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Sunday, 11 December 2016

Discovery of the missing family coat of arms of the monument of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton in St. Katharine Cree in London

Family coat of arms Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, St Katharine Cree London

Discovery of the missing family coat of arms of the monument of 
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton
 St. Katharine Cree in London 

by Patrick Damiaens Belgian Heraldic and ornamental Woodcarver.
Translation from my dutch woodcarving blog, by Lis Alvarado.
© Information can only be used with written consent

Heraldry is of my personal interest, I have to say I am not really an expert, but I manage very well most of the heraldic themes, and I am always happy to learn more about certain heraldic themes and coats of arms. Heraldry is an art form in itself and it is very complex. Sometimes I am surprised by the heraldic knowledge of some heraldic experts in the world.

Antica Namur 2016 
As every year, I went to Antica in Namur (Belgium), the art and antiques fair in the exhibition halls at the city's edge. It's not really a "major event" but has for some years an annual-increasing affordable quality to offer, a special pretty fair with a growing appreciating audience.

On a stand of a Flemish art dealer who is also a prominent exhibitor at the Brussels’s BRAFA attracted immediately my attention to a magnificent alabaster relief. It stood between paintings, exhibited on a black pedestal and in addition to this high relief -about 80 cm- was an explanatory text plate affixed by the piece exhibited. It said it was a German-Austrian alabaster relief from the mid-16th century. I asked if I could make some photos of this fascinating piece, this was not a problem the booth owner told me. My gut feeling told me that this was an alabaster relief of a different origin and I made that remark to the art dealer; I told him that the relief was likely to be of English origin, and not German.
This observation was motivated by my daily researches and investigations as heraldic sculptor and of course, to the many European heraldic subscriptions to magazines that I have, so it's quite easier for me to form an idea of all kind of coats of arms.

These subscriptions and the readings I do on top of visiting castles and museums, provides me a better understanding of the complexity and specific details of this unique art form. Also it gives me the feeling of becoming an even better heraldic sculptor. So …, the relief was of English origin, I was as good sure about it.
Back at home, I sent the image of the alabaster relief to an English friend R. Lichten, who -like me- thinks that the knowledge of heraldry and history is an interesting and useful hobby. He answered not long afterwards, and told me that the first quarter of this alabaster coat of arms was of the English family Throckmorton. But from whom this coat of arms could have been, that needed to be investigated. There are indeed a whole bunch of well-known, lesser-known and prominent members of the Throckmorton family.

Throckmorton Family

I could tell by the style of the shield, the ornaments and compositions that it was dated back to the 16th century, as the respectable art dealer told me. So, we could focus on the name Throckmorton from this period and investigated who this important person was, just like his brothers. The relief is named in fact for an important person in this family; this is recognized by the quality and size. So I found some notable family from this period.

Francis Throckmorton (1554-1584)
Nicholas Throckmorton (1515-1571)
John Throckmorton (1524-1580)

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton

Nicholas Throckmorton’s coat of arms
The research was not easy and it was needed to perform a detective’s work to discover that the original owners of this wonderful family crest. But because there is a martlet (bird) in a distinguish area on the shield, it became the key information. This symbol means that -according to the English heraldry- the alabaster coat of arms should belong to the 4th son in row, and this discovery made the opening to a much easier research from there.
It was without a doubt the coat of arms of Nicholas Throckmorton. I was shocked a little when I was doing the research work on this family and who the person Sir Nicholas Throckmorton actually was; it was English top-history from the 16th century. This family played an important role in England during the 16th century.
Sir Nicholas Throckmorton (or Throgmorton) (circa 1515/1516 - February 12, 1571) was an English diplomat and politician, he was ambassador to France and played an important role in the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Discovery of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton coat of arms

Nicholas Throckmorton was the fourth of eight children of Sir George Throckmorton of Coughton Court. After Elizabeth I came to the throne in November 1558, Nicholas Throckmorton rose quickly into the Queen’s favor, mainly because of his existing personal relationship with her. He advised on the formation of her government, which she followed and from May 1559 to April 1564 he was Ambassador to France.
His family name is mentioned in several plots. In 1569, Throckmorton was suspected of involvement in the conspiracy against the Duke of Norfolk and spent time locked up in Windsor Castle but no trial was brought against him, but afterwards he could not win back the trust of Queen Elizabeth I. He died in 1571. Such a turbulent history.

