A pocket globe with some areas still a mystery leads a maritime auction at Exeter saleroom Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Terence Ryle
Covering all things nautical from binnacle lights to bosuns’ whistles and scrimshaw to sextants, the 335-lot Maritime Sale at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood (23% buyer’s premium) was led by a pocket globe from the era when seamen were still opening up the world.
The hand-coloured 2in (5cm) globe, signed A New Terrestrial Globe by Nath Hill 1754 for the noted London maker Nathaniel Hill (1708-68), depicted a time when the Netherlands was a major sea power.
The part-delineated continent of Australia was labelled New Holland, Tasmania was Dimans Land (after Van Diemen) and New Zeeland was spelt the correct Dutch way. At the other side of the Pacific, north-west America was titled as Unknown Parts – a feature which attracted a number of phone bids from US dealers.
In a 3in (7.5cm) diameter fish-skin case lined with celestial half gores, the globe was pitched at £2000-2500 at the Exeter sale on August 14 but sold to a collector at £7800.
Britain’s past naval might was reflected in many lots, notably a model of HMS Victory and a gilt fob seal that had probably belonged to Admiral Lord Rodney.
The Victory model was commissioned from Harold Wyllie (1880-1973), the son of the noted marine artist William Wyllie and himself a significant artist and an expert in marine archaeology.
In the early 20th century Wyllie oversaw one of the periodic restorations of Nelson’s flagship and he made this model from oak and ebony pieces of the ship’s timber.
Although intended as a table centrepiece, and therefore relatively uncomplicated, the 2ft 3in (68cm) long model was fully rigged with silver sails and cannon and set on a cast bronze ‘waterline’ base and carved wooden plinth inscribed with battle honours.
The vessel came with an impeccable provenance including letters from Wyllie, being exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1912 (before ship models were banned there) and its purchase from a country house sale by the vendor’s grandfather in 1926.
Given that, it was perhaps a little disappointing to see the vessel sell on its lower £4000 estimate to the UK trade.
The fob seal was fashioned with an oval cornelian intaglio of a foul anchor inscribed Rodney 12th Apl 1782 within a laurel wreath and the motto Reliable Desperance (more probably D’esperance). It was believed to have belonged to George Brydges Rodney, made a baron after his Caribbean victory against the French fleet at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.
Rodney was a controversial admiral, much given to prize money and promoting his family, but sufficiently highly regarded to have seven warships named after him over the ensuing 150 years.
The seal was also sufficiently highly regarded by bidders, including a couple of retired navy officers, to sell to a collector at £1600 against an estimate of £200-300.
Also demolishing a £200-300 estimate was a late 18th or early 19th century carved stern figure that had been salvaged from the Severn and acquired early in the dealing career of a retired maritime antiques specialist now in his nineties.
The 3ft 9in (1.15m) figure of a man wearing a cravat and coat with fob chain to waistband was, inevitably, in poor and worn condition.
Nevertheless, the carving’s quality could be seen in the remaining details and it went via thesaleroom.com to a collector at £2400.