Monday, 02 April, 2012 - Modified on Monday, 02 April, 2012 at 9:09 am
In September 2008, Cuttlestones had the honour of undertaking the country house sale at Garmelow Manor in Eccleshall, the Staffordshire home of the artist Arnold Machin, who created the world’s most re-produced image. Here, Ben recalls some of the highlights in a sale that celebrated the life of a local legend...
Think of the most commonly reproduced image in the world... You’d be forgiven for thinking of a Dutch master or Renaissance fresco; but it is actually the cameo of HRH Queen Elizabeth II on the humble British postage stamp & coins.
Originally crafted in 1967, the image has appeared on over 2 billion stamps; its longevity testament to the fact that HRH admires the image so greatly that she has declined to have it updated. The artist responsible for creating this iconic image was Staffordshire born and bred Arnold Machin.
Arnold Machin R.A., O.B.E. was born in Stoke on Trent in 1911. He was a prolific artist and sculptor throughout his long life, just missing the dawn of the 21st century when he died in March ‘99. Machin began work as an apprentice, hand-painting china at the Minton Pottery, at just 14. During the Depression he studied sculpture at the Stoke-on-Trent Art School, followed by spells at the Derby School of Art and, finally, the Royal College of Art in 1937. During the ‘40s he continued his career at Wedgwood, with many of the resulting pieces now prized collectors’ items.
Machin’s close links with the Royal Academy remained throughout his life, from his years as a Master of Sculpture to his eventual election as a Fellow of the Royal Society of British Sculptors in 1956. His association with stamps and coinage imagery began in 1964 after winning a competition to model HRH for decimal coinage.
Machin’s method for creating the Queen’s image was complex. He began by sculpting a bust which he then photographed to create a simplistic profile. He then worked tirelessly to achieve an effect that recalled the original “Penny Black” stamp, subtly enhancing the original template by adding intricacy to the crown and delicate shading to the face; the result an almost three dimensional image that remains a remarkable artistic achievement.
Machin’s legacy lived on not only in this famous image but in the home he created for his family in the hamlet of Garmelow, near Eccleshall. Following the tragic death of his son, Francis Machin, Cuttlestones was commissioned to sell the remarkable collection that filled this rambling country house. The entire contents, which included original art, sculpture, antique furniture, vintage farm machinery and plane engines achieved in excess of £300,000. Due to their diversity, the lots were auctioned over two specialist sales, one at Garmelow manor itself and the other at the Moat House, Acton Trussell, and attracted interest from both UK and international bidders.
Highlights included an original plaster cast of the Queen’s head, over which a global bidding war ensued, the hammer falling at £15,700 to a UK institution. And the story doesn’t end here – a second rare plaster cast of the famous cameo, gifted by Machin to a fellow artist seeking inspiration for a bust of Lord Mountbatten, went under the hammer at Cuttlestones’ September 10th Fine Art sale, achieving £18,000.