Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Entwined Dolphin Fountain with Shell and Triton

Architectural Heritage's Entwined Dolphin Fountain with Shell and Triton circa 1830 was entered to Lapda's object of the year competition. 'To my knowledge, this is the earliest known signed piece by Austin & Seeley,' said Alex Puddy. Unfortunately the fountain did not win however we felt it important to highlight such an interesting piece;

Entwined Dolphin Fountain with Shell and Triton. A large artificial stone fountain by Austin & Seeley, circa 1835. This rare survival from the early 19th Century is a fine example from the workshops of Austin & Seeley, modelled with a merman blowing a conch seated above a shell basin, the stylised conch shell bowl is supported by three entwined dolphins. This fountain is unusually signed in relief on the rocky outcrop below the merman (Austin & Seeley 183…). The fountain appears on the cover of the specimen book of Austin & Seeley’s artificial stone manufactory, a catalogue of 1844 , where a line drawing is shown on page 18, titled as above.

The date of this catalogue entry corresponds to the company’s participation at the Great Exhibition. Here they displayed a fountain some 20 feet in height amongst other items from their manufactory. The company’s beginning is a little difficult to date, however it is known that Felix Austin procured moulds from a previous manufacturer Van Spangen Powell & Co., around 1828 and that their office was registered at Keeple Row, Regent’s Park in 1825 (probably their showroom) with the manufacturing taking place near Thames Tunnel, Rotherhithe.

As with other companies imitating natural stone, such as Coade, competitive pricing, when compared to carved stone or marble, was one of the main selling points, alongside its ‘hardness and durability’, especially when used for fountains. Around 1840 Austin went into partnership with the sculptor John Seeley, and at this time over one hundred models of fountains, gures, pier ornaments, vases etc. were available. Made from a compound of Portland cement, ground stone, coarse sand and pulverised marble, items from the maker were never normally marked or stamped. However, it is possible to recognise items made by Austin & Seeley in cross-section, the compound resembling nougat.

Lapda object of the year

Architectural Heritage

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