Fuelled by the first international media coverage made possible by the telegraph, the visit of the Italian general, politician and nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-82) aroused huge interest in Victorian England.
The crowds that greeted him at Vauxhall were so enormous that he required six hours to reach his lodgings on the Mall. His speech at Crystal Palace drew 25,000 supporters. A biscuit was named in his honour.
The Illustrated London News stated at the time: “No man has achieved a wider or more lasting fame” and described how Garibaldi was given a gold box “made by Hancock of Bruton Street ornamented by garlands of flowers and the arms of the city of London on the lid”. There is the letter ‘G,’ in diamonds, with a gold star, on the front.
The box now lacks its diamond-set initial (perhaps sold off later in Garibaldi’s life when funds were short) and close inspections shows that it is in fact marked for James Hunt, London 1767.
With only two weeks to fulfil the commission, it seems Hancocks used a Georgian box from stock. At Bonhams’ inaugural Important Design sale on April 5, it carries an estimate of £30,000-50,000.