“SELECTIVE” can mean “poor” when auctioneers apply the word to bidding and the downward spiral of brown furniture prices has emphasised this. But it was an accurate enough description of bidding on furniture offered among the 1200 lots at the Clifton rooms, for when there was a piece of unusual quality it sold well.
The c.1680 joined oak settee which led the section was in itself both rare and good but adding to the attractions of the 4ft 10in (1.48m) wide piece with acanthus scroll carved arms, and bobbin turned stretchered supports, was the fact that it came with its original hide upholstery back and four contemporary embroidered
Entered from a cottage in the Wye Valley, this fine 17th century piece it was estimated at up to £3000 (one of the cushions had suffered from the attentions of a family puppy) but it sold to a specialist dealer at £4800.
More familiar furniture struggled – examples of figured mahogany included a Regency secretaire bookcase which took £1780, and an 8ft (2.44m) wide breakfront twin-pedestal sideboard which sold at £1550.
Bottom-estimate bids even on conservatively estimated pieces like these underline the current problems, making it important that auctioneers can offer the sort of material which is selling. Fortunately there were such pieces at Bristol.
Decorative lighting pieces are in demand and here a pair of 2ft 2in (66cm) Louis XV ormolu three-light rococo wall sconces, cast and chased with foliate scrolls, oak leaves and acorns, sold to a Gloucestershire dealer at £2500.
Best of the antique guns was a cased pair of Swiss percussion duelling pistols. Signed C. Shenk à Berne in gold to the 91/2in (24cm) octagonal barrels and lockplate, the walnut full-stocked pistols came in an English mahogany fitted case with accessories and went at £2450.
With Christmas coming up, the sale included a 50-lot section of dolls, dolls’ houses and teddy bears.
Here the best seller was a 3ft 9in (84cm) tall Maitland-Smith mahogany four-storey baroque Parisian townhouse on two-drawer table stand. As it had been retailed at Harrods just 20 years ago, it was estimated at £400-600, but it went privately at £2200.
A more specialist choice was a French bisque-headed child doll marked M and with original brown wigs, earrings, straw bonnet, dress, underdress, stockings and shoes. The 23in (58cm) doll was estimated at up to £700 but sold to a local private buyer who wanted it as a present for his wife and bid £2100.
Bidding on the ceramics was patchy led by a pair of c.19th century Dresden polychrome mirrored wall brackets. The 3ft 81/2in (87cm) brackets, with floral-painted shaped-back panels and putti above and below demi-lune ebonised platforms, took a mid-estimate £1200.
Two 18th century Dutch Delft ovoid tobacco jars also sold as expected. Decorated with ships, smoking Indians, barrels and ships, and labelled St Domingo and Hanover, the 101/4in (26cm) jars from the De Die Klokken factory took £1100.
Bristol Auction Rooms, December 10
Buyer’s premium: 12.77 per cent
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