Auction: Bunny boy with a sharp eye for the Gothic

Their reputation for frippery and foppery is unchallenged. Their collection of antiques and memorabilia which is auctioned today is eclectic, to say the least. And, says Robin Dutt, there is a dark, even gothic side to the oddities amassed by the 20th century's most inveterate collectors, the Roger brothers.

It may well be that the dynamo of every serious collector is obsession. The desire to amass especially when done without the thought of financial gain.

The Roger family were among the greatest collectors of the 20th century, bringing together a selection of luxury flotsam to set any contemporary antique dealer drooling unashamedly.

Exquisite taste, an unerring eye and a certain amount of luck characterised their seemingly endless piles of elegant furniture, mirrors, glassware, silver, paintings and in the case of the most famous Roger brother, Neil (Bunny) who, including all these obsessions, added finely tailored clothes and glace kid shoes.

Amongst the truly magnificent antique treasures - the marquetry, parquetry and papier-mache pieces, fine Meissen, Victorian silver, paintings by Lowry, Tissot, Clough, and Picabia are some more curious pieces which deserve a closer look. A collection is often an eloquent apologist for a character and this element of Bunny Roger's and the zeal of his brothers Alan and Alastair (Sandy) to amass is certainly borne-out by the more peculiar and eccentric objects commanding a perplexing position, shall we say, stage left?

Bearing this in mind, the Roger collection emerges more as a tightly controlled and supremely clear agenda rather than an exotic, esoteric and easy whim of three rich boys left money by their self-made early 20th century Aberdonian telecommunications tycoon papa.

Gothic Regency may well be a way of describing some of the more surprising pieces of furniture, objets d'art and sculpture. Indeed even some of the paintings have a good deal to do with modern psychological preoccupations and may remind some viewers of the work of Hans Bellmer and Ken Currie.

"The point of selection is highly individual," says James Miller deputy chairman of Sotheby's. "Each object seems to have a reason to exist on its own. There are no `blenders' here, no also-rans. Bunny had a very good eye - the way he dressed, the way he was - everything counted. Alan had much more fastidious tastes."

Milliner Freddie Fox who first met Bunny 40 years ago said:"You have to remember that a lot of their possessions were inherited, too. He was much closer to the past generation and their tastes - after all we are talking of going back 85 years."

Typical of the more outrageously Gothic and rather curious elements of the collection are a pair of 19th-century carved and stained pine hall chairs - the backs in the form of a billygoat and a bull's head. There is something undeniably Aleister Crowley about them - definitely designed to shock. The legs actually taper to cloven and hooves. Demonic and comic at the same time, they have an almost medieval feel about them.

On the same theme but more organic is the set of 12 cowhide-covered dining chairs which scream theatrical camp. Some of the inner backs are poignantly rubbed down to the tan skin by a succession of party revelling posteriors. In similar vein are the Italian torcheres in the form of satyrs which grin in a rather Faginesque fashion inviting us to consider ourselves at home.

The purpose of the grotesque or even faintly sinister has often been to provide an exact counterpoint to the indubitably elegant and grand. They provide a moment's levity in the context of seriousness. This particular pair contrast so well with the seriously classical George III gilt wood examples.

One might reasonably think that Bunny's furniture preferences might encompass say salmon pink and spinach green Louis XVI pouffes but not a bit of it. Again, the taste for the architecturally Gothic - one observer feels an influence from Scotland -is seen time and again in occasional pieces and complete sets. Ecclesiastical Gothic dining chairs in George IV style feature with crocketed lancet shaped backs filled with pierced tracery, highly contrasted in black with white which works to an amazing dramatic effect - somehow almost skeletal. Further Gothic examples may be found in the set of 12 giltwood dining chairs of the Regency period with pierced tracery backs with brass finials and cane seats. Each is branded on the underside "Windsor Castle VR 1866 - Room 191". Their prominence was the Holbein Room in the Private Apartments at Windsor Castle. It is presumed that they were removed and sold by Queen Mary when she was doing a bit of redecorating in 1926. Well, what may not have been quite fit enough for a queen, Bunny was pleased to acquire.

An Italian parcel-gilt chaise-longue and accompanying chairs are reminiscent of the contents of princely palaces of the 16th century, exquisitely detailed with star filled paterae-carved seatrail and lion paw feet, the gilt contrasting with the blue mauve panels.

Contrasting with the serious collection of Meissen, Samson and Wedgewood are a number of eccentric oddities - one hesitates to call them quite "whimsies" but they do possess a certain playful not to say kitsch quality such as the "majolica" umbrella stand circa 1880 in the form of an eskimo holding a seal standing on a chunk of iceberg. The expression of the man is terrifying. The seal looks none too happy. Majolica is a kind of ceramic ware usually highly decorated and coloured - the vibrant Spanish shawl incongruously on say a strict black Chanel suit. It is not to everyone's taste like Martinware birds or Christopher Dresser pots.

But then the Rogers freres were themselves not to everybody's taste - though matters of taste dominated their lives. Bunny on exiting a taxi and powdering his nose was confronted with the driver's cheeky barb - "You've dropped your diamonds, love." Bunny's answer? "Diamonds with tweeds? Never."

Auction today-Fri, details from Sotheby's (0171-293 5000).

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Cover Supervisor

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Randstad Education is looking to e...

    Science Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Science Teacher - Maternit...

    Systems and Network Administrator

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: We are recruiting for a Systems and ...

    English Teacher

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Group: English as an Additional Langua...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album