THEY ARE the combined collections of two notable families and offer an insight into European art history.
From treasures collected on Grand Tours to an unrecorded 16th century Italian Urbino dish, they are among the contents of a country house in the Scottish Borders which will be auctioned next week.
Fine art auctioneers, Lyon & Turnbull, will be leading the live online auction on Wednesday, October 6, which is expected to attract an international following.
Lowood House, on the banks of the Tweed, near Melrose, has an eclectic collection amassed by two Scottish families; the Crum Ewings and the Hamiltons.
The Crum Ewing’s fortunes were established by James Ewing, died in 1853, who was Lord Provost and MP for Glasgow in the early 19th century. His influence on the city was significant. At the age of 40, he co-founded the first ‘Provident’ or ‘Savings’ bank in Glasgow to support and encourage working-class families to save.
He was also instrumental in establishing the famous Victorian cemetery, the Glasgow Necropolis, as well as being involved in prison reform and many civic institutions, including the so-called Andersonian, which was to become the University of Strathclyde, and the University of Glasgow.
Ewing lived in what was known as Crawford Mansion, on the site of what was to become Queen Street Station, in Glasgow city centre. Named ‘Craw Ewing,’ because he had what was considered the best rookery in his district in the grounds, he went on to buy Strathleven House and estate in West Dunbartonshire.
He decorated his home with paintings and works of art, many of them bought before and around the time that he and his wife, Jane, undertook a thirteen-month Grand Tour of Europe, beginning in 1844.
After his death Strathleven House passed through the family to relations Constance Crum Ewing, who died in 1982, and her husband, Ian Bogle Monteith Hamilton, who later moved to Lowood in 1947.
The Hamilton’s history brought new elements to the collection. Hamilton’s parents were both artists; his father was the military and historical painter, Vereker Hamilton and his mother the sculptor, Lilian Swainson . The couple met at the celebrated Slade School of Fine Art in London where they were under the tutelage of famous French-born artist, Alphonse Legros.
A military family, four generations of the Hamiltons served in The Gordon Highlanders – in India in the 1860s, the first Afghan campaign, two Boer wars, Gallipoli and Malaya in the 1950s.
Some small paintings by Vereker and a handful of Lilian’s medals, some which can be founding in the collections of the British Museum and the V&A in London and the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, are included in the sale. A set of three medallions depict various military figures, including Vereker’s brother, the distinguished General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton, a close friend of Sir Winston Churchill.
Amongst the exceptionally rare pieces being auctioned are a previously unrecorded 16th century Italian Urbino dish. Named after the city in which it was made, the ‘maiolica,’ (earthenware) dish, was produced in the ‘istoriata’ style, a type of pottery decoration in which elaborate scenes were vividly depicted.
This particular dish features the Biblical story in Judges where Delilah cuts Samson’s hair, the latter being the source of his great physical strength.
Significantly, Ewing mentions buying the dish, estimated to fetch between £80,000-120,000, in his European tour diary.
Travel and exploration is a continuing theme throughout the collection, with a particular fascination in the late 19th century for Egypt past and present – demonstrated by the Ancient Egyptian Ptolemaic cartonnage mask, dating to 2nd/1st Century BC, estimated at £10,000-15,000; three volumes by Scottish artist David Roberts R.A. Egypt and Nubia, dating to 1846-49, estimated at £30,000-50,000; and a selection of paintings by Matthew Ridley Corbet, including a view of the Nile at Luxor.
There is also a significant Royal table, made by London-based George Blake & Co for King Louis-Philippe, who reigned as King of France from 1830 until 1848. The walnut, amboyna and ebony marquetry centre table was commissioned in the late 1840s and contains the monogram of the French King.
Gavin Strang, Managing Director and Head of Collections for Lyon & Turnbull said: “It’s always a privilege to handle the sale of treasures which have been in a family for centuries. There are some very unusual artefacts in this auction with wonderful stories attached. We anticipate international interest, especially given that the auction will be live online.
“I am particularly excited about the sale of the Italian Urbino dish. It’s unprecedented for an item from this early period of maiolica production to be offered on the market.”