London heats up
Important works of European sculpture were stars of the London high season – this year held in sweltering heat. As air-conditioned Masterpiece London concluded its ninth edition on July 4, the series of sales devoted to traditional art and antiques included auction records for both Antonio Canova and Ferdinando Tacca.
Sotheby’s Treasures sale on July 4 was dominated by the rediscovered Canova marble Bust of Peace carved in 1814 for John Campbell, Lord Cawdor. It sold at £4.5m – three times the estimate and a massive profit for the vendor who acquired it as an unattributed work at a 2012 Knightsbridge sale.
Tacca’s 23in (58cm) high Hercules and Achelous c.1640-50 sold by Christie’s the following day had been a gift from Louis XIV to his son. Acquired by the vendor for $1.8m at Sotheby’s New York in 1994, it took £5.8m.
On the same day, Christie’s conducted a much-anticipated 22-lot sale titled Thomas Chippendale: 300 Years, marking the tercentenary of the birth of England’s best-known furniture maker and designer.
Just three lots failed to sell but they carried the greatest weight of expectations: two of the giltwood sofas from the celebrated Dundas suite c.1765 (last sold as a pair 21 years ago for £1.4m but offered at £2m-3m each) and the Sir Rowland Winn commode, previously sold as part of the Messer collection in 1991 for £935,000 and now pitched at £3m-5m.
The VB factor
The shake-up of the Old Masters market continued apace. Veteran New York dealer Otto Naumann joined Sotheby’s to aid with client development while the London sales series was aided by ‘the VB factor’.
Spice-Girl-turned-fashion-designer Victoria Beckham chose highlights from Sotheby’s Old Master sale and presented them before the auction in her Dover Street store in Mayfair. “Popular culture is certainly having an effect,” said specialist Alex Bell, adding that viewing numbers had almost doubled at 7000.
A row erupted over a draft score of the Enigma Variations by Sir Edward Elgar shown on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and valued at up to £100,000. Shortly after broadcast on July 8, the Elgar Foundation said it “regarded [the manuscript] as stolen property” as it had disappeared from its collection in “mysterious circumstances” in 1994.
The current owner, who had hoped to sell through Christie’s, is now planning to give the document to the British Library, where the foundation’s research archive is housed.
A reminder that collecting is not only about pounds and pence was provided by London numismatics saleroom Dix Noonan Webb, new owner of the Britannia Medal Fair.
DNW announced it had bought the fair, a fixture at the Victory Services Club for more than 30 years, and would henceforth run it on a not-for profit basis with the fair free to both exhibitors and visitors. “As well as being a place for dealers to sell and collectors to buy, it has also performed a vital social function,” said Pierce Noonan.
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This rare ‘transitional’ sealed shaft and globe wine bottle with a seal dated 1682 had been bought for just £30 at a Doncaster antiques fair as a reproduction.
In fact, it was the real thing and sold for £16,000 (plus 15% buyer’s premium) at BBR Auctions in Elsecar on July 8.
A woodcut from Pietro Crescenzi’s Ruralia Commoda, c.1490-95, sold for £36,000 (plus 30/24/14.4% buyer’s premium) as part of the £1.6m Lawes Agricultural Library sold by Forum Auctions in London on July 10-11.
Ruralia Commoda, written in the early 14th century by an Italian lawyer and landowner, is considered the first printed book on agriculture with this copy, containing over 300 woodcuts, the first illustrated edition.
An archive relating to three Suffragette sisters – Edith, Florence, and Grace Hodgson of Islington, north London – sold for £16,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) on July 2 at Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire. The unmarried sisters kept everything relating to their political fight including badges, enamel Votes for Women pins, sashes and this rare Women’s Freedom League pennant featuring Holloway Prison and the words Stone Walls Do Not A Prison Make.
This 10in (25cm) high clock modelled by George Tinworth (1843- 1913) for the Doulton Lambeth factory sold at $16,500/£12,700 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) at Whitley’s in Dania Beach, Florida, on July 14. The model – Tinworth’s personal take on the famous Polito’s Menagerie Staffordshire figure group – includes a total of 20 mice.
The original drawing of the map of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood sold for £350,000 (plus 25/20/12% buyer’s premium) at Sotheby’s on July 9-10 – an auction record for a book illustration.
Featuring on the opening endpapers of the original 1926 book by AA Milne, the sketch had been bought by the vendor in the same rooms for £1700 in 1970.