Full Lot Details Salename  MS031115 Lot Number  0127
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Description A FINE FIGUREHEAD RECOVERED DURING THE ATTEMPTED SALVAGE OF THE PRUSSIAN BRIG GEORGE FORSTER, WRECKED UPON THE GOODWIN SANDS, 30TH NOVEMBER, 1856
carved from solid elm with laminated arms as a half-length portrait depicting George Forster wearing a braided coat with finely carved jabot and hair, terminating in a scroll, faintly inscribed to front GEORGE / FORSTER / Wrecked on / Goodwin / Sands / March 30th 1830 [sic] -- 50in. (127cm.) high

Provenance: Until recently this figurehead adorned the True Briton public house, Folkestone, where it had resided for an unknown period of time.

The Times for 1st December, 1856 reported the grounding of the Prussian ship George Forster the previous day, 30th November - one of six groundings between September and December that year. At the time it was stated that she was laden with timber and that steam tugs and lifeboats were standing by as it was "feared she would become a wreck". Both her main and mizzen masts had been cut away in an effort to re-float her at the next high tide and it seems highly likely that this figurehead - a weighty adornment when every ounce mattered - was removed at the same time in a last, desperate attempt to save the vessel. In the event it was all in vain as the ship broke her back and became a complete loss, although her crew was entirely saved.

George Forster (1754-94) was born near Danzig in what was then Polish Prussia to a family that had British antecedents. His father Johann, a reluctant cleric, took every opportunity to expand his travel and scientific knowledge and his enthused son soon followed suit. In 1766 the pair travelled to London in search for an appropriate position and, on their arrival, the elder Forster established contact with other German-speaking clergy and intellectuals in London. Among them was Carl Gottfried Woide, the Lutheran preacher and man of letters, who helped them find lodgings in Denmark Street and establish contacts within the British scientific and scholarly communities. In 1772 he was engaged to replace Joseph Banks as naturalist on James Cook's second Voyage of Discovery in the Resolution, and took young George along as his assistant. The voyage took the Forsters round the Cape of Good Hope to New Zealand, Tahiti, Tonga, and south beyond the Antarctic circle. George Forster's later reputation was based largely on the descriptions of the voyage he published after their return in 1775. The first of these was a botanical work, Characteres generum plantarum... MDCCLXXII-MDCCLXXV, published together with his father, which earned him election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. A Voyage Round the World, in His Britannic Majesty's Sloop, Resolution (1777), which Forster published after his father had been denied the opportunity to write the official account of the voyage, had much greater impact. In 1779 he returned to Germany where he held several academic posts and from April to June 1790 he undertook a further journey, accompanied by Alexander von Humboldt. This time be travelled along the Rhine, through the Low Countries, and on to London, returning through revolutionary France and Forster's account of the journey was held in great esteem by contemporaries. Forster remained in Mainz after the occupation of the city by French revolutionary forces in 1792, becoming active in Jacobin circles. A supporter of the incorporation of the west bank of the Rhine into the French republic, in early 1793 Forster was elected deputy for Mainz to the national convention in Paris. His writings about the revolution were significant, if highly contentious, contributions to its reception in the German-speaking world. He died suddenly in Paris on 10th January, 1794 at the age of 39. It is not surprising that such a famous and significant character was honoured with the name of a ship by his fellow countrymen.

The George Forster figurehead in Perspective

The world of Ships Figureheads can be divided in to roughly four main subject forms: Female, Male, Creatures and Billets-types, each one having a number of subdivisions. Whilst it is no surprise that surviving female figureheads out number males by at least five to one, the vast majority of male figureheads are from unknown vessels, possibly depicting a forgotten vessel's owner or local dignitary; they represent the epitome of late Georgian and early Victorian gentlemen yet, occasionally, a male figurehead survives to show that exceptions to the rule can be found, and the George Forster is one such figurehead. His remarkable state of preservation, due in part to the fact that he has been carved from a solid block of elm, is an indication of high quality coupled with durability. Laminated yellow pine was used for the vast majority of figureheads at this date (around 1830) and was a lighter, less resilient wood, vulnerable to rot and splitting. The use of elm is significant in allowing the carved detail to be as crisp and sharp as the day he was carved. The carver would have relied on pictorial references supplied by the ship's owner, a number of contemporary portraits of both George and his father have survived, plus a number of illustrations published after his death, giving the carver ample reference material to create a portrait carving that has been painted almost to life. Great care and sensitivity has been taken with the face and hair and we see a handsome young man brimming with confidence that belies his tragic death, and particular attention has been made to the delicate and intricate folds of his jabot, while the base has a rich assortment of flowing material culminating in a very finely carved backwards scroll, with acanthus leaves - a true tour de force of the ship carvers skill.

