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Book of Kings

Now to balance the books!  After Book of Queens for May, this newsletter will feature items in our Masterpiece catalogue which reference our Kings. Firstly, we have a pair of pictures attributed to the master sand artist Benjamin Zobel.  He was a German confectioner and painter, who developed the technique of sandpainting, whilst employed as a table decker for the Court of George III.  This involved ‘painting’ intricate scenes in sand, powdered glass or breadcrumbs directly onto tablecloths, using cut and folded playing cards, or decorating huge cakes and tarts with coloured icing sugars. Luckily for us, he pioneered a technique for stabilising these fragile and fleeting artworks on paper so that we can still enjoy them today.   The two images in our book depict William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and Richard the Lionheart at the Battle of Acre.

Charles I and his advisors, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Strafford and (probably) the Earl of Portland in 1632 are carved on a Dieppe prisoner of war work oval plaque.   We also have a ‘Royal Barometer’ similar to the ones presented to both George III and George IV by John Russell of Falkirk.  A modern footnote is that Garrard, the Crown Jewellers at the time, commissioned a limited edition of 200 copies, to commemorate the Royal marriage of Charles, Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.  


George IV probably features more in this collection than any other monarch because, as Prince Regent (1811-1820),  he commissioned three hugely extravagant refurbishments of royal residences; Carlton House, Brighton Pavilion and finally Windsor Castle.  He employed Seddon and Morel for the latter undertaking, which included the furnishing of 59 rooms with a budget of £203,963 6s 8d.  This was the largest sum ever devoted to a single furnishing scheme in this country, equivalent to nearly £250 million in today’s currency, and, maybe inevitably, Seddon had great difficulty in extracting the £200,000 from the Crown - which led to his near bankruptcy in 1840!  We have William IV’s gift of a ‘gold’ cup to the Royal Yacht Squadron as a neat counterpoint to Queen Victoria’s horse racing trophy mentioned in the last newsletter.  Please see this month’s blog below.

Also in the last newsletter we looked at several Queens Consort (Adelaide, Alexandra, Mary and the Queen Mother).   Arguably the most influential of all Royal Consorts was Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.  From conducting foreign policy, supporting the abolition of slavery,  promoting universal education (including for girls), sponsoring the latest scientific discoveries and creating a comprehensive inventory of the Royal Collection, he was closely involved in all aspects of Victorian life.  However, his greatest achievement was the phenomenally successful Great Exhibition of 1851.  Not only do we have many pieces made by firms which won prizes for excellence at this exhibition but we also have furniture and silver actually presented at subsequent fairs in Manchester (1857) and London (1862).  Victoria and Albert’s son, better known as ‘Bertie’ or the Prince of Wales, was nearly 60 before he ascended the throne as Edward VII.  We have the bronzes of him and his Queen, Alexandra, sculpted in 1870 by Count Gleichen, which are very similar to a pair displayed at Sandringham.

The 1835 Royal Yacht Squadron’s King’s Cup

We are fortunate enough to have many items in our current collection with connections to royalty.  We also have a large number of important items of maritime interest.  One piece in our collection combines both of these themes so perfectly that it is of exceptional importance and is a true collector’s prize.
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Masterpiece 30 June - 6 July 2022
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