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This Victorian cigar case belonged to the late entrepreneur, columnist, philanthropist and bon vivant, Sir David Tang. Often pictured with a cigar in hand, it is not hard to see how this cigar case was a treasured companion of Tang, while on the go.
Tang was the founder of Shanghai Tang, a Hong Kong-based luxury fashion house, which he later sold to Richemont, as well as the founder of the China Club in Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore. An unabashed socialite, Tang was known to captivate all around him, through his eccentric personality, quick wit and thirst for life. The anecdotes surrounding him are too numerous to list. On one occasion, after being told by doctors he had just a month or two to live, he invited friends to London’s Dorchester Hotel for a farewell party - a typically flamboyant gesture.
A man of innumerable interests, and admired for his taste, he was a regular contributor to the Financial Times’ Agony Uncle, dispensing advice on topics from gardens to modern etiquette. On the topic of men wearing flip-flops, he once wrote, “you really don’t want to expose your toes to people, unless you’re Jesus Christ”.
As the exclusive distributor of Havana cigars in Asia, and the Honorary Consul of Cuba in Hong Kong, Tang’s passion for cigars is well-documented. Rumoured to get through several cigars a day, Tang once stated,
“The taste of a cigar is, for those of us who enjoy it, a subliminal and magical experience which always calms our nerves and stimulates our imagination”.
This cigar case, dating to the 19th century, appears to be made out of sterling silver by George Hunter I of London, as indicated by the hallmarks. The cigar case was originally a gift from Samuel Darling, the trainer of a thoroughbred racehorse Wildfowler, to Charles Wood, the jockey who rode the stallion during the St Leger race victory of 1898. A career-defining moment for Wildfowler, they won the race by overtaking the favourite, Jeddah, just inside the final furlong and finishing four lengths ahead. The inscription on the back of the case reads “From S. Darling to C. Wood to commemorate “Wildfowlers” Leger 1898”.
The enamel cigar on the top of the case, due to its crisp condition and distinctiveness, was most likely added later by Sir David Tang, who had a penchant for customisation and bespoke objects. Light-hearted and playful, the Trompe-l'œil cigar reminds us of René Magritte’s painting of the pipe in La Trahison des images. Funnily enough, the famous Magritte image was recently also executed in enamel, on the caseback of a limited-edition Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso.
A playful, yet functional object, we hope that the new owner will enjoy its purpose and provenance.
George Hunter I of London with enamel cigar likely added later by Sir David Tang
silver cigar case
inscription, enamel cigar
113mm x 80mm
This Sir David Tang Cigar Case remains in good condition, for an object of its age.
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