Some of the inspiration for Masquerade came from a 2ft 9in (83cm) high ‘orrery’ that Williams had created four years earlier.
It formed part of the auction at Ewbank’s in Surrey on January 9 that included items from the estate of American film producer Elliott Kastner (1930-2010) whose credits include Where Eagles Dare (1968), The Long Goodbye (1973) and Angel Heart (1987). The majority of the items, including this ‘rotating painting’, were kept in his office at Pinewood Studios near Slough.
Ensnare the Hare
Like its 18th century exemplar – a mechanical model of the solar system – this model accurately tracks the phases of the moon.
However, instead of the planets, it is filled with painted human and animal figures that tumble around as the circular frame is clicked from one position to the next. The words inlaid to the frame read Dance Three Rings The Songthrush Sings Add One A Day To Ensnare The Hare with a bird pointing to each letter.
In an interview for the BBC Four documentary The Man Behind the Masquerade, Williams recalled how it was this model that gave him the ideas of how to encode the treasure hunting information in the 15 pictures that were published in his best-selling book.
Ewbank’s gave it an estimate of £800-1200 but there was enough interest to see it sell at £17,000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium).
The Masquerade stor y captivated the nation in 1979 but it took two Manchester teachers three years to finally solve the mystery, by which time the hare had been dug up from its hiding place in Ampthill Park, Bedfordshire, by someone with inside knowledge of its whereabouts.