The 9¼in (23.5cm) tall figures offered in Tennants’ (20% buyer’s premium) Autumn fine art sale were dated c.1815, four years after the first epic prize fight in which England’s champion Tom Cribb defeated the American challenger, former Georgia slave Tom Molyneux.
Tactical time-wasting had allowed Cribb to recover from the pasting he received in the first half the 44-round fight and it was with reluctance that he bowed to public demand for a rematch the following year.
This time Cribb had prepared well but Molyneux continued to enjoy his roistering lifestyle to the full and was stopped within 20 minutes in the 19th round. The contests remain a legend in the world of boxing.
The £3000-5000 estimate on November 13 and the UK collector’s winning bid of £6800 were thought reasonable by Liverpool dealer Damon Revans-Turner.
“I was watching the sale and I’m not surprised at the price for quite rare figures, even though both had repairs and restorations”, said Revans-Turner who specialises in high-end rare Staffordshire figures at RTS Antiques.
He currently takes a very positive view of the market, at least at the top end. “My sales have grown each year of six years of trading and in the last three months sales have gone stratospheric”, he said.
Next highest bid among the 85 ceramics lots from the 18th and 19th centuries was a Meissen teacup and saucer: a fabeltier (fabled beast) example painted c.1740 in the manner of the great Adam Friedrich von Löwenfinck. Estimated at £700-1000, it was a private buy at £3000.
Topping the ceramics, however, was a relatively modern Royal Worcester garniture.
The three boat-shaped, twin-handled bowls, one 15in (38cm) wide with mythical beast handles, the others 12in (30cm) wide with scroll handles, were signed by John Smith (b.1934) who worked at the factory from 1950-71. Painted with still-lifes of fruit on a mossy bank within moulded and gilt scroll borders, the set estimated at £2000-3000 took £7000.
Smith’s fruit-painting skills are much admired among collectors. His pair of twin-handled lamp bases with similar decoration, each standing 17in (42.5cm) tall, was pitched at £700-1000 but sold at £6500.
With all areas performing well – a 92% selling rate on the 338 lots brought a hammer total of £371,550 – furniture again played a significant part.
Topping the day was a large and highly decorative early 20th century carved hardwood screen. Standing 6ft 3in (1.9m) tall, it featured a polychrome decorated foliate border surrounding a landscape of storks above a base decorated with fish flanked by two monkeys.
The catalogue estimate of £2000-3000 was revised by sale day to £7000-10,000 but that was exceeded by the private UK bid of £11,000.
The trade got a look-in when two mahogany dining tables came up.
One, a Regency triple-pillar example lacked additional leaves but measured a family-sized 8ft 4in (2.55m) long and quadrupled the top estimate at £8000. The other, c.1850 with five original leaves extending to 16ft 3in (4.96m) on a telescopic action, went just shy of top hopes at £4800.