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The diorama, offered by Witney Antiques for a five-figure sum, is believed to depict James II and his wife Mary of Modena. Rolled paper-work was practised by women of the 1600s when, like embroidery, it was considered a suitable occupation for those of the leisured classes. It was taught in female boarding schools. Though a work of a similar subject came to the market several years ago, this example is more intricate still.

This staging of the event, from September 13-18, marks 10 years of the LAPADA fair at its venue, a purpose-built marquee in Mayfair’s Berkeley Square. The area is both a traditional centre for the antiques trade and an accessible destination for monied buyers who might work, for example, in nearby hedge-fund offices. It is also the 45th year of the association.

To mark the double anniversary a new stand dubbed LAPADA Legends will feature at the event. It showcases a collection of pieces deemed to be of ‘incredible skill’.

These objects (not finalised at the time of writing) are submitted by exhibitors and the wider LAPADA membership, comprised of more than 500 members, from their own stock. Winners will then be selected in 10 categories (fine art, jewellery, furniture, etc) and announced on September 12, preview day.

New approach

Last year was the fair’s first under new leadership following the departure of the trade association’s former head as well as its fair director, who had established it in the current location. Now it is overseen by chief executive Freya Simms and fair manager Sophie Wood.

After some tumultuous months for the trade, Wood tells ATG that the time is right for a bit of celebration.

“The market is tough anyway but there are a lot of external factors this year – new money laundering regulations, the ivory ban, Brexit uncertainty,” she says. “It’s caused discomfort among our members, but it has been a chance also for LAPADA to shine, showing the value of a trade association by lobbying at the government level and giving our dealers information they need.”

Millennials are using antiques as key pieces in their homes

‘Tide is turning’

One challenge for exhibitors at recent UK fairs has been getting buyers to commit there and then to major pieces, usually a problem put down to political and economic uncertainty.

Wood feels confident that the tide is turning.

“People are going back to buying quality again, and millennials are using antiques as key pieces in their homes,” she says. “We’re creating a shopping environment within the fair for visitors.”

LAPADA projects visitor numbers at 20,000-25,000 for the week.

Those who come to browse or buy will be met with the usual high-quality, vetted pieces from the 100 or so dealers representing a variety of disciplines, at prices ranging from around £500-500,000.

Among those offering traditional antiques is Mary Cooke, which brings a range of silver tea caddies, luxury items of the 18th century. These include a George III example modelled as a tea chest, made in London, 1775, by John Carte II. It is extensively decorated with Greek designs, Chinese characters and a family crest.

Other stand-out pieces include a box thought to be made from fragments of the barrel which transported Lord Nelson’s body back to Britain, offered by Timothy Millett. It was owned by Edgar Goble, son of Thomas Goble, who was standing beside Nelson before the admiral’s death. It came down by descent to Edgar’s great-grandson, who was also in the Royal Navy and died in 2018.

Brian Watson, meanwhile, offers a goblet decorated with Schwarzlot, a form of enamelling on glass in which the whole design is done in black. This example was probably the work of Josef Lenardt, who worked at Steinschonau in Bohemia from 1880.

The fair’s chief charity beneficiary is Sarabande, founded by designer Lee Alexander McQueen. It hosts a fundraising gala during the fair to support future generations working in the arts.