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Fabergé Elephant Heads to Auction

9th February 2023.

A Fabergé table-lighter in the form of an Elephant is one of three rare pieces of silver from across the centuries to be offered in Tennants Auctioneers’ Fine Jewellery, Watches & Silver Sale on 18th March. Naturalistically modelled, the walking elephant is full of character and movement and will be offered with an estimate of £6,000-9,000 plus buyer’s premium. The elephant’s raised trunk holds a wick, which feeds down through the hinged head and neck into a reservoir of lighter fluid in the body.

Fabergé produced a menagerie of zoomorphic table-lighters, which like the present example were often made by his workmaster Julius Alexander Rappoport. Known examples include a rhinoceros, a lizard, a fish, and a chimpanzee. They obviously had a great appeal to the royal families of Europe as there are many examples known with royal provenance; for example, one in the form of a frog was once in the collection of Queen Ann of Romania. However, the elephant was a favourite form, and Fabergé created several examples with the elephant in different poses.

The present lighter was once in the collection of Stanley Elliott (1892-1956), who was born into a life of comfort in Grange Moor, near Wakefield. The family business, Lockwood and Elliott, was heavily involved in coal mining in the area, but had interests in varied businesses including bricks, gravel and property. Stanley was a well-travelled man, who enjoyed visiting salerooms and dealers, seeking out works of art to fill Ingle Court, the house he had built for himself in Lepton, near Huddersfield. One of the few old purchase invoices of Stanley’s to still exists was issued by Old Russia Antiques in Montreal, suggesting that he had a particular interest in Russian works of art, and as a life-long smoker it was little wonder that this charming object found its way into his collection.

A fine and rare George III silver wine-jug, the separated pair to one sold at Tennants in 2021, will be offered with an estimate of £7,000-10,000. Made by Thomas Heming of London in 1765, the pear-shaped jug is adorned with wave decoration to the lower body and spiral-fluting to the upper body, separated by a band of chased fruiting grapevines. Whilst the general shape most resembles a beer jug, the ornament clearly suggest that it was originally intended for wine. Wine-jugs were nearly indistinguishable from beer-jugs at this time, although other examples by Heming are known. Interestingly, Thomas Heming’s trade card from the 1760s to 1770s, a copy of which is held in the British Museum collection, depicts a jug which, whilst of a more baluster form, shows the same use of ornament as on the present example. Whilst the early history of the pair is unknown, it is thought that they were once in the possession of Major General Henry Aylmer (1813-1904), who gave a jug each to two of his sons; they subsequently passed by descent through two different branches of the Aylmer family. The present jug, according to an inscription, was given to John and Peggy Pemberton as a wedding gift in 1936 by Henry Adolphus Paget Aylmer and his wife Anne Munro Williams.

The final piece is a James I Parcel-Gilt Silver Apostle Spoon, made in London in 1622 by Daniel Cary, one of the city’s most renowned and prolific spoon-makers. The silver-gilt finial cast as St Andrew holding the Saltire, the spoon is offered with an estimate of £1,200-1,800. Apostle spoons were made from the 15th century, and comprised twelve spoons depicting the apostles with a thirteenth ‘master’ spoon to represent Jesus. Other spoons from the same set, the majority of which have the initials ‘RH’ prick engraved to the reverse of the bowl, have been seen at auction in recent years, and further spoons are held in the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Holburn Museum.


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