Our first sale was held nearly 30 years ago as part of Sotheby's Country House saleroom at Summers Place in Sussex, since which time the sales have flourished, establishing a global reputation. Following restructuring, the department is staffed by a team who, between them, have nearly 200 years of Sotheby’s experience.
Garden, Natural History and Tribal Art 25 & 26 September 2018 catalogue available end of August.
Given the swelteringly hot summer we have had to endure, it’s quite fitting that our September sale has an “Out of Africa” theme, encompassing very diverse collecting areas. The tribal art section concentrates particularly on masks which are becoming particularly popular with both collectors and decorators. This sale is rich in very good Kifwebe examples from the Songye people in the Congo as well as masks from the Pende people, also in the Congo.
Complementing the tribal section is a taxidermy collection belonging to F. Cecil Cobb, who joined one of the most famous big game hunters of all time, Major Percy Powell-Cotton (1866-1940) on one of his many expeditions to Africa. Cobb wrote a book titled 'Sport on the Setit', in which he recounted his hunting trip to the Sudan, in 1911. The book is illustrated with photographs of some of the animals he shot during the expedition, and many of these are presented in this auction – mementos of a bygone era when attitudes to such things were very different to our own.Highlights of the collection for sale are two magnificent Zebra heads by Rowland Ward from the early 20th century.
The animal theme continues with a strong section of contemporary sculpture with a number of pieces by John Cox including a stunning life size bronze white rhinoceros. The African menagerie continues with, elephants , giraffes, crocodiles ,wildebeest, flamingos, hippos and sailfish.
Also from Africa comes a good early collection of fossil material from Morocco, as well as malachite from Congo and stunning jasper from Madagascar. Trumping them all, however is a top grade quality box veneered in extremely rare Russian mineral Charoite, together with another box veneered in fossilised dinosaur bone and Gedrite.
A sculptor whose work we have sold consistently well over the years is John Robinson, who died in 2007 and whose oeuvre encompassed both figurative and abstract sculpture. We have been invited by the Robinson family to sell the contents of his garden and studio, which revealed a treasure trove of works. Most iconic and Inspired by a trip to Greece with its Olympic tradition, is his 5 metre high bronze resin group of Acrobats, This group was certainly instrumental in John being appointed the Official Sculptor for the British Olympic Committee in 1988.
John, however, was a true artistic renaissance prince and his next artistic phase led him in a completely different direction into his Symbolic Sculpture, which formed his Universe series, which explores, often utilising complicated mathematical formulae, man’s relationship with the Universe. The bronze abstract piece Elation, a casting of which was gifted by the British Olympic Association to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, representing the punching of a fist in athletic triumph, is a tour de force in elegant simplicity.
In addition to this, John was an accomplished portrait sculptor. His most well known works are busts of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in her role as Warden of the Cinque Ports and Her Majesty the Queen in her role as Colonel in Chief of The Royal Tank Regiment. Both the plaster originals and bronze castings, are included in the sale.
On a more traditional level, we are offering a pair of Georgian Coade stone figures, originally modelled by George III’s favourite sculptor, John Bacon as well as a Coade stone figure of Diana de Gabies. The Coade factory was started around 1769 by the redoubtable Eleanor Coade, perhaps one of the earliest examples of “girl power” in business. Right through to the 1840’s the factory, based in Lambeth, London, produced a huge range of statuary, ornament and architectural embellishments which can still be seen everywhere from Buckingham Palace to Bermuda.
All of the pieces described here have merit in so many ways….. so what’s our favourite?.... it’s a humble Edwardian shepherd’s hut on wheels and traditionally moved around so the shepherd could tend his flocks…just the thing for a camping trip al fresco after the warmest of summers.
As ever we are always happy to provide condition reports on any lot and if you want to visit before the official viewing times, just give us a ring.
James and Rupert