Coughton Court
Coughton Court is the home of the family Throckmorton since 1409. The estate comprises about 10 hectares of the most breathtaking gardens of England. The beautiful farmhouse has been known of having several owners in 1409 but at a certain moment it came into the possession of the family Spiney; the name Throckmorton was first associated with Coughton Court in 1409 when Eleanor Spiney married John Throckmorton. The title Baronet (“Sir”) assigned to the house Throckmorton was lost in 1994 after the death of the twelfth Baronet; but the family still resides at Coughton Court, which now is run by the National Trust word.
It was the intentions of Clare McLaren- Throckmorton to create a garden that was appropriate with the line of the house, the gardens that have since the last 15 years its current form; these gardens are still owned and operated by the Throckmorton family. In 2009, the residence of the Throckmorton family celebrated its 600th anniversary.
After a number of e-mails to Rebecca Farr and John Sterry who are part of the Management of Coughton Court Part, I came to know more about the alabaster coat of arms that I had seen in Namur, making the story short, this is too complex for a nice blog entry, but the alabaster coat of arms shows in the first quart the Throckmorton coat of arms of and the second quart the Spinney last name is recognizable.

Coat of arms Sir Nicholas Throckmorton

The monument

In my internet research I found out that Sir Nicholas Throckmorton died on February 12th, 1571 and is buried in St Katharine Cree parish church in London, but where exactly is not known. But in his memory a monument was erected in the church, I found a number of images of the monument on the internet, I’m not totally sure but it looks as if this monument was made of alabaster too and for sure it was executed with the same high quality of carving work.
But after a little more detailed research I encountered some remarkable reference points, it seemed as if the relief that I saw in Namur and the monument in London exhibited the same quality in ornamentation, composition and style, "I would swear ' I thought then, "that the same artist, workshop or creator must have created it." My discoveries then were followed by many nice discoveries about the subject.

Monument Sir Nicholas Throckmorton 2016


A late 18th century book with engravings printed (Antique Prints of London) that I found on the internet gave the identity of the relief jewel; I could not believe my eyes. On this copper engravings from 1793 is clearly the alabaster reliefs visible, but also two smaller coats of arms/shields are visible. Who they are I do not know, I have already requested information to the management of Coughton Court but they could not help me. 
The picture was not of high quality, it is certain that the little family coat of arms from the right belonged to a woman, as it is in lozenge form. But without a doubt it was a fantastic discovery. Because I had discovered an important historical work, it seemed at the time a good investment.

Engraving 1793, Monument sir Nicholas Throckmorton

Back to the art fair in Namur

With all the gathered information, I visited Namur again some days later, I was sure that the relief has been part of the monument to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, I even went with the intention of buying it for personal use. A 16th century historical relief seemed like a better investment than money in the bank. But… was it stolen? 
I could not find anything on the internet about a stolen relief of the monument of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton. Arriving in the exhibition halls in Namur I saw on the stand of the antique dealer that the description disappeared from the site and in the meantime English relief at the exploratory description - had become English family crest. Produced in Antwerp, so a Belgium export product. 
The good man recognized me two days after my first visit and I was curious about the resale value of this relief, unfortunately this was too far above my budget.

Christie's from London

To learn more about the value of this relief I got in touch with Donald Johnston, he is the Senior Director and Head of International European Sculpture and Works of the Art Department of Christie's London. I sent him a file with all my findings; not long after, I received a reply, and he was very impressed with my research work and agreed that it was about the missing attachment of the monument. At that time I received too the valuation at any auction at Christie's, a good investment would thus be still been there.


Yet I had still a number of questions, how did the relief got separated from the monument? How it came to Belgium? who was the previous owner? Is it a lost or stolen object or a priest of St Katharine Cree in London sold it when he needed money o for a reason we do not know or …? But quite certainly, the relief should have never left the church, that's for sure; the monument has great historical value.

St Katharine Cree London

St Katharine Cree in London

End of November 2016; I contacted St Katharine Cree in London, my contact was Phil Manning, supervisor of the church. I confronted him in an email with a number of findings about the monument in its current state and engraving from 1793 with attachments. All the other information I gathered felt -at that time- superfluous. His response was particularly extensive.

The carved coats of arms shown along the top of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton’s monument in the print that you have sent me (of which a copy hangs on the wall of the church) are no longer in place and have certainly not been there at any time during the 10 years I have been working for St Katharine Cree. This is what he said:

Sir Nicholas’s monument has been moved at least twice in its history, and my reasons for saying so are based on the following considerations: the present building dates from the 1630s (although the tower is 16th-century) and Sir Nicholas died in February 1571, so his monument cannot be in its original location; in addition, it is known that in 1929 the monument was located against the south wall of  the south aisle, but it is now against the east wall in the south aisle – it is believed that it was moved to its present location in the late 1950s/early 1960s, as offices were installed in the side aisles at that time. Since the 1929 record mentions that the entablature of the moment supports “an achievement and two shields-of-arms”, the monument lost these items at some date after 1929 and I believe that one very possible explanation for the loss would have been bomb damage, since we are aware that a stained glass window in the south aisle was damaged by explosive impact in World War II and this window would have been close to the monument’s then location.

The monument is of unpainted stone, which appears to be alabaster (with a reddish-brown veining). I do not know who made it, but the workmanship is of high quality and may have been from a workshop in Southwark (perhaps the Throckmorton family has a record?). As you will know, Bankside in Southwark was where many Dutch refugees settled in the late 16the century and a monumental tradition became established – I would love to know more about this! 

The monument of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton

My findings
After receiving this email, I found the time to confront Phil Manning with my findings, and not long after I got a phone call from him. But before I went further, because I wanted to be sure of how I approach this, I contacted my lawyer. His advice was to record all calls and emails ‘to fall back on, you never know.

Particularly sympathetic from Mr. Manning to congratulate me with the results of my research work and asked if he might know who the antique art dealer was. I did not want to tell him his name because I had -at that time-  the intention to purchase the relief itself. 
But when he told me that the relief never legally could have left the church because there was never a transfer deed, the most logical reason was looted art, I lost all interest in a purchase. He asked me if he could forward my data and research work to Christopher A Marinello, a British expert in stolen art. Phil Manning also sent me a photo from 1929 where clearly the family crest of Throckmorton is visible, for me it was very clear this historic relief should be returned to its original place.
However, there was another problem: the relief was never officially declared as stolen. Possibly because the person in charge of the church thought that the relief was destroyed by the bombing in 1941 (Blitz) and was carried out with the rest of the debris. Perhaps it is then when it felt into the wrong hands. This is just a line of thought; evidence for this is not there, but it is certain that it had not been allowed to leave the church.

Discovery of the missing family coat of arms of the monument
of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton in St. Katharine Cree in London

Lost art in Brussels
There were a number of ways to remedy the situation: there was the hard way, with lawyers, lawsuits, etc. .. With a lot of negativity, but a respectable art dealer would never follow this path if proof is supplied. Another way was to release any information to the press without informing him in advanced about my intentions, and this would certainly not have been decent because he knew nothing about what he had in his possession at the time.

The most decent way for us both, was to confront the Brussels art dealer with the evidence I had collected and was able to convince him in this way to reverse something negative into something positive. He has promised me by phone to transfer the relief back to the church where it belongs.

The day at brought the art dealer and the lawyer together.

December 8th, 2016 was a very stressful day for me, because I contacted the art dealer and confronted him with all my detailed findings of the origin of the shield. Realizing that this was overwhelming information, I gave him a few hours to process the data.

Two hours later I gave the English lawyer Christopher A Marinello the contact information of the art dealer and they got in contact with each other, so my work was done.

Now it was up to them to decide on the next step on this story; I have set the table ready for Lawyer Mr. Christopher A Marinello. The easiest part in this plot is now up to him; his only contribution in my story. 
Meanwhile, I notified the Belgian press about my findings.

Once when I was looking for advice from some respectable art dealers of the TEFAF (The Art Fair in Maastricht, NL), one of them told me "if you have ground breaking news in the art world, make it public as soon as possible, so no other person, interest or firm will use your work as theirs. Sometimes the art world is a basket full of crap."


Friday, 9 December 2016

Belgian Heraldic sculptor discovers missing British work of heraldic art | Monument Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, London

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton | Momument Throckmorton London

Belgian Heraldic sculptor discovers missing British work at a Belgian art-dealer

BELGA Newsagency Brussels

Patrick Damiaens, a woodcarver and heraldic sculptor from the city of Maaseik (Belgium) has discovered a missing 16th century coat of arms of an important British ambassador at an antiques fair in Namur. The church of St Katharine Cree in London, where the work of art went missing during World War II, has appointed a lawyer to retrieve the piece.

“At the antiques fair in Namur this ornamental piece immediately caught my eye”, says Patrick Damiaens. “The relief in question represents a 16th century coat of arms of about 80 cm in size, which was made of alabaster and is of exceptional quality. 
The antique dealer tried to pass it off as a German-Austrian relief from the middle of the 16th century, which I found quite strange, seeing as it rather seemed to be of British origin.” Extensive research into the origin of the piece led Damiaens to the Throckmortons, a noble family from England. “The ornamental piece went missing years ago from the monument of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, a confidant of Elisabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots”, according to Damiaens. “He himself was a Britsh ambassador in France and the Throckmorton family in general was quite influential in 16th century England.” Damiaens is one hundred percent certain that the piece he saw at the antiques fair in Namur belongs to this noble British family. 

Monument Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, London

Marc Van der Cruys, editor of a heraldic magazine, is also convinced of its authenticity. “I believe there is little doubt that this sculpture, with its coat of arms, was once the ornament adorning the family monument at the parochial church of St Katharine Cree", says Van der Cruys. "It is indeed plausible that the relief was among the debris carried out of the church after a bombardment during WWII. Possibly, one of the workers set it aside ‘for a rainy day’ after the war. In this period, when the bombs were literally flying around people’s ears, nobody paid any attention to this."Meanwhile, the person in charge of the church of St Katharine Cree in Londen has undertaken the necessary steps. 

By calling in a lawyer Christopher A Marinello who specializes in stolen, looted or missing works of art, the church wants to see the missing piece returned to its rightful place. For the moment, the coat of arms is still in the possession of the art-dealer who was trying to sell it at the fair in Namur. "Legally speaking, the piece belongs to me, so I’m not obliged to return it”, claims the antique dealer, who wishes to remain anonymous. "But, for ethical reasons, I will return it. 
It just wouldn’t feel right to keep it or sell it. I have recently (Wednesday afternoon, 7-12-2016) spoken to the lawyer from England and we are working on a solution."  

Monument Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, London

Looking for counsel with some respectable art dealers of the TEFAF ‘The Art Fair in Maastricht’, giving me one advice, that I had to put the news and my findings as quickly as possible public, ‘so no other person, interest or firm would use your work as theirs’. The artworld is a crabbasket " they told me."

Belgian Heraldic sculptor discovers missing British work of heraldic art



Sunday, 2 October 2016

A visit to the PALACE OF COMPIÈGNE | The Castle of PIERREFONDS | An excursion with some of my students Ornamental Woodcarving


A visit to the Castle (Palace) of Compiègne 
and the castle of Pierrefonds.
Ornamental woodcarving student’s visit.

