Gold carnelian intaglio by William Brown, £9900 at Fellows.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The second outstanding item at the Birmingham sale was the 11in (3cm) long gold carnelian intaglio shown above, signed W[illiam] Brown Inv’t.

London maker William Brown (1748-1825) and his brother Charles (1749-95) were Europe’s outstanding carvers of intaglios and cameos in the neoclassical era. Catherine the Great ordered about 400 – so many that for 10 years she became almost their sole client. Two hundred examples of their work are still in the Hermitage.

The Birmingham intaglio depicts Hebe feeding Zeus in the form of an eagle. Mounted as a gold fob, it was discovered among an assortment of jewellery brought in for sale.

The £1000-1500 estimate was a tempting one. Against bidders in the room and on the phone, it sold to a collector online at £9900.

Living longer, William Brown produced more material than brother Charles, whose works are snapped up when they do come to auction.

Last December, a cornelian oval seal made by the latter for Catherine the Great with an intaglio carved after Stubbs’ 1770 painting Horse Frightened by a Lion was sold by Ilkley auction house Hartleys at £19,000 (ATG No 2572).