The collection of close to 500 silver and gold objects donated to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford by the late dealer-collector Michael Wellby has been described as the most important bequest of its type for over a century.
Mr Wellby, whose jewellery collection was
sold by Sotheby's in a white glove sale in December (see next
week'sJewellerycolumn), came from a London family of silversmiths
Opening his own shop in the 1960s, he became
an acknowledged expert on northern European Renaissance and baroque
Tim Wilson, the Ashmolean's Keeper of the
Department of Western Art, who was a close friend of Wellby,
described the gift of 16th and 17th century items as "the most
important accession of objects of this sort to any UK museum since
the bequest of objects from Waddesdon Manor by Ferdinand Rothschild
to the British Museum in 1898".
Many of the pieces he kept for his personal
collection were acquired in the mid 20th century when the ornate
style of German silver was regarded as old fashioned.
"In the manner of the grand old dealers, he
could be quite cagey about where he actually acquired things," Mr
Wilson said. "There was nothing underhand about it, most were
bought at public auctions on the continent, but he liked to play
his cards very close to his chest."
A selection of some of the most spectacular
pieces will go on show in a temporary display next month before the
entire collection is displayed in a permanent gallery.