Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell

Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell was born Shirley Maud Lawson Johnston in 1889. She married Geoffrey Blackwell, O.B.E. (1884-1943) in 1909.

Geoffrey worked for his family’s business, the food manufacturing company, Crosse and Blackwell. At the time, it was the largest producer of tinned and bottled produce in Britain.

Like his father before him, Geoffrey was an avid art collector. Having seen a review in The Times of an exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, he became interested in the work of impressionist Philip Wilson Steer. After buying other works by the artists, Geoffrey commissioned Steer to paint a portrait of his wife in 1911.

Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell – the portrait

British impressionist Philip Wilson Steer (1860-1942), painted a stunning portrait of the young Shirley Blackwell in 1911. Steer titled it Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell.

In 2016, Christie’s sold the portrait for £74,500. It was part of a specialist auction of Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite and British Impressionist Art which included artists such as Rossetti, Millais and Burne-Jones as well as Steer.

In the painting, a beautiful young woman (Shirley) sits in a rural landscape, surrounded by blue skies. The blue of the sky is reflected not only in the detail of her sun hat but also in the necklace she wears around her neck.

Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell – the fob watch

The necklace in the painting is actually a small blue, enamel fob watch.

Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell's fob - as seen in the portrait by Philip Wilson Steer

An early 20th century Belle Époque platinum and gold, blue guilloche enamel and rose-cut diamond fob watch, with calibre-cut sapphire border, by Boucheron.
Length 4.6cms. 22gms.

It is entered to auction with an estimate of £3,000 – £4,000.

We know that it is the same piece as the provenance is easily tracked. The fob has been passed down through Shirley’s family who offers it for sale at auction.

We spoke to our Fine Jewellery catalogue manager, Ben Randall about the piece. He tells us why he thinks it is special:

French turn-of-the-century jewellery is some of the finest craftsmanship available. This miniature work of art is no exception, from the most skilful guilloché enamel, down to the sapphire surround and crown, barely visible to any but the wearer. What makes this piece particularly interesting is its provenance. It is so special that we can see it being worn in Steer’s portrait of Shirley Blackwell.

The auction

Fine Jewellery October 6th 2022 at 10 am.

Viewing Times


Tuesday 27th September 12:00 – 19:00

Wednesday 28th September 9:30 – 13:30


Tuesday 4th October 10:00 – 16:00

Wednesday 5th October 10:00 – 16:00

Thursday 6th October 8:30 – 10:00

Virtual viewings are available by request. Virtual viewings are the ultimate personal shopping experience. Using Zoom, you can ask us whatever you need to know in order to buy with confidence. Find out more here. Please contact to book a virtual viewing.

Mrs Geoffrey Blackwell's fob - as seen in the portrait by Philip Wilson Steer


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