Sworders announces sale of Arts & Crafts & Art Deco
STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET .-Sworders‘ September 8 sale of Arts & Crafts & Art Deco includes an unprecedented number of pieces by Stanley Webb Davies (1894-1978). More than 30 pieces by the Windermere craftsman will come under the hammer – from table lamps and trays to bedroom furniture.
Trained in the Cotswolds but choosing to work in the Lake District, Webb Davies’ handmade pieces in indigenous timbers were a direct backlash against the mechanisation and automation of the 19th and 20th centuries. Contributing to the debate on British industry in the 1940s he wrote to the Guardian newspaper describing “probably the chief evil of our present industrial age – the tyranny of the machine.” It was, he felt, “more important that industry should turn out excellent men and women than a flood of cheap and useful goods.”
Sworders’ specialist John Black believed the sale represents the largest number of works by Webb Davies offered at a single auction. Most were made in the 1930s for a gentleman in Yorkshire and together they represent an important commission from a single patron.
“Stanley Webb Davies pieces are pretty rare to the market. He was resolute in never producing exactly the same design twice. Most pieces are signed and dated with the names of the workshop craftsman who made it”. Estimates will range from £4000-6000 for an oak sideboard of cupboards and drawers dated 1936 to £100-150 for small furnishings such as a tea tray and a book rack.
Webb Davies was working at Windermere at much the same time as Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson in Kilburn, North Yorkshire. His distinctive oak furniture carved reached new financial levels when in October 2018 Sworders sold Mouseman furniture and chattels made in the 1930s for the Horlicks factory in Slough, which collectively sold for £300,000.
The September sale includes another piece from this prime period – a sideboard with five central drawers and a raised back rail estimated at £2500-3500.
Chairs with splats pierced with a heart are perhaps the best-known furniture design by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941).
Versions of the chair were made from 1902, with most thought to have been produced by the London cabinetmaker FC Nielsen which also made other furniture designed by Voysey. A tell-tale construction detail is the large dovetails joining the splat to the frame.
Chairs of this much-imitated type reside in a number of important English and American private collections and Sworders have a pair of oak armchairs with leather and studded drop in seats. They have an estimate of £20,000-30,000.
The September sale will include several of the French bronze and ivory figures that are so emblematic of the Art Deco period. Under forthcoming legislation they may no longer be legal to sell in the UK so vendors are choosing to monetise them now. This sale includes one of the most coveted designs by Demetre Chiparus (1886-1947). ‘The Dancer of Kapurthala’ from 1925 is believed to have been inspired by Anita Delgado, a flamenco dancer who captured the heart of the Maharajah of Kapurthala when he saw her perform at a cafe while attending the wedding of Spain’s King Alfonso XIII. This figure, measuring 57cm high, has a guide of £35,000-45,000.
Another great example of Art Deco is 55 Broadway, next to St James Park tube station in London. Designed by Charles Holden c.1927-29 and faced with carvings by Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore and Eric Gill, the cruciform building served many years as the headquarters of the Underground Electric Railways Company, the forerunner of London Underground. As the site is now waiting to be redeveloped into flats Sworders is selling two pairs of bronzed steel planters that stood outside the building. They are expected to bring £800-1200 per pair.
Some fine ceramics and metalwork objects will be headed by an Arts & Crafts silver tea and coffee service (estimate £5000-7000). In addition to the maker’s mark for Johnson, Walker & Tolhurst (London 1904) these seven pieces carry the facsimile signature of Latino Movio (1858-1949), an Italian metalworker associated with the workshop of the Arts and Crafts silversmith Gilbert Marks. This service (with a later tea kettle made in 1920) are very much in the Marks style, with spot hammered surfaces chased with bands of dog rose, poppy, nasturtium and sweet pea. They come from a descendant of a past owner of Johnson, Walker & Tolhurst, who is thought to have commissioned the service.