Ob­jects of de­sire

There’s some­thing to in­trigue all lev­els of col­lec­tor at this year’s Olympia

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

THE Art & An­tiques Fair at Olympia, which runs from June 26 to July 2, boasts a dou­bling of the num­ber of pic­ture deal­ers among this year’s ex­hibitors. The ma­jor­ity of them are spe­cial­ists in the cur­rently fash­ion­able Mod­ern Bri­tish field, in­clud­ing Harry Moore-gwyn with 20 works on pa­per by Sir Ge­orge Clausen, some pre­vi­ously un­seen, rang­ing from un­der £1,000 to more than £8,000.

He points out that, al­though a ma­jor Clausen pas­tel sold for £500,000 in 2010, the ma­jor­ity of his ‘land­scapes, fig­ure stud­ies and sketches still rep­re­sent re­mark­ably good value for col­lec­tors’. This fits well with the tra­di­tional lev­els of the fair from un­der £100 to about £250,000.

Here is a very small but var­ied se­lec­tion of of­fer­ings.

Zarco An­tiques, a first-time ex­hibitor from Lis­bon, of­fers a true Kun­stkam­mer ob­ject, a coco de mer stand­ing cup (Fig 3) mounted with 17th-cen­tury Span­ish colo­nial sil­ver.

The coco de mer grew on a very few of the Mal­dive Is­lands in the In­dian Ocean, no­tably the sec­ond largest, Praslin. The seeds are the largest and heav­i­est in the plant king­dom and, when empty, the nuts are car­ried away by the sea, giv­ing rise to the early Euro­pean be­lief that ‘the Co­conut of the Mal­dives is an In­dian nut, open and empty, that ap­pears to be emerg­ing and grow­ing un­der the sea’ (1607).

The dou­ble-bod­ied nuts have a fem­i­nine ap­pear­ance—an al­ter­na­tive name is coco fesse—and they were in­evitably as­sumed to have anti-poi­son­ing prop­er­ties. Both rare and cu­ri­ous, they were highly prized by col­lec­tors such as the Em­peror Ru­dolph II.

Mor­gan Strick­land, a spe­cial­ist in the Arts-and-crafts move­ment and sim­i­lar dec­o­ra­tive fields, gave up a suc­cess­ful gallery 12 years ago to sell through www.mor­ganstrick­lan­dan­tiques.com and at fairs. Here, it has a highly dec­o­ra­tive Mu­rano Car­ni­val vase by Archimede Se­guso (1909–99) (Fig 1).

On my honey­moon, many years ago, I was hor­ri­fied by a visit to Mu­rano, which seemed to be a great deal of hustle for rather hor­rid pieces, but, since then, the Se­gu­sos have helped change things greatly. The fam­ily‘s un­bro­ken his­tory of glass­mak­ing on the is­land goes back to 1397 and, in 2012, it was one of the first fur­naces to open its work­shops to vis­i­tors, through a multi-sen­sory pro­gramme called the Se­guso Ex­pe­ri­ence, in­tended to pro­vide ‘a jour­ney made of real au­then­tic fla­vors, col­ors and at­mos­phere handed down from each Se­guso gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion’.

Archimede was one of the most var­ied and in­no­va­tive de­sign­ers, al­though even he did not al­ways quite avoid the kitsch that in­fected the is­land.

Guel­fucci is a Ber­lin gallery spe­cial­is­ing in 20th-cen­tury French de­sign, such as this 1936 throne-chair (Fig 4) by An­dré Ar­bus (1903–69). If not with quite the pedi­gree of the Se­gusi, Ar­bus also came from a long line of de­sign­ers and crafts­men. He was also an ar­chi­tect and, with his part­ner An­dré Cril­lon, he was

for the very el­e­gant light­house on Planier, the out­er­most islet off Mar­seille, which took from 1949 to 1959 be­cause the first three draughts were re­jected by the light­house author­ity. The is­land’s wrecks are won­der­ful for divers.

This Ar­bus ma­hogany throne in­cludes bands of ivorine, a form of cel­lu­loid used as an ivory sub­sti­tute in the 1930s. Un­for­tu­nately, it could be flammable, but if that were cured, it might be due a re­vival.

As the fair over­laps with Wim­ble­don, any­one in search of a per­fect present for a cham­pion should visit the stand of Howard Wal­wyn from Kens­ing­ton Church Street W8. He has an ex­cep­tion­ally rare au­tom­a­ton bracket clock

(Fig 2) by a lit­tle-known but tal­ented Lon­don maker, Sa­muel West, dat­ing from about 1760. The arch is painted with two tennis play­ers lob­bing the ball to one another mo­ti­vated by the swing of the bob pen­du­lum across the back plate. On the hour, a wind­mill be­hind the left-hand fig­ure turns and a man chops logs to the right.

Even with­out move­ment, a pi­etra dura and ebonised cab­i­net on stand with bar­ley­sugar twist legs

(Fig 6), which will be with An­thony Fell of Holt in Nor­folk seems al­most as lively and could cer­tainly never be dis­missed as ‘brown’. It is a prod­uct of the Floren­tine Grand-du­cal work­shops and made in about 1670.

In our May 31 is­sue, we fea­tured Jon Bad­de­ley of Bon­hams, who col­lects wa­ter­colour orig­i­nals for early-re­spon­si­ble

20th-cen­tury rail­way posters. Not all such orig­i­nals were in wa­ter­colour and Darn­ley Fine Art, a spe­cial­ist in travel art, of­fers two good spec­i­mens of the genre in oil paint.

One, at £4,800, the 23¼in by 19in Finch­ing­field in Es­sex (Fig 7), is by Alan Dur­man (1905– 63), a pro­lific artist of whose life lit­tle seems to be recorded. He was a na­tive of Salt­ford, be­tween Bath and Keyn­sham, and the com­mu­nity hall there has a mu­ral and two other paint­ings by him. The sec­ond is by the much bet­ter known Nor­man Wilkin­son (1878– 1971). The 30in by 45in

Iona Cathe­dral (Fig

5) is taken from the spot where the foot­ings of St Columba’s bee­hive hut still show. Un­til re­cently, per­haps still, one could sit on his doorstep and share the view that he en­joyed in about 580.

Wilkin­son was best known as a ma­rine artist and the in­ven­tor of daz­zle cam­ou­flage for war­ships, but he was also a pro­lific il­lus­tra­tor and pro­duced rail­way posters for the LNWR and the LMS lines.

Fig 2: Rare au­tom­a­ton bracket clock. With Howard Wal­wyn

Fig 3 left: Coco de mer

cup. With Zarco An­tiques.

Fig 4 right: Ar­bus thronechair. With Guel­fucci

Fig 1: Vase by Archimede Se­guso. With Mor­gan Stick­land

Fig 6: Pi­etra dura and ebonised cab­i­net. With An­thony Fell Fig 7: Finch­ing­field. With Darn­ley Fine Art

Fig 5: Iona Cathe­dral. With Darn­ley Fine Art

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