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Porridge, Politics and Poisoning

Nic Saintey takes a brief glance at a few interesting lots in the first Fine Art Sale of the year, which is being held on 28th January 2009 and 29th January 2009 at our Okehampton Street Salerooms in Exeter.

George I Silver Porringer (FS1/132)

A George I Silver Porringer (FS1/132) with twin scroll handles, the body with spiral fluted and reeded decoration, having a gadrooned girdle and circular cartouche, 7.5cm high, maker's mark indistinct, London 1717, 122gm, 3.92oz. Estimate: £150-£250.

Although the George I silver Porringer (FS1/132) has all the look of a ceremonial toasting vessel with a hint of loving cup about it as a porringer it is in fact generally considered to be a swanky cereal bowl, literally a vessel for eating or perhaps drinking porridge or gruel from. However an alternative suggestion is that the word derives from pottager or pottinger which has its root in the French dish Potage in which case it would be a bowl for stew or soup! Whichever derivation you prefer this is a good George I example bearing London marks for 1717.

A cased set of four Edwardian silver novelty menu card holders (FS1/148)

A cased set of four Edwardian silver novelty menu card holders (FS1/148) in the form of standing owls with textured plumage, on circular bases, with inset coloured glass eyes, 3cm. high, maker Samuel Morden & Co, Chester, 1908, 85gm, 2.73oz (hinges to case in need of attention). Estimate: £200-£300.

Staying with the dining table albeit nearly two centuries later is Lot 148 'A cased set of four silver menu card holders' each is in the form of an owl and is by the premier maker of such novelties Samuel Morden bearing marks for Chester 1908. I have no idea why owls have joined a select band of desirable animal or anthropomorphic subject matter for silversmiths that includes cats, pigs and elephants, but they appear regularly and should have no problem flying to their new homes.

Carl Theodor Frankenthal figure (FS1/64)

A Carl Theodor Frankenthal porcelain figure (FS1/64) of a running boar on a rectangular base, in the white, 24cm long, underglaze blue marks, initials and '77' for 1777. Estimate: £1,200-£1,500.

Although not decorated in colours Lot 64 a 'Carl Theodor Frankenthal figure' is crisply and dramatically modelled and something of a rarity. Of all the 'major' porcelain concerns in Germany the one based in Frankenthal was one of the shortest lived with a lifespan of a little over forty years. When the Hannong family got into serious financial difficulties Carl Theodor Prince Elector, Count Palatine and Duke of Bavaria bailed them out and took over administration of their porcelain manufactory. This lead to a period of relative stability and 1762 until the mid 1770's saw the production of much high quality, highly thought of porcelain all marked with a datecode and the Prince's initials. The Prince was renowned as a great patron of the arts and sciences, but was a 'clumsy' politician, who tried to swap the less interesting bits of his kingdom with the Austrians. Apparently when he died of a stroke his subjects celebrated for three days. I feel sure there is a pun somewhere with a running boar, but I'm not brave enough to use it.

A 19th century mahogany homeopathic medicine case (FS1/391)

A 19th century mahogany homeoepathic medicine case (FS1/391) of rectangular form, the hinged lid with leather lined interior stamped 'JAMES LEATH, 9 VERE STREET AND ST PAULS CHURCHYARD', enclosing a soft leather bound book entitled 'HOMEOPATHIC GUIDE FOR FAMILY USE' by Dr Laurie, containing twenty-four various miniature glass medicine tubes with paper labels, some with contents, one replacement, some a/f, having a single drawer below fitted with two larger glass medicine tubes, the case 13cm wide. Estimate: £150-£250.

Something else that is both unusual and something I am also not keen to try out is 'A Nineteenth century homeopathic medicine case' (FS1/391) produced by James Leath, 9 Vere Street and St Pauls Churchyard (not a good address under the circumstances) it comes complete with phials of remedies and a slim volume entitled Homeopathic Guide for Family Use. I feel a little knowledge might well be dangerous as a brief glance reveals that if you are 'inflated with wind between the pit of the stomach and the navel' you are safe to self administer six globules of Bella Donna (Deadly Nightshade).

A Watercolour by Frederick William Jackson (1859-1918) (FS1/310)

A Watercolour by Frederick William Jackson (1859-1918) (FS1/310): Pisa from the city wall looking towards Duomo and bell tower signed, inscribed and dated 1907 in pencil bottom left watercolour heightened with bodycolour 26.5 x 38cm; unframed. Estimate: £400-£600.

Frederick William Jackson is not exactly a household name born in Middleton Junction, Oldham this competent Manchester trained landscape artist did travel to Italy and Morocco. A quick glance at the airy and atmospheric sketches that form Lots 310 and 310a show them to be refreshing images and a world away from his home town, no offence intended – one can't help, but form the impression that he really enjoyed getting out! Being an artist is a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Portrait by the Circle of Michael Dahl (FS1/322)

Portrait by the Circle of Michael Dahl (FS1/322) circa 1659-1733 of an English Chancellor, thought to be Peter King, 1st Baron King (1699-1734) three quarter-length standing, wearing ceremonial dress and full wig oil on canvas 125 x 102cm. Estimate: £3,000-£5,000.

Whilst I may be stating the blindingly obvious when it comes to portraiture, the identity of the sitter is critical to its wider appeal and desirability at sale. The greater number of portraits tend to be 'other peoples ancestors' and as such are nothing more than decorative wall hangings. However Lot 322, 'Circle of Michael Dahl' is a good example of a desirable portrait. The sitter is thought to be Peter King who was born in this very town of Exeter in 1669, although an author, academic and a barrister with notable relations (his cousin was the philosopher John Locke) he was more widely known as the MP for Bere Alston, for being the most senior judge in London and ultimately the Speaker of the House of Lords and Lord Chancellor.

My choices are entirely personal. They are not the most expensive lots in the forthcoming sale and, as you can see, they don't really have any coherence about them, but if you wanted standardisation and sameness you'd visit the high street rather than an auction house. If nothing else, I hope that I have managed to scratch the surface of each to reveal just a glimpse of the story that each has to tell, the rest - well that's up to you!

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