Loveõs labourõs lost
A wife who searched for her husband in vain brings Egyptian glamour to the saleroom and a Ôrowdyõ military man is remembered
JANE, LADY FRANKLIN (1792–1875) stands high in the list of formidable Victorian females. She is most remembered for the five expeditions she despatched to the Canadian Arctic in search of her husband and his lost 1845–7 expedition, which is summarised in the popular ballad Lady Franklin’s Lament:
‘And now my burden it gives
me pain For my long-lost Franklin I would cross the main Ten thousand pounds I would freely give To know on earth, that my
Franklin do live’ One suspects, however, that the course of the Franklins’ marriage was not always smooth. She married the future Sir John, a naval hero and veteran of Trafalgar, in 1828. Earlier, she had had a passionate friendship with Roget of the Thesaurus—the only man to make her swoon, she said —and she was no stay-at-home wife when Franklin was appointed to the Mediterranean fleet.
In 1834, she went up the Nile from Cairo to Nubia accompanied only by the Rev Johan Rudolf Theophilus Leider, a German missionary, with whom she evidently fell in love. Many pages were excised from this section of her diary, but not the one recording how he had removed the thorns from a bouquet he gave her: ‘would that he could even with bloody finger pull off all the thorns in my path throughout life’.
Later, when Franklin was lieutenant-governor of Tasmania, she explored the wilds both with and without him and tensions caused by her enthusiasm for social reform may have partly led to his recall. Her rescue expeditions were failures, however, and she violently disparaged John Rae, who brought back the first information on Franklin’s probable fate, including tales of cannibalism.
During her adventure with Leider, she bought Egyptian antiquities, among them a 22inhigh wooden mummy mask with inlaid stone-and-obsidian eyes, dating from the 18th Dynasty, about 1550BC to 1295BC (Fig 3). That the eyes were made separately shows that the mask was for an important corpse; it is no longer painted, which emphasises the quality of the carving. This was one of the top lots in Bonhams’ summer antiquities sale, selling for £116,500.
A group of South Arabian alabaster heads collected by one of the last generation of British Imperial Arabists provided the top price in this Bonhams sale, £122,500. It had been estimated to £15,000, but was an exceptional piece, certainly in its company; none of the other five heads made more than £6,000. It represented a long-faced, long-necked female with stoneinlaid eyes, and stood 115∕8in on its stepped base (Fig 4).
It originated in Qataban, one of the most powerful South Arabian kingdoms around the turn of the 1st centuries and Only the most expensive of the other heads, which were more crudely carved, was as precisely placed, to Saba, the rival king-
Fig 1 above: Mezzotint of Thomas Tompion by John Smith after Godfrey Kneller. £1,750. Fig 2 right: Japanese pillar clock. £1,125