The Wellby Collection, which was passed onto the Ashmolean in January following the death of Michael is being touted as the greatest accession of silver to a UK museum since Ferdinand Rothschild’s bequest to the British Museum in 1898.
It is little wonder Michael Wellby developed such a passion for silver and became such a name in the antique silver world for he was just 18 when he joined his father’s business from where he came to specialise in German silver.
The Ashmolean has taken possession of around 500 pieces from the Wellby collection which includes a 16th century Portuguese silver gilt ewer, a piece we couldn’t help noticing resembles our very own George III antique silver coffee pot.
On leaving the family business in the 1960s, Michael Wellby set up his own shop in London’s Grafton Street and went on to enjoy a reputation as an expert in German silver of the 16th and 17th centuries. With an eye for the rare and exotic, Michael and his wife Joy would travel the world on the hunt for items to sell as well as to add to his own personal collection – the collection which now belongs to the Ashmolean and will be put on display for everyone to enjoy in its entirety in a specially designed gallery.
Among the antique silver rarities to be viewed include pieces made by German and Flemish silversmiths with unique markings, as well as pieces made in other parts of Europe. Here you will find some items with unusual decoration or adornments such as ivory and agate, rock crystal or lapis lazuli, as well as Far East and African flourishes that incorporate semi-precious stones, mother-of-pearl, coconut shell or ostrich egg.
And no doubt antique silver dealers everywhere will be in total awe when they come to view the exquisite silver gilt ewer from Portugal that bears the Royal Arms of that country.
The Wellby collection is reported to be worth £10 million and no one at Warners Antiques would dare dispute that; I for one am especially looking forward to making a trip to the Ashmolean to marvel at the man Mr. Wellby and revel in the passion we both share.