Britain Retains Global Art Market Position

A detail of a Japanese Satsuma dish painted by Sozan for Kinkozan

In 2018 the Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Survey confirmed that the United Kingdom had regained its position from China as the second largest global art and antiques market behind the United States. Earlier this year it was announced that Britain had retained this position in 2019.
Given the scale of China’s market this is a remarkable achievement for the United Kingdom.

The British art and antique market is a significant sector in the UK economy. In 2019 the total annual value of art and antique exports broke through £9 billion for the first time whilst imports rose to £2.142 billion.

Britain is the second largest art and antique market in the world with a 20% global market share. It uniquely attracts high value items from around the world for sale recognising the profession’s expertise and ability to add value. These objects are sold, predominately at auction, to a global audience. Britain has the most varied and largest art and antiques market in Europe.

Back in 2013 Toovey’s, together with a small group of the UK’s leading regional auctioneers, was invited to China. The introduction of British auction practice and ethics was seen as an important part of this exchange in Beijing. A working relationship was also formed with Epai Live, China’s largest mainland online auction platform for the marketing of art and antiques, which continues to provide our clients with rare, direct access to this market.

Demand from China has had a profound effect on collectors’ markets.
The Chinese and Asian market for ceramics and works of art proved its resilience and strength at Toovey’s last week.

Our first specialist auction since the Covid-19 lockdown saw strong demand from China, Japan, the UK and Europe. Viewing and bidding at the salerooms by appointment proved popular whilst keeping people safe and successfully combined with interest and competition online, from the bank of telephones and commission bidders.

A fine Chinese polished bronze censer, mark of Xuande but Qing dynasty

One of my favourite lots in the sale was a fine Chinese polished bronze censer. Although of later date it bore the mark of the 15th century Ming Dynasty Emperor Xuande Its rectangular body was beautifully cast in low relief with an archaisitic dragon and keyfret band flanked by a pair of moulded lion mask handles. Raised on four scroll moulded bracket feet it measured just 5 ½ inches and realised £5200.

The Yonghe Lamasery, Beijing

It reminded me of my visit to the Buddhist Yonghe Lamasery in Beijing. There in the courtyards scores of young people lit their incense sticks placing them in giant bronze censers, their prayers rising with the clouds of incense to heaven. Inside towering gold figures provided windows into prayer.

There was a notable increase in competition for Japanese items. The finely painted Satsuma dish by Sozan for the Kinkozan workshop was decorated with two bijin in conversation beneath a pine tree and sold for £3800.
Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown enquiries and interest in art and antiques remained strong. It is exciting and hopeful to see that demand reflected in the confident return of sales with post lockdown prices at auction showing real strength as markets re-immerge.

 

Another Rare Louis Vuitton Trunk Discovered by Toovey’s

The recently discovered Louis Vuitton cabin trunk.

Toovey’s have unearthed another rare Louis Vuitton ‘Explorer’ travelling trunk.

This rare Louis Vuitton zinc covered ‘explorer’s’ cabin trunk (malle cabine) was produced circa 1895. The interior displays the original printed label numbered ‘33525’, and is comparable to the example we sold in October 2017 (read our blog post here). The current vendor having discovered our previous success was surprised by the value and decided to consign it with Toovey’s.

Louis Vuitton printed label
Louis Vuitton printed label

These trunks were issued in zinc and aluminium and were designed to withstand the extreme environments of the late 19th century explorer, giving the trunks their nickname.

This rare cabin trunk will be offered for sale at Toovey’s on Friday 6th December 2019 with a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000. Please contact Will Rowsell for any enquiries regarding this trunk.

Exceptional Thomas Sheraton Table Discovered in Sussex

Lot 2100 An important Regency mahogany revolving library table after a design by Thomas Sheraton

An exceptional Regency mahogany revolving library table, after a design by one of the most famous and important names in English furniture history, Thomas Sheraton, has been entered for sale at Toovey’s Auctioneers by a Sussex collector.

The table bears many of the hallmarks of the manufacturer Gillows of Lancaster who made furniture for the Duke of Norfolk at Arundel.

The table will be auctioned by Toovey’s at their Spring Gardens, Washington salerooms on Friday 8th November 2019 and carries a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-£30,000 (plus B.P.)

Important Eric Gill Carvings to be Auctioned in Sussex

Woodbarton
Woodbarton

An important group of seven carvings from the studio of the famous Ditchling-based artist Eric Gill A.R.A. (1882-1940) are to be auctioned at Toovey’s on Friday 13th September as part of their specialist sale of Arts & Crafts Furniture and Works of Art, commencing at 2.30pm.

I first came across this extraordinary collection of carvings from the workshop of the famous Ditchling-based artist Eric Gill at Woodbarton back in 2016. The house, built in 1920 in the heart of Ditchling Common, East Sussex, was designed by Gill for his associate, the poet and artist Desmond Chute (1895-1962). Chute only lived at Woodbarton for a few years before leaving for Rapallo in Italy, where he would be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1927. The house, though, continued to provide a home to artists associated with the Ditchling arts and crafts community of the Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic until very recently. It seems likely that the carvings at Woodbarton were not drawn from the Ditchling workshop’s commercial output.

Eric Gill was born in Steyning, West Sussex. In his formative years, he lived in both Brighton and Chichester. In 1900, he moved to London to train as an architect with the firm W.D. Caröe. He became ever more disaffected with this path, however, and took evening classes in stonemasonry at the Westminster Technical Institute and calligraphy at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. By 1903, Eric Gill had given up his architectural training to become a calligrapher, letter-cutter and monumental mason.

