IN terms of collecting focus, much of the pre-sale attention for the Harvey’s Wine Museum sale at Bonhams centred on the October 1 glass and ceramics auction.
This was in part because it contained the collection's most
expensive piece - a Jacobite glass estimated at £40,000-50,000 -
but also because it was the most celebrated element of the Harvey
archive, much of it put together by local glass specialist Peter
Lazarus and formed at a time when there were rich pickings on the
market through the dispersal of the celebrated Walter F. Smith
Although the sale's star failed to find a buyer this was
something of an exception, the only unsold lot in the entire
261-lot auction which netted just over £311,000. The event prompted
a whole gamut of rarely seen glass collectors to come up to town
for the occasion.
There was a huge turn-out for this event, the auctioneers' main
ground floor saleroom filled with lots of unfamiliar faces, many of
a certain age, as well as more familiar dealers and agents
including Christopher Sheppard, Alan Milford, Mark West and
As a result there was nothing that didn't find favour with
someone, although certain classes of glass proved more popular and
were more keenly contested than others. These were some early
bottles, the 18th century balusters and the colour twist drinking
A concentration of interest in the more unusual and rarest
pieces was another feature and one which Bonhams' ceramics head
John Sandon reckoned has been a notable trend at sales across the
board. He has observed that these days the preference is for a
small collection of choice pieces rather than lots of mundane
"New collectors leave the starting block very quickly," he said.
"Private collectors prefer to spend £2000 on a single piece than
buy several at £200."
Delft Wine Bottles
The small opening section of decanters passed off favourably
enough, but the first real flurry of bidding excitement came with
the delftware. The collection included no fewer than eight mid-17th
century dated delft wine bottles, seven of them inscribed Sack, and
one rarer example for Claret, all of them of narrow necked flask
The main contestants for these were the specialist London
pottery dealers Jonathan Horne and Alistair Sampson, who carried
off half of them, although they had stiff competition from the
telephone and a couple of private bidders in the rooms.
The most expensive at £6500 was the Claret flask, a 6.25in
(16cm) high example dated 1645 that was secured by one of the
private contestants, a young couple in the room who were busy
throughout the sale, against underbidding from Alistair
Following the delftwares were some 70 lots of early wine bottles
varying from single early globe and shaft rarities estimated at
£1600-2000 to lots containing a couple of bottles estimated at
£100-150. This is an area where crossover interest with the wine
industry has added an international element to the buying. Despite
the fact that condition was not tip top for many of these, there
was plenty of demand from all quarters and at all levels, but a
group of around half a dozen determined combatants ended up with
the majority of the lots and there were two particularly big
spenders: one in the room, the other on the telephone.
The most expensive bottles were, as expected, the earliest and
highest estimated entries: "black" glass globe and shaft bottles of
c.1660, each with some surface degradation. The first to come up
was contested by two bidders who had battled over the delft bottles
immediately beforehand: the young couple who bought the Claret
bottle and a telephone bidder who eventually succeeded at a double
estimate £4600. The second example sold in the room for £2400, more
in line with the pre-sale estimate.
Although most of the 18th century bottles came in under the £500
mark, one or two good sealed and dated examples were subject to
bidding battles. These included an 11in (27.5cm) high specimen
stamped for All Souls College 1764 that the main buyer in the room
secured against the phone for £1300 and a 10in (24.5cm) wide
squat-shaped bottle inscribed R Tucker Street 1788 that went in the
room for £1350.
Above: the bottle stamped for All Souls College 1764 that
sold for £1300 at the Harvey's wine museum sale.
The subsequent small section devoted to various shaped glass
entries included a good-sized and well-shaped 8in (20cm) wassail
bowl of c.1690 with a lower section decorated nipped diamond waies,
that made £4600 and the silver-mounted glass wine fountain, a rare
glassmaking tour-de-force with the extra bonus of a titled
provenance, that in the event proved to be the auction's best
seller, going on the phone for £8500.
The sale then moved into wine glasses and with the early
baluster stems the tempo and prices once again moved up a notch or
two. These substantial plain early drinking glasses are perennially
popular, relying for their appeal on simple good proportions and
weight rather than engraving or forms of decoration that can be
subject to whims of fashion.
