The panel, which was spotted by the vendor, oak furniture and works of art specialist Paul Fitzsimmons on eBay, is stylistically linked to two others of similar size, also carved in high relief with crowned bust portraits, one in the Victoria and Albert Museum the other, re-coloured and gilt some time after it appeared at auction in 1912, now in the Museum of London.
Both Bonhams’ and the V&A’s panel feature shields carved with the lions or leopards of England. On the basis of a known provenance for the Museum of London panel to the London mansion of William Paulet, Marques of Winchester, the auctioneers suggested that all three were made for one of the homes of this wealthy Tudor administrator whose career spanned the reigns of Henry VIII to Elizabeth I.
Rare Renaissance Carving
Bonhams’ specialist David Houlston said there were rebates to the back of their panel showing it would have been set within something, though it was not known whether the three would have formed part of the fittings of a room setting or a mantelpiece but that “they must have hung together at one point”.
Quality English Renaissance carving does not come up for auction that often and when the panel made its appearance on February 24 with an estimate of £20,000-30,000, it attracted plenty of potential interest from the phones and room up to this level.
But the main bidding was down to two contestants: the London works of art dealer Patricia Wengraf who deemed it “a fine piece” and the ultimately successful purchaser, a phone bidder who secured the lot at £152,000.