Arts and Crafts at auction

12th January 2022

“Personality and craftsmanship” – two of the key points that Silver specialist, Rupert Slingsby, identifies as appealing to collectors of objects produced as part of the Arts and Crafts movement at the start of the 20th century.

The movement actually began during the 1880s as a protest against increased mechanisation and the industrial revolution, with artists and designers such as William Morris, Augustus Pugin, John Ruskin and Charles Robert Ashbee seeking a return to true artistry and craftsmanship. Designs are often reminiscent of medieval art and objects and used production techniques that were already centuries old.

A private collection of Arts and Crafts silver included in the auction at Woolley and Wallis on 26th January includes several examples that echo decorative motifs from the Tudor period, including a shallow bowl modelled as a large Tudor rose (lot 675), and a pair of silver goblets (lot 676) that would not look out of place in the hand of Henry VIII.

“Many of the pieces in the collection were designed and made by Omar Ramsden, who alongside Archibald Knox designing for Liberty, is one of the biggest names in the movement,” explained Rupert Slingsby. “His work is highly sought-after by collectors.”

The high profile and sometimes flamboyant names that featured in the Arts and Crafts movement provide an added draw for collectors who will often focus on the work of one or two key designers. “Putting a name to the maker of an object does seem to make a difference,” continued Slingsby. “Some earlier pieces of silver can have just as much intrinsic value and just as much work put into them, but the maker is often anonymous. Knowing who Ramsden was and being able to find out more about him can add a surprising value.”

Also part of the collection is a bowl that was made by George Hart for the Guild of Handicraft in 1960, unusually fashioned from 18 carat gold. Although made some decades after the movement was at its height, the bowl has been constructed to the same principles and techniques that were used by Charles Ashbee and the other designers who founded the Guild in 1888. Bearing the inscription ‘Feb 23 DHS MS 1911-1961’ it appears to have been commissioned to celebrate a Golden Wedding anniversary. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £7,000 – 9,000.

The whole collection is expected to make in the region of £20,000 when it comes under the hammer in Salisbury on 26th January.

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