A key designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh that has not been seen in public since the 19th century has sold at auction for £40,000.
The key was used during the opening ceremony of the Glasgow School of Art, one of the architect’s best known designs, in 1899.
A donation from the sale will be made by the former owner of the key and the auction house Lyon & Turnbull to the Mackintosh Campus Appeal to mark the 150th anniversary of Mackintosh’s birth.
It has been purchased by Sir Ludo Shaw Stewart, owner of the Ardgowan Estate near Inverkip, Inverclyde, who said: “I am delighted that the key will remain in Scotland, it will take pride of place on show at Ardgowan House.
“I have a particular interest in the key and the Glasgow School of Art as one of my forebears was a founding father of the first School of Art in Glasgow, started in 1753 by brothers Andrew and Robert Foulis, a precursor and inspiration to the later Mackintosh school. The key is a beautiful object and we look forward to welcoming it to its new home.”
Sir James King, the previous owner of the key and a direct descendant of Sir James King — the lord provost of Glasgow between 1886 and 1889, who opened the building with the key on December 20, 1899 — said it was a fitting time to pass it on to a new owner. “I am delighted that a percentage of the sale will be donated to the restoration fund for the Mackintosh Campus Appeal. If this beautiful and symbolic key can help unlock even just a little support from today’s entrepreneurs to restore this Glaswegian cultural masterpiece it will have done its job inspiring future generations,” Sir James said.
Before the sale of the key, it was returned to the GSA for the first time since the grand opening.
John Mackie, of Lyon & Turnbull, said: “As an architect and designer Mackintosh is seen as a key figure from the historicism of the 19th century to the abstraction of the 20th century.”
The key was part of Lyon & Turnbull’s specialist auction Decorative Arts: Design since 1860.
Sophie Law, The Times