This November's Five Centuries auction features excellent examples of British and Continental furniture, paintings and works of art, including specialist collecting areas encompassing clocks, bronzes, ceramics & glass, rugs & carpets. Our specialists have chosen a few of their favourite things to share as highlights in our 20 November auction...
Most likely made in the Vatican Mosaics Studio, this Italian micromosaic of the Temple of Minerva Medica would have been a keepsake for people visiting Rome on the Grand Tour in the late 18th or early 19th century. It shows the ruins of a Temple, and is made meticulously from tiny tiles or tesserae. The Vatican Mosaic Studio was founded in the late 16th century to care for works in the St. Peter’s Basilica, but by the end of the 18th century production had turned to creating works by commission for the well-to-do or for sale to the increasing stream of tourists passing through Rome. Popular subjects were mythological scenes or classical subjects, with Roman landmarks being of particular interest.
As vibrant today as the day it was made, I admire the time and skill it must have taken to work on something so small and precise. In particular the three figures in the foreground who help to add a sense of scale to the ruins are, to my eye, completely compelling: with just a few tesserae in red, orange and blue, the mosaicist has created fully identifiable people who have substance and movement. I completely understand the allure of such a precious but small object, as an evocative souvenir of someone’s memorable journey as well as a reminder of humankind’s transitory nature.
-Douglas Girton, Head of Sale
Benjamin Zobel was a British-German painter, who developed the technique of marmotinto, otherwise known as sand painting. It was based on the Japanese craft of bonseki (tray painting), and was at the height of its popularity in England at the end of the 18th century. In 1783, George III hosted a dinner party where a display of unfixed coloured sands, sugar and marble dust was arranged on the table below a glass surface, by Zobel. So enchanted was the king that Zobel found ways of incorporating sand into his other work, which continued to prove popular with members of the Royal household including the Duke of York. Examples of Zobel's work are included in the Memmingen city museum archives in Germany, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Dundurn Castle, Hamilton, Ontario.
I love the story of how marmotinto pictures came into being, and am fascinated with dining of the 18th century. In the homes of the wealthy elaborate table displays were both fashionable and status symbols. Bedecked with porcelain figures, glass salts and silver candlesticks, we can only imagine how ornate they were! The idea of a coloured display beneath the glass table top seems almost fairy-tale-like and rather ingenious. The fact Zobel then created a whole career from this innovative design reflects what a sharp mind he must have had!
- Theodora Burrell, Specialist
Despite the name, the origin of these carvings actually lies in Brienz in Switzerland, not in the Black Forest in Germany. Beautifully executed carvings like these bears helped save the local economy after a severe famine in 1816. Residential craftsmen refined their skills from home requirements to sophisticated designs; and with a growing number of tourists in the area, soon carvings like these became valued collector’s items around the world. And no surprise: Just have a closer look, their whimsically detailed faces are surely going to make your day brighter.
-Kerstin Schaeffer, Sale Administrator
With its contrasting figured rosewood and intricate scrolling brass inlay, this table is in the style of the French 'Antique' fashion produced by prominent early 19th century designers and cabinetmakers including George Oakley, Thomas Parker, Louis Le Gaigneur and George Bullock.
This table catches the eye with fine and elegant detailing, even on lesser looked at spots such as the foliate marquetry to the feet. Combined with well-considered angles and impressive brass inlay it really is a great example of the craftsmanship of the period.
This Period saw a shift from the bold and rich carving prior to a more refined ornamentation, with exotic woods like the rosewood used in this piece, together with various influences such as the far east and the use of various metals to accent edges and corners coming together to create visually striking works.
- Jamie Russel, Cataloger
Renowned for their bespoke seat furniture, this Victorian pine cabinet by Howard & Sons is a good example of their case furniture, well made, simply decorated with simulated bamboo, just relying on the distinct grain of the timber. Oregan pine is hard, durable and resistant to marking, withstanding the test of time. A functional and completely timeless piece of furniture which will work in any style of home today.
- Katie Hannah, Cataloger
AUCTION | Five Centuries: Furniture, Paintings & Works of Art from 1600 | Wednesday, 20th November at 10am | Edinburgh
VIEWING | Sat 16 & Sun 17 November 12pm - 4pm | Mon 18 & Tues 19 November 10am - 5pm | Morning of the sale from 9am