1. Boxing oil painting
This mid 19th century oil of a bare knuckle prize fight is thought to depict a famous bout between Victorian boxers William Perry (1819-88) and Tom Sayers (1826-65). The two men - ‘the Tipton Slasher’ from Birmingham and his younger challenger from Brighton - met to decide the British heavyweight champion in 1857 on the Isle of Grain in Medway, Kent on June 16, 1857. The fight was to be for £100 per side plus the new Championship belt.
Even in an era of no formal weight divisions, it had been considered foolhardy to match a 10st 10lb man of 5ft 8in against a 14st six footer. Perry himself had been so confident of winning that he sold his pub in Spon Lane, Staffordshire and staked the proceeds on himself at odds of 6-4. In fact he was totally outclassed and lost to Sayer in 10 rounds.
The oil canvas, in a period gilt wood frame, was brought to Fellows in Birmingham from a local family, who had possession of the painting for over 100-years. Although not the work of a professional artist it conveyed much of the atmosphere of a 19th century prize fight. Estimated to bring £350-300 on February 17, it sold via thesaleroom.com for £2400.
Auctioneer and antiques specialist Kevin Jackson said: “I was fully prepared for there to be a lot of interest. Both of these fighters were champions of their time and it’s always a privilege to sell something with such fascinating history.”
2. James Dixon picture
The Art & Design Sale at Cheffins in Cambridge on February 13 included two pictures by James Dixon (1921-2006) - the artist sometimes dubbed ‘the Irish Alfred Wallis’. A native of Tory Island, the isolated spit of land off the north-west coast of Ireland, Dixon worked for most of his life as a crofter and a fisherman, only beginning to paint during the 1950s. Largely self-taught, he preferred boat paint over oils and board and paper to canvas and worked in a naïve style. In 1999 and 2000, his work was exhibited at both the Irish Museum of Modern Art, and in St Ives at the Tate Gallery, in the show 'Two Artists: James Dixon and Alfred Wallis'.
The two pictures offered in Cambridge had been acquired by the vendor at one of Dixon’s first commercial exhibitions - that held at the Portal Gallery in London in 1968. Akin to many Dixon works they were accompanied by full descriptions and specific dates.
Sold at £3000 against an estimate of £1000-1500 was the 17in x 2ft 2in (44 x 67cm) oil on board titled Mr William Rodgers Tory Island, Tractor Ploughing In Dixon's Farm, The First Tractor that Ever Came to Tory Island and dated 7.11.1966. Another version of this work dated 1967 is in the Ulster Museum.
Yet stronger competition came for the following lot that was dated 18.01.1968 and titled The First Fleetwood Trawler that Ever Fish Back of Tory Island. A larger picture at 22in x 2ft 5in (55 x 75cm) and full of the skewed perspective and distorted scale that brought comparisons with Wallis, it took £9500 (estimate £1000-1500). The winning bid came via thesaleroom.com.
3. Qing period yingxitu vase
In Chinese culture yingxitu (pictures of boys at play) and baizitu (pictures of ‘hundred boys’) are intimately connected with the strong desire for male offspring. A popular subject since the time of the Song (960-1279), the Qing in particular were especially fond of propitious and amusing designs that conveyed auspicious messages or impersonated adult aspirations.
Yingxitu works of art continue to command a premium today.
This 14½in (36cm) high vase is modelled with half a dozen boys clambering across a surface decorated with pomegranate branches bursting with fruit. Probably 19th century, it was not in the best condition. Two of the figures climbing the brocades ribbon were missing and the seal mark to the base had removed.
But nonetheless, estimated at £200-300, it sold via thesaleroom.com for £13,000 at Acreman Street Antiques Auction in Sherborne on February 14.
4. Calcutta views
Although estimated at just £15-25, these two aquatints by Scottish travel writer and artist James Bailey Fraser (1783-1856) sold via thesaleroom.com for £650 at Wessex Auction Rooms in Chippenham on February 15. View of Loll Bazaar and View of Parliament House are two from the series of 24 plates published in eight parts (first by Rodwell & Martin and then by Robert Havell) as Views of Calcutta and its Environs from 1824-26.
Fraser had arrived in Calcutta in 1814, took lessons from the English artist George Chinnery and in six years produced this record of the opulent centre of British empire. Fraser's illustrations represent some of the first views of colonial Calcutta, following those produced by Thomas Daniell in 1788.