Storied sterling at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury auction Feb. 26
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A leading light of the Merseyside community, Peter Greenall was responsible for much of the towns’ development during the early 19th century. He was the second son of Edward Greenall, a local landowner and proprietor of a number of local breweries that were managed by Peter, and later became known as Greenall Whitley.
He accepted his responsibilities as a foremost resident in an industrial district where pipes were laid from the brewery’s ponds to supply water to those inhabitants who could afford to pay for it. The first building society in the area was formed at his instigation and helped to erect houses, many of them on his land, and he headed the local Oddfellows lodge when it was opened in 1825. His signature appears on share certificates from the local Gas Light Company, formed in 1832, and he took the lead in the creation of the St. Helens and Runcorn Gap Railway in 1830. The railway provided transport to the River Mersey in competition with the Sankey canal. In the longer run, however, it was Greenall’s involvement in what was to become Pilkington Brothers glassworks, which was to be of much greater significance.
Greenall died in 1845 at his house in St. Helens, where the shops half-closed their shutters. On the day of the funeral six days later at the parish church, the shops closed altogether. Many people flocked into the town to pay their last respects to the man who had so dominated the town’s early growth and had died so unexpectedly, before his 50th birthday.
With makers mark “RG,”’ the service is engraved with the motto, “I Soar,” the arms of Greenall, and “Presented to Peter Greenall Esquire by the Inhabitants of St Helens and Neighbourhood As a token of their Esteem for his private worth and of Gratitude for his Public Services.” The service (Lot 734), which is composed of a soup tureen and cover, a set of four entree dishes, covers and handles, a set of four sauce tureens and covers, a pair of shaped oval serving dishes and a pair of salvers, is estimated to sell for £10,000-£15,000.
A rare Victorian silver “castle-top” card case fashioned by Britain’s most prestigious makers of castle-top boxes, Nathaniel Mills & Sons, is embossed with the Dublin International Industrial Exhibition building. The family-run business was based in Birmingham and specialized in silver card-cases, snuff boxes and vinaigrettes. The silversmiths dispersed in 1853 after the death of Nathaniel’s son, William Mills, making this rare case one of their last to be made.
Fashionable in the 19th century, castle-top card cases were embossed or engraved with local landmarks and sold to the thriving tourist market as souvenirs. This example hails from the 1853 Dublin International Industrial Exhibition, the most extravagant and expensive public event of 19th century Ireland. With its unusual and historically significant scene this Irish castle-top card case (Lot 757) is estimated at £3,000-£5,000.
Elsewhere in the sale a selection of fine Chinese silver includes a pair of Qianlong Chinese export silver gilt filigree vases and covers. The technique of filigree originated in Spain and was practiced by Jewish Sephardi silversmiths who took it with them when they were expelled from Spain in 1492. Over the years the technique was combined with the local style of the countries in which they settled. During the 17th and 18th centuries filigree silver is known to have been produced all over Asia.
A highly skilled art form, filigree was, and still is, much in demand. In particular, many export pieces were purchased for the collections of the first major European museums and many affluent private homes.
A number of similarly worked pieces to the example in the sale are illustrated in Silver Wonders from the East: Filigree of the Tsars, the catalog of the 2006 exhibition at the Hermitage Amsterdam.
According to Adrien von Ferscht, in his article, The Art of Filigree, the best Chinese filigree was produced during the 18th century and most pieces don’t carry a maker’s mark, as became popular in the early 19th century. The examples in the sale are unmarked and standing at 20cm (8 inches) tall the pair are estimated to sell for £3,000-£4,000 (Lot 801).
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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE