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Rare Benjamin Zobel sand paintings discovered by Charles Wallrock of Wick Antiques in Lymington



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A LYMINGTON antique dealer is set to clean up after discovering two rare sand paintings by a world-renowned artist.

There turned out to be more than a grain of truth to Charles Wallrock’s suspicions about the nicotine-covered works when they were cleaned to reveal they were originals by Benjamin Zobel.

German-British artist Zobel created his pieces by painstakingly gluing coloured grains of sand to wood or plasterboard.

Antique dealer Charles Wallrock, of Wick Antiques in Lymington
Antique dealer Charles Wallrock, of Wick Antiques in Lymington

The two examples unearthed by Mr Wallrock, of Wick Antiques, are copies of originals by Philip James de Loutherbourg.

Set for display at the Masterpiece Fair in London, the pair are on sale for £22,500.

One depicts a scene from the Battle of Hastings with William the Conqueror raising his sword, and the other shows Richard the Lionheart in combat against Saladin.

Works by Zobel (1762-1830) are displayed around the world including at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

On the two rediscovered pieces, Mr Wallrock said: “These are world class; they are really exceptional examples of Zobel’s unusual work.

Richard the Lionheart in action against Saladin at the Battle of Acre
Richard the Lionheart in action against Saladin at the Battle of Acre

“Sand painting – or Marmotinto – was hugely popular in his time and Zobel gained his skills from his early career as a pastry chef.”

Zobel worked as a table decker at Windsor Castle, decorating the table cloth with designs of sand, marble dust, powdered glass or breadcrumbs.

He also decorated with coloured sugar the huge tarts and puddings served at banquets held by George III.

A suggestion by the monarch prompted him to start creating permanent designs and pictures using coloured sand.

Although there was already the ancient Japanese skill of Bonkei or ‘tray picture’, he invented the sand-painting technique.

A Zobel sand painting depicting William the Conqueror
A Zobel sand painting depicting William the Conqueror

“His ability to portray texture, colour and depth of field is quite extraordinary,” Mr Wallrock continued.

“When I saw these for sale I suspected they might be his work.

“They are fairly big paintings and there must be millions of grains of sand all arranged with unbelievable precision.

“He must have had the patience of Job as well as the skill of a master.

“We have many outstanding items relating to royalty and these sand paintings really do add colour and great drama.”



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