We will remember them

A photographic postcard of the reconstruction of a French battlefield in Trafalgar Square, London, for the ‘Feed the Guns’ War Bond campaign in 1918, courtesy of Toovey’s

The coming Remembrance Sunday will be particularly poignant falling exactly 100 years after the Great War’s Armistice which came into force at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

The spring of 1918 saw an intensification of fighting as the Germans mounted an offensive to break through the Allies line. Despite some initial gains it sparked the Allies’ counter offensive which became known as the Hundred Days Offensive. It began on the 8th August 1918 with the Battle of Amiens, involving 400 tanks and 120,000 British, Dominion and French troops. By the end of the first day a 15 mile hole in the German line had been won. The offensive continued and in the following four weeks some 100,000 German soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. Germany realised she had lost the war although fierce fighting continued. The Allies pressed forward. The Armistice with Germany was signed early on the morning of the 11th November 1918 in a railway carriage in Compiègne. Northern France.

After the war there was a great movement to create memorials. Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to create the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall.

Charles Sargeant Jagger – No Man’s Land, brown patinated cast bronze rectangular relief plaque, first conceived 1919-1920 © Toovey’s 2018

The artist Charles Sargeant Jagger had given up his Rome scholarship at the outbreak of war and initially joined the Artists’ Rifles before being commissioned into the Worcestershire Regiment in 1915. He served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for Gallantry. His Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner is amongst his most famous work. Jagger’s bronze ‘No Man’s Land’ shows a listening post in No Man’s Land. A soldier hides among the bodies of his dead comrades in order to listen to the enemy close by.

Courage and sacrifice will be remembered in churches across Britain, Europe and America. The common story and Christian heritage which unites us will be expressed in services of Remembrance and thanksgiving. Once again these familiar bidding words will be heard:
“We have come to remember before God those who have died for their country in the two world wars and the many conflicts of the years that have followed. Some we knew and loved: we treasure their memory still. Others are unknown to us: to their remembrance too, we give our time…With thanksgiving we recall services offered and sacrifices made…”

Early in the war Laurence Binyon wrote ‘For the Fallen’ as he sat upon the Rumps in north Cornwall. These words are often spoken as an exhortation after the two minutes silence has been observed:
‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.’

I hope that each of us will be able to find time in this Remembrance weekend to reflect, offering thanks and prayers for the courage of successive generations who have been called, and continue to be called, to defend the greater cause of liberal democracy, justice and concord.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Asian Art Preview in London

Bowman Sculpture Gallery

Toovey’s will be previewing items from their Single-owner Collection of Asian Art and items already consigned for their auction of Asian Art on 29th November. The preview coincides with Asian Art in London’s Late Night Opening Tours in St James’.

Alongside other members of the Association of Accredited Auctioneers, like Halls, Forum Auctions, Cheffins, Ewbanks and Chorleys, Toovey’s Asian Art specialist Tom Rowsell and Will Rowsell will be at Bowman Sculpture gallery at 6 Duke Street, St James’s, London, SW1Y 6BN, between 12 noon and 9pm.

Remember, Remember the fifth of November

Bonfire night celebrated with family and friends © Serena Toovey, 2018

I love bonfire night. The beauty of the flashing fireworks against the dark sky, the whizzes, pops and bangs, the mist of drifting smoke and the smell of gunpowder on a cold, still November night are, for me, truly evocative.

Bonfire night gatherings have become a celebration of the coming together of family and friends. It is an important marker in my year.

Amidst our excitement, though, it is easy to forget that fireworks on Bonfire Night commemorate a particularly bloody and turbulent time in our island’s history.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was an attempt by provincial, English Roman Catholics to blow up the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament, in order to assassinate James I of England (VI of Scotland) and install his nine-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, on the throne as a Roman Catholic head of state. The plot, led by Robert Catesby, was revealed by means of an anonymous letter. Famously, Guy Fawkes was discovered with thirty-six barrels of gunpowder during a search of the House of Lords at midnight on 4th November 1605. He and his seven surviving accomplices were tortured, tried, convicted of high treason, and sentenced to death. He was hung, drawn and quartered.

Flashing fireworks against a cold, still, November night sky © Serena Toovey, 2018

The Roman Catholic priest Henry Garnet was also hung, drawn and quartered in connection with the Gunpowder Plot. Many historians believe that having heard of the plot during confession, Garnet felt bound to tell no one. Instead, they claim he wrote secretly to Rome urging the Vatican to dissuade Catholics from such action but, sadly, there was no response to his plea. When fear overtakes understanding and tolerance it is often innocent and good people who bear the consequences.

The shadow of history often has much to say to our own times. In a world which is portrayed as being filled with deeply held divisive views, terrorism and violence our response should not be to retreat into fear and hatred. Rather we should uphold the qualities of reason, tolerance and fairness which are still to be found at the heart of our nation’s traditions and identity. These qualities were seeded, though not perfected, during the reign of Elizabeth I and articulated in the liturgy of her Book of Common Prayer.

Rupert Toovey enjoying a sparkler © Serena Toovey, 2018

As a nation it is vital that we guard against replacing past animosities with new mistrust and prejudice between political views and parties, faiths and peoples. If we do not, it will be the innocent who bear the consequences. Perhaps this year’s Bonfire Night can be a time to acknowledge our country’s history and celebrate the contemporary diversity of our nation in a spirit of fondness and understanding.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

 

Important London Collection of Asian Art to be Sold in Sussex

Toovey’s Asian Art specialist, Tom Rowsell, with one of a pair of rare Chinese Qianlong period cloisonné enamel elephants from an important London single owner collection of Asian Art

This week I am in the company of Toovey’s Director and Asian Art specialist, Tom Rowsell, who has just finished preparations for the sale of an important London single – owner collection of Asian Art.

