UK: If proof were needed that it is collector’s silver that is the most desirable category of ware in today’s market one could have had no better example than the sale held by Bonhams & Brooks (15/10% buyer’s premium) last Thursday, July 5. This 261-lot auction was especially strong on vertu and collectors items swelled by a number of private collections.
It was this part of the sale that produced the highest price of the day for an especially good example of the genre – the gold George IV presentation box pictured (top).
This was a piece with everything going for it: market freshness, quality, decorativeness and celebrity associations. Added to all this was its desirable hallmark for Dublin 1827, as Irish silver is also currently riding high in the popularity stakes. The 6oz 31/2in (8.5cm) box, maker’s mark Edward Murray is embossed with the arms of the Hon Henry William Paget KG, 1st Marquess of Anglesey in his capacity as Grand Master of the Order of St Patrick while the base has the arms of Trinity College, Dublin.
The Marquess was Wellington’s right-hand man in the battle of Waterloo where he famously lost a leg riding by the Duke’s side. He succeeded Lord Wellesley as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1828 but his countenance towards members of the Catholic Association led the King to withdraw him the next year. He was highly regarded in Ireland, however, and was reinstated in 1830 under Lord Grey’s premiership.
Although there were no provenance clues with the box, the assumption is that it was presented by Trinity College( Lord Anglesey was given an honorary degree there in March 1828 and a retirement address in 1833).
Mindful that this was likely to prove a desirable piece Bonhams had given it a £10,000-15,000 estimate but on the day that was left behind as the bidding rose to £30,000, paid by a determined trade telephone bidder against telephone underbidding.
Although this was the most stellar vertu result, there were a number of other vertu and collectors pieces that proved popular in a less dramatic way. They included several vinaigrettes, notably an early Victorian example applied with an unusual side view of Windsor Castle (Nathaniel Mills 1844) that fetched £2900; a novelty version formed as an articulated fish (Birmingham 1817, W. Lea & Co) at £1700 and another formed as a shell engraved with imitation Chinese characters (Matthew Linwood, Birmingham 1805) at £1600. A collection of nutmeg graters saw especially high prices for some urn-shaped models with a late 18th early/19th century Continental version of c.1800 fetching £1700.
The strong overall take-up in this section all helped towards the comfortably high selling rate of 78 per cent by lottage not to mention the final total of £333,290.
Top price amongst the larger hollow wares was the double estimate plus £17,000 paid for a mid-17th century Scandinavian tankard marked for Oslo, 1641 that sold to a UK dealer.
The one major failure was the potential best-seller in the English wares, an elaborate Charles II dressing table service. A provincial piece, not all its components were marked and it was making a reappearance having failed to sell in the rooms on an earlier occasion.
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