THE STOWE SALE
The Stowe sale, a forty-day sale of the contents of the Duke of Buckingham's family seat in 1848, was widely covered by the contemporary press, as it represented an astonishing reversal of fortune for one of England's greatest families. Richard, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1797-1861), through excessive expenditure and land speculation, had within eight years of his succession become a "ruined man," bankrupt with debts of over one million pounds. The Times wrote censoriously of the Duke "as a man of the highest rank, and of a property not unequal to his rank, who has flung away all by extravagance and folly, and reduced his honour to the tinsel of a pauper and the baubles of a fool."
Of the dispersal of contents at Stowe, H. R. Forster wrote: "The desecration to which the ancestral halls of the Duke of Buckingham have lately been subjected, has been regarded almost as a national disgrace. The 'household goods' of the ancestral home of the Dukes of Buckingham and Chandos have been shivered to fragments, which can never again be re-united. Those public and private testimonies of the estimation in which the family has been held from generation to generation, and which must have possessed for their owners a value wholly extrinsic of their commercial worth, have been torn from them, and 'scattered to the four winds of heaven'."
These remarkable historicist candlesticks were sold on the ninth day of the sale, from the State Bed Chamber, so named as it had been occupied by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. As with the sale itself, these candlesticks were the subject of controversy. It was evidently the belief of many in the saleroom, including the purchaser, Sir Anthony de Rothschild (1810-1876), that they were of the Renaissance period; certainly the price realised, over 48 pounds, was astronomical for candlesticks which were in fact made just nine years earlier by the Royal goldsmith Robert Garrard in Panton Street.
H.R. Forster commented: "These candlesticks were very beautiful specimens of workmanship, and generally believed to be antique. They were put in at five guineas, from which sum they ran rapidly up to forty. The biddings then became more select, and were chiefly confined to Sir Anthony Rothschild and one or two other parties: Sir Anthony at length secured their possession for forty-six and a half guineas. When the hammer fell, the manager of a well-known London house, rising from his seat at the table, quietly remarked 'I made them and sold them for less than half the money.' This observation naturally occasioned some excitement in the room; and Mr. Manson, who was selling, administered a rather sharp rebuke to the gentleman alluded to. Having witnessed the occurrence, we are inclined to attribute the remark to a very natural feeling of surprise at the success of the manufacturer's art in deceiving the connoisseur, and to acquit the party of any blame in the matter."
THE SILVERSMITH: GARRARD'S
Garrard's, the Crown jewelers and successors to the venerable firms of George Wickes and Parker and Wakelin, is best known for its imposing presentation pieces of the Victorian era. Yet, it is the eclectic and sculptural designs for household silver of the 1830s-1850s that warrant further consideration and study.
The Stuart Collection includes three lots by Garrard. These agate "Renaissance" candlesticks represented a taste for treasury objects that were eagerly sought after by sophisticated connoisseurs like William Beckford and members of the Rothschild family. The magnificent marine theme salt cellars (lot 83), which draw upon the designs of the talented French silversmith, J.V. Morel, and the fiery dragons which serve as the flames for the cauldron-form salt cellars (lot 80) reflect the quality, creativity and sculptural nature of the firm's output. In addition, this auction features Garrard's double-magnum wine coasters with Rothschild arms (lot 69), surely one of the most impressive designs in wine silver since the height of the Regency era.
Photo caption 1:
Cover of Stowe House Auction Catalogue, 1848
Photo caption 2:
The Garrard candlesticks, as illustrated in H.R. Forster, The Stowe Sale Priced and Annotated, 1848
Photo caption 3:
Stowe House, as illustrated in H.R. Forster, The Stowe Sale Priced and Annotated, 1848