Saturday, 31 October 2009

A 19th.C.Carved Oak Triangular Stool,Later Painted

Most irritating day - I failed to buy this against an estimate of 30 - 50 Pounds. Livid.
A) I woke up at 7.30 am on a Saturday morning.
B) The sale was slow and late starting.
C) I bid up to £400 and was the under-bidder
D) I should have gone with my gut and bid on
The problem is I have to pay for India for a month, a birthday present and a Birthday Party but I am still absolutely furious at not being the buyer.
To top it all off I know I shall see it again..................
I shall explain why I covet it so at a later / non-irritated date. Also when it isn't my birthday and have 14 people to stay.
Forgive the spleen venting.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

It's my wife's B-day party this evening.......

......and the theme is London Gothic (forgive the editing) costume arrives any minute and I've not a clue what it might be!

Une plaisanterie

Jean-Leon Gerome (1850 - 1913)

Yours to bid on at Christies in a few weeks time - I spotted it on the cover of the catalogue this morning at South Ken and wasn't sure whether it leapt out because of the similarity of the dog to mine or because of the wonderful tile panels (see title of blog); anyway catalogue was bought and bank balance checked - NOPE! 

Twombly in the steps of Blake

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Winters here and the fires on and........

.........Freud influenced this photo.   My wee beastie.

Cy Twombly - many years before

I was once set the task of copying a Twombly canvas - I failed but have wanted one ever since.   All in good time.


Almost a year ago to the day my darlin' wife took me on a seriously wonderful B-day weekend - just found these cool is it to be able to photograph on the Capitoline!

Pictures utterly untouched but by God the place is spectacular - and the restaurants were spot on too.

The reason I was harking back was that it's her 30th and I'm not sure I can trump her!!!!

An unexpected find

Picture the scence:

  • North of England
  • Walled garden
  • Perfect herbaceous border
  • Thatched Edwardian summerhouse
  • Spades, hoes, bamboo canes, plastic plant pots, Roman tombstones, wheelbarrow
  • Rain
  • Sundial
Did you spot them?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Chatsworth Sculpture Gallery

I am borro
wing a vast tract from someone infinitely more able to explain the gallery than me - Professor Alison Yarrington, who has just overseen the 'restoration' of the gallery:

William Spencer Cavendish became the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1811, and as part of his development of Chatsworth House during the 1820s and early 1830s he created a new north wing that included a Sculpture Gallery to house his collection of contemporary sculpture, the majority of which was sourced in Rome, and other rare and precious marbles. A major project was begun to re-display the sculpture gallery began in 2008 and was completed in 2009. 

After the Duke’s death, his thoughtfully arranged collection of sculptures and bases was gradually dispersed elsewhere in the house and garden. The Sculpture Gallery has now been returned to the way it looked in 1857, the year before he died.

The re-display is part of the Chatsworth Masterplan, a major project of essential restoration and development to safeguard Chatsworth's heritage and continue its history.  The Sculpture Gallery project has required months of work.  Historical evidence has been found and evaluated, missing pieces have been re-discovered and many tons of stone and marble have been carefully re-positioned by a team from Chatsworth and Cliveden Conservation. The lions have been raised to their original height, sculptures have been brought out of their niches in the Orangery, and the central Berlin granite 
tazza (vase) had to be dismantled to bring it in from the Garden. The Sculpture Gallery re-opened to the public in March 2009. 

Professor Alison Yarrington is academic adviser to the Sculpture Gallery project, working with Charles Noble (Curator, Fine Arts & Loans, Chatsworth), Matthew Hirst (Head of Arts and Historic Collections, Chatsworth), Hannah Obee (Curator, Decorative Arts, Chatsworth), Andrew Peppitt and Stuart Band (Archivists, Devonshire Archives). 

The gallery has spectacular works by Canova and Thorvaldsen amongst others but my favourite thing is the use of rare marbles.

Monday, 19 October 2009


A couple of other things I love about the house:

  1. The exteriors of the South facing windows are gilded.
  2. The Sculpture gallery is utterly beguiling.


I've started the research and it's like being back at school but actually having a ball.   Joy and rapture.

This picture was taken at the place of the epiphany - the Chatsworth Sculpture gallery - and though I have ambled through here dissecting the minutiae I had never spotted this small window of delight:

The note below - I had hoped to be able to read it from the photo - records them as being used by Canova in December 1802.   No doubt given by the sculptor to the 6th Duke of Devonshire.   Such a subtle location too.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

2000 years - has man really evolved?

I'm glad to say that it appears we have not.   Never has Aphrodite been more lovely, modern or coveted (coveted to the tune of $1,426,500) - I asked for it for my birthday and Christmas.

On the subject of Thistles.....

......we have discovered the artist who will (by begging, reasoned debate & blackmail) be commissioned (she's super busy) to (I hope) paint a piece for the wall of our dining room.

Sarah Graham, a London based botanical artist, caught our attention at the Sims Reed gallery with a single, large-scale, iris which was a) unbelievable fresh & striking b) the perfect blue!

