Antiques Today – April 2009

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Anyone interested in antiques, fine art and collecting these items, is constantly on the lookout for exciting objects to add to their collections. Many people do not think of the dealer as a collector, but of course he is. He finds unusual items which he then researches and then offers them for sale. They pass through his hands and he gets great pleasure out of handling them, albeit for a short time in some cases.

This years annual South Africa Antique Dealers Association’s Cape Town Fair is to be held at the Exhibition Centre at the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens on the 13th and 14th of February. If you attend you will be able to enjoy antiques in this idyllic setting and in fact you can view the gardens from the Exhibition Centreitself.

This years Fair has once again unearthed many new, unusual and interesting items. Deon Viljoen with his connection with the Netherlands will have on display a fine “Table Bay” dish (26cm diameter, the rim 3.5cm high) made in China during the Quing Dynasty, Qianlong reign, and dates from between 1740 and 1750. These wonderful dishes are usually only seen in museums. The dish is decorated with a view of the Dutch Fleet at anchor in Table Bay. This example is of the highest quality and comes with a marvelous provenance. Its been passed down through seven generations of the Swellengrebel family. It originally belonged to Hendrick Swellengrebel who was the governor of the Cape of Good Hope between 1739 and 1751. On his retirement as Governor, Swellengrebel ordered an extensive dinner service from China, all decorated with his family crest. It is thought that the Table Bay plate came into his collection at this time. The plate is a wonderful find and it is exciting that it should return to South Africa 250 years after it left here. This once again shows how important the work of the dealer is in finding such objects and returning them to us. To actually own a plate that belonged to a Governor of the Cape of Good Hope is quite extraordinary.

Many people only think of architects designing buildings but of course they design everyday objects as well. Jeremy Stephen Antiques will this year be showing a pair of 20th Century chairs made by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto (1898 – 1976). Between 1929 and 1939 he designed furniture which was greatly influenced by the Bauhaus Movement. This wasthe era when the cantilevered chair came into its own. He took the process of heating and glueing wood into these new shapes to a new level. The whole chair was made out of wood and in fact what he was doing, was perfecting the process that had been developed almost a hundred years earlier with the introduction of the Bentwood chair. Initially these chairs had plywood seats which were not that comfortable to sit on. Giving way to this pure design he changed the design and introduced upholstered seats for more comfort. The pair of chairs on the Fair were made in 1933 and are model no 34/402 and made for Artek, Finland. So another exciting pair of 20th Century chairs that you may see on the Fair should you visit it.

Those who took part in wars of the past were awarded medals to recall the part they played in them. Here one thinks of Just Nuisance the Great Dane who frequented Simons Town during the 2nd World War and became an honourary member of the Royal Navy and was allowed to travel on the train free. There is a memorial to him in Simonstown. Animals obviously played a part in these wars but received no such awards. This year the Old Corkscrew will be showing a wonderful brass dog collar with fascinating associations with the Anglo Boer War of 1899 – 1902. These dog collars were sold on the streets of English cities in the late 19th Century and had rounded edges to prevent the dog hurting itself and a brass padlock to lock them in place. The collar on the Fair is inscribed with the name “Scout”, and then the letters S.A.L.H. which stand for the South African Light Horse. This was a volunteer regiment of men who wanted to fight on the British side during the war. Interestingly enough Winston Churchill was with them during the time he was a war correspondent covering the war.

If Scout had been human the medals he received at the end of the war would have told us which battles he was present at from the bars issued with the medal. These would have said for example – Siege of Ladysmith, Cape Colony or Relief of Mafeking. Scout however, had his movements during the war inscribed on his collar. Obviously these inscriptions were added at the end of the war as it would have been impossible to do it as they went along.

What can we assume about Scout? Firstly he was a large dog as the collar would only fit such a dog. Was he a mascot attached to his regiment, or was he in fact a dog owned by a private individual? One must remember this was a volunter regiment so you might have been able to take your dog along when you joined up.

So where did the dog, his owner and the regimentgo. The first inscription is the Siege of Ladysmith, so perhaps that is where he was born. From there he went to Sand River, Helpmekaar, Dundee, Ingogo and then to Utrecht all in Natal and Zululand. From there they went to Bothas Pass, Allermans Nek and then into the Transvaal to Wakkerstroom, Standerton, Amerspoort, Ermelo, Geluk, Bergendal, Machadadorp, Lydenburg, Mouchbert and Pilgrims Rest. From there they went to Krugers Post, Pretoria, Volksrust, Thaba ‘Nchu and finally to Bloemfontein. Quite a journey for a dog considering there was a war on at the time. Remember however, that a dog is mans’ best friend and so he stuck with him through thick and thin, an amazing dog. Perhaps one day a photograph of Scout will appear which will add considerably to this historic Boer War dog collar. It would also be interesting to know who his owner was. These are only three of the items that will be on display at this years Fair in Cape Town.

If you go along you will find that on display will also be English furniture, Cape furniture, porcelain, glass, jewelry, fine art, books, maps and much more. If you cannot attend the Fair do go onto the various dealers’ web sites at

Happy hunting!
Antony Wiley

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