The property, built in 1702 near Milborne St Andrew, Dorset, has just been sold for only the second time in its history.
The Grade I-listed manor was owned by the Michel family until the 1960s when, in near-derelict condition, it was bought and restored by financier Anthony Boyden.
His heirs sold the house for around £10m last year but kept many of the contents, which were augmented by lots from other private sources, for the April 15 auction at Duke’s (25% buyer’s premium) in Dorchester.
This was the first of two country house sales conducted in rapid succession by the firm (the second comprising the contents of Wormington Grange in Gloucestershire was sold from May 12-14). It was described as “an unrepeatable opportunity to attend a good old-fashioned house sale with everything on offer from historic portraits to china from the kitchen cupboards”.
Bidders were allowed to view selected contents in situ at Dewlish although ultimately, with fewer souvenir hunters bidding across the sale, there were more unsold lots than the norm (a 30% casualty rate across 439 lots).
Nonetheless, helped by private bids for five-figure furniture lots, the sale went comfortably above expectations of £500,000 to total £676,000.
The top-selling entry at £48,000 was a Queen Anne verre églomisé and giltwood pier mirror (shown top) measuring 7ft high x 3ft 8in wide (2.3 x 1.09m).
The French term verre églomisé describes a technique of applying paint and gilding to the reverse side of glass to form a decorative panel with a mirror-like surface.
It was brought back into fashion in the early 18th century in France and was subsequently popularised in England by Huguenot emigrés such as René and Thomas Pelletier (fl. c.1705-11) – candidates for the makers of this piece.
A George III pair of 3ft 5in (1.04m) wide mahogany serpentine chests of drawers with brushing slides and inlaid throughout with chequered stringing apparently retained the original brass swan-neck handles. They took £30,000 against expectations of £12,000-18,000.
A 4ft (1.22m) wide, George II giltwood console table with a breche violette marble top in the manner of William Kent doubled the lower estimate, taking £40,000, while sold within hopes at £24,000 was a documented c.1775 parcel gilt cabinet on stand attributed to Mayhew & Ince.
The profuse polychrome painted decoration was attributed to Antonio Zucchi, the Italian painter who worked with Robert Adam at Kenwood, Osterley Park and Nostell among other great houses. The front panel depicts Eurycleia being awakened by Penelope with the news of Ulysses’ return.
The earlier furniture comprised three Tudor pieces.
A Elizabethan monumental oak refectory table – extending to 14ft 3in (4.34m) long with its pull-out leaves – was in remarkably untouched condition, retaining both the original top and moulded stretchers. It sold just shy of the top estimate at £38,000.
A late 15th or early 16th century bed is the example pictured in The Dictionary of English Furniture by Percy Macquoid and Ralph Edwards (1924, revised 1954), where it is described as being one of the earliest-known examples with a panelled tester.
Standing 6ft 4in high x 6ft 10in long (1.92 x 2.07m) with unusual carved hexagonal bedposts, it had some old repairs and replacements but made its top estimate of £20,000.
A set of four Romayne panels dated c.1530 – shortly after the decorative style of carving on furniture was introduced from Italy – were the attraction of a later oak cupboard into which they were set.
One of the four figures possibly represented Henry VIII, although the distinctive cable borders might suggest a Scottish origin. This lot doubled the mid-estimate in selling at £6000 via thesaleroom.com.
Lighting and fireside pieces
Duke’s auctioneer John Holmes has noticed increasing demand for lighting and fireside pieces among buyers refurbishing large houses.
Four lots catalogued as Dutch 17th century-style brass chandeliers all found buyers to total £9600 against top hopes of £1400, indicating bidders were ready to speculate that some were period.
Best was a 19in high (48cm) example with six scrolling branches emanating from a central orb. Pitched at £200-400, it sold online at £3000.
Going similarly above expectations was a George III neo-classical brass and cast metal fire grate. The 3ft 6in (90cm) wide serpentine grate with leaf-pierced lower section on tapering legs surmounted by finials was estimated at £500-1000 and sold at £3800 to an internet bidder.
An undated Roman marble more than trebled top expectations, selling to a private buyer at £35,000. The 14½in (37cm) high head, bought in London in the 1950s, was of undoubted quality but the auctioneers were unsure if it was an antiquity or sculpted more than a millennium later for the Grand Tour market.
Portraits as a plus
A number of 18th century portraits from a different vendor added to the country house atmosphere, with the best being a full-length 7ft 6in x 4ft 9in (2.3 x 1.45m) portrait with a plaque inscribed A portrait of Mrs Nicholas Pierce wearing a Circassion Dress at the fancy dress ball at The Mansion House in honour of the marriage of the sister of George III to the King of Denmark.
It was believed to have been commissioned by the 1st Duke of Newcastle, prime minister between 1757-62, although the attribution to Johan Joseph Zoffany (1733-1810) was not cast iron. Estimated at £5000-10,000, it sold at £40,000.