I ask Tom how the collection looked in the collector’s London home and he replies “Many of the pieces were beautifully displayed around the house, but it was when I discovered and began to unpack boxes and go through the shelves in an upstairs room that the scale and importance of this collection became apparent. The collection had remained largely untouched for 40 or 50 years. The vast majority of the pieces are from the imperial Kangxi (1654-1722), Yongzheng (1723-1735) and Qianlong (1735-1796) periods of the late 17th and 18th centuries.”

Tom explains how today’s Chinese collectors are following in the tradition of the Qianlong emperor who was the last of the great imperial art collectors and patrons in Chinese history. His genuine passion for art and collecting seems to have been inspired by his grandfather, the Kangxi emperor (1654-1722), and his uncle Yinxi (1711-1758).

The Qianlong emperor was prolific in his collecting applying an exceptional personal connoisseurship. His collection would number more than a million objects.

The Qianlong emperor took a personal interest in porcelain production and was an ardent patron and collector of it. Many of the types of porcelain associated with the Qianlong emperor, however, were seeded under the Emperor Yongzheng’s supervisor of the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, Tang Ying (1682-1756).

A garniture of five Chinese Yongzheng period (1723-1735) porcelain vases estimated at £15,000-£25,000 from an important London single owner collection of Asian Art

My eye is taken by a rare and beautiful garniture of five Chinese porcelain Yongzheng period vases. Tom comments “Yongzheng porcelain is known for the quality of its glazes, these vases are very fine quality. It’s very unusual to find a set of five still together in such remarkable condition. The finely enamelled decoration with its delicate flowers and landscapes has wonderful fresh colours. Look at the subtle, recessed panels with their moulded borders. Lovely details – these would have probably been made for an important European home.”

Tom continues “Toovey’s are one of a very small number of UK auctioneers with the ability to market online directly to mainland Chinese collectors through our working relationship with Epai Live, China’s largest mainland online auction platform for the marketing of art and antiques. This collection will certainly attract Chinese and overseas buyers as well as UK interest. We will be exhibiting the collection’s highlights at the international Asian Art Fair in London on the 4th November before it returns to Sussex to be sold.”

Today’s Chinese collectors are as passionate in their collecting as their imperial forebears and the market shows no signs of abating.

This important single owner collection will be auctioned at Toovey’s on Thursday 29th November 2018. If you would like advice on pieces in this collection or your Chinese objects Tom Rowsell can be contacted on 01903 891955, and visit www.tooveys.com to view the sale online from the 4th November.

James Cox’s Amazing Clocks

The processional clockwork automaton where figures and animals move ‘magically’ across the landscape

A rare late 18th century tortoiseshell and gilt-metal bracket clock with a processional automaton by the celebrated British entrepreneur and goldsmith James Cox (1723-1800) has been discovered by Toovey’s specialist, Tom Rowsell, in a London collection.

From the mid-18th century James Cox ran a company specialising in the manufacture of objects de vertu which were intended to delight and surprise his clients. He became famous for his extravagant clocks with their ingenious automata which made objects move, seemingly of their own volition. The clocks were hugely expensive and were sold across Europe and as far afield as India, China and Russia. Cox employed craftsmen from across Europe to create these extraordinary pieces.

Tom explains that this James Cox automaton clock was part of the estate of a London collector. It was the only clock in the collection which was predominately focused on Chinese porcelain. A late example of James Cox’s work, the clock dates from the late 18th century and has a complicated three train movement with automaton, playing ten tunes on fourteen bells. The automaton on this clock sees figures and animals process from left to right. His clocks are still a source of wonder and were never intended to be practical. Indeed they have been referred to as ‘magical moving objects’.

A late 18th century automaton clock by James Cox

That a British clock like this should appeal to a connoisseur of Chinese porcelain should not be a cause of surprise. The Chinese Emperor Qianlong (1735-1795) collected both Western and Chinese clocks and two of James Cox’s chariot clocks dating from 1765 and 1766 can still be seen in The Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, Beijing.

Although Cox had an early Indian connection most of his business was with China via Canton. A number of exotic, valuable pieces were exported there from 1763. These mechanical objects were received with great curiosity by the Chinese court and must have made Cox substantial profits. Trade seems to have developed steadily but by 1770 the market had reached saturation. The demise of Chinese interest deprived Cox of this his most profitable and important market.

In response to the decline in the eastern markets for his clocks, James Cox opened a museum in London and charged the public to see his amazing clocks. The manner of their sale in 1775 by national lottery was as ingenious as the objects’ mechanisms. Two of the largest and most complicated of these clocks were the Silver Swan and the Peacock Clock which can be seen at the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, Co Durham, and at the Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia.

Producing such magnificent objects was hugely costly and brought with it significant financial risks. James Cox would face bankruptcy on more than one occasion.

This rare James Cox automaton clock will be auctioned in Toovey’s next curated sale of fine clocks and watches on Thursday 1st November 2018 and is estimated at £15,000-£25,000. If you would like advice on your clocks telephone 01903 891955 or email auctions@tooveys.com.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.