1. Dame Lucie Rie bowl – £36,000
Duke’s Art & Design latest post-1880 sale included items from the collection of Bournemouth and Poole College.
The consignment (the auctioneers had sold 176 lots from the same source in 2016) included this conical bowl by Dame Lucie Rie (1902-95). Measuring 9in (23cm) across, it contrasts the porcelain ground with a manganese glaze through a series of tightly drawn sgraffito lines.
Probably made in the 1970s, it is typical of the wares by the doyenne of the British studio ceramics movement that continue to ride high in the market. Estimated at £5000-10,000 at the sale on September 30, it took £36,000.
2. 17th century playing cards – £10,500
The London printer Joseph Moxon (1627-91), considered the second person to make printed globes, had first published engraved playing cards on a scientific theme in November 1676.
Adverts in the newspapers of the day promoted an astronomical set as 'useful, pleasant and delightful for all lovers of ingenuity' that was available to buy at ‘the sign of the Atlas’ in Warwick-Lane.
Other similar sets were published in the 1690s by James Moxon (d.1708) after he inherited his father’s business. It was one of these that was offered by Bonhams as part of a sale titled Instruments of Science & Technology in London on September 28.
A full deck of 52 cards, each was copper engraved with diagrams from geometry and scientific instruments. Of interest to collectors of both playing cards and scientific instruments, they took £10,500 (estimate £3000-4000).
3. Davy Crockett book – £16,000
Among the best performing lots in the Fine Books sale at Forum Auctions in London on September 29 was a special first edition copy of A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee.
The adventures of Davy Crockett (1786-1836), the famous 'King of the Wild Frontier', brought him the status of American folk hero. A frontiersman and politician in life, after his death he was credited with acts of fabled proportion.
This book, published in Philadelphia two years before Crockett’s death in 1834, was part of the myth making.
What made this copy so appealing was a signed presentation inscription from the author to front free endpaper. It reads: "Being Called on by Mr William Allen to certify whether this book is or is not the true history of my life written by myself – I certify with pleasure that this is the true history written by myself and that this other is a counterfeit and was written without any authority from me, David Crockett of Tennessee, new Member of Congress".
The auction house couldn’t trace another author inscribed copy of this work and bidders appeared to concur. It made eight times the low estimate at £16,000.
4. Sawbridgeworth Penny – £12,000
Coin dealer Patrick Deane first became interested in 17th and 18th century trade tokens in 1970 when working at Spink and Son. He sold his first collection of around 1250 pieces in 1984.
Twenty years or so elapsed before the collection was re-started when Deane was given the opportunity to acquire pieces from the celebrated Victorian collection of Francis Cokayne. Now numbering around 2500 items, it will be sold in two or three parts by Baldwin’s in London – the first tranche on October 5.
Deane had been fortunate to buy a Sawbridgeworth Penny, struck by grocer and tea merchant Robert Orchard in 1801, from the Baldwin Basement Collection for half what he was expecting to pay. This piece, made using a broken die with Orchard’s portrait on the obverse and a view of the Hertfordshire town to the reverse, is one of just five in existence.
One holds the record price for any tradesman’s token sold at auction. A Sawbridgeworth Penny sold for £145 at Glendinings in 1923 while a similar example in the Noble collection auctioned in Melbourne in July 1988 sold for a remarkable Aus$60,000.
The token in the Deane collection, which survives essentially as struck, was offered with an estimate of £5000-7000 and sold at £12,000.
5. The Edinburgh Skating Club badge – £300
The sale at The Auction Centre in Runcorn, Cheshire on September 28 included this rare George III Scottish silver member’s badge for The Edinburgh Skating Club – the world’s first figure skating organisation.
Stamped with the Edinburgh assay and the sponsor’s mark for James Douglas, it is engraved to the obverse with a pair of crossed ice skates and a banner with the motto Ocior Euro (Swifter than the East Wind) and to the reverse Edinburgh Skating Society, Hugh Broughton, 1801.
Printed in 1865, the book Edinburgh Skating Club with Diagrams of Figures and a List of Members, notes Hugh Broughton in the list of early members, admitted to the club on December 28, 1801 with his occupation listed as an exciseman.
His medal sold for £300.
6. 18th century manor painting – £30,000
On October 3 Dreweatts in Newbury conducted a sale titled The Collection formerly from Flaxley Abbey: An Oliver Messel Commission.
Oliver Messel (1904-1978) redesigned Flaxley Abbey, a monastery turned manor house, in the 1960s over a period of 12 years for the industrialist Frederick Baden Watkins. In addition to pieces that he specially designed or sourced for the house, Messel used works from his own private collection (selling to his clients pieces he had inherited on the death of his mother in 1960).
This Anglo-Dutch School painting of an unidentified country house dating from c.1740 was among them. It had hung in the drawing room of Messel’s family home, Homstead Manor before it was incorporated into Flaxley Abbey.
It was estimated to fetch £7000-10,000 but pushed on to bring £30,000.
7. Portrait of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – £10,000
This portrait of the civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel was painted by John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903), his brother-in-law.
The oil on canvas, 3ft x 2ft 4in (91.5 x 71cm) in a gilt frame reveals a very different man from the familiar image of Brunel in a stove-pipe hat. Instead of the faintly swaggering pose of that famous photograph, the painting reveals a calm but intense individual, hard at work.
It is reputed that Brunel sat for the painting at Horsley’s home, Orestone Lodge, now Orestone Manor, near Torquay. Brunel fell in love with the English Riviera while he worked on the Great Western Railway, later buying a plot and starting to design Brunel Manor on the outskirts of the resort where, before his untimely death, he planned to retire.
Horsley, who designed the first Christmas card, painted a similar portrait of Brunel in 1857, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, and four copies. Three are in public institutions, but this example, from 1885, remained in private ownership by long family descent, firstly from Brunel’s nephew to Brunel’s granddaughter, Celia, of Fleet House, Weymouth, then directly through her family. It had been in the collection of Celia’s son, Sir Humphrey Brunel Noble, and exhibited at The Victorian Era Exhibition in 1897.
Offered for sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on October 1-2, it might have been expected to improve on its £10,000-15,000 estimate but in fact sold at the lower end of expectations.