This impressive and highly finished late Queen Anne model of a 40/44 gun 5th rate ship, right, created a huge splash in Christie’s South Kensington’s 554-lot sale of Maritime models and marine paintings on November 19 when it sold for £600,000 (plus 17.5/10% premium), single-handedly providing over a third of the sale’s £1.36m total.
The multi-estimate price far exceeds the previous auction record, the £260,000 realised by a William and Mary Royal yacht at Sotheby’s in 1996.
When Christie’s model came up for sale last week, there was interest in the room up to around the £200,000 mark, after which it became a straightforward battle between two telephone bidders.
The unrigged Navy Board model, which was constructed from fruit and box woods c.1710-24 on a 1:48 scale, was consigned by a US collector who acquired it in 1969 from the Parker Gallery. The gallery bought it in 1964 at the Captain EG Spencer-Churchill auction at Northwick Park, but the auctioneers were not able to trace the provenance further.
As a Navy Board production, this would automatically be an accurate and well-constructed work, but what made this well-preserved piece so attractive was its exceptional quality and highly detailed finish. “The quality of the fittings is absolutely terrific and pretty much original,” said Christie’s specialist Charles Miller. It is also one of only six ship models to feature painted and chinoiserie gilt decoration to the bow, port and gun port lids as shown in our detail above left. Such decoration would not have appeared on the finished ship but would have been the height of fashion at the beginning of the 18th century and Mr Miller reckoned the piece was made for an important recipient. It had the bonus of an attractive early case which was a mix of original elements and pieces dating from around a century later.
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