Tribute to the Horse, 1956, by the Cotswolds sculptor William G Simmonds (1876-1968) sold for a record £21,000 (estimate 3000-6000) on May 25.
Simmonds first won a reputation in the 1920s through his oak, pine, ebony and ivory carvings of wild and domestic animals. However his work rarely appears on the market perhaps because – as Mary Greenstead, author of The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain writes – “his work has been so treasured by its original owners, that it has rarely escaped into the glare of the commercial art world”.
This 38cm group, among his last works shown at the Royal Academy in 1956, is beautifully carved as two shire horses at harvest time. Its layered jigsaw-like construction – made in sections fitting together with dowels – recalls Simmonds interest in wooden toys. He was a skilled maker of marionettes and a puppet master – his wife Eve providing costumes for occasional performances. It will be included in a biography of William Simmonds by Jessica Douglas-Home scheduled for publication next year.
A second oak carving by Simmons of a faun and a squirrel, initialled and dated 1928 and measuring 29cm high by 26cm across sold at £5400 (estimate £1500-2500).
Tribute to the Horse was part of a consignment of Arts and Crafts furniture from the family of West Midlands brewer Arthur Mitchell whose father Henry founded the Smethwick brewery that would become Mitchell and Butler.
In 1920 he bought Glenfall House, a Regency villa and parkland two miles east of Cheltenham and employed leading figureheads of the burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement to develop his rural idyll in Gloucestershire.
Following Mitchell’s death in 1965, much of the contents of Glenfall was sold by public auction. Ten items of furniture were purchased at the sale by the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum, with other Glenfall items joining its Arts & Crafts collection at a later date.
Some of the 14 pieces consigned to Mallams are thought to be part of a suite of furniture, parts of which are recorded in ledgers in the Gloucester archive, that was made by Peter Waals in 1929 and 1931 ‘for Mrs R Cole’s London flat’. Cole was Mitchell’s daughter with the furniture commissioned as a wedding present.
A panelled wardrobe and stand fashioned in a beautifully figured walnut with ebony and holly stringing comes from the Waals workshop. The ring and drop handles were probably by the craftsman Norman Bucknell who worked a smithy in the village of Waterlane. Estimated at £5000-8000, it sold at £6200.
The star of Pembrokeshire studio potter John Ward (b.1938) continues to rise in the saleroom. His hand-built coiled stoneware vessels with trademark black and white matte glazes excelled at Mallams selling at up to £6000 while bids of £6400 and £6200 were taken for a large shouldered form vase with a light blue glaze and a smaller vessel in ochre with a green band.
For more information contact department Philip Smith, Head of Modern & Post-War Art and Design at Mallams, on 01865 241358 firstname.lastname@example.org