For many years now, in company with the students in training for ornamental woodcarving, we make an annual excursion. Versailles Palace is one of these places and they are looking forward to visit it, but this year I have chosen a wonderful destination in the north of France.
In mid-July (2015), a bit late as normally, it seemed a good idea to visit the castle (palace) of Compiègne and the castle of Pierrefonds. Compiegne and Pierrefonds are to completely different historic buildings, but they had in common that they had same owner/occupant.

A visit to Compiègne Castle / view from the garden.

The Palace of Compiègne.  The rooms on the first floor
From Maaseik, in Belgium(Where I live), direction Compiègne, it takes about 3 ½ hrs driving and is well doable; Pierrefonds is just 15 minutes away from Compiegne. Compiegne is known for being the start point of the cycling race Paris-Roubaix. And here was the place where the Germans surrender during the First World War, in a train car just outside Compiegne.
Compiègne Castle is a castle which is still undiscovered by mass tourism, situated in a beautiful historic center. Beautiful sandstone buildings and homes, you notice that there is an atmosphere “that tells you that once this must have been an important place to be”, the same image you get in the old town of Versailles.
The choice of a visit to Compiègne was mainly because of the unique, beautiful preserved, historic interiors dating back to the late 18th century to mid-19th century. Period rooms crammed with furniture in Empire style (around 1810) and Napoleon III style (around 1860). It was pleasant to walk around, affordable ticket (7, 5 euro) and for 2 more euros you can have the audio guide in order to have more information.

Empress’ bedroom / Chateau de Compiègne.

Chateau Compiègne was one of the residences of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Empire style) and 50 years later, of Emperor Napoleon III (Napoleon III style or 2nd empire). Compiegne has unique, beautiful preserved, historic interiors. We had a bit of luck, there was an exhibition running, an exhibition over the Empire decorative arts between 1800 -1815. For me, personally, this was a comprehensive retrospective. And all this beauty was included in the entry ticket, really worthy.
I will definitely put more attention to the Empire style and to this castle in my next blog entry.

One of the many rooms of the exhibition. | Palace of Compiègne

Chateau Pierrefonds 


Chateau Pierrefonds was originally a medieval fortress, which fell into disrepair and was restored and reconstructed around 1860 by Napoleon II orders. Napoleon III made of it a place of residence.
But –again- no crowds. Later that day I even had the impression that there were more visitors around Pierrefonds Castle than in Chateau Compiegne. This is probably due to the charisma and romantic image of a “fortress”, and has a great appeal to the younger tourists, which usually do not have such interest in dusty rooms full of history and furniture.
It becomes apparent that the restoration made by the architect Viollet-le-Duc was good, following the style of other castles from the same period. The interior of the castle offers an overview of historic rooms in neo-style, from neo-Gothic to neo-renaissance.

We found many woodcarvings, but the quality and originality are exceptional. There is an abundance of ornamentation in stone and stucco of remarkable craftsmanship, you need to stand still and absorb the beauty of the work. Even stone ornaments can be the source of inspiration for a woodcarver. The entry ticket to this castle, individual visitor, is 7, 50 euros. If you visit both places, you can ask for combination ticket.

 An excursion with some of my students Ornamental Woodcarving

 In the garden of Chateau Compiegne.

Translation by Lis Alvarado

Here, a brief photo description:

Chateau Compiègne


Emperor’s bedroom | The Palace of Compiègne

Room with flowers / Chateau de Compiègne.

Blue Room, Compiègne.

Empress dining room / Chateau de Compiègne

Compiègne Castle / Imperial dining room, detail.

Chateau de Pierrefonds


The Castle of PIERREFONDS | Napoleon III bedroom

Carving details, Reception room.

Ornament in stone / ceiling spiral staircase.


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