Academic journal article The Byron Journal

Report from the Salerooms

Academic journal article The Byron Journal

Report from the Salerooms

Article excerpt

United Kingdom

It has been an extraordinary year for things Byronie in English provincial auction houses. The first item of interest was a skull cup. This came up for sale in October 2017 at Charterhouse Auctioneers in Sherborne, Dorset. The cup, being the top half of a skull, was finished with a metal rim. The rim was engraved with the words 'Skull Drinking Cup used by Lord Byron at Newstead Abbey'. The auctioneers stated in a press release that 'The engraving to the skull cup appears to be of a later date, probably towards the end of the 19th century. Although I am not a leading expert in skulls, I think you have to take this at face value and either believe the inscription or not.' The lot was estimated at ?550^1,000 and sold for ?3,220 including commission. My feeling is that this was not THE skull cup. In Burton and Murdoch's Byron, Victoria and Albert Museum Exhibition Catalogue of 1974, page 14, Item B5 there is a description and water colour of the skull cup, which is inscribed 'Given to Mrs Webb by Mrs Wildman / 1863.' It goes on to say that 'Byron paid seventeen guineas for its polishing and mounting in silver'. The water colour shows the skull mounted on a stem with base. The Charterhouse skull cup had no base and stem, its provenance was poor and the price realised reflects this, especially when compared with the following items, which all have excellent provenance.

The next item of interest, and my favourite of the year, followed swiftly in November 2017 at Tennants in North Yorkshire. This was Boatswain's collar, or one of them, as there is one at Newstead Abbey. The auctioneers description read as follows 'The Collar of His favourite Newfoundland Dog Boatswain (d. 1808), in brass with toothed edge, engraved in bold script Rt. Honble LORD BYRON 44cm, diameter, 4.5cm wide, in later fitted mahogany display case [...] sold together with various documentation and catalogues relating to provenance [...].' This provenance included a transcript of a note by Byron's gamekeeper's widow certifying the sale of the collar, with others, one of which went to Leeds Castle in Kent. Her note also said who had engraved it and how it had been damaged-'by a Bear which Lord Byron kept for his own amusement and with which Boatswain had many severe encounters.' Other paperwork included a 1903 Catalogue of the E.M. Kidd Collection sold by F.W. Kidd & T. Neale & Sons, the collar was lot 424. A Sotheby's catalogue of 1976 in which the collar was lot 180. At that sale it sold for ?600. This time around the hammer price was ?14,000. The auctioneer's estimate had been ?3,000^5000.

Moving to 2018 and London and the only disappointing thing in this report: Sotheby's sale on 9 July, Lot 437. Walpole. A Catalogue of the Royal and Noble Authors of England, Scotland, and Ireland [...] enlarged and continued to the present time by Thomas Park. 1806. 5 volumes, expanded and illustrated edition, lacking one plate in Volume 3. Inscribed on the half title of Volume One 'Eliza. Bridget. Pigot / June 3d. 1807-G.G. Byron', and below in pencil 'The above is Ld Byron's own writing. / EBP'. These volumes did not sell. The estimate was ?8,000-?i2,000.

Back to the provinces and back to Tennants for their sale on 21st July 2018. Lot 194. Estimated at ?3,000-?5,000 and selling for ?9,200 was a Rare 18 Carat Gold Enamel Memorial Ring for Lord Byron. The ring had a central plaque with a coronet surmounting the name Byron and in gilt on black enamel on its outer side 'in Memory of'. The inner band was engraved 'Died 19 April 1824 Aged 36'. This ring came from Pepper Arden Hall, where it has been since 1919, when its then owner, Sir Herbert Chermside moved it, with all his Newstead Abbey heirlooms, to North Yorkshire. Sir Herbert was married to Geraldine Webb; she predeceased him, as did her sister Ethel. Ethel died in 1915 leaving the entire contents of Newstead Abbey to her brother in law, Sir Herbert. The ring was finger size 01/2, 8mm wide. …

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