A VICTORIAN silver snuff box depicting a mansion in Ramsgate has just sold for world record price of £48,800 at Matthew Barton’s in London.
The oblong-shaped box carried the maker’s marks for Hilliard & Thomason of Birmingham and was dated 1854. It was engraved with a view of East Cliff Lodge, Ramsgate after a watercolour by J.M.W. Turner.
It was also engraved with the Montefiore family crest of Sir Moses Haim Montefiore (1784-1885), the financier and philanthropist who married in 1812 Rachel Cohen, daughter of Levi Barent Cohen.
Auctioneer Matthew Barton said after the sale, “Sir Moses Montefiore is an important figure in Jewish and British history, one of the key figures in the struggle for Jewish emancipation.”
Although a lovely box in its own right, and attractive to both silver and snuff box collectors, it was the interest in both the Montefiore provenance and the engraving of his lost mansion on the box which meant there was an exciting battle for the box during the auction, with a bidder in the room competing against a telephone bidder in the final stages.
East Cliff Lodge appears to have been built in the mid-1790s and boasted extensive gardens, romantic tunnels cut into the chalk and stupendous views out to sea.
The Montefiores purchased it in 1830, remaining there when not at their house in Park Lane until their respective deaths. The mausoleum in which Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore were laid to rest and the adjacent private synagogue they had built in the grounds still exist, but the house was demolished in 1954.
According to the Tate’s records, Turner painted views of both the seaward and landward facing elevations of East Cliff Lodge in about 1797.
On the theme of Jewish history, it doesn’t seem so long ago – 2005 in fact – when I recorded an auction record of a 10-times estimate £8000 for a silver card case bearing a scene of the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London engraved by the top maker Nathaniel Mills.
To collectors of card cases, subject matter is also everything. And this showed the oldest synagogue in Britain, which was built in 1701.
Oh, I nearly forgot, the near-£50,000 box at Matthew Barton had a pre-sale estimate of just £800-£1200!