Fine Furniture and Silver with Fascinating Noble Provenance

A pair of George III carved fruitwood library armchairs, circa 1760, in the manner of Thomas Chippendale
Launch Slideshow

When Neil and Gina Smith started collecting some 25 years ago, what frequently attracted them to an individual piece, besides its inherent quality and successful design, was the story attached to the item, the history behind its first home. Often, the original patrons were members of the English nobility and the following lots highlight a few of the fascinating personalities associated with these important commissions. The Neil & Gina Smith Collection, an auction presenting the couple's lovingly curated collection of English silver and furniture, will be offered on 3 July in London.

Fine Furniture and Silver with Fascinating Noble Provenance

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    A Charles II silver two-handled cup and cover on matching salver on foot, the cup, maker's mark only, HW, an escallop below, attributed to Henry Welch, the cover unmarked, the salver, maker's mark only, IS, a rosette below, attributed to John Spackman, both of London, circa 1680.
    Estimate £15,000–25,000

    The finely engraved arms on this cup are those of Henry Capell, 1st Baron Capell of Tewkesbury. Capell and his brother, Arthur, 1st Earl of Essex were renowned horticulturists. In August 1678, the diarist John Evelyn visited Capell at Kew, the estate inherited from his father-in-law, which was later enlarged to become Kew Gardens. Evelyn recorded that, ‘it is an old timber house, but his garden has the choicest fruit of any plantation in England, as he is the most industrious and understanding in it.’ Again in 1691, Evelyn observed, ‘Capell’s garden at Kew has as curious [ever]greens, and is as well kept as any about London . . .’
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    A pair of George III carved fruitwood library armchairs, circa 1760, in the manner of Thomas Chippendale.
    Estimate £150,000–250,000.

    This magnificent pair of armchairs are part of a suite of twelve reputedly supplied to Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey for Walcot, Shropshire. Robert Clive, better known as 'Clive of India', made his fortune as a brilliant military tactician protecting the interests of the East India Company in India over three periods. Upon his return to Britain between these periods he furthered his political ambitions by purchasing large properties. At the time of his death, his estate was worth over a staggering £500,000, leaving his family well-established, his eldest son eventually becoming governor of Madras and Earl of Powis.
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    An unusually large pair of George III silver wine coolers, Heming & Chawner, London, 1781.
    Estimate £30,000–50,000

    The engraved initials and coronet are those of the actress, Harriot (née Mellon), widow of Thomas Coutts and first wife of William Aubrey de Vere Beauclerk, 9th Duke of St. Albans. In 1805 Miss Mellon became secretly intimate with her first husband, the wealthy banker Thomas Coutts, who was then still married to his first wife, Elizabeth. Following her husband’s death, Mrs. Coutts continued as one of London’s most liberal hostesses. The Press delighted in giving details of her various entertainments. It was from about this time that Mrs. Coutts and the Duke of St. Albans were often seen in each other’s company. Eventually, in June 1827, the couple were married: she was 50, he was 26.

    Scarcely able to believe her good fortune, the Duchess wrote soon afterwards to her friend, the author Sir Walter Scott: ‘What a strange eventful life has mine been, from a poor little player child, with just food and clothes to cover me, dependent on a very precarious profession, without talent or a friend in the world – first the wife of the best, the most perfect being that ever breathed . . . and now the wife of a Duke! You must write my life . . . my true history written by the author of Waverley.’
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    A George II padouk concertina-action card table, mid-18th century.
    Estimate £15,000–25,000

    Pieces of 18th-century furniture rarely benefit from being marked or labelled, and once separated from their original collections it is usually impossible to trace them back through the vagaries of time. This wonderful card table is an exception to the rule. According to the fluid pencil inscription to the underside, it once formed part of the collection of the Dukes of Rutland at Cheveley Park. John Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland, transformed Cheveley Park into a thoroughbred centre of note, breeding four Classic winners, until the estate was eventually sold in 1892.
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    A pair of George III silver vegetable dishes on two-handled hot-water stands, Paul Storr of Storr & Co. for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, London, 1813.
    Estimate £7,000–10,000

    The crest, coronet and crest coronet are those of Toler, Earls of Norbury, a title first bestowed on the judge and politician, John Toler. Known as the ‘Hanging Judge,’ he died at Cabra, near Dublin on 27 July 1831 at the age of 85. He was succeeded by his second son, Hector John Graham-Toler (1781-1839) who was murdered in 1839. It was reported in The Standard, London, 7 January 1839: ‘DEATH OF THE EARL OF NORBURY. The assassins of this nobleman, to whom all men of all parties render the praise of an inoffensive, amiable, benevolent, and useful man, have been but too successful. The noble earl expired on Thursday at noon, after 43 hours’ suffering. . . .’
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    Royal. A silver-gilt inkstand, maker's mark only of Isaac Liger of London (Grimwade, no. 1931) struck once, circa 1715.
    Estimate £10,000–15,000

    This intriguing object is engraved with the cypher of King William III, who died on 8 March 1702. At first these dates seem to be at odds with the likely date of manufacture of the inkstand of about 1715. In fact, it is likely that an earlier object bearing the King’s cypher was refashioned into its present form and then engraved to match, a common practice with valuable items in precious metals. Subsequently the inkstand is thought to have belonged to William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey and then acquired by the Dukes of Hamilton following the marriage in 1810 of Beckford’s daughter and co-heir, Susan Euphemia to Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton.
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