15 Fascinating Royal and Aristocratic Heirlooms

Launch Slideshow

F rom a replica set of the British Crown Jewels ordered on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation to an impressive array of historically important pieces related to the great Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, the 2018 instalment Of Royal and Noble Descent presents fascinating heirlooms from aristocratic international families as well as objects related to noble and historical figures. Further highlights include an important set of twenty-four Berlin (K.P.M.) porcelain plates painted with scenes from Goethe's Faust, as well as exceptional furniture, paintings and decorative arts. Click ahead to discover more.

Of Royal and Noble Descent
17 January 2018 | London

15 Fascinating Royal and Aristocratic Heirlooms

  • Property of a Dutch Baronial Family. A Chinese export armorial famille-rose tea set with the coat-of-arms of the House of Orange, Qing dynasty, circa 1747. Estimate £15,000–25,000.
    Probably commissioned by Samuel Baron van Eck van Overbeek for Huis Overbeek in Velp, which was destroyed by a fire in 1704, rebuilt in 1767 and demolished in 1906. A similar service consisting of thirty-eight pieces also dating from circa 1747 and decorated with the coat-of-arms of Willem IV and the motto 'vivat oranye', but lacking the other decoration, is in the collection of the Palais Het Loo.

  • Property from an Important Berlin Collection. Twenty-four Berlin (K.P.M.) porcelain plates painted with scenes from Goethe's Faust, circa 1821. Estimate £60,000–100,000.
    The present series of plates follows an early publication of Goethe’s work which uses engravings by the German painter and draughtsman Friedrich August Moritz Retzsch. A series of twenty-four plates painted with the story of Faust after Retzsch's engravings, was sent as a gift to Prince Carl of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, as two groups for Christmas in 1821 and 1822. He was the son of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his second wife Charlotte of Hesse-Darmstadt.

  • Property from a Member of the Pallavicini Family. An Italian gilt-bronze mounted ebony and ebonised pietre dure and mother-of-pearl inlaid cabinet on stand, the cabinet part 18th century, the panels circa 1700, the stand late 19th century. Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    Splendid ebony cabinets, elaborately conceived to display costly Florentine pietre dure panels from the Medici workshops, were mainly produced in Florence and Rome, and favoured by a growing, and increasingly international, range of wealthy patrons.  The present cabinet  is unusual not only in combining pietra dura with mother-of-pearl, but also in focusing on fruit, instead of the more common perched birds or flowers. The generous use of mother-of-pearl suggests a Venetian or a Northern European origin.

  • A Bourbon Gift from Joseph Bonaparte. A Naples (Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea) porcelain presentation service, circa 1790-1800. Estimate £30,000–40,000.
    This rare and important group of Neapolitan porcelain by the Real Fabbrica Ferdinandea porcelain manufactory is almost certainly from the collection of the House of Bourbon.  It can be dated to 1790-1800, and includes the original leather case and letter attesting its prestigious provenance as a gift from Giuseppe Bonaparte. The only other similar ‘Giuoco’ is conserved in the Duca di Martina Museum at Villa Floridiana, Naples, and displays identical decorative anomalies, consistent in the peculiarity of the friezes and differently coloured borders.

  • Property of a Belgian Count. An English silver-mounted carved coconut tankard, the carving probably North German, early 16th century, the unmarked mounts possibly slightly later. Estimate £12,000– 18,000.
    Depicting scenes from the book of Genesis, this piece was illustrated in the French magazine ‘Plaisir de France’ in September 1968. An un-mounted German carved coconut in the Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf, dated to the beginning of the 16th century, appears to come from the same workshop.

