Fred Rich silver and enamel vase in sale

An iconic piece of British contemporary design has been uncovered in a picturesque Cotswold manor house during a valuation visit by a local auction house.

Kinghams Auctioneers of Moreton-in-Marsh discovered an almost 25cm tall, silver and enamel vase by Britain’s most dynamic and versatile art enameller, Fred Rich. The piece is now set to be a highlight of their Silver & Objects of Vertu sale on March 22.

According to Associate Director Matthew Lafite, “This is a wonderful example of work by Fred Rich. The body of the vase is decorated with cloisonne and basse-taille enamelling in polychrome, with species of anatomically correct butterflies – it is a tour de force in artform.”

Fred Rich has won innumerable art awards, and his work is represented in all the major public collections in the UK as well as in many private collections worldwide. Most of his work is made for private commissions, with larger pieces taking many months of painstaking and arduous work, resulting in a very small output.

Mr Lafite continued: “The piece itself weighs almost 2.3 kilograms and is a significant work by the artist. We were delighted to discover it tucked away on a window ledge in a Cotswold stone manor.”

The process used by Fred Rich is labour intensive and requires the enamelled design to be scribed onto the surface before 22-carat gold wire is applied. Each piece of gold wire has to be cut and bent to shape before being soldered on. This can mean that hundreds of small pieces of gold wire are used in one design. The application of the enamel is an extremely painstaking process. Several layers of enamel have to be applied, working in sections at a time and each layer has to be fired at extremely high temperatures. This whole process can mean that larger pieces are fired in the kiln up to 40 times.

‌The vase has a guide price of £3,000-5,000 in the sale.