Jewellery, Watches and Objects of Vertu (26 March 2019)

Date of Auction: 26th March 2019

Sold for £240

Estimate: £80 - £100

Louis Osman Archive: A selection of sketches, plans and corresponding relating to Victoria and Albert Museum lectern, the Magna Carta casket and Bury St Edmunds charger bowl. £100-£150


In 1972 the Goldsmiths’ Company recommended Louis to the British Government, for the commission of a golden box/showcase to display one of the four copies of the Magna Carta, which was to be loaned by Britain to the USA, as a contribution to America’s bicentennial celebrations. As usual Louis’ design was meticulously researched and full of symbolism. The casket still takes pride of place within the crypt of the United States Capitol building today.

In 1975, the late alderman Robert Olle bequeathed a legacy to the civic council of St Edmundsbury for the purchase of civic gold and silverwork. The council decided to commission a charger from Louis, specifying that the piece portray “the conception of the meeting of the barons at the high altar in the present Abbey gardens to enforce the granting of the Magna Carta”. The 25 inch silver charger is centred with an enamelled depiction of the coat of arms of St Edmundsbury, newly granted when the borough was formed in 1976. Surrounding this are enamelled shields of all 27 barons, who persuaded King John to sign the Magna Carta. The charger remains a centrepiece of the borough’s treasury.

In 1985 Sir Roy Strong, Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, having been impressed by Louis’ work, on the Magna Carta casket, decided to commission from him a lectern for the museum. The free standing lectern is beautifully engraved with symbolic designs reflecting creation and the creative process, full of allegorical characters representing the Earth and fertility, the seasons and the battle between light and dark. At the front is suspended an enamelled pendant depicting a phoenix rising from the flames. Louis himself described this as “the largest piece of Fine Art engraving since Hogarth”.