Finders Keepers: Will Fisher, antique dealer, avid collector and founder of Jamb, shares the stories of two extraordinary objects that have passed through his hands - a shift in world order carved in stone and the piece he was destined to own.



Detail, Chimneypiece by John Bacon c.1790, commissioned to commemorate America's liberty © John Hammond


My Greatest Find: Chimneypiece by John Bacon

"This extraordinary chimneypiece by the pre-eminent 18th-century sculptor, John Bacon, is both a startlingly beautiful object and a petrified historical document. It was commissioned in 1790 (we believe by Gouverneur Morris, the father of the American constitution) to commemorate America’s liberty. Bacon’s commemoration of American liberty is not one of severance from Britian but unity, the iconography showing that Britain and America remain stronger as allies than adversaries.

"It was such an exciting find. The dust having settled after the War of Independence, this chimneypiece was commissioned by one of the foremost Americans of his day and affirms unity between Britain and America. It shows fascinating scenes peopled by Britannia, Minerva and a fasci, a Roman symbol of unity.


Will's Greatest Find: Chimneypiece by John Bacon, c.1790, commissioned to commemorate America's liberty © John Hammond


"Depicted also are French symbols of freedom and revolution and, hidden at the bottom of the plinth, their American counterparts— tobacco leaves and rattlesnakes. A precursor to the Statue of Liberty, it is one of the first classical depictions of liberty in America, its story is carved through allegory and powerful symbolism.

"When it came up for sale at Christie’s, I flew to New York for 24 hours just to see it. The three separate slabs of carved marble were, alarmingly, stuck to a ply board in one piece, so there was anxiety about whether it could be disassembled safely. I bought it and decided to chance it despite the risk. It was quite the ordeal to have to fly back to London leaving it in New York. I can’t tell you the relief when it arrived safely.

"I admire the craftsmanship so much: the quality of the carving demonstrated by the ornate swags of flowers and crisp, flowing robes. Such fine work does justice to the subject it presents; a shift of world order, caught in stone."

The piece I’ll keep forever: Roman cinerary urn

"This one was really meant to be. Ever since I started collecting antiques, I’ve dreamt of owning the quintessential Roman marble cinerary urn, picturing it on a sleepy sideboard or an 18th-century slab table. It’s a must-have. As antique dealers, a cinerary urn communicates so much of what we love and the emotional well-being these urns give us is quite a thing. Inexplicably, there is such joy in its perfect, egg-like shape.

"My urn, which features beautiful repairs and staining, eluded me time and again. I first saw it in 2012, at an auction with an old mentor of mine. I wanted to buy it, but Charlotte and I were relocating from a vast showroom to our Pimlico shop with an auction of our possessions at Christie's later that year. It would have been financially mad to buy it, but I never forgot it.


The object Will plans to keep forever: a Roman cinerary urn © Edward Rollitt


"A while later, I was visiting fellow dealers, the Tomasso brothers, when Dino Tomasso walked in carrying the same urn. My urn! It turned out he was the one who’d bought it. I wanted to buy it from him, but we still hadn’t had our own Christie's sale and were feeling wary. A few weeks later, our auction turned out to be a success and, emboldened, I asked Dino about the urn only for him to tell me he’d just sold it! It felt like the one that got away, I didn’t stop thinking about it.

"Twelve years later, hardly on the lookout for an urn at all, it turned up again in a sale in Paris. This time, I thought this cannot pass me, not again. I bought it immediately, and the love affair was rekindled. We were destined to be together, and I will never sell it, for I intend to be buried either with it, or in it."

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