The first instalment of a single-owner collection of early leather vessels was dispersed in Christie’s South Kensington’s vernacular and country-style furnishing ‘Masters and Makers’ sale.
Assembled by Dutch collector Ruud Bolmeijer, the 34 lots of
jacks, bombards and bottles were estimated at appealing levels and
drew some of the strongest bidding of the day as a result.
Most of the material had been purchased from a range of auctions
and dealers during the 1990s, back when the market was more
Since then this field has softened considerably, following a
similar trajectory to antique English furniture and other
comparable collecting areas. This was most clearly seen in each
catalogue entry where Christie's had included the price paid by the
vendor, in some cases these 1990s sums outstripping the 2014
Nevertheless, the good results achieved from this single-owner
offering were encouraging to see. While there was no dramatic
outstripping of estimates, most lots sold within or over their
guides to total in excess of £50,000, with just two lots failing to
get away. Trade and private buyers from the UK and the US were
active here, with at least two or more bidders participating on
almost every lot.
Christie's works of art specialist Mark Stephen took the
opportunity to provide a few pointers to look for when appraising
old leather 'jacks'.
Generally, an old jack will have signs of wear and use, a good
patina, an old craquelure and a very stiff, hardened quality. A few
fakes have been made using old leather horse harness, but these
often have the wrong shape and the wrong feel as, being softer and
thinner, they cannot be moulded into the correct shape of the old
What one is most likely to encounter are plain but old jacks
embellished with later silver mounts given spurious heraldry, marks
It is worth noting that if the silver looks late, it probably
is, and one should check where possible that any hallmarks relate
to the place and date of the ownership inscriptions.
Seams should project and the stitching feel as if the leather
has hardened around it. The bottoms should be recessed (the best
way to make them watertight) and usually bulge with wear and use,
and should never be flush with the foot rim.
Handles should never be stitched on separate to the body, though
some have patch repairs over the handle joins.
Another spurious feature on some jacks and bombards are
inscriptions and dates with the initials of King Charles or Oliver
Cromwell. It is believed that these were later carved into plain
jacks and bombards to make them more desirable to collectors in the
early part of the 20th century.
The stand-out entry among the Ruud Bolmeijer collection was a
large 2ft (61cm) English 18th century silver mounted leather
bombard, the name given to the biggest jacks - probably named after
the squat broad cannon called a bombard.
Described in the definitive work Black Jacks and Leather
Bottells by Oliver Baker published in 1921 as 'The King
of drinking vessels', this example at Christie's also had a silver
scallop-edged rim engraved with Captain Gromio Pendarves
1765 of Stratton in Cornwall. The vendor had bought it at
Sotheby's in 2005 for £7000 and it matched this price, selling to a
UK trade buyer on the phone who was possibly acting on behalf of a
The buyer's premium at Christie's South Kensington was
Part II of the collection will be offered in Christie's next
Masters and Makers on December 2.
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