Exquisite silver miniature pieces from the Milntown Collection for sale at Bonhams

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Exquisite silver miniature pieces from the Milntown Collection for sale at Bonhams
An Elizabeth I silver-gilt and salt-glazed Rhenish "tigerware" jug. Estimate: £15,000-20,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.



LONDON.- An extraordinary collection of miniature silver pieces designed for dolls houses is for sale at Bonhams Fine Silver Sale in New Bond Street on 13 November. It is the most important collection to be offered at auction for over 40 years.

The Milntown Collection was assembled over three decades by Sir Clive Edwards and his mother Lady Kathleen Edwards with the help and advice of the doyenne of silver dealers, Mrs G.E.P.How. It takes its name from Sir Clive’s estate on the Isle of Man which he rescued from near dereliction in the early 1960s and restored to its former glory.

Sir Clive, the 2nd Baronet of Treforis, inherited his title at the age of six making him the youngest baronet in Britain at the time. A keen racing driver, he spent many years balancing his passion for cars with his business interests while also developing an interest in miniature silver objects, a field previously dominated by collectors in the USA.

Mrs How, a formidable woman who in the words of her obituary in The Times was ‘a legend in the art world almost as much for the startling trenchancy of her opinions as for her impeccable scholarship and taste’ maintained a lively correspondence with Sir Clive and Lady Kathleen over many years.

The collection, which has never been on public view, is being sold by the Trustees of Milntown to improve facilities on the estate and, in particular, to build an exhibition centre to house Sir Clive’s collection of cars and the collection of motorcycles put together by his life long friend, Bob Thomas.

The present collection of 55 pieces (with a total upper estimate of over £160,000) represents an astonishing variety of the best makers of miniature and toy silver objects, many of which are directly traceable to items mentioned in Mrs How’s letters. A George II silver miniature Warwick cruet (est £2,000-3,000), for example, is almost certainly the one referred to in How’s letter of 6 October, 1943 " I am sending down to you a little miniature cruet which you certainly ought to have and which certainly ought to be in the same collection as the little one you have just bought. If you like it you can have it for £32, though we are asking more than this in the shop."

A rare early 18th century gold-mounted frommery-type enamel snuff box (£6,000-8,000) was the subject of some hard selling by Mrs How in a letter dated 24 November 1944, “"Have you any money? We have the most superb box, white enamel with gold mounts and the most lovely decoration of vines, flowers, butterflies, dogs, people etc., etc., molded in gold, crushed emerald, crushed sapphires and crushed rubies - £250. One of the most lovely boxes that I have ever seen."

The item with the highest estimate - an Elizabeth I silver-gilt and salt-glazed Rhenish "tigerware" jug (£15,000-20,000) - is also among the oldest in the collection. Dated 1578, it was bought from How by Sir Clive in 1959 for £500.

The earliest known silver miniatures were made for Royalty. King Edward VI was given a miniature silver service as a child, and in 1571 the daughter of Henri II gave to the princesses of Bavaria a doll’s house and contents including “buffet pots, plates and other articles.” The vogue for these elaborate houses reached its height in Holland in the late 1600s, but they were also popular in England. Jonathon Swift writes in Gulliver’s Travels (1726) of “a set of silver dishes and plates .... not much bigger than what I have seen in a London Toyshop for the furniture of a baby house”.

Further pieces from the collection are being sold at Bonhams Chester on 20 November and Bonhams Edinburgh on 4 December.










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