Beneath the intricate wooden carving and glimmers of worn gilt, the top lot in Bonhams New Bond Street's first Oak Interior sale on 24 February tells a tale of 500 years of war, mystery and the British crown.

Estimated at £20,000-30,000 and dating from the Tudor court, the oak panel is thought to have been designed by Hans Holbein the Younger, the Swiss-German artist famous for his iconic portraits of Henry VIII.

The 24 February sale marks the move of Bonhams' renowned Oak Interior sales, which previously took place in Oxford, to Bonhams' flagship Mayfair saleroom.

"Examining this piece has taken our department on an incredible journey through British history," said David Houlston, Bonhams Senior Specialist in Oak Furniture. "It is a truly incredible work of art and the degree of craftsmanship is exceptional, but what is even more captivating is its path through our national heritage."

Thought to depict King John, the panel bears a striking similarity to both a panel in the Victoria and Albert Museum and one in the Museum of London. Each depicts a regal central figure surrounded by the same foliated scrolls and decoration. It seems, centuries ago, they were once part of a single series of interior decoration.

It is therefore likely that this panel shares the same remarkable provenance as the panel in the Museum of London, which reputedly comes from the London home of William Paulet, a civil servant whose career spanned the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, until his death in 1572.

One of the few political geniuses who managed to remain in favor at the Tudor court for his entire life, William Paulet was a central figure in the history of British policy-making, serving as Lord Great Chamberlain and Lord President of the Privy Council, before being appointed Lord High Treasurer of England in 1548. His ancestral home in Hampshire was reputed to be the largest and most opulent private residence in England.

Paulet's home was eventually demolished in 1839 but a written description of an oak panel carving of King John appears in the 1903 inventory of Goodwood House, which is the seat of the Dukes of Richmond. The Goodwood panel disappeared during World War II - the present lot was found in an outbuilding of a house in Chichester, about 10 miles from Goodwood House, in 2013.

Bonhams' Oak Interior sales are unique. The bi-annual sales offer 16th, 17th and 18th century furniture alongside related works of art, including stone carvings and early metalware.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to


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