Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Acquires William Burges Zodiac Tiles

  • 17 July 2008

The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery is delighted to announce that it has purchased a 30 piece tile panel by the Gothic Revival designer William Burges with the aid of generous grants from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (£10,000), The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity (£8,750) and from the Cecil Higgins Trustees (£6,250).

The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery is delighted to announce that it has purchased a 30 piece tile panel by the Gothic Revival designer William Burges with the aid of generous grants from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (£10,000), The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity (£8,750) and from the Cecil Higgins Trustees (£6,250).

The tile panel dated circa 1880, consists of twelve signs of the zodiac with eighteen border tiles of other designs. This panel is one of only three complete sets known to exist, the others being at Castell Coch in Cardiff and Mount Stewart on the Isle of Bute.

The Gallery purchased the tiles at Sotheby’s auction house in the selling exhibition ‘The Best of British, Design from the 19th and 20th Centuries. The sale made the headlines due to its association with Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin guitarist who owns Tower House, a gothic style house designed by William Burges in 1877 for his own residence. The accompanying auction sold works from Page and Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet’s private collections.

The tiles join one of the best collections of works by and relating to William Burges (1827-1881), outside London and Cardiff. The collection includes Burges’ own bed, dressing table and the ‘Narcissus’ washstand as well as a wardrobe and a zodiac themed bookcase. Smaller items include one of the tulip vases made for Cardiff Castle as well as a set of cutlery and a decanter designed and made for his own use.

William Burges (1827-81), was one of the leading exponents of the Gothic Revival. An architect and designer who counted among his patrons the Marquis of Bute, for whom he redesigned Cardiff Castle and built Castell Coch, examples of his furniture and metalwork designs can be seen in Cardiff, London and Chicago as well as Bedford.

Supporting the purchase Sonia Solicari (Curator, Ceramics and Glass Collection) from the Victoria and Albert Museum said:
‘The Cecil Higgins is the perfect collection with which to house this panel as it will enrich the already impressive holdings by Burges.’

The Gallery is planning a major refurbishment which will include the transformation of a unique hexagonal building from the 1800s into a stunning new Burges Gallery decorated in an authentic recreation of Burges’ style. The new space will house the entire Burges collection as well as pieces by other Gothic revival architects and designers, including tiles by Henry Holiday and A.W.N. Pugin. The Burges tiles are a considerable asset to the collection.

Notes to Editors

1. The full cost of the work was £25,000
2. For images and information on other William Burges objects in the Cecil Higgins collection visit the website http://www.cecilhigginsartgallery.org/burges/burges.htm
3. Each tile is 15.5cm square. They are earthenware painted with shades of green and white and are impressed with mark to the underside ‘W B & S’. They were hand painted by W B Simpson & Sons.
4. The tiles were purchased from the Paul Reeves Selling Exhibition, Sotheby’s with the aid of a grant from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund of £10,000 and the The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity of £8,750
5. The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is a government fund, established at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) in 1181 as part of its nationwide work. 2006 marked the Fund’s 125th anniversary.  The annual grants budget, currently £1,000,000, is provided by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).  The Fund supports the acquisition of objects relating to the arts, literature and history by regional museums, record offices and specialist libraries in England and Wales.  Each year it considers some 300 applications and in 2006-07 awarded grants to 115 organisations, enabling acquisitions of over £4 million to go ahead.  Visit the website at www.vam.ac.uk/purchasegrantfund
6. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.  It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members.  Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.  Recent achievements include:  helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.  For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit www.artfund.org