More than 1100 lots covering most aspects of the old-school art and antiques world had been assembled for the Anniversary Sale at Stansted Mountfitchet on June 19-20 and garnered a premium-inclusive total of £780,000.
“We were absolutely delighted,” said Schooling. “The strength of the categories proves that there is a resilient market for fine antiques and traditional works of art.”
It is also a realistic market coming to terms with changes over the past 30 years.
Whereas 85% of the 660 lots of silver, ceramics, glass and works of art offered on the first day got away, mainly to private UK and Continental buyers, the 500 pictures and furniture on day two were a tougher proposition: a 64% success rate, with the trade predominating.
Furniture, however, did provide the top lot of the sale – a pair of George III coromandel lacquer press cupboards. Constructed from 17th century Chinese lacquer panels, depicting a palace scene, animals, birds and flowers, the 6ft 9in (2.05m) tall cabinets were provenanced back to the early 19th century owner of Bury Hill, Dorking.
Each passed through two branches of the family before becoming reunited and were offered as the Bury Hill Cabinets by Bonhams in 2012 with an estimate of £60,000-80,000.
By then, the slump in furniture prices, even for such rare and fine items as these, had taken its effect and they were unsold. At £10,000- 15,000, Sworders’ estimate more closely reflected today’s market and they sold to a private American bidder at £15,400.
Furniture generally sold around sensible estimates but eye-catchers did emerge.
Among them was a George II ’and later’ red lacquered chinoiserie bureau bookcase, one of 56 lots consigned ‘from the estate of a gentleman dealer’.
With panelled doors and a fitted interior, the, 7ft 7in tall x 3ft 2½in wide (2.3m x 98cm) bookcase more than tripled the mid-estimate, selling to a London dealer at £9600.
A pair of George III mahogany dressing stools from the same estate went at £2000 – 10 times the lower estimate.
Other pieces proving the furniture market still has a pulse included a pair of 19th century strung and crossbanded satinwood pier tables which went to a Bedfordshire dealer at a triple-estimate £6000 and a pair of George III marble-top satinwood and crossbanded pier cabinets in the Sheraton manner, at £5600.
The strong contribution of Continental buyers included a Dutch collector’s £6500 bid on a massive bronze mortar. Standing 14in (35.5cm) high, it was cast with a band reading Wibrans Tot Amsterdam 1696 above bands of hunting scenes and scrollwork with two eagles holding a shield. It was among the lots that had come from the commercial premises of North Mymms Park (ATG No 2341) and hence attracted 20% VAT on both hammer price and the buyer’s premium.
Attracting international competition was a consignment of 76 Japanese pieces from a Scottish collection. These were mainly Meiji wood and ivory okimono and included a group which Briony Harford, one of the Sworders auctioneers relieving Schooling on the rostrum from time to time, described as her “favourite thing in the sale”.
Illustrated above, the carved ivory fruit – two peeled bananas and two peeled oranges measuring from 2½in to 5in wide (6.5-13cm) – were estimated at £300-400 but sold to a German collector at £1700.