For sale is this small enamel plaque by little known but outstanding decorative artist and enameller Fanny Bunn. The plaque is signed FB to the reverse and its quality and style are consistent with Bunn’s work.
Below is a biography for Fanny taken from the website “The kissed mouth” and I am indebted to Kirsty Stonell Walker for the research.
Fanny Bunn was born in the autumn of 1870 in West Bromwich, Staffordshire. Her family was living at the time with her maternal grandfather, a grocer. The family business was originally coach-building.
However, By 1881, Fanny’s father Levi listed his occupation as both book merchant and brass hinge maker. The family had moved to their own home in Walsall Street, West Bromwich and they were one of the few families on the street who kept a servant. Fanny and her slightly older sister Rebecca were at school, and when they left school, Fanny continued on to the Birmingham Municipal School of Art.
By 1891, the Bunn family had moved to Beeches Road in West Bromwich, a very pleasant red-brick terrace of houses with gothic-arched windows. Levi Bunn was listed as a Liberal Council candidate in the 1890s. Fanny’s work was winning awards – her plaque, The Legend of Sandalphon was admitted to the National Art Competition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where it was exhibited (this piece was stamped ‘Examined South Kensington’) from Birmingham. Sandalphon is an archangel responsible for protecting unborn children.
The Victor (1904)
In 1904 Fanny won the Princess of Wales scholarship of £25 for her piece entitled The Victor, now in the collections of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. The enamel panel, reported in the London Daily News as ‘well disposed, rich in colour’ was somewhat dismissed by adding ‘although the types of women looking down on the knight might have been more happily chosen.’ However the Arts and Craft Magazine’s coverage of the National Art Competition in 1904 praised her ‘brilliant and harmonious’ colouring of the scene and ‘exquisite translucence of the enamels’, lifting her work above the ‘commonplace’.
Design for a Peacock (1901)
Seemingly aware that her name was not exactly a glamorously artistic one, Fanny Bunn briefly took on the pseudonym ‘Peacock’, which was also the subject of her prize winning design for an enamelled decorative panel in 1901. She also won further awards, this time a gold medal and £25, for her enamelled panel of La Belle Dame Sans Merci, in ‘rich tones of blue, violet and peacock’ (as reported in East and South Devon Advertiser in 1902). This piece resides in the V&A, the very museum where it won the medal. The quality of her work and her prizes made her famous and brought her back to the Birmingham school as a teacher of enamelling in 1905.
By 1911 census, Levi and his two daughters were still living at Beeches Road, Emma having died a decade before, just after the last census. Fanny was listed as an artist but neither Rebecca or Levi worked, and they had a young maid to take care of the family. The last that we know of Fanny’s work is the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Autumn Exhibition of 1921, where Case 2 in Gallery 3 held the trinket bowl entitled Fairies and a silver powder box Memory.
That is all we know so far, although Fanny’s Will from 1950 list more items, to date undiscovered. She left everything to her sister, who outlived her by five years, and amongst the pieces listed are an enamel plaque entitled Gloria in Excelsis, a panel in grisaille (shades of grey), a tripytch of The Nativity, a portrait in limoges of ‘Miss Simms’ and a full length watercolour portrait of Rebecca. The triptytch of The Navity has recently come to light in the collection of a private client and is a magnificent piece of work.
Condition of the plaque is excellent and original.
Price range: £425
Maker: Fanny Bunn
Designer: Fanny Bunn
Date: c. 1900
Material: Enamel on copper
Size: Plaque 2.75 cm high x 3.75 cm width
Weight : NM