ART MARKET / Up for Sale

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The Independent Culture
AN EXHIBITION celebrating the life and genius of August Welby Northmore Pugin, the man behind the mid-19th-century Gothic revival - he collaborated with Charles Barry on the architecture and furnishings of the Houses of Parliament - opens at the Victoria and Albert on Wednesday, and Pugin artefacts are being offered for sale all over the place. The Christopher Wood Gallery in Bond Street has mounted an exhibition called 'Pugin to Jekyll', covering design in the second half of the 19th century; Bonham's has an auction devoted to 'Pugin and the Gothic Revival' on 20 June; while two dealers have Pugin pieces on their stands at the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair for the rest of this week. The Country Seat, a dealer based near Henley, has furniture made for the Knyfton family at Uphill Castle, Weston-super-Mare, and the Houses of Parliament, including chairs and a writing table; Blairman & Son of Mount Street, which has a Pugin piano and a Minton plate that he designed, has just sold a Pugin side chair to the House of Lords; it was designed as part of a decorative scheme planned for the Lords but never executed.

Meanwhile, for nostalgia buffs more interested in the recent past than the 19th century, the Lumley Cazalet Gallery in Davies Street is showing tiny but exquisite watercolours (accessibly priced between pounds 500 and pounds 1,800) of an Irish landscape that is rapidly disappearing under the pressure of new economic realities. The artist, Robert Bates, explains how they came into being:

'I live on the Maharees - a tiny peninsula three miles long by half a mile wide that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean in the far south west of Ireland. The people who live here make their living mainly by farming and fishing, both dying occupations, to which the relentless depopulation of the area testifies. Increasingly, tourism is seen as the answer to these chronic problems, bringing in its wake inevitable changes.

'Imperceptible at first, in a land where time moves slowly, the old ways and places are beginning to disappear. Farms become empty, fishing boats lie idle, ponies and traps, once common, are now a rare sight. Everywhere, holiday homes are springing up, camper vans fill the roads in summer. This is my record of a place before that process of change renders the past invisible, as it has done in much of England. It is still, fortunately, a landscape where man's hand has only lightly touched.'

Revival meeting: Pugin and the mid-19th century Gothic revival he inspired are back in vogue. The brass chandelier (top), one of a pair in the Pugin style, is expected to fetch between pounds 3,500 and pounds 4,500. The brass bed (above), valued at pounds 10,000-pounds 15,000, comes from Scarisbrick Hall in Lancashire, where Pugin made extensive alterations between 1836 and 1845. The bed, embossed with the monogram of Anne Scarisbrick, was made around 1865 and probably designed by Pugin's son.

Typical of the Gothic revival is this Pugin design (above) for a stained glass window for the south aisle of the church at Crewkerne in Somerset. Executed in watercolour and ink, the sketch is one of a batch of 10 designs for stained glass widows which Bonham's are selling; they are estimated to fetch between pounds 250 and pounds 300. The bread plate (left), with its pious 'waste not want not' inscription, was designed by Pugin and manufactured by Minton around 1849. Blairman is offering it for sale along with a Pugin piano.

(Photographs omitted)

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