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.
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