Sotheby’s: Marble vases


The top-seller in Sotheby’s March 28 sale of property from Two Great Scottish Collections, was this pair of white marble vases on 3ft 11in (1.2m) high plinths. Their form is based on the so-called Warwick vase, one of the most famous antiquities to be discovered in the 18th century, found at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli by Gavin Hamilton and now in the Burrell collection in Glasgow. Catalogued as Italian, probably Rome c.1790-1830, they are thought to have been bought by the 7th Baronet, Sir William Forbes during his grand tour in 1827. They vastly overshot their £60,000-80,000 estimate to sell to a UK dealer for £230,000.

Sotheby’s: The Fettercairn Jewel


Making the second highest price in Sotheby’s Two Great Scottish Collections sale on March 28 was this Renaissance gold pendant of Scottish significance known as The Fettercairn Jewel. National Museums Scotland, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland and the Art Fund, purchased the pendant which was thought to once protect the wearer from lightning bolts and the plague. Measuring just under 2in (5cm) and dated to c.1570-80, it is made of gold delicately enamelled in basse taille technique and set with a large almandine garnet. Its close stylistic similarity to the so-called Darnley or Lennox jewel in the Royal Collection, especially in enamelled details of their respective figures (Mercury on the Fettercairn and a swordsman on the Darnley jewel) suggests that both were enamelled by the same craftsman. That both have Scottish provenances strengthens the possibility that both were made in Scotland.  Sotheby’s had guided the delicate jewel at £30,000-50,000 only to see bidding go to £190,000.

Sotheby’s: Old Master drawings


Much the highest price in a group of Old Master drawings and watercolours from the drawing cabinet assembled by two generations of the Forbes family, the 6th and 7th Baronets, was this pair of framed mythological subjects. Executed in pen and wash heightened with white and measuring 11.5in x 2ft 7in (29.5 x 79cm) and 13in x 2ft 9in (34 x 84.5cm), they depict the Council of the Gods and the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche and are copies of Raphael’s frescoes in the loggia of the Villa Farnesina. Sotheby’s had catalogued them as Roman school, 16th century and given them a £5000-7000 estimate but it may be that bidders had firmer ideas about their attribution given that they ended up making no less than £165,000 in the March 28 auction.

Bonhams: Marcus Gheeraerts


This previously unattributed painting by Queen Elizabeth I’s portraitist, Marcus Gheeraerts was hammered down to a buyer in the room at £220,000, nearly three times its high estimate of £80,000. Bonhams researched the painting and believed it to be by Gheeraerts, this attribution was later confirmed by the National Portrait Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art. The 1597 portrait of Ellin Maurice (1578-1626) is an heiress and ancestor of the Ormsby Gore family.

Bonhams: Elizabeth I joined oak three-tier buffets


These Elizabeth I oak three-tiered buffets c.1580-1600 were hammered down at £115,000 to a buyer on the telephone. The foliate carved pieces drew keen interest from three telephone bidders. Bonhams noted that although there were differences in the design of the carvings, “they were undoubtedly made at the same time, almost certainly in the same workshop, and are intrinsically a pair”.

Bonhams: Jacobite goblet


This ‘Wynnstay Cup' is regarded as an important Jacobite goblet, c. 1759-60. The ceremonial goblet is inscribed around the rim 'The Confederate Hunt Lady Win Wynne, Lady Parramount'. It was repaired with a tin-plate stem and foot. Bonhams said the use of tin-plate “suggests these repairs were carried out locally, the glasses rescued following what must have been a particularly riotous club meeting”. It sold online for a hammer price of £17,000, against a £8000-12,000 estimate.

Bonhams: JFK papers


A collection of John FD Kennedy letters and papers were hammered down at £80,000 to private buyer. The Ormsby Gore family had a friendship with the Kennedys for many years which began in the 1930s when John F Kennedy’s father Joseph was US Ambassador to Britain. Jasset Ormsby Gore’s grandfather William David, became a close friend of president JFK when he was ambassador in Washington. The collection of papers and letters had been estimated at £100,000-150,000.