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As a French-speaking city, traditional Liège designs have always been strongly influenced by French taste, and that was reflected in a handful of lots among the 30 pieces of silver offered at Mosan in Liège on December 11, enticing several French dealers and collectors to make the 250-mile trip up the motorway from Paris.

British interest was not something the French had to contend with on this occasion, not even for the silver tankard by Philip Elston (Exeter 1724) that went unsold, but they still had to accept the underbidders’ role for the most part, as the top lots aroused fierce competition between Belgian private and trade buyers.

That was only to be expected for the Belgian pieces, but it also applied to the two lots that caused the greatest saleroom buzz, spinning way beyond Mosan’s expectations.

The first of these was a handsome 18th century coffee pot with three hoofed feet, 121/2in (31.5cm) tall, identified by Mosan as “probably Northern French” with a hallmark described tentatively as GDN.

The published estimate of €3000 looked somewhat conservative once the Belgian press and trade established a clearer idea about whose initials these were: no doubt those of Gilbert de Nalinne, who worked in Dinant, an historic town in the Belgian Ardennes that was under the sway of Liège’s prince bishops for most of the 18th century. The coffee pot duly sold to a Belgian dealer, reportedly for his private collection, for an impressive €13,500 (£8650).

The sale’s second silver surprise was a pair of late 18th century salt cellars, 2in (5cm) tall, with the starred Maastricht hallmark but no clear indication of the silversmith.

Mosan’s sale expert Marie-Pierre Desmergers admitted that the €6500 (£4170) – against an estimate of just €1200 – paid by a Belgian private buyer came as “a surprise”, especially as the cellars were in need of restoration. Their elegant, sober design, she felt, clearly outweighed any saleroom reservations about their condition.

Belgian dealers and collectors fought it out for the two leading examples of local 18th century Liège silver. The trade paid a top-estimate €14,000 (£8970) for a pair of repoussé silver candlesticks, 7in (18cm) tall, in good condition, and with the hallmarks of Théodore de Bavière (1746-47) and (probably) Jean-François Dupont (IDP). A Belgian collector, meanwhile, went over double-estimate to pay €10,000 (£6410) for a silver tray, 11in (28cm) across, dating from 1711, with four scrolled feet, the engraved arms of two families (possibly Massillon and Cauwelear), and the hallmarks of Joseph-Clément de Bavière and Gaspard Dupont.

Another Belgian collector paid €15,000 (£9620), just short of low-estimate, for a wide-spouted ewer with angular handle, 81/2in (21.5cm) tall, attributed to Abraham Valck of Antwerp (1634-35).

Abundant signs of restoration no doubt helped check the price.
An engraved, gadrooned sugar caster 71/4in (18.5cm) tall, “probably” from Antwerp (c.1730), made €3000 (£1920) and an early 18th century stoup from Mons, 63/4in (17cm) high, took €2400 (£1540). This was in indifferent condition and missing parts of its applied frieze. A Belgian coffee service (coffee pot, milk jug and sugar bowl), dating from the post-Napoleonic period (1814-30) when the country was under Dutch sway, sold well for €2000 (£1280).

A Paris coffee service (1819-38) with coffee pot, sugar bowl and milk jug, also exceeded expectations on €1200 (£770), and a small, silver-gilt chocolate pot, 43/4in (12cm) tall, from Paris (1781-89), featuring the DF hallmark of Denys Frankson, sold well on €2300 (£1475).

Mosan’s December sale is traditionally their brightest of the year. Silver at auction elsewhere in Belgian salerooms is invariably sporadic, and this was very much the case in December. Amidst an array of tea, coffee and cutlery services, a pair of 19th century candlesticks, 121/2in (31.5cm) tall, with triple-scrolled openwork shafts on triangular bases, made €1000 (£640) at Servarts Beaux-Arts in Brussels on December 17 when, perhaps more unexpectedly, a two-handled “Louis XVI-style” samovar by Delheid, with ivory-banded handles and mahogany tray, sold for €1100 (£705), short of hopes.

Delheid also led the proliferation of silver cutlery under the Bernaerts hammer in Antwerp on December 16, with a 143-piece ensemble that cleared €4200 (£2690). An elegant Art Deco coffee service (coffee pot, teapot, sugar bowl, milk jug and tray) followed on €2600 (£1670).

Meanwhile a Louis XV-style repoussé part-service with the Wolfers hallmark, comprising a pair of covered tureens, two pairs of different-sized circular dishes, and a pair of sauceboats, sold for €2800 (£1795) at nearby Amberes on the same day.

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