This repousse copper panel of a tree of life design featuring a pear tree against a setting sun with petal rays remiscent of a sunflower is one of a pair of side panels on a small oak hanging bookcase. It is made out of well patinated quarter cut oak and has a purist quality reminiscent of the Aesthetic Movement, and turned up at an antiques fair in Wales this Spring.
A sunflower motif was one of several associated with the Aestheticism of the late Victorian period and this particular piece appears to date from around 1890. It has been tentatively attributed to the early days of the Guild of Handicraft, established at Essex House, London in 1889 by CR Ashbee.
One of his co-founders was the arts and crafts metalworker John Pearson who is more normally associated with the Newlyn area of Cornwall where he moved to in the mid 1890s. One of Pearson’s signature decorations was a Tree of Life design, and he is known to have made a number of fireguards with similar apple and pear tree motifs.
Little specialised studies appear in print on Pearson who was best known for magnificent deeply embossed copper chargers. The GOH incorporated a number of trades from its inception including furniture making before it later moved to Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds at the turn of the century – hence our interest in this piece.