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

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

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

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