Sir William Holburne displayed his art collection on plinths of carved rosewood, gilt bronze and marble. Not catalogued or regarded as part of the museum collection in their own right, many of Holburne’s mounts were separated from their bronze sculptures and porcelain vases in the twentieth century, leaving an intriguing collection of empty bases. They reflect Holburne’s passion for antiquities born during his Grand Tour and developed as he formed a collection over his lifetime.

We know very little about how Holburne acquired much of his collection, and his mounts are no exception. The plinths, in all their bizarre colour combinations, are marked by their unknowable history: the missing objects have left their mark in the form of scratches and abrasions on the smooth marble surfaces. These markers of time have inspired Brothwell’s own visual language. Families of objects have scratches embellished with gold inlays; and others reflect these shadows of missing forms impressed into silver and ebony; stone forms are shaped to allude to an unknown former life, leaving us to imagine the object they might have displayed.

Brothwell has selected rare and unusual marbles including serpentine, breche sanguine, giallo and porfido verde to recall the materials and tones that Holburne was clearly drawn to: green malachites, purple porphyries and yellow marbles designed to contrast with and elevate the works of art they displayed. The crisp, geometric forms of Brothwell’s plinths belie the complexity of their construction, creating a new composition inspired by an area of Holburne’s collection that is often overlooked. Another look in the galleries reveals the plinths that are still supporting their objects, fading into the background as the sculpture or vase draws the eye first.

A marble mount is by its nature inanimate: a problem that Brothwell aims to solve with the ‘missing’ works of art that surmount these colourful bases. These precise, transformable, wearable artworks reveal her interest in the personal link between jewellery and its wearer: they ask to be touched and experienced. Perfect spheres in silver are prised apart to reveal the components of a necklace or brooch; rare crystal quartzes with metal oxide inclusions adorn plinths; unexpected geometric forms emerge from otherwise smooth surfaces. These pieces tell a playful and visual story, and reveal Brothwell’s deep appreciation and mastery of material.

Exhibition 6th Aug 2016 – 2nd Jan 2017

In a new On the Table commission, pioneer of contemporary British craft skills Linda Brothwell has created a playground of textures and colours in stone, wood and metalwork in response to the elaborate plinths on which Sir William Holburne displayed his collection. Brothwell has created the missing parts: wearable pieces in silver and quartz displayed on larger sculptures of boldly-coloured marble, ebony and gold, forming playful vignettes of rare and precious materials.

Commissioned by The Holburne Museum

Photographer India Hobson