Did a diminutive fruitwood carving sold by Knowle Auction Rooms relate to one of the most tumultuous periods of British history – the Act of the Supremacy under Henry VIII?
The vendor had acquired the curious 3in (7cm) devotional object
formed as a hexagonal temple as part of a box of junk at a house
sale less than ten years ago. He, like the auctioneers who sold it,
was unsure of its precise origins but both saw enough of its
jewel-like qualities to hope it might improve upon its estimate of
But what did that complicated series of Latin inscriptions,
motifs and figures, buried under a thick layer of dust,
The Latin inscription framing the 'temple' is a quotation from
Psalm 118:105 and translates as: Your word is a lamp to my
feet, and a light to my paths, a theme repeated with the words
Tenebras Quam Lucem (from darkness into light).
To the centre is a figure group wrapped in a ribbon inscribed
with the quotation from John 1:29: Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui
tollit peccata mundi (Behold the Lamb of God who takes
away the sins of the world).
A peg to the base (and perhaps a knop to the dome now missing)
allows this to rotate so each of the three figures can be viewed
between a series of arches.
But this is more than just a personal spiritual aid. The phrase
Vive Le Roi appears close to a beautifully carved
crowned double rose - symbol of the Tudor monarchy.
And does one of those three central figures not bear a passing
resemblance to the king who, by Act of Parliament in November 1534,
was declared "the only supreme head on earth of the Church of
Certainly, despite the loss of a foot and a finial, this was an
object with great potential and one that prompted plenty of bidding
at the sale on April 9 before it sold to a specialist London
works of art dealer at £7500. With hindsight, that could just prove
a relatively modest sum.
The buyer's premium was 20%.
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