Traversing Britain’s Oceanic History through Antiques

The prestigious Masterpiece fair is returning this summer, and one stand in particular – that which traverses Britain on the high seas – has managed to catch our eye.

Traversing Britain’s Oceanic History through Antiques

From 27 June to 3 July 2019, the unmissable Masterpiece art fair is returning to London, bringing with it art, design, furniture and jewellery, from antiquity to the present day. And while exceptional objects from over 150 international exhibitors are being presented, there is one stand in particular we have our eye on: Wick Antiques.

Wick Antiques, established in 1981, is a husband-and-wife team based in the yachting centre Lymington. They offer predominantly 18th- and 19th-century luxury furniture, works of art, and objects of interest. Their stand at the Masterpiece fair this summer is themed around Britain on the High Seas: from Nelson to Churchill, and has been collected by Charles Wallrock, founder of Wick Antiques, and curated by Martyn Downer, former Director of Sotheby's and author of Nelson’s Purse and Nelson’s Lost Jewel: The Extraordinary Story of the Lost Diamond Chelengk.

Plaster portrait bust of Lord Nelson after Anne Seymour Damer. Photo: Wick Antiques
Plaster portrait bust of Lord Nelson after Anne Seymour Damer. Photo: Wick Antiques

As its title suggests, Wick Antiques’ stand traverses Nelson to Churchill: Nelson’s navy was a microcosm of 18th-century society, filled with the divine and the beautiful, and this history is  bookended by Sir Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty during both World Wars.

“The history of an island is defined by the sea and for a nation like Britain it has shaped its people, and their art. For centuries, the Royal Navy has been at the heart of that story, inspiring painters and creating an extraordinary legacy of relics, artefacts, weapons and precious objects. With impressive scope, this catalogue offers a glimpse of the many maritime treasures still available to collectors,” says Martyn Downer.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the treasures that are going to be offered.

Eight silver plates from Admiral Viscount Nelson’s seagoing service, 1801. Photo: Wick Antiques
Eight silver plates from Admiral Viscount Nelson’s seagoing service, 1801. Photo: Wick Antiques

Each of these silver dishes is of circular form with a gadrooned rim and is incised with Admiral Lord Nelson’s coat of arms, surmounted by a Viscount’s Coronet. Made to order by the royal goldsmiths Rundell & Bridge, seven of the plates bear the hallmarks for silversmith Paul Storr with one marked for Timothy Renou.

After the Battle of Copenhagen in April 1801, following which he was raised in the peerage to Viscount, Nelson ordered ‘6 dozen’ plates to augment a service of silver presented to him by Lloyd’s after the Battle of the Nile in 1798. The plates were paid for with a further grant of £500 from Lloyd’s and principally made, like the earlier articles, by silversmith Paul Storr with assistance from Timothy Renou.

Like the rest of his service, the plates were for use at sea when Nelson entertained his officers in his cabin. For this reason, they are quite plain and unadorned except for a rope, or gadroon, border. They are all engraved with Nelson’s coat of arms surmounted by a viscount’s coronet. The trunk used by Nelson to transport his silver to sea survives at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

Charles Dixon, ‘Camperdown’, watercolour. Photo: Wick Antiques
Charles Dixon, ‘Camperdown’, watercolour. Photo: Wick Antiques

This large watercolour, Camperdown by Charles Dixon, shows the action between the British and Dutch navies during the Battle of Camperdown on 11 October 1797.

The Battle of Camperdown was a major naval action fought on 11 October 1797 between the British North Sea Fleet under Admiral Adam Duncan and a Batavian Navy fleet under Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter. The battle was the most significant action between British and Dutch forces during the French Revolutionary Wars and resulted in a complete victory for the Royal Navy which captured eleven Dutch ships without loss.

Charles Dixon, ‘Camperdown’ [detail], watercolour. Photo: Wick Antiques
Charles Dixon, ‘Camperdown’ [detail], watercolour. Photo: Wick Antiques

The work comes in its original giltwood frame, the reverse with a paper exhibition label from The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, 1909.

The shaving mirror or Purser Wardlaw. Photo: Wick Antiques
The shaving mirror or Purser Wardlaw. Photo: Wick Antiques

Perhaps one of the more unique items from Wick Antiques to be displayed at the fair is this English, c. 1800, concave and circular shaving mirror set in a moulded ebonised wood frame. The reverse has a printed trade label stating, ‘J Abraham Optician & Mathematical Instrument Maker to his R. H. Duke of Gloucester & His Grace the Duke of Wellington. 7 Bartlett St, Bath & adjoining Mr Thomson’s Pump Room, Cheltenham’.

The shaving mirror was passed down by descent from William Mark (1782-1849), who obtained his first seagoing appointment in 1801 as captain clerk in the frigate Hydra. In 1803 he transferred to Amphion and subsequently served under Admiral Viscount Nelson in Victory although he switched to Halcyon before Trafalgar which was unable to join the action due to contrary winds. In 1808 he was appointed to San Juan, the depot-ship at Gibraltar and finally became H.M. Consul at Malaga.

A boardroom model of the PS Tantallon Castle, 1899. Photo: Wick Antiques
A boardroom model of the PS Tantallon Castle, 1899. Photo: Wick Antiques

This 1899 Scottish detailed shipbuilder’s half-block model of a paddle steamer was built for the Galloway Saloon Steam Packet Co. The ship has a fore mast, two yellow funnels and a central paddle wheel. All the deck fittings are nickel plated and rendered in meticulous detail.

A boardroom model of the PS Tantallon Castle [detail], 1899. Photo: Wick Antiques
A boardroom model of the PS Tantallon Castle [detail], 1899. Photo: Wick Antiques

The whole is protected in the original mirror-backed mahogany display case and bears a label detailing the ship’s dimensions and stating ‘P.S. Tantallon Castle, Owners the Galloway Saloon Steam Packet Co, Leith Builders and Engineers Messrs. John Scott & Co., Aberdeen Works, Kinghorn.’

The Blenheim Foundation mask of Sir Winston Churchill by Clare Sheridan, c. 1942. Photo: Wick Antiques
The Blenheim Foundation mask of Sir Winston Churchill by Clare Sheridan, c. 1942. Photo: Wick Antiques

We end this tour of the seas with the c. 1942 Blenheim Foundation mask of Sir Winston Churchill. The imposing mask is number 9 in a set created by his cousin Clare Sheridan (née Frewen, 1885-1970). Sheridan and Churchill enjoyed an amicable relationship, though her support for the Russian October Revolution in 1917 caused them to break ranks politically. She later recalled: “Of all the portraits I have ever done Winston’s was the hardest, not because his face was difficult, but because for him a physical impossibility to remain still… I watched, I snatched at times and moments, I did and undid and re-did, at times in despair.... Winston would be contrite and promise and say he was sorry and that he knew it was hard on me, and he would sit compassionately for three minutes and then begin to fidget.”

The work is set on a rectangular green marble plinth with a brass plaque reading ‘Presented to Raphael Djanogly for his generous support to the Blenheim Foundation’. Stamped (indistinct) with the seal of the Morris Singer Foundry and inscribed ‘Mary from Clare Sheridan’. The initial creation remains at Blenheim Palace.

As a reminder, you’ll find Wick Antiques’ stand at the Masterpiece art fair at stand A13 from 27 June to 3 July. If you are unable to attend the fair, you can find objects available at Wick Antiques below.

Explore items from Wick Antiques here

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