Arts and Crafts for Today’s Home at Toovey’s

Toovey’s Arts and Crafts Specialist, William Rowsell
Toovey’s Arts and Crafts Specialist, William Rowsell

In celebration of the Arts and Crafts Movement Toovey’s will be holding a specialist auction of Arts and Crafts Furniture & Works of Art on Tuesday 8th September 2015.

The Great Exhibition of 1851, housed in Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace at Hyde Park, celebrated industry, manufacturing and industrial design. In reaction to the industrial age the Arts and Crafts Movement sought to improve standards of decorative design and revive handicrafts. It stood against the automatic processes involved in mass-production and its social impact. Inspired by the writings of Augustus Pugin, John Ruskin and William Morris, Arts and Crafts design was often based upon a re-interpretation of the Medieval, sometimes incorporating the Celtic with a very English interpretation of the Art Nouveau.

A mid-19th century Gothic Revival walnut chair designed by Pugin
A mid-19th century Gothic Revival walnut chair designed by Pugin

The specialist in charge of this Arts and Crafts sale is William Rowsell. I am excited to discover a walnut chair designed by Pugin already consigned for the auction. William says “Pugin worked as an architect and designer. He was a passionate advocate of the Gothic Revival style which he famously applied to the House of Commons. You can see the influence of the Gothic in the stretchers and mouldings of this chair.” In the 1830s and 1840s Pugin published books on furniture decoration as well as architecture. William continues “Most of Pugin’s furniture was made for the houses which he designed.” This remarkable chair carries an estimate of £300-500.

A Liberty & Co Tudric pewter mantel timepiece, designed by Archibald Knox, estimate £2000-3000
A Liberty & Co Tudric pewter mantel timepiece, designed by Archibald Knox, estimate £2000-3000

My eye is taken by a Liberty & Co Tudric mantel timepiece. Liberty was owned and run by Sir Arthur Lasenby, a leading figure in the English Art Nouveau movement. In 1903 a new type of pewter emerged which Liberty called Tudric. It contained a high proportion of silver in the alloy. Tudric objects were made by the firm William Hair Haseler in Birmingham. William Rowsell smiles enthusiastically as he says “These Tudric designs re-interpret the Celtic style incorporating the Art Nouveau as well. The use of blue and turquoise enamel cabochons, like on the dial of this clock, is outstanding.” Tudric pieces of this quality are prized by collectors and William explains that this is reflected in the presale estimate of £2000-3000.

A pair of Leeds Fireclay Company Lefco ware jardinières
A pair of Leeds Fireclay Company Lefco ware jardinières

Also entered for auction are the pair of early 20th century Leeds Fireclay Company Lefco ware stoneware jardinières which would grace any garden with their Art Nouveau naturalistic decoration. They carry an estimate of £600-900.

To my eye the English Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts Movement combines beauty and purpose. It was considered progressive in its own time but the influences of the simple pre-industrial cottage can be noted.

The simplicity of an Arts and Crafts interior entered into, and influenced, the spirit of much 20th century design. Nevertheless these interiors were comfortable and gathering. The clean architectural lines of Arts and Crafts furniture and works of art were complimented by the use of rich colours in the fabrics, enamels, glazed ceramics, silver and glass. The quality of design speaks to our contemporary tastes.

Entries for Toovey’s specialist auction of Arts and Crafts Furniture and Works of Art on Tuesday 8th September 2015 are currently being invited. William Rowsell will be delighted to offer free advice on your Arts and Crafts furniture and objects whether you are considering selling or buying. Telephone Toovey’s on 01903 891955 to arrange an appointment.

Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 3rd June 2015 in the West Sussex Gazette.

17th Century Silver Footed Salver from England’s Silver Age

A James II silver chinoiserie-decorated footed salver by Benjamin Yate, London 1688, to be sold in Toovey’s specialist silver auction, estimate £30,000-50,000
A side view of the footed tazza
A detail of the chinoiserie decoration
‘Legatio Batavica ad Magnum Tartariae Chamum Sungteium…’ by Jan Nieuhoff, circa 1668

Sussex found herself at the centre of the political upheavals of the 17th Century as Charles II escaped to France through the port of Shoreham, closely pursued by Oliver Cromwell’s forces.

