They had been the choice of a discerning 18th century earl for his new country seat and the star attraction on October 17 at The Cotswolds Auction Company (24% buyer’s premium).
The 2ft 9in high x 3ft 9in wide (84cm x 1.14m) panels met every criteria for enthusiasts. They were signed and dated Coade’s Lithodipyra, London 1787.
The allegorical images of Agriculture and Navigation were based on designs by John Bacon (1740-99) and possibly moulded by Joseph Panzetta and Thomas Dubbin. They had been made for the gatehouse at the newly rebuilt Hurtsbourne Park, country home of the Earls of Portsmouth, at the Apsley Estate near Andover.
The 18th century gatehouse and much of the later house on the site were demolished in the 1960s when the panels were salvaged by the vendor. After stacking them by his garden shed for a half a century, he put them into this Cirencester sale.
They attracted wide interest but initially bidding started below the £6000-10,000 estimate. As it picked up, room bidders dropped out around the £14,000 mark leaving the battle between a phone and online rival. The former, a UK dealer, appeared to give up at £26,000 but returned to the fray to take the panels at £29,500.
The other five-figure lot in the sale was a pair of mid-18th century Italian red painted commodes. Decorated with ribbon tied sprays of flowers and simulated black marble tops, these 2ft 11in high x 3ft 11in wide (88cm x 1.2m) bombé chests were estimated at £5000-10,000 but took £20,000.
Delighted to have acquired them, the Italian buyer was so excited that he rang the auctioneer on the to rostrum to let everyone know the commodes were going back to his homeland.