  • A Royal Gift. An Edward VII silver presentation pilgrim flask, Elkington & Co. Ltd., Birmingham, the flask, 1900, the cover 1904. Estimate £25,000–35,000.
    The arms on one side are those of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions Beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith and Emperor of India. The arms on the other side are those of the Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, son and heir of Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany. The likely occasion upon which this flask was given by Edward VII to his great nephew, Crown Prince Wilhelm was the latter’s marriage on 6 June 1905 to the Duchess Cecilie Auguste Marie, youngest daughter of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III von Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. A dirk for a member of the Egyptian Club, of senior Naval Officer's type, circa 1798. Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    The present dirk forms part of a very small group of dirks that were almost certainly made for members of the Egyptian Club. Two days after the battle of the Nile, on the night of 3 August 1798, the Captains of the fleet met on board the Orion, and inaugurated the ‘Egyptian Club’. A document was then drawn up, and signed by all present, inviting Sir Horatio Nelson to accept the gift of a sword and to have his portrait painted for the club. Nelson’s gold sword was ordered through Rundell & Bridge.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. After a model by Franz Thaller (1759-1817) and Matthias Ranson (fl. circa 1800). British, first half 19th century. Bust of Lord Nelson. Estimate £18,000–25,000.
    In the present portrait , Nelson is depicted in rear-admiral's full dress uniform and wearing various decorations, including the two large naval medals he was awarded for the battles of Cape St Vincent and the Nile: a third was awarded posthumously for Trafalgar.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. Battle of Trafalgar--HMS Victory, 'The Victory Jack'. An exceptionally large fragment of the Union Flag, believed to have flown from HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Estimate £80,000–100,000.
    Only two complete Union jacks that were used as battle ensigns at Trafalgar survive: one from HMS Minotaur (National Maritime Museum), the other from HMS Spartiate (sold at  auction in 2009). Most of the surviving fragments of the Victory's flags are much smaller than the current piece. This fragment originally belonged to "Captain W.H. Dobbie, RN", presumably William Hugh Dobbie, who served in the East Indies Station from 1790 to 1808. It was gifted by him to the Museum of the Royal United Services Institute, noting that the current fragment was only a portion of the flag previously at RUSI.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. John Wilson Carmichael, Newcastle 1799 - 1868 Scarborough, The Opening Engagement at Trafalgar; H.M.S. 'Royal Sovereign' raking the stern of the Spanish flagship 'Santa Ana', signed and dated lower right: JW Carmichael/ 1856. Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    Britain’s famous victory over the combined Spanish and French fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 was the Royal Navy’s greatest victory – affirming Britain’s maritime supremacy and dashing Napoleon’s ambitions for an invasion. The subject has been enduringly popular among Britain's painters, not least in J. W. M. Turner’s The Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805 (National Maritime Museum, London) commissioned by King George IV in the early 1820s. Turner’s work influenced John Wilson Carmichael, who became one of Britain’s leading maritime painters in the 19th century with a commanding eye for detail and atmosphere.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. Nelson's Muse, Gavin Hamilton, R.A. (Murdieston 1723 - 1798 Rome), Portrait of Emma Hamilton as a Sibyl. Estimate £150,000–200,000.
    From blacksmith's daughter to Lady Hamilton, Emma's social assent was steep. Born into poverty in 1765, she rose to become a great muse for famous artists, an influential ambassador’s wife, a European cultural icon and finally Nelson’s mistress – before facing debtor's prison and dying in destitution. The picture is one of a pair of portraits of Emma by Gavin Hamilton, both of which were recorded in the collection of her husband, Sir William Hamilton at the Palazzo Sessa in 1798, where they were known as the Muses of Painting and Poetry. A celebrated beauty and talented singer, with a lively intelligence and whit, in Naples Emma became a European celebrity. Fluent in both French and Italian, she was a friend of Queen Maria Carolina, the wife of King Ferdinand and sister of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, and established herself as an influential political hostess.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. Nelson, Horatio Lord. Autograph letter signed ("Nelson & Bronte"), to Emma Hamilton, on his imminent departure on the Victory. Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    This letter was written three days after Nelson received his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean fleet, and the day after war with France had been declared. Nelson was to sail two days later and would only return to Britain once more, for a brief period of shore leave shortly before the Battle of Trafalgar. This letter reveals the bustle around Nelson as he prepared to embark as he met with fellow admirals such as Gardner and Minto and gathered around him the men who would serve most closely with him in the coming years, such as Sutton, Hardy, and his new secretary John Scott (killed at Trafalgar). His palpable excitement at his return to active duty was tempered only by his separation from Emma Hamilton.

  • Property from a Princely Collection. 'The Matcham Service'. An English porcelain dessert service, attributed to the Coalport factory but painted outside the factory, circa 1802. Estimate £40,000–60,000.
    Formerly on loan to the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 1939-1978. It has been suggested that the present dessert service may have been a gift from Nelson to his sister Catherine ‘Kitty’ Matcham.

  • Property of a Distinguished European Family. A pair or Regency carved mahogany open armchairs, circa 1803, after a design by Thomas Hope. Estimate £30,000–50,000.
    This pair of 'Egyptian' pattern chairs  are amongst a handful of known examples designed by the celebrated arbiter of early Regency taste, Thomas Hope. Hope acquired his renowned house on Duchess Street in 1799 and quickly set about remodelling and furnishing it in a style strongly inspired by his Grand Tours of Greece and Egypt. The design employed with these chairs is identical to that of a chair illustrated in Hope's Regency Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807, pl. XI, nos. 3 and 4; using the same X-frame backrest, outswept legs and griffin arms.

  • Property of a Distinguished European Family. A George I carved giltwood console table, in the manner of William Kent, early 18th century. Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    This console table displays hallmarks typical to the designs of Palladian architect and furniture designer William Kent. Kent’s championing of the Neoclassical marked him as one of the greatest influences on British taste. It is interesting to note that the present lot was supplied by the respected historian R. W. Symonds who discusses the group at length remarking on their importance to furniture makers and Palladian houses.

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