by Piero Fornasetti.
Spectacular is the only possible word to
describe this extraordinary piece of furniture, the brain-child
of Italy’s most original designer of the early 20th
Made of wood, with original drawings laminated
on to all visible surfaces, the bureau features a drop-front
desk, with an opening cupboard above. When this cupboard is
closed, there is a central niche, which could be occupied
by a classical statue, as shown in an illustration of an earlier
version of this “trumeau”. All the drawings are
originals by Fornasetti, whose inspiration was Italian 18th-century
architectural prints, selected for their extraordinary perspective
effects. The base shows the palace of the Alessi in Genoa;
the lid of the desk, an arcaded courtyard.The closed upper
cupboard displays the windows of a palazzo facade; open, it
transforms into a tessellated entrance hall with foliate ceiling,
yet another elevation standing like a screen within. The effect
of this ordered richness of classical architecture, every
detail perfectly recorded in stark black and white, is quite
Versatility could have been Piero Fornasetti’s
middle name. Already a serious artist in his teens, he settled
in Milan at the age of 22, and worked there until his death
in 1988. His style,based on illusion and trompe l’oeil,
akin to the Dutch artist Escher, and on architectural motifs,
was applied to an astonishing variety of objects. His unexpected
images decorated items as diverse as waistcoats, scarves,
plates, cabinets, beds,racing cars; he provided the decor
for bars, shops and ocean liners. This bureau, combining his
consummate knowledge of classical architecture with his sophisticated
approach to interior decor, is a unique masterpiece.
We have been overwhelmed by the interest
shown in the “trumeau”. None of the striking artefacts
that have taken centre stage in the window of our gallery
has attracted as much attention as this amazing bureau. Note:
Electric lighting is supplied, to illuminate the bureau internally.
fine globe, on an ebonized stand, is an example of one of
the late functions of the globe, which was first made for
and used by explorers and navigators, and then for teaching.
This early 20th-century example is a reference globe for the
businessman, who needed information on world-wide transport.
The oceans are marked with the principal steamship routes,
and with the submerged telegraph lines.
An unusual feature of this globe is a simple
brass frame of movable hoops that fits over the upper half.
It seems likely that this was intended to make it possible
to work out the distance between two points on a route by
using spherical triangles. The semi-circular hoop passes through
the zenith, and a route is selected on the globe, which is
turned so that a spherical triangle is formed. This is indicated
by the three circular arcs that define a spherical triangle:
the horizon, the meridian, and the line between two chosen
points on the globe. William and Alexander Keith Johnston
began as craftsmen working for James Kirkwood of Edinburgh,
a globe-maker whose premises were destroyed in a fire in 1824.
The Johnston brothers then set up a business of their own,
publishing atlases and globes. They had premises both in Edinburgh
and in London, and won medals at the Great Exhibition. This
is an example of one of their last models.
both signed by Henry Hughes
& Son, and made for Henry Morton Stanley for his African
expeditions in the 1870s and 1880s.
4 TWO-DAY CHRONOMETER
The brass-bound mahogany box, 71/4ins (18cms)
square, with brass inset handles, carries an oval bone disc
inscribed HENRY HUGHES AND SON, 59 FENCHURCH STREET, LONDON.
The silvered brass dial, diameter 41/2ins (10.5cms), is also
signed, and within the seconds dial are the number M/1071
and the words AUXILIARY COMPENSATION.The chronometer has a
fusee and chain movement, Earnshaw escapement, and cut bi-metallic
balance with Poole auxiliary. The chronometer was made for
Henry Hughes by Thomas Mercer of St Albans in 1886.
The compass, diameter 21/4ins (6cms), signed
H. HUGHES & SON, 59, FENCHURCH ST. LONDON, has a jewelled
brass cap, folding brass sights, and a suspension loop.
The strangest, perhaps the most absurd words
of greeting ever spoken, and afterwards endlessly quoted are:
“Dr Livingstone, I presume!” The date 1871; the
place, Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika; the speaker, Henry Morton
Stanley, a Welsh/American journalist, who had successfully
searched for and found the missionary/explorer, David Livingstone,
missing for three years in darkest Africa. Henry Stanley (1841-1904)
was a remarkable man even by the standards of the Victorian
period. He was the illegitimate son of a domestic servant
in Wales, and was named John Rowlands, his childhood being
spent in a workhouse. He emigrated to the United States, where
he changed his name to Henry Stanley, after the New Orleans
cotton broker who befriended him. He fought in the American
Civil War, and then found a congenial career as a 5 journalist.
