A bedside cabinet by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) was hammered down at £200,000. The pair to another in the collection of the V&A dated c.1916, it came by descent from Wenman Joseph Bassett Lowke (1877-1953), until it was last sold at auction in 1988 and was then in a private London collection.
In the wake of his success in Glasgow, Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald moved to Suffolk in 1914. His main client in this period was Bassett Lowke, founder of the tinplate toymaker of the same name, whose house at 78 Derngate, Northampton, was remodelled and furnished in the modern taste.
For Derngate, Mackintosh’s style evolved to focus on broad planes of polished and waxed timber enhanced by abalone inlay. His production methods changed too. Unable to supervise the manufacture of these pieces, Mackintosh provided drawings that were worked up by German craftspeople working on the Isle of Man. The cabinet had a guide of £10,000-15,000 and sold to a private British collector at a price that with 25% premium was £250,000.
The Derngate property is now owned and managed via a charitable trust (and will reopen after lockdown to welcome visitors again). Liz Jansson, house manager, said: “Some of the 78 Derngate management team watched the auction with great interest and were thrilled and astonished to see its huge demand. It just goes to show that cutting-edge design and craftsmanship is always to be admired and highly sought after.”
Also in the L&T sale was a work by Frances Macdonald McNair. Her collaborations with her sister Margaret Macdonald (who married Rennie Mackintosh), Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert McNair (who married Frances) are celebrated as pivotal works in the development of the Art Nouveau aesthetic in Scotland.
They all studied at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art in the early 1890s and she was encouraged to experiment with forms and patterns – as evidenced in Frances’ design for the cover of Das Eigenkleid Der Frau (Women’s Own Dress). The book itself, authored by Anna Muthesius, is considered a seminal text in the development of early 20th century women’s fashion. Muthesius and her husband Hermann, the architectural writer, became close friends with the ‘The Four’ after several trips to Glasgow and the Willow Tearooms.
It sold at £100,000 against an estimate of £10,000- 15,000. This represents a considerable jump in price in just eight years. It appeared at L&T in 2012 as part of the Donald and Eleanor Taffner collection and sold at £13,000.