Bespoke works of art created by the architect-designer William Burges (1827-81) for his own or his clients’ enjoyment are extremely rare - but three emerged for sale in the regions in the space of a week.
Offered at Lyon & Turnbull (26% buyer’s premium) on October 11 as part of the Edinburgh Design Since 1860 sale was an archaic Chinese gui-form jade censer later inlaid with coloured glass and gemstone cabochons.
As inscribed to the gilt metal mount, this was made for Burges with funds received from the completion of a commission in Scotland in 1870. The job was to design a stone reredos for the high altar of St Michael and All Saints Episcopal Church in Edinburgh - the only work he completed in the city.
Burges made several cross-culture pieces of this ilk. A similarly embellished Chinese porcelain flask was sold by the small Wiltshire firm Jubilee Auction Rooms for £42,000 back in May 2012.
This bowl was part of the furnishings at Burges’ London home Tower House and later on loan to the National Museum of Wales from 1931-53. It first appeared at auction in 2012 when it sold for £34,000 at Dreweatts but last appeared at auction at Sotheby’s in 2013 when it made a more modest £15,000. The bowl was recently part of the collection of the American musician John Gilbert Getty (1968-2020).
Offered here with a guide of £15,000-20,000, it made £32,000.
Another Burges design from the same source was a tooled leather book binding with enamelled and hardstone inlaid mounts by his favoured silversmith Jes Barkentin (c.1815-83).
Sold at £6600 (estimate £4000-6000), this was part of the Burges commission for Lady Mary Vyner of Newby Hall, Yorkshire, whose son Frederick Vyner (1847-70) was kidnapped and later murdered by bandits while travelling in Greece.
In his honour his mother and sister used the unspent ransom to commission two churches from Burges (The Church of St Mary, Studley Royal and The Church of Christ the Consoler, Skelton-on-Ure). The binding, which holds a copy of the 1871 Book of Common Prayer, mirrors some of the heraldry used in the decoration of the buildings. The original design is in the RIBA collection.
Included in the Robert Kime sale held by Dreweatts (26/25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on October 4 was a Barkentin and Krall (London 1877) chalice with blue, red and green champlevé enamel decoration, inspired by French manuscript illumination.
It is one of a set of five designed by Burges for his friends at The Arts Club. Detailed drawings of the cups, including the French Gothic enamel motifs that encircle the stems, form part of Burges’ album of designs entitled Orfevrerie domestique held in the RIBA.
Each cup has an individual enamel boss inside the cup with a monogram. The cup offered here was for Henry Curzon (1839-91), an architect with offices in Lincoln Inn Fields.
Estimated at £12,000-16,000, it went just below estimate at £11,000. That was something of a bargain: the cup for AO Bell was sold by JS Fine Art in Banbury in 2015 for £27,500.