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Items of Interest and Intellect

A Victorian satinwood cabinet with stencilled decoration attributed to Dyer and Watts

Naturally, Charlie and I think all our stock is interesting. However, in our first photoshoot of 2022, we have numerous items which have proved even more fascinating after further investigation. The cabinet above is almost identical to an example we sold over a decade ago (see ‘Harrods Exhibition Catalogue, 2008’, pp. 60-61) but leading authority and Antiques Roadshow expert, Christopher Payne, believes the stencilled decoration points to it being made by Dyer and Watts. He showed us that John Dyer patented a process of imitation marquetry by stencilling onto veneers in 1861 and he is including this fine example in his forthcoming publication ‘British Furniture 1820-1920 The Luxury Market’, The Antique Collector’s Club, 2022, pls. 5.88d-e.

A Victorian satinwood cabinet with marquetry decoration and Wedgwood plaques

As promised in the Christmas Carols newsletter in December, we have photographed and uploaded the New Zealand specimen wood table used to illustrate ‘Star of Wonder’. Research of similar tables has led us to the master craftsman Anton Seuffert (1815-1887). He was born in Bohemia and after working for the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I and Leistler & Sons in London, moved to New Zealand in 1859. Seuffert established his own business specializing in complex marquetry inlaid furniture and objects using the extensive variety of exotic woods available in New Zealand. In the London Exhibition of 1862, the citizens of Auckland presented his writing desk to Queen Victoria.

Another piece of furniture featuring unusual woods is this Victorian display cabinet from Cowden Castle. ‘Made from ‘Douglas fir blown down in 1887, Laburnum in 1889 and tennis ground Guigne [sweet cherry] tree struck by lightning in 1889 all grown at Cowden’ impressed upon us the importance of trees to John Christie, a keen arborist, who bought the castle in 1865. On his death in 1904, his daughter Isabella (known as Ella) inherited the castle. She was an extremely interesting figure: a keen traveller, fluent in four languages, she travelled throughout Europe and Asia and returned with Taki Handa, a noted gardener from Nagoya, to create a Japanese landscape garden at Cowden. This garden was described as the “best garden in the Western world” by Japanese horticulturalists and was visited by Queen Mary in 1932. 

Poring through the lavish coloured and gilded chromolithographs of the two-volume folio first edition of ‘Keramic Art of Japan’, by George Ashdown Audsley and James, Lord Bowes, reveals many parallels with several of the Satsuma earthenware display vases in our collection. The intricate basket-weave ground, together with a colour palette of pale turquoise, apricot and deep pink, so different from the usual bold red, green and blue of ‘Imperial Satsuma’, is normally associated with early 20th century production. However, these books were published in 1875, thus bringing a whole section of Satsuma ware firmly into the Victorian era.  

A smaller and more intimate piece is the Edwardian silver and enamel cheroot case below. Showing the ketch, ‘White Rose’, under full sail, it is incised ‘To Francis T. Cotton - Skipper’ above four signatures. William Francis Cotton purchased the White Rose around 1891. The Cotton family were famous for their hospitality and The White Rose was an essential part of their entertaining. One of William's sons, christened Thomas Francis Cotton, is believed to have gone by the name Francis T. Cotton. It seems more likely that a group of his friends, who had designated themselves ‘first mate’, ‘boatswain’, ‘purser’ and ‘carpenter’, presented this to him after a ‘merry’ cruise, as a ketch of this size was would not need a carpenter or purser amongst the crew.

James Peake “The Modern Grinling Gibbons” and his masterpiece

Last year marked 300 years since the death of the great Grinling Gibbons, regarded by many as the finest wood carver who worked in England. At the same time as the Gibbons exhibition was drawing crowds to Compton Verney, we were working on researching an exquisite wood carving signed by James Peake. Peake was not a name that was familiar to us and the level of knowledge of his work can be summed up by his entry in BIFMO (the British and Irish Furniture Makers Online database) which simply reads:

“276 Waterloo Road, London. Carver and Gilder, fl.1871”

As we were to discover, however, Peake was a master craftsman with some very interesting commissions to his name.

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 Chelsea Antiques & Fine Art Fair 23rd - 27th March 2022
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