The big news broke that private equity group Epiris had bought auction house Bonhams. The 225-year-old firm had been up for sale for some time. However, the announcement of the deal for an undisclosed price still raised eyebrows, especially after it emerged that Bonhams’ chairman Robert Brooks was retiring from the auction house after selling the company.
It marked the end of an eventful personal chapter for Brooks, who founded the classic car and automobilia auction house Brooks in 1989 and in 2000 took control of Bonhams (and later Butterfields and the Phillips regions sale network) with backing from Dutch car importer Evert Louwman. “We have always had the intention one day to pass on the business to a new owner who shares our long-term vision for Bonhams,” said Brooks.
The LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair looked as good as ever in Berkeley Square. Oxfordshire dealership Witney Antiques won the Best Object Award with a pair of colourful early 17th century leather and silk gloves with provenance to the Carr family of Esholt Hall in Northumberland.
Those who attended might also have caught an exceptional exhibition at Bonhams Bond Street: Innovation and Collaboration combined English Golden Age clocks from two private collections (that of an anonymous lender and the Isle of Man entrepreneur and horologist Dr John C Taylor) together with loans from the Science Museum, the Clockmakers’ Company and Belmont House in Faversham.
Much of the known oeuvre of Ahasuerus Fromanteel, all five clocks by Samuel Knibb, grande sonnerie Tompions and John Harrison’s temperature compensated longcase were displayed cheek-by-jowl. Has there been a finer array of English ingenuity?
With perfect comic timing the ‘Harrison Lesser Watch’ – the fictional lost Harrison marine chronometer featured in a BBC Only Fools and Horses Christmas special – made an appearance at auction. The ‘antique’ prop sold for a hammer price of £28,000 (plus 24% premium) at Dudley auction house Aston’s.
The successful bidders in the room were dressed up as Batman and Robin (aka Del Boy and Rodney) for the occasion.
Turning the Page
Asian art dealer Kevin Page Oriental Art made it 50 years and counting in Camden Passage. He officially reopened his shop – where he has traded since 1968 – following a flood in December 2016 that forced many dealers in Islington to close.
Quote of the month
I met a chap who knew an American auctioneer who had a yacht which he had christened Buyer’s Premium
Auctioneer Adam Partridge at ATG’s roundtable debate about how auctioneers and dealers charge for services
This silver-gilt George IV accession medal by Rundell, Bridge and Rundell includes the maker’s mark PR of Philip Rundell (1746- 1827) – a clue to its royal commission. Rundell’s client was the new king himself with the medal made for presentation to Princess Augusta Sophia (1768-1840), his 52-year-old sister. Part of the Peter Earthy collection of commemorative medals, it took £4200 (plus 24% buyer’s premium) at Baldwin’s of St James’s on September 26.
This Cinématographe Lumière poster advertises the first-ever public screening of a film, which took place in the basement room of the Grand Café, Paris in 1895. It was designed by the artist Henri Brispot (1846-1928) for the Lyon-based cinema pioneers Louis and Auguste Lumière.
Estimated at £40,000-60,000, it took £160,000 (plus 25/20/12.9% premium) at a Sotheby’s online sale that closed on September 3.
A classical marble bust took an unexpected £129,000 (plus 22.2% buyer’s premium) at Sheffield Auction Gallery on September 21. Broken and repaired to the neck, it was estimated at just £120-180. However, bidders believed it depicted the first Roman emperor, Augustus (27BC-AD14), with the core elements of the sculpture thought to be Roman.
One of the earliest surviving incandescent light bulbs, made by the English physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) in the 1870s, sold for £7500 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) at Bonhams’ sale titled Instruments of Science and Technology.
Probably made in either Gujarat or Sind for the export market c.1600, this 15in (39cm) marquetry table cabinet belongs to a group combining Mughal craftsmanship with Europeanising elements. Portuguese figures are represented – recognisable by their bouffant trousers, waisted shirts and hats with an upturned brim.
Although in need of much repair, it took £26,000 (plus 22.5% buyer’s premium) from a Portuguese bidder at Cheffins in Cambridge on September 13.