THOMAS Tompion may be England’s most celebrated 18th century horologist, but he is less widely known for his exquisitely crafted sundials, a signed example of which furnished Sotheby’s Bond Street (20/12% buyer's premium) with their undisputed highlight on June 15.
The sundial's pedestal base (broken and badly restored) was
ascribed to John Van Nost the Elder and fashioned c.1690-1702. The
21in (54cm) circular dial was engraved around the edge with an hour
scale with fleur de lys marking the half-hour divisions and diamond
indicators for the quarter hours. It sported a fine open-work
triangular gnomon that incorporated the monogram AG for Anthony
Grey, 11th Earl of Kent, repeated on the base. and stood 4ft 11in
Only six horizontal Tompion sundials are known to exist, with
other examples in Kew Palace, Hampton Court Palace and in Bath's
Pump Rooms with the remaining dials being in private ownership.
This previously unrecorded dial, originally commissioned for the
11th Earl, stood in the grounds of his Bedfordshire family seat,
The vendor's great grandfather purchased Wrest Park in 1917 and
removed the dial on its
It attracted interest from Tompion clock collectors and sundial
buyers,with three buyers contesting it to a winning £150,000. "When
I first saw it I got really emotional. It was absolutely beautiful…
The British Museum's Thomas Tompion expert Jeremy Evans said it was
the best dial he had ever seen," said Sotheby's specialist
Sotheby's most expensive clock was an unattributed English
ebonised grande sonnerie longcase, dating to c.1695, with a rebuilt
architectural-style case top and a later movement. It failed to
generate trade enthusiasm but attracted interest from a German
private bidder, selling at £15,000. The solid movement of an 1875
English walnut longcase regulator by Frodsham & Co helped this
substantial entry to elicit £10,500 from a private buyer.
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