17 Apr 2014
February 5, 2013 - Filed under: Antique Cabinets — David

An eccentric antique dealer with an eye for a bargain has bequeathed his private collection of Baroque and Renaissance treasures – worth tens of millions of pounds – to the Ashmolean museum in Oxford, which will display them in its own glittering gallery.

The permanent gallery, described as a Cabinet of Treasures, will be a fitting tribute to the extraordinary collecting talents of the late Michael Wellby, whose equally exotic jewellery collection was sold at Sotheby’s last year. Born into a family of antique gold and silver dealers, he was a veritable human magpie, travelling the globe in search of outstanding and unusual objets d’art for his antique cabinet.

Cumbrian people visiting this glittering exhibition will see almost 500 stunning pieces, spanning more than 250 years of history. The very epitome of 16th, 17th and 18th century European craftsmanship, the Wellby collection is a treasure trove of rare and beautiful works in gold and silver, incorporating mother of pearl, ivory, agate, lapis lazuli and other semi-precious materials. Amazingly, it was worth little more than its scrap value a few years ago. Today, its value can be measured in tens of millions.

A friend said that Wellby had an eye for searching out underpriced bargains.

This is useful to remember when looking for a Victorian mahogany pedestal desk or antique balloon backed dining chair . Lancashire antique dealers often have exhibition-standard pieces at surprisingly low prices, partly because they are seen as unfashionable. Tastes change, however, and the antique desk bargain bought today could be worth a fortune tomorrow.

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