Curator's Choice: Pamela Robertson of the Hunterian Art Gallery in Glasgow chooses a 19th century candlestick

Pamela Robertson interviewed by Ben Miller | 07 June 2011
Curator's Choice: In her own words... Pamela Robertson of the Hunterian Art Gallery talks about the team's latest arrival - a rare copper and enamel candlestick by famous 1890s Glasgow design pair the Macdonald sisters.

"It’s made by Frances Macdonald and Margaret Macdonald, who were two leading artists and designers from the Glasgow Girls group of the 1890s. It’s very rare to see collaborative work from them.

The Glasgow Girls have been becoming more and more well-known since Glasgow was the European City of Culture in the 1990s – there was also a major show on them at the Glasgow Gallery of Art around that time. The fact that they’re better-known is reflected by the candlestick costing £100,000.

It’s a very important acquisition, and it’s exciting because it’s a new object which hadn’t previously been recorded. We tried to bid for it last year when it was on auction in Edinburgh, but we were unsuccessful there and ended up securing it from the winners of the lot.

It’s a very bold, clear design – the size and scale of it is impressive. What’s particularly attractive about it is that it’s handmade, so you can see the effort they put into in their studio.

As it happens, we also had a drawing in the collection which relates to the candlestick, showing the design for the pattern on its base made by one of the sisters.

We worked very hard to get it and couldn’t have done it without some very generous support. We now need to get a special case for it – the galleries are currently undergoing a lot of work, but we’re really looking forward to putting it out when they open in their refurbished state next year."

The Hunterian is home to the largest single holding of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and to The Mackintosh House, the reassembled interiors from his Glasgow home.

The candlestick cost a total of £100,000. Funding was provided by the Art Fund (£65,000), the National Fund for Acquisitions (£20,000) and the William and Margaret Johnstone Endowment Fund (£15,000).

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