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Stories by TimeLine Auctions

SATISFACTION .. For The Winning Bidder


Lord Nelsons fede ringThe Bronze Age Minoan civilization centred on the island of Crete and controlling most of the smaller islands in the northern Aegean Sea is named after King Minos from Greek mythology. A bull ravaged his Queen, who later gave birth to the Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull. King Minos managed to captured the Minotaur and imprisoned it in a labyrinth. The Minoan culture, known primarily for its monumental architecture and its energetic art, is often regarded as Europe’s first civilization. To the Minoans the lotus symbolized strength, rebirth and purity; an interpretation of the plant’s life cycle as it overcame the grip of a muddy lake bottom and rose to the surface, where the unsullied petals of the lotus flower opened to reveal their pristine purity.

Lot 0035 in our March 2024 auction is described as a finely worked Minoan serpentine bowl in the form of a blossoming lotus flower with tightly arranged delicate petals separated by deep grooves, and dated to 1700 – 1450 B.C. Its somewhat tenuous link with Rock and Roll legend, Sir Mick Jagger, stems from the 1970s craze for extravagant on-the-road shows that toured the cities of America and Europe. Few theatres could accommodate the huge throngs of fans who flocked to see their idols close-up and in the flesh. Open-air venues including parks and sports grounds provided a solution for marshalling the crowds in many cities; but the problem of how to stage the performances had to be overcome using an array of theatrical stage props and gimmicks that provided a raised platform for the players and their equipment.

Long-serving Rolling Stones drummer, Charlie Watts, usually wins credit for proposing the construction of a flower-shaped stage that would “unfold like a lotus blossom breaking the surface of a pool” and introduce the band playing as the petals parted. During the 1975 tour two elaborate lotus flower-shaped stages made their debuts. The first relied heavily on its ornate decoration to hold the audience’s eyes while stage-hands darted across the background pulling frantically on ropes to manipulate the petals. The second stage – a far more sophisticated machine – weighed twenty-five tons and deployed hydraulic powered petals that slowly unfolded as the show opened to reveal band members pounding out their music.

The acquisitive nature of fans who make determined efforts to acquire souvenirs of their pop concert experiences probably accounts for the puzzling disappearance of props when shows draw to a close. Such a fate has unfortunately overtaken both of the Stones Lotus Tour sets. Rumour has it that Sir Mick Jagger keeps one or more lotus petals in the garden of his home in France. Other Rolling Stones members may also have mementoes from the Lotus stages.

Our spotlight must now swing to the tiny island of Mustique, which is part of the Saint Vincent and Grenadines archipelago in the West Indies. In area it amounts to a couple of square miles, but it became home to migrants from South America at about the same time as the Minoans settled in Crete (c.2,500 B.C.). Arawak Indians followed and held the island from c.250 B.C. to A.D. 1,000 when Carib Indians arrived. Spanish explorers stumbled upon Mustique in the 15th century but did not land. Down to the 18th century Mustique sheltered pirates who made the island a base until European planters seized possession and established sugar plantations, which thrived until sugar-beet grown in Europe became cheaper than tropical sugar. Gradual decline to subsistence farming and a little family fishing had become the island’s fate by 1958 when a thirty-two-year-old Scottish aristocrat with ample funds to risk, purchased Mustique for £45,000.

The Honourable Colin Tennant initially intended to revitalize the island’s agriculture; but the dawning of the Swinging Sixties put a different and more exciting idea into his head. Why not harness Mustique’s isolated, off-the-beaten-track status as a temptation to wealthy people who would appreciate, and pay handsomely for, the benefits of a hideaway where hair might be let down without the inconvenience of tabloid press people wandering about seeking scalps?

To measure the success of the project, simply glance at the island’s guest lists. Princess Margaret was a frequent visitor. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip enjoyed a brief stay. Within a decade Mustique had welcomed elites from the entertainment industry ..David Bowie, Tommy Hilfiger, Noel and Liam Gallagher, Johnny Depp, Kate Moss, Paul McCartney .. to drop a few illustrious names. In 1976, just a few months after the Rolling Stones had staged their Lotus tours, Mick Jagger (as he then was) received an invitation to Colin Tennant’s fiftieth birthday party, which would last non-stop for a week. And what more appropriate gift to give to his host than a miniature version of one of those Lotus stages .. in the shape of a 3,600-year-old Minoan example carved in serpentine? You can read the provenance notes in the auction sales catalogue. I can’t help wondering how many of the rich and famous who attended that 1976 party are thinking of bidding?

Michael Healy (Photographer), TimeLine Auctions, 25th January 2024