The last quarter of the 17th century in England witnessed a revival of interest in silver objects. During the period of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, much silver was melted down for currency. Charles II’s restoration in 1660 was marked by a renewed sense of security, which resulted in both royalty and nobility indulging their passion for silver during what has sometimes been termed ‘England’s Silver Age’.

The silver footed salver or tazza illustrated, dating from the reign of James II, Charles’ brother and successor to the throne, was discovered by Toovey’s specialist valuer William Rowsell. “I found the salver amongst a collection of modest silver-plated items, brought in to our salerooms on one of our regular valuation days,” William comments. “It’s always exciting when you come across something wonderful and unexpected in a bag! The owner did not even realise it was silver, let alone an important piece.” The footed salver was brought in by a gentleman dealing with items collected by his late father, who had been an antiques dealer in the middle part of the 20th century. It was made by silversmith Benjamin Yate and assayed in London in 1688. Subsequent research confirmed the rarity of the flat-chased decoration featuring Chinese gentlemen, birds and foliage, punched into the silver in dots and lines.

The fashion for all things Chinese came from the influence of oriental items brought back by the Dutch and British East India companies. These fanciful chinoiserie vignettes would have been drawn from the artist’s imagination, rather than from any actual first-hand visual recollection of China and its people. The book ‘Legatio Batavica ad Magnum Tartariae Chamum Sungteium…’ by Jan Nieuhoff was first published in Amsterdam in 1668. This book is thought by silver historians to be the likely inspiration for much of the flat-chased chinoiserie decoration of silver from this period. The book’s stylistic influence can be seen in the plate from a copy of this volume sold in a Toovey’s specialist auction for £850.

Chinoiserie decoration on silver is a particularly English phenomenon and was mostly produced between the 1670s and 1690s. The strong similarity of figures, fauna and flora on known silver examples have led academics to question whether they may all be by a single craftsman. This form of decoration ends suddenly in 1688. It remains a mystery whether this was because of the craftsman’s death or a sudden change in taste caused by the overthrow of James II that year in the ‘Glorious Revolution’, when William of Orange invaded England.

The James II silver footed tazza will be offered as Lot 350 with an estimate of £30,000-£50,000 in Toovey’s specialist silver auction on Wednesday 21st May 2014, commencing at 1pm.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 7th May 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Scarce James II Silver Footed Salver at Toovey’s

James II Silver Chinoiserie Footed Salver at Toovey's Auction
James II Silver Chinoiserie Footed Salver to be offered at Toovey's Auction

Toovey’s forthcoming Specialist Sale of Silver on Wednesday 21st May 2014 includes a James II silver footed salver or tazza, flat-chased with a chinoiserie scene. This salver measures 34cm in diameter and is among the largest of its type. It is hallmarked for London 1688 by Benjamin Yate and carries a pre-sale estimate of £30,000-50,000.

Side View of Footed Salver
Side View of Footed Salver
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Hallmarks on James II Tazza
Hallmarks on James II Salver

Contextually, this piece was produced just twenty-two years after the Great Fire of London, following which an estimated four fifths of the city had to be rebuilt and, more importantly, countless homes refurnished. This is only five years after the English East India Company nearly went bankrupt after a ferocious price war with the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) over market share. It is also  the same year as the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’, with Prince William of Orange arriving with his army in November 1688. The footed salver was created during a period often referred to as England’s ‘Silver Age’. The higher production and quality of the pieces produced at the time ensure that items from the last quarter of the seventeenth century survive in surprisingly large numbers, spared from the melting pot for over four centuries.  The indulgence in the precious metal of the era was a reaction to and a celebration after the uncertain times preceding the reign of Charles II.