During the conservation work on George Forster the original colour scheme was researched and sensitively re-applied; it's not uncommon for a figurehead of this age to have numerous layers of inapt over-painting by the ship's crew and amateur artists, masking the true detail and appearance. In this instance, an important clue as to identity was found on the front of the figure, painted in gold leaf, in a style of typeface commonly used during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, in larger letters is "GEORGE FORSTER WRECKED ON GOODWIN SANDS" with a date of March 30th 1830. Subsequent research has shown this date to be incorrect and the true date of the wreck, while still on the Goodwin Sands, was in fact 1856 - an error put down to the sign writer. What is not disputed are the facts of the wrecking from the journal of the RNLI and The Times; or the exceptional quality of this carving with a strong provenance rarely seen today in today's market.

Richard Hunter
Figurehead Historian
     
Estimate 15000 - 20000  
VAT Status M Explanation of VAT codes and rules
Auctions and Value Added Tax

Notes for Buyers - A Summary

Items to be sold at auction within the United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) can be offered under the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme or under normal Value Added Tax (VAT) rules.

VAT is potentially payable on the bid (hammer) price of the goods, on the auctioneer's commission in the form of a buyer's premium and on any charges relating to the goods (import, valuation, collection, storage, packaging, delivery etc.).

For full details of the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme please refer to VAT notice 718. Normal VAT rules are detailed in VAT notice 700. Both documents can be obtained from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) at www.hmrc.gov.uk/VAT

VAT Code Definitions (Sales Tax) - A Summary

Each lot has a VAT code letter which defines how the lot is to be treated for VAT. The meanings of these codes are shown in the table below:

Auctioneers' Margin Scheme Lots
M

Standard rate item. Lot not liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% included within buyer's premium and not shown separately.

N

Zero rate item. Lot not liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price. Lot liable for VAT on buyer's premium at 0%.

Lots Subject to Normal VAT Rules

Unless otherwise stated VAT on charges and buyer's premium is at the standard rate (20%).

V Standard rate item. VAT at 20% added to bid (hammer) price.   VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately. 
I Standard rate item. VAT at 20% included in bid (hammer) price. VAT included in bid price shown between ( ). VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately. Shown as Nil or Inc in on line catalogue.
W

Reduced rate item. VAT at 5% added to bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.

J Reduced rate item. VAT at 5% included in bid (hammer) price. VAT amount included in bid price shown within (). VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.   Shown as Nil or Inc in on line catalogue.
Z

Zero rate item. Lot liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price at 0%. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.

E

Zero rate item. Lot not liable for VAT on bid (hammer) price. VAT on buyer's premium at 20% shown separately.


Normal VAT Rules

VAT accounting is mandatory for VAT registered businesses in the UK and EU. VAT (Sales Tax) is added to the price of the goods at either 20% or 5% according to the goods classification. VAT registered businesses can reclaim VAT paid by them on purchases. The difference between VAT collected on sales and VAT paid on purchases is sent to HMRC.

Most commercial auctioneers (i.e.  those involved in disposal of commercial assets by reason of business mergers, administrations, liquidations, disposals etc.) sell under normal VAT rules.  This is principally because the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme cannot be used where the goods have had VAT on their purchase reclaimed from HMRC - as will almost always be the case when auctioning goods previously bought by VAT registered businesses.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with a single asterisk character (*) or a single dagger symbol (†) to indicate a VAT added rate of 20%.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with a single 'at' character (@) to indicate a VAT inclusive rate of 20%.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with double asterisk characters (**) or a double dagger symbol (‡) to indicate a VAT added rate of 5%.

Lots subject to normal VAT rules are marked in the printed auction catalogue with double 'at' characters (@@) to indicate a VAT inclusive rate of 5%.

Lots subject to the 5% rate are often lots being sold under HMRC temporary importation rules where the import duty has been deferred until the point of sale and is to be paid by the buyer.  However, some classes of goods do attract VAT at the reduced rate.

Please note that VAT on auctioneer's commission and charges is always at the 20% rate even if the goods are subject to the 5% VAT rate.

A buyer's invoice will show the bid (hammer) price of the lots bought.  VAT is added to the hammer price.  The buyer must also pay the auctioneer's commission in the form of a buyer's premium, plus VAT on the buyer's premium at 20%.  Any charges (e.g.  delivery, packaging....) will also be subject to VAT at 20%.

Some auctioneers choose to sell VAT Inclusive. This means that the bid (hammer) price achieved at auction already includes VAT at the appropriate rate.  The true hammer price can be found by dividing the VAT inclusive price by either 1.2 or 1.05 as appropriate.  VAT on hammer price, VAT on buyer's premium and VAT on charges will then all be based on the true hammer price.  VAT inclusive lots will be marked as Inc or Nil in the on line catalogue.

Some classes of goods are either exempt or zero-rated for VAT and so there will be no VAT added to the hammer price for these goods.

