Some 400 canes and sticks ambled out of the saleroom last month, perhaps put to use visiting 40-plus galleries at London Art Week
Sticks and canes won’t break the bank, finds Huon Mallalieu
ONE must salute the remarkable achievement of Roy Moore, who devoted two years to hunting down the best walking sticks he could find in Britain, on the Continent and in the USA. He captured more than 400 extraordinarily varied sticks, which were sold for him in 207 lots (together with a few reference books and just one stick stand) at Chiswick Auctions on June 21. It would be interesting to know what the whole venture cost him and whether he turned a profit. The majority of the buyers were from abroad, particularly the USA, and they were on the telephone and internet.
Many of the sticks had another or several functions, including opera glasses, telescopes, knives, swords, an ice axe, horse-measuring sticks, dog whistles, corkscrews, smokers’ compendiums, opium and other pipes and a military flute. When not straightforwardly carved, the handles were made from as great a variety of materials. The cheapest was one of the simplest, a bamboo walking cane with a shepherd’s-crook handle, yellow-metal collar and brass ferrule, which made £48.
Some 10 sticks sold in the thousands and many in the hundreds. Most expensive, at £4,560, was a possibly Russian nephrite-handled cane, with the grip carved as a serpent’s head with ruby eyes, and it had a plaited-silver-wire collar and a malacca shaft ( Fig 4).
This was followed, at £3,480, by what was possibly one of the earliest on offer: a gold-topped rope-twist malacca cane made by William Collins, London, in about 1749 ( Fig 3). The crown of the gold mushroom-shaped knob was chased and engraved with a crest and motto and the sides decorated with Commedia del’ Arte scenes of a doctor catching his daughter with a suitor.
This had been bought at Bonhams in 2014, when the crest was identified as that of Compton of Gloucestershire and the inspiration for the scene as an engraving by Charles Nicolas Cochin after Antoine Watteau.
Among the sticks with concealed weapons was a silverand-rosewood knife cane by Brigg of London. The ornate silver crop was marked T. W. D., probably Thomas William Daniels, a late19th-century stick mounter who worked around Clerkenwell near Brigg’s Islington premises. The knife had a highly decorated steel blade. This sold for £1,020.
Following this collection, Chiswick Auctions offered a number
of works from the collection of the art historian and sculpture specialist Charles Avery. They were mostly small-scale bronze or marble versions of admired Classical or Renaissance pieces, such as a bronze Apollino after the Medici Apollo by the Roman Giacomo Zoffoli (1731– 85), which sold for £4,800 ( Fig 1), or a 9in by 51 ⁄ 4in marble relief of Venus with a dolphin attributed to either Joseph Nollekens or John Bacon, which made £3,840 ( Fig 2).
Both of these were 18th-century favourites and they were frequently copied in various media. The Venus is after a terracotta then believed to be by Michelangelo, but now given to Giambologna, which belonged to Nollekens (1737–1823).
At £5,280, the top lot was a bronze Infant Bacchus (or Autumn) by Andrea di Bartolomeo di Alessandri (1530– 69), a sculptor-foundryman often called rather more manageably Andrea dai Bronzi— or, from his birthplace, ‘il Bresciano’—but whose real name was recently established by Dr Avery and his daughter Victoria of the Fitzwilliam. The Avery lots also included a 1973 Pop Art plastic elephant by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, which sold for £780.
Many people attending London Art Week would have been grateful for one of Mr Moore’s walking sticks if they tried to get around more than a few of the 46 West End galleries, not to mention three auction houses, between them offering an array of art that went far beyond the pre-contemporary paintings, sculpture and drawings of previous years. Visitors were attracted from as far as Australia, Chile, China, India and Russia and curators from more than 40 leading museums were spotted on shopping trips.
Gallery prices ranged from under £1,000 or less to more than £1 million and satisfactory sales to both museums and private collectors were made from the outset.
Among the participants was London’s newest gallery, Lullo Pampoulides, which has opened on the first floor of 33, Cork Street, W1. Reports of the demise of Cork Street as a centre of the art trade due to development, some of them by me, turn out to have been much exaggerated, like those of Mark Twain’s death. David Messum is particularly anxious that he should not be thought to have left the street and the arrival of Lullo Pampoulides is a welcome confirmation.
Andrea Lullo is a third-generation dealer and, like Andrea dai Bronzi, from Brescia, and Andreas Pampoulides joins him from Christie’s and Coll & Cortes. Their opening show, ‘Classicism Reimagined’, was a selection of paintings and sculpture from 1700 to 1950 and they reported four sales and four reserves in the four- to six-figure range, as well as an albumen print of the Laocoön by Robert Macpherson (1814–72) with an asking price of £2,500 ( Fig 5).
Antiquities featured strongly this year and, in Hill Street, W1, where it shares a building with Daniel Katz, the Ariadne Galleries offered an exhibition titled ‘Art and Adornment: Treasures of Combat’. Among the items sold was a Phoenician gold fenestrated axe-head from the Middle Bronze Age, which was purchased by a private client for a six-figure sum ( Fig 7).
Another major success was the stained-glass exhibition at Sam Fogg in Clifford Street, W1, where about half the exhibits sold, at prices running from £1,000 to £40,000 ( Fig 6).
Fig 1 above left: Bronze Apollino by Giacomo Zoffoli. £4,800. Fig 2 above right: Venus with a dolphin in marble relief. £ 3,840
Fig 3 right: Goldtopped malacca cane. £ 3,480. Fig 4 far right: Serpent-headed cane with ruby eyes. £4,560
Fig 5 above: Albumen print of the Laocoön. £ 2,500
Fig 6 right: Cana stained glass, Antwerp (about 1550). In the region of £ 35,000
Fig 7: Phoenician axe-head. Sold for a six-figure sum