The January 17 sale titled ‘Of Royal and Noble Descent’ includes 79 lots dedicated to Nelson, Trafalgar and the British maritime tradition from ‘a princely collection’.
Alongside typical souvenirs and commemoratives with estimates staring at £100 and a range of marine oil paintings, the sale features the return to Sotheby’s of a series of trophy lots that 12 years ago (October 2005) formed part of the anniversary sale Trafalgar: Nelson and the Napoleonic Wars.
These include a large fragment of the Union Jack believed to have flown from HMS Victory at Trafalgar. It was given by Captain William Hugh Dobbie (1771-1830) to the Museum of the Royal United Services Institute and later sold at Wallis & Wallis of Lewes on two occasions, in c.1961 and 1995. It was purchased by the vendor in 2005 at a premium-inclusive £120,000. The estimate this time is £80,000-100,000.
A c.1800 travelling chest with its carefully cased set of fine decanters, wine glasses and beaker is catalogued as Nelson’s grog chest. The escutcheon on the lid is inscribed Admiral Lord Nelson's Chest and the lockplate inscribed John Frederick Foster, The Gift of his Aunt MH Todd, May 1875.
Sold by SJ Phillips c.1985, on the receipt it is written: This chest formerly belonged to Admiral Nelson, was inherited by the godson Horatio Nelson Atkinson, the son of the Master of the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. It came into the possession of MH Todd of Keswick and passed by descent from her nephew John Frederick Foster to Elizabeth Foster, Duchess of Devonshire. This chest was previously at Glyde Court, Ireland. Acquired by the owner in 2005 for £54,000, it is estimated at £35,000-45,000 at Sotheby’s.
Hamilton Love Letters
The collection includes a number of his love letters to Emma Hamilton – a beguiling window into Nelson’s tempestuous personality and the relationship between the two most famous English people of their day. Written between October 1801 and May 1803, these letters also document key events from the Amiens peace negotiations to Trafalgar. Emma’s portrait, by the Irish neo-classicist Gavin Hamilton, which once hung in her husband’s salon in Naples, is also offered here (estimate £150,000-200,000).
The Matcham dessert service, sold for £96,000 in 2005, is thought to have been a gift from Nelson to his sister Catherine Matcham and relates closely to a set recorded at Merton, Nelson and Emma Hamilton’s house in London. Probably made at the Coalport factory, but decorated elsewhere, each piece is painted with a fouled anchor and, to the borders, scenes from the battles of Copenhagen and the Nile. The estimate is £40,000-60,000.
Also by descent from the Matcham family is a set of five engraved and faceted decanters and stoppers c.1800 (sold 12 years ago for £27,500) and a pair of silver sauceboats (Daniel Pontifex, London, 1799) presented to Lord Nelson by Lloyds Coffee House following the Battle of Copenhagen (£120,000 in 2005). These are estimated at £12,000-18,000 and £30,000-50,000 respectively.