TSR January 26 Turpin Hats

Two brown felt trilby hats by Lock & Co. of London, £400 at Sworders.

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The January 25 auction in Stansted Mountfitchet comprised 267 lots from the Barons Court flat of the larger-than-life character who achieved near legendary status over a 50-year career as an antiques dealer.

Born in Bow in 1928, the son of an East End fruit seller, Turpin originally trained as a sound engineer for the BBC, before taking work as an ‘runner’ in the summer of 1948. He began searching provincial shops and markets for objects he could sell to the London antiques trade before opening his own small premises on Portobello Road.

During the ‘golden age’ of the English antique furniture business, Turpin – known throughout the trade as ‘Dick’ – was a familiar sight at regional UK salerooms and one of the first British dealers to undertake frequent buying trips to the US. The calibre of the pieces he bought and sold was only surpassed by his persona; a giant of a man with a large walrus moustache, thick-rimmed spectacles and trilby hat, he had a curiously high-pitched voice.

Following his death in 2005, the stock from his Bruton Street shop was sold in two sales at Christie’s, titled The Legend of Dick Turpin. This week Sworders sold the contents of the flat in London W14 that he shared with partner Jackie Mann under the title Dick Turpin: The Legend Lives On.

TSR January 26 Turpin Blue John

Pair of George III blue john and ormolu 'Cleopatra' candle vases attributed to Matthew Boulton, £26,000 at Sworders.

Leading the sale was a pair of George III blue john and ormolu 'Cleopatra' candle vases attributed to Matthew Boulton. Similar examples are pictured in Nicholas Goodison’s Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton (1974). Estimated at a modest £2000-4000, they took £26,000. A particularly good example of Derbyshire fluorspar was a 9in (22cm) high George III campana form urn raised on a square base. Its strong colours encouraged a bid of £6000.

Three pairs of the distinctive ‘basso relievo’ embossed bird pictures by Samuel Dixon of Dublin c.1750 performed well. The hand-coloured prints Canary Bird and The Cock Butcher Bird, both signed and dedicated To Her Grace the Duchess of Hamilton, took £9500. A pair depicting A Pheasant and a Hen and A Rainbow Pheasant made £8000.

TSR January 26 Turpin Basso

A pair of ‘basso relievo’ embossed bird pictures by Samuel Dixon of Dublin, £9500 at Sworders.

Another area in which Turpin held considerable expertise was Italian bronzes. An 18th century group after Giambologna’s The Abduction of a Sabine Woman, on a cylindrical rouge marble plinth sold for £3000 as did a North Italian model of a pacing bull after Susini.

In accordance with the market, the furniture was more difficult. However, some latitude with the reserves meant a George III padouk and kingwood commode attributed to John Cobb did get away. A similar model with the same distinctive serpentine-sided cockbeaded drawer-fronts, was supplied by Cobb to James West of Alscot Park, Warwickshire c.1765.

Although estimated at £30,000-50,000 it hammered at £20,000.

TSR January 26 Turpin Commode

George III padouk and kingwood commode attributed to John Cobb, £20,000 at Sworders.

Less expected from a dealer who bought ‘period’ antiques were four inter-war bronzes by Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959). The quartet of portrait busts included a cast of the 1927 Zeda (Pasha), a Turkish model of whom Epstein made one bust and several drawings. This head, cast from the bust held in the Art Gallery of Ontario, brought £8000.

Closing the sale were a few mementoes of the man himself. A lot comprising four hats, including two favoured brown felt trilbies by Lock & Co of London sold for £400.