Sworders announces highlights included in the January Design sale

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Sworders announces highlights included in the January Design sale
Sained glass window panel designed by William De Morgan (1839-1917), 67cm wide by 97cm high depicting the archangel St Michael slaying a dragon, will be sold by Sworders on January 25 with a £80,000-120,000 estimate.

LONDON.- Sworders’ Design sale on January 25-26 includes one of only a handful of stained glass windows designed by William De Morgan (1839-1917). The 67cm wide by 97cm high panel depicting the archangel St Michael slaying a dragon, is expected to bring £80,000-120,000.

Although De Morgan is renowned today as a ceramicist, some of his earliest work was in the medium of stained glass. Having trained as a painter at the Royal Academy Schools, in the early 1860s he was introduced to William Morris and became increasingly drawn to work as a designer for the applied arts. He contributed some designs to the Morris partnership and by the end of the decade was sharing a studio with J.T. Lyon & Co at 40 Fitzroy Square, London. During a relatively short period of just three or four years, De Morgan made cartoons for a number of Lyon & Co windows that survive in the churches for which they were made. Notable examples are a series of Apostles at St Luke, Torquay, Devon (c. 1869), the Good Shepherd at St Mary the Virgin, Layer Marney, Essex (1870), and the Life of Christ East window and others at St Michael, Rocester, Staffs (1871).

The window that comes for sale next year is thought to be that shown at the London International Exhibition 1871. Perhaps most characteristic of De Morgan are the grotesque aquatic creatures that adorn the borders of this panel. However, it also features a sinuous beast that is known from both a De Morgan drawing and a piece of furniture in the collection of the De Morgan Foundation, now based at the Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey.

An important example of Vienna Secession furniture, bought earlier this year for just £5, comes for sale at Sworders in the new year. The elm and wicker highback chair, designed by Koloman Moser (1868-1918) in 1902, is expected to bring £2000-3000 in the 25 January Design auction.

The chair was found in a junk shop on the south coast earlier in the year The vendor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: ‘When I got the chair home, I had a closer look and thought it looked really interesting. I emailed some pictures to the V&A museum but no one got back to me. My next stop was Sworders. I emailed their design specialist, John Black, and he got back to me very quickly’.

John Black had been pleasantly surprised to see an image of a scarce but familiar design on his screen. ‘My first impression was ‘how rare is that’! The vendor had done some research, but was unsure if the attribution was correct, so I decided the best course of action would be to speak to Dr Christian Witt-Dörring, a specialist on the Vienna Secession and curator of many exhibitions. He confirmed the attribution and praised this example for ‘the dignity of its original condition’.’

The chair is a prime example of the artistic achievements of the Vienna Secession movement. Designed in 1902 by Koloman Moser (1868-1918), teacher at the Vienna School of Applied Arts, it is a modern reinterpretation of a traditional 18th century ladder-back chair. The lone decorative element is the chequerboard-like grid of the webbing on the seat and the back of the chair. Members of the Vienna Secession were concerned about the negative consequences of industrial production. Among other things, students at the Vienna School of Applied Arts were engaged in providing modern designs for the wickerwork factory of Prag-Rudniker. In 1903, the magazine Das Interieur published a whole series of new designs (including this chair), that was followed in 1904 by a whole article devoted to modern Austrian wicker furniture in the influential UK publication The Studio.

A similar chair to this example sold for $22,000 at Christie’s New York in December 2019.

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