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Museum buys seal and miniature

An 18th century Indian watercolour miniature, The Trumpeters by Nainsukh of Guler, has been saved for the nation by the British Museum.

The picture was temporarily prevented from being exported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2018 when its owner applied for an export licence and a search was begun for a buyer to match the £550,000 asking price.

Thought to have been created between 1735-40, it had been in a private collection since being purchased by the British artist Winifred Nicholson (1893-1981) during a tour of Asia in 1919-20.

After her death, it remained with her family and this is now the first time it has entered a public collection. The museum was able to raise the funds to buy it with help from the Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund.

Rare Saxon find

Meanwhile, a rare Saxon seal matrix will go back on display in the British Museum – after the institution missed out on buying the object twice before.

The seal, used to ensure documents remained private, is made from walrus ivory and was carved in England shortly before the invasion of William the Conqueror. It is one of only five examples known to have survived. It will now join two others owned by the museum.

The institution bought the seal from its private owner earlier this year with the help of funds from John H Rassweiler, the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts, the Henry Moore Foundation and British Museum Patrons.

It first tried to buy the object in 1977 when it was outbid by the British Rail Pension Fund (BRPF) at auction. The BRPF allowed the seal to be displayed in the museum on long-term loan. It was auctioned again in 1996 and the museum was again outbid, this time by a private collector.

The seal bears the text Sigillvm Wulfrici meaning ‘Beyond this seal Wulfric leaves no trace’. It is very rare for evidence of a named person to survive from the pre-conquest period.

Canterbury sales switch to weekend

The Canterbury Auction Galleries is switching its two-day auctions to weekend dates.

The first sale of 2020 is on February 8-9, with viewing on the Thursday and Friday before. The full calendar of weekend sales for 2020 will follow this on April 4-5, June 6-7, August 1-2, October 3-4 and November 28-29.

First auction at new Freeman’s site

Freeman’s of Philadelphia has moved from 1808 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, its home of nearly 100 years, to two new buildings in the city.

Its head office is now at 2400 Market Street which comprises gallery space, an auction room and corporate offices.

Its inaugural sale at its other new location, within The Civic Building at 1600 West Girard Avenue, is its Decorative Arts & Design sale on January 22. This venue will focus on emerging markets and young collectors.

Heritage comics auctions update

Dallas’ Heritage Auctions is changing its weekly online comics, comic art and animation art auctions into two-day events. Its comic books auction will be held on Sundays in each week’s sale. Original art, animation art and video games, will be offered on Mondays.

The new schedule will allow auction sessions to finish earlier in the day. Barry Sandoval, vice president at Heritage Auctions, said: “We made this change to address the one downside of having so much quality material, namely that the live sessions had been ending a bit too late in the evening.”

Gallery gains Mod Brits in tax deal

Three works by Modern British artists will go on display at The Hepworth Wakefield gallery following a donation via the government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme.


This Barbara Hepworth bronze sculpture 'Orpheus (Maquette 1)', dated 1956, will go on display at The Hepworth Wakefield gallery.

Sculptures by Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-75) and Denis Mitchell (1912-93) and a painting by William Scott (1913-89) have been acquired for the nation through the scheme, administered by the Arts Council, and have been allocated to the gallery in West Yorkshire. They had been owned by Nancy Balfour (1911- 97) – art collector and a senior editor at The Economist, who was chairman and president of the Contemporary Art Society.

They were donated to the public by her niece, Kate Ashbrook. The acceptance of these three works via the scheme will generate a tax reduction of £124,500.

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In Numbers


The total value of sales in 2019 realised by the comics departments at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. This was the highest ever in the 18-year history of the department, and represented a year-on-year increase of 35% (also see Heritage sales update on facing page).