’s work to the English Romantic tradition but with a particular and fresh voice. It is at once figurative and yet highly stylized. Watercolour, a most English of mediums, is fused with modern ways of seeing and painting. His graphic, linear approach to the medium resulted in a very English Modernism. This superb exhibition allows us to re-examine Ravilious’ fascination with the importance of place capturing particular moments in time.

Eric Ravilious Downland Man runs at the Wiltshire Museum Devizes until 30th January 2022, for more information visit www.wiltshiremuseum.org.uk.