Works of art by architect-designer William Burges (1827-1881) are extremely rare – but serendipity has seen half a dozen pieces emerge recently in the regions.
In addition to a Puss in Boots pendant estimated
at £20,000-30,000 at Woolley & Wallis on October 3, which
failed to sell, there have been not one but two examples of a
hitherto unknown Burgess brooch, as well as a jewel-decorated
robin's-egg-glazed blue flask.
The brooches were apparently made by Burges to mark the
wedding of the architect John Pollard to Margaret Seddon in 1864.
One sold at Gildings of Market Harborough in August 2011 at
£31,000, the other sold by private treaty to the V&A in June.
The remarkable flask was sold by the small Wiltshire firm Jubilee
Auction Rooms for £42,000 in May.
Another important, and personal, piece emerged at
Dreweatts (24% buyer's premium) at Donnington Priory, Newbury
As an antiquarian and an avid collector as well as an
architect-designer, Burges often successfully incorporated
classical gems, coins, Oriental carvings and porcelain into the art
objects he created for himself and his clients.
Like the flask sold by Jubilee in Pewsey, the silver-mounted
celadon jade bowl offered at Dreweatts on September 12 was formed
around a Chinese work of art. Measuring 3 x 4½in (8 x 11.5cm), the
piece was inscribed in capitals Wil Burges Me Fec Honorars
Pterdo Se Edinburghse Collastis MDCCCLXX.
Also included in the lot was a typed label from the National
Museum of Wales which read Bowl of Indian jade, bought,
decorated and inscribed by William Burges (1827-81) who restored
Cardiff Castle about 1865, and was the architect for 20, Park
Today's opinion has it that the bowl was Chinese, but there is
the possibility that the gemstones (three of them now missing and
one chipped) were Mughal Indian.
Dreweatts' vendor was a Welsh collection of some note - the
source of the Nantgarw and Swansea porcelain in the saleroom's
October ceramics sale.
Estimated at £10,000-15,000, the bowl sold to a London dealer
(thought to be bidding for his own collection) at £34,000.
Beadle Staff Head
Another seldom seen object offered in the silver and jewellery
catalogue was a 9in (24cm) George I silver beadle's staff head
modelled as a church tower with a ball spire.
It had some solder repairs and was marked only with the untraced
maker's initials WS but the worn but readable
inscription read: This is A Free Gifft Given to Jon. Went by
the Parsons under Thos. Wittingham Ch. Warden, Jon. Cole Sideman,
Jo. Gosdin, Edw. Wyburd, Constable Peter Lees, Peter Marget,
Survaors Jon. Goodwell, Jon, Roulston, Tho. Thorne, Headborroughs,
James Smith, Jon. Charpentir.
It carried the name Jon. Went Beadle
Beadles were an important part of the courts and livery
companies of the City of London - 17th and 18th century staff heads
survive in the collections of many of the 'worshipful
However, the word also came to refer to a parish constable of
the Anglican Church. Often charged with duties of charity including
overseeing the parish workhouse and orphanage, they were given a
bad name by Dickens's Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist.
One trusts Jon. Went was a much finer fellow.
With its inscription and distinctive form (suggesting it was
modelled on a specific building), this ecclesiastical staff head,
from an era when so many of London's churches were built, offers
plenty of possibilities for research.
Acquired by the vendor around 20 years ago, it sold to a London
dealer at £3500 (estimate £800-1200).
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