The influence of items originally imported from Asia by the Dutch East India Company had a huge impact. The fashion for anything Chinese swept across Europe, leaving a disparity between supply and demand. Manufacturers producing faux Chinese or ‘chinoiserie’ designs on pieces, including furniture and ceramics, became increasingly common. This piece is scarce because of its ornament; it is in stark contrast to the abundant embossed decoration more typical of the period. This distinctive chinoiserie decoration on silver is largely considered to have been undertaken at a single workshop between 1680 and 1688. It is speculated that only a few hundred pieces would have been decorated in this particular chinoiserie style. Perhaps the craftsman died, which would explain the small numbers and the distinct cut-off at the same date as this salver. Flat-chasing resembles the appearance of engraving but its creation uses the pressure of tools to make the delicate line, rather than digging away at the metal.

Today, it is largely believed that the designs were derived from a book written by Johan Nieuhoff, titled ‘Legatio Batavica Ad Magnum Tartariae Chamum Sungteium…’, first published in Amsterdam in 1668 with over 100 plates, plans and illustrations. It is certain that the decorator of the salver never travelled to Asia and probably used this book as inspiration, because the figures show the same ethnographic inaccuracies as Nieuhoff’s work.

While silver of this date does survive, examples of this type and quality are few and far between and seldom come to auction, unless part of an important silver collection. The consignment of this salver has a different story to tell. It was brought to Toovey’s reception with a few plated toast racks and valuer Will Rowsell recalls that the vendor did not even realize the salver was silver, let alone the importance of the piece. After consulting with Toovey’s silver specialist Tom Rowsell, the two brothers decided further research was required before offering a definitive opinion. Both were confident that the salver had all the indications of being an important piece of silver. The vendor had inherited the item from his father, an antiques dealer active in the middle part of the 20th century, but had never considered its value until recently. When reporting back to the vendor on the telephone, Tom recalls making sure they were sitting down before discussing the pre-sale valuation of £30,000-50,000!

The James II silver footed salver will be offered as Lot 350 in Toovey’s Specialist Sale of Silver on Wednesday 21st May 2014, commencing at 1pm. If you would like to have your silver valued, please contact our offices to discuss your requirements and the best way to proceed. This salver is proof that it is always worth checking an item’s value with the specialists at Toovey’s.

Hill & Millard Campaign Furniture at Toovey’s Auction

Lot 2001 Victorian campaign secretaire chest
Lot 2001 at Toovey's, a Victorian campaign secretaire chest

Two hundred and ninety Lots of Antique and Period Furniture will be offered at Toovey’s auction on Friday 25th April. Starting the sale is Lot 2001, a Victorian burr walnut and mahogany campaign secrétaire chest with recessed brass handles and mounts. This wonderful quality item bears the inset maker’s label marked ‘Hill & Millard, 7 Duncannon St. London. Patentees’ and is fitted with two short and four long drawers, the secrétaire drawer with leather writing surface, hidden compartments and letter rack, raised on later fitted squat feet. Height approx 104cm, width approx 100cm.

Hill & Millard were recorded in London commercial directories from the mid-19th Century as ‘military outfitters and trunk makers,’ describing themselves in advertisements as ‘Manufacturers of Portable Military Furniture.’ The firm are regarded by many as one of the best manufacturers of campaign furniture in this period.

Lot 2001 Victorian campaign secretaire chestCampaign furniture was produced at a time when military personnel were required to provide their own furniture for tours of duty,” says Toovey’s furniture expert, Will Rowsell, who continues “the furniture needed to be robust for travel, and compact to fit within small cabins, tents, or if they were lucky, a billet. It is quite unusual to find an example with the luxurious burr walnut drawer fronts, perhaps indicating this was once the property of a wealthy military gentleman of high rank – we will never know for certain, and we can only speculate as to what action this lovely piece of furniture might have seen.

Because of its compact size and clean lines, campaign furniture fits within the modern home. This secrétaire chest carries a pre-sale estimate of £2000-3000 reflecting its quality. It will be offered for sale at 10am on Friday 25th April at Toovey’s Spring Gardens rooms.