This extraordinarily comprehensive collection has been assembled over the past quarter century or so by Christopher FoleyF.S.A., director for the last forty years of the old-established dealer in early English paintings, Lane Fine Art Limited. He has long specialised in British portraiture, and was initially attracted to these medals by the correlation between the iconography of grand court portraiture in oil paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries and their reproduction on a tiny scale in precious metals.
His first ever purchase in the field was the rare oval uniface portrait medal of Elizabeth I. He had recently bought and sold the famous George Gower ‘Sieve’ portrait of the Queen, and acquired the medal as little more than a personal souvenir of that transaction. Encouraged by the egregious advice of Richard Falkiner, F.S.A., he soon developed a taste for (not to mention a large collection of) early British medals. His personal preference was for the hammered and the hand-made, so in the early years the collection concentrated on the era from the medallic incunabula of the Tudors to the relative sophistication of the Commonwealth era. The later 17th century ‘milled’ medals followed somewhat later.
Now approaching seventy, Foley retains the magpie-instincts of the collector, but has decided that the pace of new additions to the present collection has slowed to such a large extent that he would like to concentrate on a numismatic-related collection in an entirely different field, one which reflects both his early education as a Classicist and his life-long enthusiasm for archaeology. He will also expand his art and history library - already more than 6,000 volumes - to include manuscript material.
Collections as broad as this can never be said to be ‘complete’, nor can they ever compete with the scale and quality of the staggering national collections in the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam, and, above all, the British Museum, themselves accreted over centuries. But as a personal collection, amassed in a systematic and scholarly way, it has perhaps never been equalled and certainly never surpassed in more than a hundred years.
The eminent medal specialist, Richard Falkiner, F.S.A., provided Christopher Foley with wise advice and help in acquiring many of the pieces in the collection and the auction catalogue has been written by Daniel Fearon, a numismatist of long standing, a specialist in historical medals and a consultant at Woolley & Wallis. With just under 600 lots, it will be comprehensive and filled with a mass of scholarly information and each lot will be illustrated actual size.
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