1. Beatles concert ticket – £2400
As part of their first world tour, The Beatles played the Princess Theatre in Hong Kong twice in June 1964. Sandwiched between European dates and a trip to Australia and New Zealand, Ringo Starr was in the hospital with tonsillitis so Jimmy Nichol played the drums.
This rare Dress Circle ticket to the concert was estimated at £120-150 at Nesbits, Portsmouth on May 22 but sold to an internet bidder for £2400.
A clue to the rarity of these tickets is provided by its price of HK$40.10: the sort of money that ensured most Beatles fans in the territory were unable to attend. When promoters Harry Odell Productions didn't come close to selling out, free passes were given to military personnel whose khaki uniforms were dominant in the sparse crowds.
In The Beatles Anthology, Paul McCartney commented: “As for the show, Hong Kong was a slightly flat performance in a smallish place. They behaved themselves, and it looked like a khaki audience. We played but I don't think we enjoyed the show too much – although at least we could be heard.”
2. Iznik glazed fritware tile – £31,000
The May 22 sale at Dreweatts of Donnington Priory titled Japanese, Islamic and Indian Works of Art included a collection of Iznik and Damascus tiles from the estate of the artist Sir Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017).
This substantial grouping occupied the first 42 lots of the sale and included textbook examples such as this large 12in (30cm) Iznik polychrome glazed fritware tile made in Ottoman Turkey, c.1575. Tiles of this design decorate the interior walls of the pavilion of Murad III in the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul built in 1578.
This example was bought by Hodgkin from dealer Millner Manolatos in 2006 and was previously in a French private collection. Estimated at £6000-8000, it sold at £31,000.
3. Japanese lacquer casket – £40,000
Unusually for an Asian art sale, the top price at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet on May 17 was paid for a Japanese work of art. A 12in (30cm) casket – one of two lacquer boxes in a lot estimated at just £200-300 – was identified as part of a rare group of rare wares made during the start of the Edo period for the western export market.
Assuming an architectural form, it was decorated in gold hiramaki-e, takamaki-e and nashiji techniques on a black ground in transition style with pavilions in landscapes with flowers and grasses, and mounted with copper gilt fittings. One sliding side opened to reveal a secret drawer.
In remarkably good condition for a pierce of its type and early to mid 17th century date, it sold well above estimate to a Hong Kong buyer bidding via the internet at £40,000 (plus 23% buyer’s premium).
4. Qianlong treasure box – £115,000
This 14in (35cm) high Qianlong (1736-95) cinnabar lacquer treasure box and cover was purchased by a descendant of the vendor for £27 at John Sparks in London on July 26, 1947. On May 21 at Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury it improved upon a £20,000-30,000 estimate to bring £115,000.
The box reveals the Qianlong court’s taste for opulence and unusual playthings. Standing 14in (35cm) high with its lion dog finial, the interior includes a series of doors and drawers and a removable tray which holds four small square boxes and covers, each painted with a central flowerhead.
5. Vistosi glass bird – £8100
Estimated at 5000-7000, this Pulcini glass bird designed by Alessandro Pianon for Vistosi factory took £8100 from an online bidder at Fieldings of Stourbridge on May 18. It had come for sale for a vendor who had bought it directly from Vistosi in Murano while on a family holiday in 1964.
The price betters the previous high for a Pulcini bird. It was only on March 30 when the auctioneers sold two other birds from the set of five: £6900 for another version of the live glass square bird and £7000 for a blue triangular bird.