News & Insights

Taxidermy that travelled to three continents of the British Empire sells for £29,500

11th July 2018.

Three rare and impressive large cased dioramas of African birds (c.1865-1880), prepared by Ashmead & Co. of London and destined for the British Raj, have sold for a combined hammer price of £29,500 (plus buyer’s premium) in the Natural History and Taxidermy Sale at Tennants Auctioneers on 6th July.

Tennants’ specialist Robbie Bright said of the cases, ‘These really were dioramas of exceptional quality, and many of the species they contain rarely come up for auction. It is very rare that three such cases from an original commission from the same taxidermist have been kept together for so long. We knew they would do well and they had much interest ahead of sale, but we are delighted to achieve such strong results for traditional taxidermy.’

The cases contain examples of African birds that are rarely seen at auction, such as the large Secretarybirds, a Blue Crane, a Jackal Buzzard and Juvenile Black Storks. All three cases contain a paper trade label reading: ‘Prize Medal 1862, Ashmead & Co, Naturalists, 35, Bishopsgate, Without’.

George Ashmead, later Ashmead & Co were a family dynasty of taxidermists, working in London from c.1830 to at least the 1920s. Founded by George Ashmead, the company was known to have operated from premises on Duke Street, Mayfair from 1830. The business subsequently was passed down the generations, and from c.1865-1879 was located at 35 Bishopsgate, possibly under the control of Argent Ashmead, George’s grandson. In 1879 the business moved to Moorgate, but in 1923 had once more relocated to Bishopsgate, this time number 180.

The company was known in particular for their preparation of exotic birds, such as the present cases which contain birds endemic to Africa. By repute, they were commissioned by a wealthy British family who resided in Mysore, capital of the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. They were brought back to the UK when British rule started to wain around 1947, and they were housed in Norfolk until approximately 15 years ago when they were moved into storage, until they were purchased by the current vendor.

Strong results were achieved throughout the rest of the sale, with an exceptional Collection of World Beetles, Insects and Carabids in a specimen cabinet selling for £3,200 (plus buyer’s premium), and a Rowland Ward Gamecock, circa 1900-1920, in full fighting dress selling for £3,500 (plus buyer’s premium). The sale resulted in a total Hammer Price of £92,800 with 89% of the 244 lots sold.

All auction entries are sold strictly in accordance with CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) regulations, and any necessary licences or Pre-sale approvals are obtained from Animal Health, Bristol.

We are currently accepting lots for the next sale of Natural History and Taxidermy will take place on 5 October, please contact us on 01969 623780 or for details.

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