UK: AS EVEN the upper echelons of the trade cannot afford to stick to academic standards at the expense of turning a profit in the market for the purely decorative, one finds increasingly serious sums of money paid out for amusing trifles of zero antiquity, such as a large pair of 20th century Continental jardinières, one of which is shown here.

The pair, which turned up at the Honiton salerooms of Bonhams & Brooks (15 per cent buyer’s premium) on May 25, measured 3ft 8in long by 3ft high by 2ft across (1.12m x 90cm x 60cm) and were formed as ‘mer-boys’ supporting giant clam shells. Coated in thick paint, they were probably carved from walnut, and precise date and origin were the subject of much speculation among the trade. Late 20th century Italy was a widely held belief, but such musings were rather beside the decorative point of this pair.

However, they were probably of classical influence and one dealer did say that a similar pair had once resided at Chatsworth House, an interesting sideline that further investigation could not confirm. Estimated at £3000-5000, the jardinières were contested by the decorating trade to £5400.