Ascot Gold Cup gallops home at Bonhams Fine Decorative Arts sale

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Ascot Gold Cup gallops home at Bonhams Fine Decorative Arts sale
The 1926 Ascot Gold Cup: an 18-carat gold cup and cover, Sebastian Garrard, London. Sold for £189,300. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- The 1926 Ascot Gold Cup designed at the behest of King George V sold for £189,300 at Bonhams' Fine Decorative Arts sale on 29 November 2022. It had been estimated at £150,000-200,000.

The designer, Charles Sykes (British, 1875-1950), had been a little-known employee at Garrard’s until the monarch selected his design. Primarily a sculptor, the Yorkshire-born Sykes had won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art to study art, sculpture and metal casting. His design embodied an aesthetic that looked towards the future, the clean lines and minimal ornamentation eschewing the intricacy of Victoriana. Sykes was already renowned for his model of the Rolls Royce car mascot, the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’.

The Ascot Gold Cup is the showpiece event of Royal Ascot week. The 1926 edition was won by Solario, owned by the Blackburn brewing magnate Sir John Rutherford. The horse went on to command the highest stud fee in the land and was duly immortalised in oils by Sir Alfred Munnings.

Ellis Finch, Bonhams Head of Silver, commented, “Fresh to the market, the cup had been in private hands ever since it was presented to Sir John Rutherford in 1926. This stunning work represents a key moment in the drive to modernise silver and gold design in the UK and the price achieved reflected its importance.”

The sale also featured an important George II giltwood side table with a specimen top comprised assorted hardstones, marbles and minerals. The table was made between 1735-1740 and came from Ripley Castle, seat of the Ingleby family. Estimated at £35,000-55,000, it sold for £176,700.

The hardstone, marble and mineral types in the tabletop are predominantly indigenous to the UK. The use of Derbyshire Blue John is particularly noteworthy. A variety of the common mineral fluorspar, Derbyshire Blue John has a distinctive bluish purple colour with a white banding. It was first recorded by Lady Mazarine, one of the Eyre family and a major landowner, who leased ‘ye mine of Blue John’. This material is only found on Treak Cliff, Castleton, in Derbyshire.

Other highlights from the sale, which consisted of 104 lots, included:

• A Limoges grisaille and gilt enamel plaque depicting Neptune calming the storm, the scene derived from an early engraving of 'Quos Ego, Neptune calming the storm' and further scenes from Virgil's 'Aeneid' by Marcantonio Raimondi (Italian, c.1480-1534), c.1515-16, the enamel probably mid-16th century and possibly attributable to Jean Pénicaud II (French, fl. circa 1515-1588). Sold for £63,300 (estimates: £10,000 - 15,000).

• A Medieval Nottingham alabaster relief carved rectangular panel depicting The Assumption of the Virgin, late 15th century. Sold for £53,220 (estimates: £15,000 - 25,000).

• A George I gilt gesso side table 1720-1726, possibly by John Belchier. Sold for £38,100 (estimates: £7,000 - 10,000).

• Attributed to François Villemsens (French, fl. mid-19th century), an impressive pair of First Universal 'Great Exhibition' gilt bronze Neptune ewers, circa 1851. Sold for £35,580 (estimates: £30,000 - 40,000).

• Of Grand Tour interest, a regency or George IV mahogany centre table with an Italian early 19th century specimen marble and hardstone top, the specimen top circa 1815, the table 1820-1825 and almost certainly Scottish or Irish in origin. Sold for £24,225 (estimates £8,000 - 12,000).

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