Sworders’ Spring Country House sale in Stansted Mountfitchet on April 24 included a remarkable collection of pieces designed by Augustus Pugin for his own Ramsgate home.
They were consigned to the Essex
saleroom by three of his great-great grandsons.
It's hard to think that the
V&A's 1994 show Pugin: A Gothic Masterpiece, which
included these same pieces, was the first significant exhibition
devoted to Pugin since 1851. As Paul Atterbury noted in the
Sworders catalogue, the exhibition had the aim of of restoring
Pugin to "his rightful place in the hierarchy of design history
after a century of neglect".
And achieve its aim it did. Prior to that,
Pugin was known to history of art graduates and pub-quiz
enthusiasts as Barry's co-designer of the Houses of Parliament.
Today he is a household name in any reasonably educated house and
hugely admired. Prices for Pugin-designed works of art have perhaps
quadrupled in price over the two decades leading up to this year,
the bicentenary of his birth.
The star attraction at
Sworders was a superb pair of 13¾in (35cm) tall, gilt brass
candlesticks manufactured c.1844 by Pugin's trusted friend John
Hardman of Birmingham and was estimated at £7000-10,000.
Engraved with Pugin's coat of arms featuring
ravens, and supported by the lions from the arms of his third wife
Jane Knill (the vendors' great-great grandmother), the sticks, like
so much of Pugin's work, had an ecclesiastical air to them and were
engraved en Avant (forward) and Domine da Novic
Lucem (Lord, give light to the novice).
The London trade locked horns before the
pair finally sold over the phone at £68,000 to Blairman & Sons
of Mayfair, who include Gothic Revival among their specialties.
Blairman director Martin Levy said
afterwards: "It was an absolutely iconic pair, the sort of lot
which may never appear again. If the V&A were ever to have
another exhibition the candlesticks would be an ideal choice for
the catalogue cover."
Mr Levy, who had coveted the sticks since
going down to Essex to see them, would not be drawn as to who the
eventual owner might be but did admit to buying a small Pugin
pencil sketch at £1300 "as a present to myself".
The interest of top-end specialists at the
view had been encouraging but tight-lipped. Sworder's George
Schooling said: "The trade knew all about the items but kept their
cards very close to their chest right up until the last
Another London specialist took two other top
lots from the 16-lot section.
One, a pair of silver salts with gilt
interiors, also manufactured by Hardman c.1838, had an altar-table
look - they could have passed for Communion chalices, albeit very
small ones at 4in (10cm) diameter.
They were engraved to the rim Without me
there is no savour. Was this a mildly sacrilegious Pugin pun
on Isaiah: 'I am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour'? Did
the great churchman (he designed six cathedrals and about 40
churches in his short-lived career) have a sense of humour at home
at The Grange?
On a more elevated note, the salts, like all
the Pugin pieces, "offered a rare insight into the things he chose
to live with at home", as Antiques Roadshow expert Mr
They took £13,000 against a £3000-5000
Above: the pair of silver and gilt salts
which took £13,000 at the Pugin collection sale at
Also estimated at £3000-5000 but selling at
£19,000 to the same dealer was a pair of 6¾in tall, 10½in wide (17
x 27cm) silver-plated tazzas by Hardman, c.1846, with lobed bowls
featuring central roundels engraved with knights' helmets and
foliage and the stems and outswept bases also with lobed
One Pugin piece to go below hopes was lot
572, a pair of 12½in (32cm) gilt-brass candlesticks (Hardman
c.1846). Estimated at £5000-10,000, one of the pair was missing its
sconce and, with trade bidders demanding perfection, this was a
private buy at a very reasonable £3400.
Other lesser Pugin pieces generally doubled
their estimates, including a 5in (13cm) tall silver-plated beaker
offered with an 8¾in (22cm) diameter platter, both c.1846, taking
£1300; a 10¼in (26cm) tall gilt-brass altar vase with enamelled
plaque front, probably for use in Pugin's private chapel, going at
£1200, and a pair of silver-plated, lidded storage jars with
Pugin's crest to the bases making £2800.
As well as Mr Levy's present to himself - a
5 x 13¾in (13 x 35cm) pencil sketch of a riverside walled city,
possibly in Germany, at £1300 - there was an inscribed watercolour
of the Bishop's Palace, Beauvais, which went a shade over hopes at
The one failure in the £114,000 collection
was not, in fact, a Pugin design, but a silver teapot by Samuel
Hayne and Dudley Cater, London 1843. It bore the Pugin family crest
as its enamelled finial but was probably bought for the house by
Pugin's second wife, Louise, and was bought in against hopes of
Coronation Bow Tie
Pugin's pride in his family appears to have
triumphed over his aesthetic tastes in the case of a bow tie which
hung mounted and framed at The Grange. It was worked in silver
threads with portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte and Long
Reign King George and was the Westminster Abbey neckwear of a
It is inscribed on the back of the mount in
what is believed to be Pugin's hand: Worn by my
grandfather Welby Esq of the Middle Temple at the Coronation of
George III AD 1760. Estimated at £400-600, it sold to a London
dealer at £1150.