Saturday 17 January 2009

Treasure House, 19-21 Hatton Garden EC1

Few of the old 'quarters' where trades used to congregate survive. Savile Row is on its last legs, and even Soho has fewer sex shops than it did. But Hatton Garden is still the headquarters of the diamond trade, and most of the shops are jewellers, so the architectural references to the trade remain potent.
Treasure House, built in 1907 to designs by Niven & Wigglesworth, has a particularly nice set of carvings illustrating the getting, making and uses of gold.
They are not in any particular sequence, unusually, so mining, which logically should be on the left, is centre right. The miner is holding a prybar, looking for a seam in the stratified rock to the light of a Davy lamp.
To his left is a foundryman kneeling in front of a furnace, holding a cauldron of molten metal with a pair of tongs. Shockingly, he is in bare feet - call Health and Safety for some boots before he melts his feet off, someone!The goldsmith is on the far left, with a press behind him and holding a hammer.
The rest of the figures are customers, one man and two women, which may reflect Hatton Garden's 'footfall' quite well. A girl admires herself with a mirror, and......a rather self-satisfied woman gloats over her jewellery - note the box on the seat next to her, overflowing with tom.Finally, a military-looking gent holds a huge gold vase of the type that grateful insurance companies used to give to victorious admirals and generals.
The sculptor does not seem to be recorded, and there are no signatures on the works themselves. On stylistic grounds I think it may be by Charles Doman, who in 1907 was assisting the elderly Albert Hodge, who did other work for Niven & Wigglesworth. Another candidate would be L.F. Roselieb - see Norway House. Anyone know better?

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