From the time commission bids began to come in, it was plain one item would tower above everything else at the 558-lot Harrogate sale held by Morphets (15/10% buyer’s premium) on March 7 – the Archibald Knox silver wine flagon shown right.
Made for Liberty & Co, the 23oz flagon was stamped with the maker’s mark, and Cymric and for Birmingham 1900. Of tapering ovoid form with a high domed cover, the repoussé body was decorated with
encircling twin scrolls terminating in cabochon agates.
Liberty works by Knox always sell at a premium and it was always likely to go above the £1000-1500 estimate.
This took into account some damage – it had a slightly buckled flange foot and a dent to the spout. Some dealers also felt it had suffered a knock to the fly-away thumbpiece, set with a cabochon agate, which may originally have followed the contour of the handle.
Then came the commission bids on the privately consigned flagon from Bradford. There was a hopeful one at £2000, but more in the five-figure range, going up to £15,000.
Morphets specialist Elizabeth Pepper-Darling thought that the unusual flagon form triggered the pre-sale bids from specialists, London dealers and collectors.
But it also aroused interest beyond Britain and it was an American on the phone who pushed the eventual victor, a UK buyer, to a staggering £46,000 winning bid.
“I don’t think we’ve ever sold such an expensive piece of silver,” said Ms. Pepper-Darling. The buzz generated by the flagon may have heightened interest for works elsewhere in the sale. A William IV mahogany marine barometer by Robertson, Liverpool, in need of some restoration, fetched a £3800 trade bid and an Edwardian mahogany bookcase by Christopher Pratt of Bradford brought £3500.
Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.
Back to top