Stolen Fern, 2009. (65" by 44")

Amaryllis, 2009. (52.5" by 40")

Iris Frieze, 2008. (118" by 39")

Iris Frieze is exactly what I have in mind for the dining room; fingers crossed.   Those of the beady-eye among you will no doubt have bells ringing with regards to Sarah's work.........look no further than Bunny William's Kips Bay show room - a heavily discussed topic earlier in the year.   William's used a pair of flowering Artichokes either side of the fireplace; they somewhat stole the show.

This Thistle

Rolls off the tongue so wonderfully - THISTLE - which is probably part of the reason for buying this THISTLE with no rhyme or reason........ All 2 and a half feet of it

Friday, 9 October 2009

Oxford Wednesday 7th October 2009

Venue:   Bonhams Oxford
Sale:   The Robin Symes Collection - to sell without reserve

To those of you following the Banier / Bettancourt story in France, there is also another case ebbing and flowing through courts across the World at the mo - that of the Papadimitriou vs. Symes story.   Symes was at the very top of his game - antiquities - until the tragic death of his partner Christo Michaelides when things took a nasty turn.   Read the story, perhaps biased here:

Anyway, thats by-the-by, I'm more interested in Bonhams on Wednesday which was full to brimming with some of the greats of the European antiques trade, circling the contents of one of Symes' warehouses.   From Picasso drawings to homo-erotic photographs to Antiquities - needless to say the sale went down a storm.

Here are a few of the gems:

Lot 205 - £15,600
Lot 204 - £14,400
Lot 155 - Estimate £200 - 300
Lot 155 (5 in the lot) - £21,600
Lot 133 (inuit goggles) - £4,800
Lot 88 (Kupka) - £28,800
Lot 61 (Picasso) - £28,800
Lot 231 - £7,800
Lot 2 (Tiepolo) - £8,640

Presumably the expectation is that all of the above had suitably placed estimates before the sale - not so everything was low hundreds!

Expect many to rise from the ashes at the Armory, Olympia, Maastricht and perhaps into museums..........

Monday, 5 October 2009

The watercolours

Watercolour (a) is the image that should excite interest.   Popping up in Spain and catalogued correctly as being by Edward Dayes there are the two images in the lot; price 300 - 500 Euros, date 1791.

The image depicts Horace Walpole's 'Strawberry Hill House' the Gothic masterpiece. 

This print of the image is held in the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale amongst a large collection about the house and Walpole, including original watercolours from the same spot by Paul Sandby.   Both the Twickenham museum itself and the Lewis Walpole would / should give their eye-teeth to get their mitts on this watercolour.............and they've gone and withdrawn it from sale!!!!!   Answers as to why are not forthcoming.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


Better known as Sleepers in the trade, every once in a while, one stumbles upon a hidden gem in an auction; it happens all too infrequently truth be told.   Perhaps once a year.   You keep the discovery under your hat becoming increasingly excited as the days wear on to the hammer drop and all the while you dig, delve and fret yourself to the conclusions your gut had already alerted you to.

So tell me about these pictures - lets call them a & b.   We shall come back to them.

I have had a few finds over the years, the first was a very good and very well bought Anglo-Chinese card table which only required the lightest waxing.   I sold it quickly for a good profit to a dealer in NYC who then went on to double up and sell the piece:

£146 became £8500 became approx $32,000

Another instance was three years ago on a visit to Cambridge, the intention was to buy a pair of chairs (I did and they are in my drawing room) but slumped in a corner was a very close approximation of this

Yup, those eagled eye souls who spotted the mirror in the background of the Arnolfini Marriage, are getting gold stars.   Mine, was ebonised on beech, with a convex mirror of the perfect patina but the roundels were made from the centres of Kangxi period porcelain plates.   Everything about it sang.

It was late nineteenth century and had all the hallmarks of an artist made prop, to my initial eyes at least.   A phone bid was booked and back to town.

I'm very terrier-like when on the case and a well stocked library helps but it wasn't until I drew the outline for my girlfriend that she pointed out the van Eyck link.   Coupled with the late nineteenth century age I headed into the Aesthetic territory to discover this

Designed by Thomas Jeckyll for Heath Old Hall, the home of Edward Green and sold by Christies in 1999.   The Fine Art Society purchased this particular overmantle.   Mine and this are brother and sister.   I would also like to think that the FAS were the purchasers of the Arnolfini mirror at the ripe sum of £18,250 (the estimate had been 3 - 400); I just didn't have the banking legs at that time.

So back to the watercolours - have you figured them out?

The Circus Bedroom

Popping up in a sale in Dorset in a couple of weeks is this little delight for a mere £300 - 400 a little bit of Cecil Beaton's 'Circus Bedroom' could be yours (+ 19.5% commission / shipping / restoration....but lets forget about the nitty gritty).   It certainly needs a new seat and looking atthe back, I've an inkling a bit of pub vinyl-leatherette restoration may have gone on but what a great piece.   One of it's companion side tables can be seen below