They date from c.1901-02, shortly after she had married Herbert McNair and moved from Glasgow to Liverpool to teach design classes at the university’s Art Sheds.
Very few examples of the jewellery she produced during this brief window appear to have survived. Some pieces were exhibited at St George’s Hall, Liverpool, in 1900 and again in Turin in 1902.
However, a handful of original designs are known, including these four diminutive works which can be traced directly back through the family to Mrs C Armstrong, the artist’s niece.
They were last on the market in 1979 when sold by The Fine Art Society.
All were eagerly pursued by multiple bidders at the auction on October 20, selling for between £5000 for a design for a pendant on the theme of motherhood (Macdonald McNair’s son Sylvan was born in 1900) to £11,000 for another depicting a turquoise and wirework gold pendant that was annotated with the manufacturing instructions Please put on extra ring and fasten chain to pendant.
Another design of a turquoise and silver pendant or brooch also took £11,000. To its centre is a figure that appears in several other Macdonald McNair works including The Spirit of the Rose textile design that she appears to have adapted for this particular pendant.
Dating from the same vibrant period in the Glasgow School was a gilt metal wirework brooch by Peter Wylie Davison (1870-1963).
Stamped simply PWD and 4½in (11.5cm) across, it takes the form of five swallows in flight through wirework clouds, a distinctive Davidson element seen on his best pieces, as well as a classic ‘Glasgow Style’ motif. As pictured in The Glasgow Style by G and C Larner (1979), this brooch is thought to be one of five brooches created by Davidson for the women in his family, of which one example is dated 1902. Housed in a fitted case, it took £2600 at L&T.
A rather different view of Scottish Arts & Crafts was taken by Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852-1936) who learned the craft of art enamelling from her friend Lady Carmichael in 1901. The Studio commented in 1906: ‘That enamelling is Mrs Traquair’s medium we do not doubt’.
Much admired both north and south of the Border, pendants, necklaces and brooches, set with her designs by jewellers such as John Maitland Talbot, Hamilton & Inches, Brook & Sons or (after 1909) Henry Tatton, would sell for as much as two or three guineas.
Only a handful of examples have appeared at auction in recent years since Shapes of Edinburgh took £4200 for a gold, silver and enamel Cupid pendant in 2009.
Dated to c.1909, a brooch set with an enamel in copper scene titled The Dream within a white metal mount took £5500 at L&T – the same price this piece (or another of this design) took at Greenslade Taylor Hunt of Taunton in 2017.
The buyer’s premium at L&T was 25%.