Non UK or EU VAT registered buyers can have most classes of VAT refunded on their purchases - please note that auctioneers are under no obligation to provide VAT refunds, although many will offer this service.  HMRC are the ultimate refunding authority.  VAT refunds are subject to provision of statutory export/import documentation. HMRC have decreed that VAT on buyer's premium is always payable whether the buyer is domiciled in the UK, the EU or outside the EU or wherever the goods are to be sent.  So auctioneers cannot refund VAT on buyer's premium if the goods are sold under normal VAT rules.

VAT is always calculated on a lot-by-lot basis.  VAT totals on a buyer’s invoice may show small rounding discrepancies.  For example, if buyer's premium was quoted at 17.5% inclusive of VAT, the actual buyer's premium rate would be 14.58333% plus VAT at 20%.  Since currencies cannot have fractions of a penny or cents, rounding discrepancies will accumulate and cannot be avoided.

Auctioneers' Margin Scheme

Most auctioneers specialising in fine art and chattels - where VAT on the goods was originally paid but not reclaimed - choose to sell under the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme.  The scheme is detailed in VAT notice 718, principally for disposal of non-commercial second-hand items, but in summary:

VAT is not payable on the bid (hammer) price.

Buyer's premium and VAT on buyer's premium are combined and shown as one total - VAT on buyer's premium is not shown separately and cannot be reclaimed by UK or EU VAT registered businesses or individuals.

Charges and VAT on charges are shown separately.  VAT on charges can be reclaimed by VAT registered UK and VAT registered EU businesses or VAT registered individuals.

If a VAT registered UK or EU buyer wishes to reclaim VAT on purchases they can ask the auctioneer for a VAT invoice.  This takes the relevant lots out of the Auctioneers' Margin Scheme and treats them all under normal VAT rules.  The buyer will need to pay VAT on the hammer price of the goods.  Buyer's premium and VAT on buyer's premium will be shown separately and VAT on buyer's premium and VAT on charges can be reclaimed.  A buyer cannot cherry pick which parts of the schemes they would want to utilise.  For example, Auctioneers' Margin Scheme goods cannot have VAT on buyer's premium shown separately unless VAT on hammer price is also paid to the auctioneers.

Non UK or EU VAT registered buyers can have all classes of VAT refunded on their purchases - please note that auctioneers are under no obligation to provide VAT refunds, although many will offer this service.  HMRC are the ultimate refunding authority.  VAT refunds are subject to provision of statutory export/import documentation.

VAT is always calculated on a lot-by-lot basis.  VAT totals on a buyer’s invoice may show small rounding discrepancies.  For example, if buyer's premium was quoted at 17.5% inclusive of VAT, the actual buyer's premium rate would be 14.58333% plus VAT at 20%.  Since currencies cannot have fractions of a penny or cents, rounding discrepancies will accumulate and cannot be avoided.

Disclaimer

This note is an attempt to provide auction buyers with a summary of VAT law.  The information is supplied in good faith but no warranties are given.  Our advice is that buyers should raise queries with a local VAT office.

Effective from 1st January 2012

 

VAT on hammer price (highest bid) % Nil  
Buyer's Premium including VAT (% of hammer) 24  
Buyer's Premium (% of hammer)    
VAT on Buyer's Premium (% of hammer)    
Artist's Resale Right charge No Artist's Resale Right Scheme details
Artist's Resale Right Scheme (Droit de Suite)

Following the UK's implementation of the EU Artist's Resale Right directive in 2006 living artists and with effect from 1st January 2012 artists deceased within the past 70 years are entitled to receive a resale royalty each time their art work is sold in the UK by an art market professional, subject to certain conditions.

This payment is calculated on qualifying works of art which are sold for a hammer price or best bid price of more than EUR 1000. The UK sterling equivalent of EUR 1000 will fluctuate in line with prevailing exchange rates. The actual qualifying threshold will be calculated by the Artist's Resale Right Service Hub based on the European Central Bank reference rate published at 2.15pm on the day of the sale and can be found on www.dacs.org.uk.

The royalty charge will apply if the hammer price is more than the UK sterling equivalent of EUR 1000. The royalty charge will normally be added to buyers' invoices and must be paid before items can be cleared. Some auctioneers may choose to split the charge between the buyer and the vendor. Some auctioneers may pass the entire charge to the vendor. Before bidding, we advise that you check which scheme your auctioneer's are operating.

All royalty charges are paid to the Design and Artists Copyright Society ('DACS') and no handling costs or additional fees with respect to these charges are retained by auctioneers.

Artist's Resale Right is a percentage of the hammer price calculated as follows:

Portion of the hammer price Royalty Rate
1000 - 50000 EUR 4%
50,000.01 to 200,000 EUR 3%
200,000.01 to 350,000 EUR 1%
350,000.01 to 500,000 EUR 0.5%
Exceeding 500,000 EUR 0.25%

VAT is not payable on this royalty charge. The maximum royalty charge is 12,500 EUR.

Revised 1st January 2012.

Currency GBP