Lot 102. Property from the Collection of Baroness Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. A silver-gilt-mounted hardstone cup, possibly created by Edward Farrell in the early 19th century, incorporating 16th century elements, after a design by Virgil Solis; 9 ¼ in. (23.5 cm.) high. Estimate GBP 120,000 - GBP 180,000 (USD 159,120 - USD 238,680). Unsold. © Christie's Images Ltd 2018
The agate carved as a turbo shell surmounted by the figure of Neptune holding a cornucopia and a trident, astride a seahorse, on circular base with stem cast as a satyr holding two dolphins, engraved underneath with an inscription and painted inventory number '718'. The inscription reads 'Formerly in the possession of HRH the Duke of York.'
Provenance: Prince Frederick, Duke of York (1763-1827), according to the inscription.
Arturo José López Willshaw (1900-1962) of Hôtel Rodocanachi, Neuilly-sur-Seine, companion of Alexis von Rosenberg, Baron de Redé, Hôtel Lambert, Paris.
Twenty-Five Renaissance Jewels and Works of Art from the Collection of the late Arturo-Lopez-Willshaw; Sotheby's, London, 10 June 1974, lot 23.
Literature: J. F. Hayward, Virtuoso Goldsmiths, London, 1976, p. 334, pl. 10.
H. Müller, European Silver from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, London, 1986, cat. no. 82, pp. 276-277 (as Antwerp circa 1560-70).
Sammlung Thyssen-Bornemisza, Gold and Silver Treasures from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, exhibition catalogue, 1987, p. 23, no. 7.
H-U Mette, Der Nautiluspokal Wie Kunst und Natur miteinander spielen, Munich, 1995, fig. 126.
Exhibited: Miami, Center for Fine Arts; Omaha, Joslyn Art Museum; Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum; Memphis, The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Gold and Silver from Thyssen- Bornemisza Collection, 1987-1988, cat. no. 7.
Note: VIRGIL SOLIS AND CORNELIS FLORIS
The design for this cup is derived from an engraving by Virgil Solis (1514-1562) which in turn takes inspiration from a work by Cornelis Floris (1514-1575) published by Hieronymus Cock (1518-1570) in 1548, as cited by Hannelore Müller in her catalogue of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection (op. cit., 276-278), see above. Both designs show the shell shaped bowl supported by the figure of a satyr clasping a dolphin beneath each arm. The bases differ from the present cup, being spool shaped and applied with a snail. The Solis design is closer to the present cup. Both depict the figure of Neptune however, on the cup he is astride a hippocamp.
An engraving by Virgil Solis (1514-1562).
Nautilusbokaal, Balthazar van den Bos, after Cornelis Floris (II), 1548 © The Rijksmuseum.
The dating of these designs led Hayward to attribute the cup to an Antwerp workshop of the 1560s in Virtuoso Goldsmiths, p. 334. This was discussed at length by Müller and the attribution questioned, however, there are a number of factors which suggest the English Regency period for the assembly and partial creation of the cup. Its ownership by the Duke of York, as recorded by the inscription on the base, places it in the sphere of the celebrated retailer Kensington Lewis (c.1790-1854) and the silversmith Edward Farrell. Lewis supplied the Duke with magnificent works, many in a Mannerist revival style. He was an early promoter of antiquarian taste and bought Renaissance works of art in the Duke of Norfolk's sale at Christie's in 1816. He acquired a salver decorated with 'figures of marine deities' or 'sea nymphs and tritons in relief,' and a tankard with 'a feast of the Gods, in exquisite bas-relief . . . Alexander visiting the tent of Darius . . . the handle formed as a syren [sic.].' He also owned and exhibited the celebrated Aldobrandini tazze in 1826.
A metal analysis of samples taken from the strapwork of the upper body of the present lot show it to be 95% silver, almost Britannia standard. Whilst the level of impurities of gold, lead and bismuth do not point to a 19th century alloy, Edward Farrell is known to have worked in the Britannia standard, perhaps reusing early 18th century metal. Gilding prevents the testing of the figures and the base. The construction of the stem and base, with the elements soldered together rather than being detachable and fixed by bolts and nuts, is atypical of 16th century construction. As a Regency creation it is an important and early example of Royal collecting tastes. Interestingly the sale of the Duke of Cambridge's collection, which took place at Christie's on 7 June 1904, included as lot 134 'A NAUTILUS CUP, mounted with silver-gilt, the borders and straps finely engraved with running arabesque foliage and chased with masks, on silver-gilt stem formed as a Satyr carrying two dolphins, and on circular plinth chased with three masks, and chased with strapwork; the cup is surmounted by a figure of Neptune riding a sea horse riding a sea-horse - 6 1/2 in. high - German, late 16th Century.' The absence of a hardstone bowl and the discrepancy in size make it very unlikely that this is the same piece, however it could well have been a similar version to the present lot, produced for the Duke's brother, or perhaps the prototype for the present lot.
THE DUKE OF YORK (1763-1827)
Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, in common with his elder brother King George IV and to a lesser extent the Dukes of Sussex and Cambridge, was one of the most influential collectors of antique and modern silver of the early 19th century. His acquisitiveness, unfettered spending and his taste for gambling led to his his finances being in a parlous state at the time of his death. His debts were estimated to be between £200,000 and £500,000. The imprecise nature of the figure being perhaps an indication of just how chaotic the Duke's financial affairs were. This led to the unprecedented sale of his collection at Christie's over four days. The present cup does not feature in the sale and this, together with the inscription, suggests the cup left the Duke's collection before his death, possibly as a gift.
The Duke of York (1763-1827)
Prince Frederick was the second and favourite son of King George III. He was married to Princess Frederica, daughter of Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, when he was twenty-eight although they separated shortly thereafter. At the time of his wedding he was said to have had the enormous income of £70,000. Following the outbreak of the war with France in 1793, the Duke fought in the Flanders campaigns and became Commander-in-Chief of the Army five years later. In 1809 he was accused of corruption on account of the practices of his mistress, Mary Ann Clark, who profited from her intimacy with the Commander-in-Chief by selling promotions to officers. The scandal forced him to resign for two years, but he was reinstated in 1811. He is remembered as having greatly improved the training of soldiers and provision for uniforms. Ironically he championed promotion on merit rather than patronage.
Following the death of his mother Queen Charlotte in 1818 he was made legal guardian of the now mad King George III. The King finally died in 1820 and the Duke became his elder brother's heir presumptive, much enjoying his importance at court. The extravagance of his brother's coronation much appealed to him and he optimistically decreed that his enthronement would be similarly lavish. In the autumn of 1826 he was afflicted by dropsy and early in the following year he died at the Duke of Rutland's house in Arlington Street. His body lay in state in St. James's Palace and was taken in procession to St. George's Chapel, Windsor, where his funeral took place.
Christie's. The Exceptional Sale 2018, London, 5 July 2018