The best of the Harvey's bunch excited such interest that
bidders were seemingly prompted to ignore that extra 40 per cent's
worth of add-ons to take the bidding to multi-estimate prices.
One of the most fiercely contested battles came with a Walter
Smith piece, a large early baluster goblet of c.1700 with elegant
funnel bowl and double knop stem. In addition to having been in the
Smith collection, this was a much-published piece that had
featured, amongst others, in Bickerton's standard volume on English
drinking glasses. The glass dealers Delomosne, a glass consultant
and a private purchaser were all outstripped by a determined
telephone bidder who took it to a double-estimate £3800.
The response to the Newcastle and Dutch engraved light balusters
and wine glasses that followed was more muted with sales on
estimate. When it came to the mid-18th century airtwists, the small
Jacobite section looked to be off to a good start with the three
air twist glasses with their various roses and other engraved
emblems all exceeding expectations.
But then came the star turn, the Jacobite 'Amen' glass, and the
tables turned. Starting the bidding at £30,000, John Sandon met
with silence and the glass was bought in with no interest from the
room. There were several theories as to why the Harvey's glass cake
was robbed of its icing in this manner.
One was that the estimate was simply too high, especially in
view of that extra VAT factor. Another was that buyers were
cautious because Jacobite glass has become a controversial area.
There has been been much debate and discussion in glass circles
recently about its dating with some holding that the engraved
elements of Jacobite significance have been added to plain 18th
century glasses at later dates when there was a revival of interest
in the Jacobite movement.
As a result buyers have become cautious about pieces in this
field unless they can be tied to a very early provenance such as an
18th century inventory. Given that 'Amen' goblets are much the most
expensive type of Jacobite glass, a degree of caution is
understandable given the size of the outlay involved.
Mr Sandon said he felt the size of the estimate had been the
biggest drawback and that they were still hoping to negotiate an
The remaining, less rarefied mid-18th century airtwist and
opaque twist glasses that followed afterwards, pieces that were
pitched more affordably, progressed comfortably enough, selling to
a wide range of different bidders in the room. Prices were mostly
within estimate, with the occasional flurry of interest from
several bidders sending the price up for an unusual shape or
decorative detail. For example, a rare perry/cider glass of c.1750
ex the Sir Hugh Dawson and Walter Smith collections, engraved
around the pan-topped bowl with a continuous spray of apples and
pears, was contested by two of the room's more active participants:
the telephone bidder who secured the large baluster goblet and a
buyer seated in the front row, selling to the phone for a
A different telephone bidder went to no less than £3000 to
secure a 6in (15.5cm) high champagne/mead glass of c.1755 with
gadrooned lower section to the generous-sized bowl and a double
series opaque twist stem, while a bidder in the room was prepared
to go to £2300 against a £1000-1300 estimate for a rare 61/4in
(16cm) high bell-bowled glass set on an air twist stem with four
separate knops, another Bickerton illustrated and Walter Smith
The small sub-section of Beilby decorated glasses performed
adequately enough given that all had some degree of damage, but the
next really active section came towards the end with the Harvey's
collection of colour twists. Although this type of 18th century
glass, which was produced over a relatively short period from
1760-70, has always been sought after, it has periodic moments in
the collecting spotlight when new enthusiasts decide to build up
collections and on such occasions prices can move up an extra rung
There were 11 examples in the Harvey's sales, enough to promise
opportunities for prospective purchasers, and in the event there
were around three or four really keen contestants, mostly
established collectors present in the room, battling for this
The most expensive example was a 6.25in (16cm) high ogee-bowled
glass with blue glass tapes around a central white corkscrew that
was contested by the room and phone to £5000. It was followed by a
bell-bowled 6.5in (17cm) high tartan twist glass of c.1770, which
after a slow start saw bidding rise to £4600.
Rounding off this auction was the inevitable section of Bristol
blue glass and a small group of miscellaneous later wares, the
latter distinguished by one unexpectedly high price for a piece of
This was a 6.5in (17cm) high wine glass engraved with a portrait
of the actress Sarah Siddons in a scrolling border. Bonhams
reckoned that although the glass dated to c.1740, the portrait of
Siddons was probably engraved later, and gave it a lowish £250-350
estimate only to see the price rise to £1050 as it was contested by
two bidders interested in theatrical items.