A carved and painted stone holy water stoup by Eric Gill

In 1907, Gill found himself drawn back to Ditchling. After the First World War, he founded the Roman Catholic Guild of St. Joseph and St. Dominic with Desmond Chute and the printer, writer and poet Hilary Pepler (1878-1951). This group of artists lived in community with their wives, children, associates and apprentices, upholding the principles of the medieval artisan artist.

Gill’s assistants at the Ditchling workshop included Joseph Cribb, John Skelton, Desmond Chute and a number of other apprentices. In ‘Eric Gill, The Inscriptions’ David Peace includes a preface by Eric’s brother, Evan Gill, written in 1964. Evan explains that it is not possible, or desirable, to attempt a segregation of work by Eric Gill and his assistants. In support of this Evan quotes Desmond Chute: ‘Everything made there was wholly inspired and entirely due to him [Eric Gill]. This does not necessarily mean that all works came wholly from his hand … he made ample use of the collaboration of fellow stone cutters, esteeming this a mutual benefit. Nor did he hesitate to set his name to work thus produced – metaphorically in most cases, for he did not hold with signed work.’ Many of the works ascribed to Eric Gill, like the pieces here, will have been wholly, or in part, workshop pieces. Thanks to their workshop, this Sussex village became a centre for the Arts and Crafts movement.

Eric Gill brought his artistic and architectural skills to bear when he designed Woodbarton. The carved and painted stone stoup was set into the hallway’s wall. It would have contained holy water for members of the Guild and visitors to bless themselves. It will be offered with a pre-sale estimate of £6,000-8,000 (plus BP*).

Carved Hopton Wood limestone devotional panel, “Considerate lilia agri…’, by Eric Gill

Amongst the finest of the carvings in this collection is the stone panel carved with meditative inscriptions, which was set into a bedroom wall in the house. This beautifully conceived devotional panel, carved in Hopton Wood limestone, is incised in Latin and English ‘Considerate lilia agri – Consider the lilies of the field’, which relates to a passage in St. Matthew’s Gospel.

In the sitting room, the fireplace was framed by a stone carving with a central cross. The stone was originally carved for the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral, as a frieze for one of Gill’s Stations of the Cross. It was broken in transit, so Gill used it as part of the chimneypiece at Woodbarton. It is estimated at £6,000-£10,000 (plus BP*).

Despite the controversy surrounding Gill’s personal life, these exceptional carvings, now removed from Woodbarton, form part of an important story in the history of both the Arts and Crafts movement and Modern British art in Sussex.

I would like to thank Jenny KilBride Roberts MBE DL and others for their generous input in cataloguing the carvings.

BP* – Buyer’s Premium 29.4% including VAT @ 20% (24.5% plus VAT) of the hammer price

Circe rediscovered after a century

Briton Riviere’s ‘Circe and the Companions of Ulysses’

It’s  been over 100 years since Briton Riviere’s Circe and the Companions of Ulysses was last seen in public.

The work, which features in Toovey’s September Fine Art Auction, propelled Riviere to fame after it was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1871.

Circe and the Companions of Ulysses is arguably Riviere’s most significant work to come to auction in recent years. It was first purchased by John Kynaston Cross, industrialist and Member of Parliament for Bolton, who served as Under Secretary of State for India during William Gladstone’s tenure as Prime Minister, until his death in 1887 when it was inherited by his wife. The first –  and we understand – only time it appeared at auction was in 1911, at Tooth & Tooth’s, where it sold to the enigmatic art dealer William Walker Sampson with the gavel falling at £385 (an enormous sum at that time). Since then its whereabouts was unknown until it was recently discovered by Toovey’s at a local deceased estate.

The oil on canvas painting depicts a scene from Homer’s Odyssey – Circe, a beautiful maiden who possesses magical powers, lures Ulysses’s men to a feast and slips a potion into their drinks that transforms the men into swine.

In an interview with Harry How published in The Strand Magazine, (1896), Riviere elaborated on the conception of the work:

 ‘I was living in Kent at the time I painted it, and I kept pigs there; as a matter of fact, three of them. I had styes made at the end of the garden. By-the-by, pigs are remarkably good sitters. I have had a pig in this very room. They are very easy to manage, and will do anything you require; they really become quite sociable in time. I painted the figure of Circe in London, having by that time moved to the Addison Road. I put in the figure two or three times from a model, but could never get it to my liking. At last I found a lady friend who suggested the long haired daughter of Helios admirably, and I got her to sit’.[1]

The picture was met with critical acclaim for the depiction of the swine after the picture’s first outing at the Royal Academy in 1871. Visitors to the exhibition also revelled in the enchanting scene; John Pye, the celebrated engraver and J.M.W. Turner’s great friend, wrote ‘a charming letter of thanks to the young painter for the pleasure his work had given.’[2] Frederick Stacpoole was engaged to engrave a reproduction of the painting in 1875 – the first of Riviere’s works to have had this honour – and both the painting and the engraving were sent to Philadelphia for the International Exhibition of 1876 where Riviere’s painting was singled out for a medal. Circe, by now world-famous, was exhibited for the final time in 1887 at the Royal Jubilee Exhibition in Manchester.

Circe and the Companions of Ulysses will be offered with an estimate of £30,000-50,000* in our Sale of Fine Art on September 5th at 10am.

[1] The Strand Magazine, vol 11, 1896, p.8

[2] Armstrong, Walter ‘Briton Riviere R.A.’ in the Art Annual, supplement to the Art Journal 1891, p.10

*excluding buyer’s premium see www.tooveys.com for details