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The blue, red and green champlevé enamel decoration, inspired by French manuscript illumination, suggested it was designed by the Gothic Revival architect-designer William Burges (1827-81).

It carried a presentation inscription to the rim in pseudo-medieval script reading To A.O. Bell Esq in Recognition of His Services to the Arts Club 1878.

A red and blue roundel set to the interior also referenced the recipient: it depicted a bell and the letters AO.

The Burges attribution was missed at the cataloguing stage but the name of the silversmith (Jes Barkentin was Burges' preferred maker) was enough for Arts and Crafts specialists to find it.

Bidding Competition

At the auction on October 24, bidding soon reached £8000 at which point two room bidders began a contest lasting some five minutes that only ended at £27,500 (plus 21.6% buyer's premium). The winner was a London dealer.

The 8.5oz chalice is understood to be one of a set of six made by Barkentin and Krall and hallmarked for London 1877.

The British Museum own a similar vessel with a maple bowl and cover which shares both the scalloped borders and the contorted 'grotesques' in champlevé quatrefoils around the foot.

Works of art by Burges are extremely rare - but serendipity has seen several emerge in the regions in recent years. In 2012 the small Wiltshire firm Jubilee Auction Rooms sold a jewel-decorated robin's-egg blue flask at £42,000.