I have long admired the elephant with a castle on its back in the Willett Collection at Brighton Museum. The collection is my favoritest ever. About 25 years ago, I visited it with one of those then-new inventions, a giant videocamera. When raising my family dictated escape, I watched that video. The Willett Collection, which I have since visited very many times, is seared on my brain. The large elephant is one of my favorite objects, and he is pictured in my book. Over the years, I found another one....but he was an albino elephant. It just didn't do it. And then I found a third, in a private collection that I photographed. That elephant came to auction a while ago, but I couldn't do the necessary. Why did I hesitate? Well, firstly, the condition report had me queasy. And there was an opening on one side of the castle for a watch. The opening was on the elephant's "best" side (the side his trunk flips toward)....not what I had in mind. I had waited SO long, but I don't compromise. I can't own everything on earth. I want the things I own to be right for me.
By some miracle, not so long after I passed on this elephant, another one came to auction. Here he is.
Here's the surprise: when the bidding for my elephant ended, the room broke into applause. That's for you, said the very nice lady on the phone. Well, I thought you had to spend millions on an Impressionist painting to get applause at auction. Applause for a Staffordshire figure? Unheard of! The applause was followed by a round of laughter (probably as the seller danced a celebratory jig!) The room was very excited.
So why the excitement? Well apparently the elephant had been consigned as part of a TV series called The Antiques Road Trip, where people buy things cheaply and then see what they can get for them at auction. My elephant had cost the seller a whole GBP8. Of course he was ecstatic. But collecting is not a zero sum game. It is possible to have two winners, and on that day both he and I were happy. The show will be aired in January, so if you live in the UK you will see it. Meanwhile, you can see the elephant here first.