The pieces were apparently unsigned, bore no marks and, with little known about their late owner, they were offered in a dozen lots at here-to-sell estimates at the June 24-25 sale at Stourbridge.
Specialists including London dealer Anthony Bernbaum identified them as c.1900-10 products of the highly respected Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts. As a result, all the lots got away to a collective £16,700, some 10 times the top estimate.
Links to artist
Bernbaum said later he had learned that the house and owner had family links to the minor Birmingham artist Lorenzo Hedley (1860-1940), who in the 1891 census is recorded as working in the family’s brass foundry.
“It is tempting to assume he made the enamels,” said Bernbaum, who owns the Peartree Collection dealership. But an ECJ monogram on a casket among the lots suggests some at least were by Ernest Charles Jeffries (1869-1942). He taught at the Bromsgrove School of Art as a metalworker and enameller for the Bromsgrove Guild from c.1902.
Bernbaum’s two purchases at Stourbridge were two 2 x 6in (5 x 16cm) plaques in lead frames, one depicting a mermaid, the other a spray of delphiniums (£2800), and two depicting fish, a 7in (18cm) diameter circular example and a 7½ x 3½in rectangular one which took £1550.
“I was drawn to their rather sinister look about the eyes,” he said. “Something of the Martinware wally birds about them.”
The other plaques went similarly over modest estimates of around £100 each. Images of Symbolist style maidens, one standing in a woodland, 9 x 4in (23 x 10cm), and another with a peacock, 7in (1cm) square, took £1650 and £1450 respectively.
From the same source and similarly reckoned by bidders to be Bromsgrove Guild, c.1900-10, three copper and enamel vessels pieces all sold at around 10 times their guides.
An 8½in (22cm) diameter twin-handled pedestal bowl with a central enamel roundel of a goldfish made £1350 and a matched pair of around 8½in (22cm) diameter three-handled copper pedestal bowls, with enamelled bees to the spread feet and Tudor rose details to the bodies, took £1750.
Topping the section was a 4¾in (12cm) long copper and brass casket, featuring two enamel portrait panels of young maidens and enamel roundels below a stone-set cover and enamel roundels – one carrying the initials ECJ.
Bernbaum was not the buyer of that lot and it was only after the sale that the former banker’s love of research led him to the Hedley-Jeffries link.
“I wish I’d done the research before,” he said.