House & Garden | Need To Now

A gallery owner’s extraordinary auction

Fireplaces and ostrich eggs are going under the hammer

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A gallery owner’s extraordinary auction

Image: Christie’s Images Ltd 2012

January 28 2012
Vicki Reeve

Some people are blessed with a good eye and fabulous taste. Art and antiques dealer Will Fisher is one such – and it’s been possible since 2001 to buy into his aesthetic through his London gallery, Jamb, on Pimlico Road. However, prompted by the redevelopment of the old Chelsea Barracks, the gallery is relocating (down the road), and this, says Fisher, “gives me the opportunity to rationalise my stock”.

So he’s turned to Christie’s, where he worked at 16, and asked the South Kensington branch to auction 477 lots from his company and his Camberwell home. And whether you prefer the classics or something more eclectic, there is bound to be a lot to whet your appetite in this sale of English and Irish furniture, lighting, natural-history pieces, sculpture, and architectural and garden ornaments.

Fisher is particularly known for fireplaces, and the pièce de résistance here is a striking George II verde antico and statuary marble chimneypiece attributed to Isaac Ware, with intricately carved head of Mercury at the centre of the mantel frieze, flanked by oak leaves and acorns, and estimated at £80,000-£120,000.

Fisher claims, “This is one of the most important collections of chimneypieces to have ever come on the market. There are 53, ranging from the Ware to pewter-decorated, 18th-century pine surrounds and intricate Louis XVI mantels.” One of his favourites is lot 150, a George II chimneypiece (£40,000-£60,000): “I love its strong, masculine, Palladian style. The stark contrast between the black and white marble has an extraordinary, luxurious, contemporary feel.”

At the other end of the scale, but to my eyes equally appealing, are brightly coloured 20th-century Uzbekistani ikat robes and a chapan, perfect as wall hangings (third picture, £200-£400 per pair), plus a Victorian oak metamorphic library chair (the type that morphs into steps; second picture, £400-£600) and an octet of ostrich eggs (fourth picture, £200-£300).

While Fisher is reluctant to part with lot 17, a beautiful c1840 Italian Africano tazza (first picture, £4,000-£6,000) – “The purity of design coupled with the rarity of the marble makes this an object as close to perfection as I’ve ever seen” – I’m more sad that neither my home nor my wallet can accommodate his 8.5ft-tall taxidermied top-half of a giraffe (£6,000-£10,000).