He covered the gold rush in Colorado and the Indian Wars,
and then, as European correspondent of the New York Herald,
the Civil War in Spain. It was in Africa that he found fame
and success, first in his epic search for Dr Livingstone,
and then as the man who estabished the infrastructure of the
Belgian Congo. In his later years, he toured the world as
a lecturer, became an MP, and finally received a knighthood
from Queen Victoria.The two items described above were part
of the collection of Stanley memorabilia sold by Christie’s
in September 2002. Both were taken by Stanley on his African
expeditions, the floating compass being for use on his boat,
The Lady Alice, named after the American girl he loved, but
did not marry.
by Nikon, 1950s, with stand.
The Japan Optical Company was formed in
1917 by the merger of two other firms, and took the popular,
catchy name of Nikon. By 1918, Nikon was exporting over 15,000
prism binoculars to the West. The company collaborated with
German engineers in the production of the Mikron range of
compact prism binoculars.
World War II provided the stimulus of military
demand for all kinds of optical instruments, and Nikon’s
range of binoculars continued to be popular through the 1950s,
and right until the present day. The company took as its models
the German optical firms, Zeiss and Leitz, and followed their
example in diversifying into camera production immediately
after the war.
Early 20th-century examples of such fine
precision optical instruments are much sought after by collectors,
as well as being of practical use.
in wood and plaster, some with
descriptions in German, 19th century.
One can imagine the owner of this beautiful
collection living perhaps in the German Black Forest, and
getting to know the wide range of local fungi with the help
of these detailed and accurate models. Perhaps it was he or
she who added the printed descriptions on the bases of some
of them, including cooking instructions. Some, notably the
ink cap, are exquisitely carved from wood, while others are
made from painted plaster. One has a very life-like slug climbing
over the surface.
Models of animal and plant life were popular
for teaching and also as decorative objects in the Victorian
and Edwardian periods. A notable practitioner was Doctor Auzoux,
who had a model factory of anatomical and natural specimens,
and a shop in Paris. He established a tradition of accurate
and detailed artefacts, with printed notes. These fungi are
of the same high quality.
Achromatic REFRACTING TELESCOPE
by P & J Dollond, late 18th-century.
31/2-inch diameter; stands approx. 68ins (173cms) when assembled.
The Dollond dynasty, one of the most famous
in London instrument making, began with John Dollond, the
son of a Huguenot weaver,who patented an achromatic lens for
the telescope in 1758, and became a Fellow of the Royal Society
in 1761. His two sons, John and Peter, continued the business,
and were succeeded by other members of the family until the
mid-19th century. Peter Dollond had a royal appointment to
George III, and supplied achromatic telescopes to the Greenwich
Scale Model of a HORIZONTAL
MILL or PUMP ENGINE
signed J.COMB 1847, in display
This working model, now fitted to operate
electrically, has evidence that it was originally powered
by steam. Such models were regularly produced in the period
of the Industrial Revolution to demonstrate large and elaborate
pieces of machinery to potential buyers. It was essential
that they were complete with all working parts, and could
be readily shown to mill owners and other businessmen. Now
sometimes thought to have been made as toys, particularly
the model railway steam engines, their purpose was in fact
very serious, and they had an essential function in the Age
of Steam. Nowadays, their exquisite workmanship and accuracy
are a huge attraction to collectors.
The Gallery Offers an exclusive list of books on
historic scientific instruments, some out of print (marked
with an asterisk) and therefore difficult to obtain,
others hot off the press.
Below is a selection of the titles available.
The Quest for Longitude ......................£55.00
ed. by William J.H.Andrewes
*Mémoire des Sabliers ........................£120.00
The Geometry of War ..........................£20.00
by Jim Bennett & Stephen Johnston
Marine & Pocket Chronometers ........£100.00
by H.Von Bertele
Directory of British Scientific
Instrument Makers ..............................£100.00
by Gloria Clifton
Spheres: The Art of the
Science, Tools & Magic:
The Nasser D.Khalili Collection
of Islamic Art (2 Vols.)........................£185.00
by F. Maddison & E.Savage-Smith
*Public & Private Science
(George III Collection) ......................£150.00
by A.Morton & J.Wess
Measure of Time....................................£25.00
Trevor Philip & Sons 25th
Of Heaven & Earth ..............................£25.00
Trevor Philip & Sons
Elizabethan Instrument Makers ............£79.50
by Gerard L’E.Turner
Scientific Instruments 1500-1900 ........£25.00
by Gerard L’E.Turner
(Adler Planetarium, Chicago) ..............£65.00
by R.& M.Webster
*Scientific Instruments ........................£300.00
by H.Winter & A.Turner
FIFTY ONE THIRTY.