Lions and tigers and bears, oh my—animal magic sweeps the Cotswold Antique Dealers’ Association Fair
Huon Mallalieu sees animal magic in the Cotswolds
The first zoo in england was established in his hunting park at Woodstock by henry I in the first decade of the 12th century. his collection included lions, camels and porcupines and their descendants and successors provided the basis of the royal menagerie at the Tower of London, which, in turn, ultimately became London Zoo. In the 18th century, something of the tradition returned to Blenheim Palace, when the 4th Duke of Marlborough was given a tigress by Clive of India.
These facts, together with the choice of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust as its charity for this year, have prompted exhibitors to give the Cotswold Antique Dealers’ Association Fair at Blenheim an animal theme to their displays and publicity. The fair has cemented its place as one of the best in the country since 2012, when it replaced the annual fortnight of gallery shows put on by members of the Association. It runs from March 30 to April 2 this year.
Among the beasts on offer are two lions originally inspired by the same ancient original. The first is a 7¼in-high bronze copy (Fig 2) of one of the animals with their paws on globes, known as the Medici Lions and displayed since 1789 in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. This was the more damaged one, which was restored by Flaminio Vacca in 1594 when they were still at the Villa Medici in Rome. Their transfer in 1789 probably triggered the making of copies in various materials for the Grand Tour market and ever since.
This early example is with Architectural heritage of Taddington Manor south of Broadway, which notes judiciously that: ‘No documentation has so far been attached to the few known fine bronze Medici Lions, nor the name of a foundry or artist who may have cast them to provide a firm date of origin and so, as is the case with many highly competent reprises of Antiquity, this model’s author remains for the moment anonymous’. It is on a base of rouge griotte marble, a favourite with Louis XIV.
The second is a rather less sophisticated Staffordshire pottery pearlware ‘Angry Lion’ figure decorated in enamel colours (Fig 1). Offered by John howard of Woodstock it dates from about 1820 and is priced at £2,800. The composition particularly appealed to the British as their empire expanded, but although the pose still exudes patriotic pride, in Mr howard’s words: ‘The face of this lion is almost humanistic and that is part of its appeal—the fierceness has an almost whimsical comedy about it. This particular lion has more of a folk appeal rather than a formal representation, always a wonderful thing to see in Staffordshire pottery.’
This fair now includes one or two exhibitors who are not members of CADA, where their specialities are deemed to be complementary, and, this year, they include Timothy Millett with medals and objects of art and Joanna Booth with tapestries, textiles, Old Master drawings and early furniture and carv-
Fig 3: Ôcabbage leaf’ tapestry of about 1580. With Joanna Booth
Fig 2: Bronze copy of one of the Medici Lions. With Architectural Heritage
Fig 1: Staffordshire ‘Angry Lion’. With John Howard