The Fine Art Society, one of London’s oldest commercial art galleries that left its longstanding home in August, offered over 300 works at auction on February 5.
Estimated at £100,000-150,000, but sold at £220,000 was a posthumous cast of Alfred Gilbert’s (1854-1934) most famous work, Eros.
As with the 1886 original (the gleaming nude atop the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus), the 8ft 3in (2.5m) figure of the god of Love is cast in aluminium with the base fashioned in bronze. This was one of ten made in 1987 by the Morris Singer Foundry at Basingstoke (caster of various works for Gilbert during his lifetime).
The original plaster moulds, re-discovered in a packing case at the Victoria & Albert Museum while Eros was being cleaned and conserved, were used to create the edition. The Fine Art Society – the principal promoter of the New Sculpture movement and Gilbert's dealer from 1919 – was chosen to sell them.
The modern casts were sold to the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, the Chi Mei Museum in Taiwain, the town of Lowestoft and Sefton Park, Liverpool (replacing a version of the figure cast in 1928). The remainder went into private ownership.
The hammer price for number five of the edition was subject to both a 25% buyer’s premium and VAT at 20%. By way of comparison the example from the collection Australian collector John Schaeffer was offered by Christie’s New York in 2004 selling at a more modest $140,000 (around £100,000).
Peter Pan bronze
Another FAS-Morris Singer project undertaken in 1987 was the creation of eight new casts of George James Frampton’s (1860-1928) celebrated model of Peter Pan.
In 1912 the original (secretly commissioned the previous year by JM Barrie) was placed on the very spot in Kensington Gardens where the magical boy appeared nightly in the author’s first Peter Pan book Little White Bird.
Bronze reductions of the main figure were made in some number but this is one of number seven of a small edition of full scale 10ft (3.06m) versions complete with whimsical rocky base cast by agreement with Liverpool City Council.
Estimated at £80,000-120,000, it sold at £280,000 (a figure again subject to both VAT at 20% and a 25% buyer’s premium).
Mayfair’s first modern gallery
The £2.7m sale included works by many of the artists and artisans with which the gallery has been closely associated across its one and a half centuries.
The FAS’s founders signed the lease on a ‘fancy goods shop’ at 148 New Bond Street in 1876, becoming the first gallery to set up in Mayfair. It promoted the works of Victorian artists in a new style: hanging pictures in a single, continuous line on white walls, a precursor to many modern exhibitions.
FAS left its premises in August and relocated to Chelsea, a temporary step until it secures a permanent address. It also operates a gallery in Dundas Street in Edinburgh’s New Town.
The Bond Street shop, complete with Godwin facade, will soon be occupied by contemporary dealer Halcyon Gallery.