Rare Sunflower Andirons now on display
The Hunterian is now home to a pair of exceptionally rare gilded brass andirons designed by English architect and designer Thomas Jeckyll.
The Sunflower Andirons are now on display in the Hunterian Art Gallery. They were purchased by The Hunterian with support from the Alexander and Margaret Johnstone Endowment fund, the Art Fund, the Monument Trust, National Fund for Acquisitions and the Iris Foundation, New York.
Described as ‘one of the most important creations of Anglo-Japanese metalwork*’ the Sunflower Andirons, or metal holders for fireplace logs, are of great significance because of their artistic importance, rarity and relevance to The Hunterian collections.
The distinctive pair were designed by Thomas Jeckyll in c. 1876 and are considered to be a masterpiece of the art of wrought-iron and cast-iron metal work. Their distinctive sunflower design is also widely accepted as an icon of the English Aesthetic Movement.
Examples are extremely rare and this set is one of the finest surviving pairs. They are the only known pair made in the higher quality medium of brass and the only pair in a public collection outside North America.
The Sunflower Andirons have direct links with the American-born artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) and his outstanding work of art, the interior, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, for which The Hunterian owns the impressive cartoon, The Fighting Peacocks.
They have been incorporated into The Hunterian’s permanent Whistler display alongside key works such as the Peacock Cartoon, Butterfly Cabinet and Screen with Old Battersea Bridge, providing a new focus for research and teaching.
Director of The Hunterian, Professor David Gaimster, said:
‘We are delighted to add these extremely rare items to The Hunterian collections. The Sunflower Andirons are particularly significant because of their links to Whistler and the Aesthetic Movement. I am grateful to the Alexander and Margaret Johnstone Endowment fund, the Art Fund, the Monument Trust, National Fund for Acquisitions and the Iris Foundation, New York, for their support in securing them.’
The Hunterian Art Gallery is open from Tuesday – Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm and Sunday 11.00am – 4.00pm. Admission free. Admission charge for The Mackintosh House and some exhibitions.
*Quote from In Pursuit of Beauty: Americans and the Aesthetic Movement, Metropolitan Museum and Rizzoli, New York, 1986.
First published: 6 October 2016