Pick of the week
Matthew Barton’s wide-ranging May sale of European and Asiatic works of art at the 25 Blythe Road auction hub included one of the highest price-overestimate lots of the year so far. This was a 3½in-long silver snuff box (right) marked for 1854 by Hilliard & Thomason of Birmingham. It was estimated to between £800 and £1,200, already quite high for such a thing, but the provenance and engraved lid assured strong competition and a final price of £48,800.
The interior bore the crest of Sir Moses Montefiore, 1st Bt, the notable financier and philanthropist, and the exterior showed East Cliff Lodge, the Ramsgate house that he rented in 1822 and bought in 1830. It is based on a watercolour by Turner, from his 1797 tour in Kent. The Montefiore connection justified the price, but obviously not Turner’s earlier interest in the place.
In 1797, it was brand new, built for Benjamin Bond Hopkins, who had died in 1794 before it was completed. He had been ‘lifted out of obscurity’ by a legacy from a distant cousin known as ‘Vulture’ Hopkins and became an MP, ‘but left no mark on Parliament’. His money went to his daughter, but his landed property, including the ‘expensive and large house’, to an illegitimate son, who seems to have sold fairly quickly.
Queen Caroline took it for the summer in 1803. Perhaps Turner was providing an estate agent’s advertisement?
A pair of Sheffield plate dishwarmers with a more distant Montefiore connection sold for £3,050 over a £500 estimate.