1. Stuart Devlin chalice – £5000
This silver and parcel gilt chalice and cover, sold for £5000 by Kingham & Orme in Evesham on May 29, is by the Australian silversmith Stuart Devlin. Thought to be a unique piece hallmarked for London 1973, it was made in the key era between 1965, when Devlin first moved to London and 1979 when the opening of a showroom in Conduit Street necessitated something akin to mass production.
It was this period that marked the beginning of Devlin's own style, the debut of the limited-edition Easter eggs and Christmas boxes and the creation of techniques to produce a wide variety of textures and filigree forms.
Many of the latter can be seen in this 16in (40cm) high goblet and cover with its ribbed tapered stem and a ring of Giacometti style reticulated figures to the finial.
It sold at the top end of its £3000-5000 estimate.
2. English stoneware bottle – £3600
Most surviving 17th century brown salt glaze stoneware vessels were made in Germany, typically in Frechen, close to the city of Cologne. However, a scarcer class of wares are those produced at John Dwight's pottery in Fulham.
Although immigrant Dutch or German potters were probably active earlier in the century, Dwight (c.1633-1703) is the earliest clearly documented maker of stoneware in England. Supported by two scientific luminaries, Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, he was granted a patent in 1672 for “the mistery of transparent earthenware, commonly known by the names of porcelain or china, and of stoneware, vulgarly called Cologne ware”.
This 9in (22cm) pot-bellied ale bottle, a type often found alongside late 17th century shipwrecks, is probably English – a hypothesis supported by the incised name Thos Rose. The latter added hugely to its commercial value as did the relatively good condition.
Estimated to sell for £150-250 at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield on May 26, it found a buyer via thesaleroom.com at £3600.
3. Anton Sohn ‘Danse Macabre’ figures – £27,000
Pictured here are five from a near complete set of 41 polychrome terracotta figures of the Danse Macabre offered by Lempertz in Cologne on May 30. They are typical of the work of Anton Sohn (1769-1841) who settled in Zizenhausen near Stockach in 1799.
As documented in Das Weltbild der Zizenhausener Figuren (1984) by Wilfried Seipel, some 746 different models and moulds by Sohn have been identified, some of them still made by family members into the 20th century.
These 6in (15cm) figures on the theme of death were from a set first made around 1822. They were inspired by prints published in 1623 by Matthäus Merian the Elder, which in turn are based on the scenes painted on the cemetery walls of the Dominican Abbey in Basel. Single figures are not uncommon, but this was an unusually extensive group: only the figure of a usurer missing from the complete set of 42. They came for sale from the Belgium collection having previously sold at Lempertz back in 1931.
The figure of the noblewoman was badly broken, and others showed glued repairs, but most retained the original paper labels that were glued around the bases of Sohn’s figure. They were estimated at €4000-6000 but did rather better, bringing €30,000 (£27,000).
4. Eskimo vocabulary book – £8000
The sale at Dominic Winter of South Cerney on May 27 included this very rare copy of an Eskimo and English vocabulary book published by ‘Order of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty’ in 1850 for use on the Arctic expeditions ‘to carry relief to Sir John Franklin and his companions’.
The 160-page book in original cloth gilt was created ‘as we learnt from the accounts of Cook, Kotzebue, and Beechey, that much intercourse took place during these voyages with the natives of the north-western coast of North America’. The preface adds that ‘it may prove useful to the Expedition about to sail for Lancaster Sound’.
Only the third copy of Eskimaux Vocabulary For The Use of The Artic Expedition recorded at auction, the estimate was £3000-5000 and the hammer price £8000.
The copy in the library of exploration and discovery literature assembled by Franklin Brooke-Hitching sold by Sotheby’s in September 2014 made the same hammer price.
5. Case of 2002 Lafite Rothschild – £6300
A great bottle of wine is the perfect companion during an evening in lockdown – and prices for the best Bordeaux have not fallen away much in recent months.
The 2002 Lafite Rothschild is considered a classic – rated by wine critic Robert Parker as ‘a candidate for wine of the vintage’ and awarded 94/100 in his points system.
A dozen bottles, bought from London vintners Corney & Barrow in 2003, were offered for sale on May 27 by London-based specialist auctioneers Bid For Wine complete with the abbreviation OWC – meaning they were housed in an unopened original wood case. Estimated at £360-400 per bottle, the case sold for £6300 – a price that with premium is close to a high for this vintage.