Probably carved by the same unidentified hand, c.1815, one at 2ft 8in (82cm) high on its socle base depicted a lady with her face turned to dexter (its right), the other 2ft 6in (77cm) with head turned slightly to sinister (its left). Both subjects wore period decolletage with their hair worn up in coiled plaits.
These fine-quality sculptures of appealing subject matter had been acquired by the vendor in 1978 at a country house sale held by Humbert, King and Chasemore at Roche Court, Winterslow, Salisbury. They were guided in this latest sale at a modest £1000-1500 each.
The other big draw to this Dorchester sale on February 25-26 were 64 Dutch silver miniatures which had been part of a collection formed by Baron Michiels van Verduynen (1885-1952), the Dutch ambassador to the Court of St James from 1939-42. They had come for sale by descent from the Barons Van Tuyll van Serooskerken.
The demand for silver toys spanned 200 years from the late 17th to the end of the 19th century. At its pomp in the early 18th century more than 40 silversmiths in Amsterdam catered to the Dutch and English fashion for silver doll’s house miniatures.
The collection here included many of the ‘entry level’ pieces priced from £100-300. However, much higher bids came for scarce models such as the gaming board and counters by Fredrick van Strant II, c.1740, (£1200) and a spoon rack holding six spoons by Arnoldus Van Geffen (fl. 1728-69), the most famous of all the Dutch silver ‘toy’ makers, sold at £1300.
A ‘drop door’ mouse trap by the same family workshop took £440 while a hearth brush and shovel, c.1700, marked VS, made £420.
Whereas silver toy makers in England (such as George Mountjoy and David Clayton) typically made miniature domestic accessories – coffee pots, candlesticks and the like – the stock in trade of the Dutch makers also included the tiny cast genre scenes of everyday activities from sleigh riding to soldiering and gardening.
It was two of these, both carrying the mark for Arnoldus Van Geffen, that made the highest prices of the day in this section.
Sold at £2200 was a model of two men in period dress carrying a child in a basket supported across a ladder, while a similar group of a goat and an attendant pulling a covered carriage prompted a bidding contest ending only at £4600. Both pieces measured just under 3in (7cm) across.