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A beautiful little portrait by one of Britain's leading miniaturists will be in Lawrences' Fine Art sale in Crewkerne next month. Drawn in watercolour on ivory, it measures just 6cm by 5cm and depicts Lady Bontein, the wife of Sir James Bontein of Balglass, depicted with simple elegance in a white dress and a black choker, her hair styled in the Neo-Classical taste of the period. Each fold and pleat of her dress can be seen and there is a tiny pinprick of white to capture the sparkle in each eye. It dates from about 1790 and is the work of Richard Cosway, RA (1742-1821) who began his career painting simple ships' signs and surprisingly coarse-humoured lids for gentlemen's snuff boxes. By 1769 he had entered the Royal Academy schools and was a full Academician just two years later. Such was his popularity for capturing a likeness with both delicacy and character that he was patronised by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Devonshire, the Duke of Marlborough and other aristocrats who admired his ability to work accurately and with impressive speed. Cosway's reputation brought him considerable wealth and allowed him to indulge his passion for assembling a huge collection of Old Master paintings and drawings. The miniature of Lady Bontein has come from a vendor in North Somerset and is expected to realise £800-1200.
Energetic screenprints by Dame Elisabeth Frink are coming up for sale at Lawrences in Crewkerne next month. Consigned for sale by a couple who live near Weymouth, a 1988 print is entitled "Running Man" and it is typical of the artist's fondness for sculpture inspired by the Greek warrior statues discovered off the coast of Riace in Italy in 1972. These were ancient men who, in the artist's own words, "would go out and fight battles for you, mercenaries.. In other words, they were thugs." The findings of 1972 determined much of Frink's work for the rest of her life but she insisted that "my running men are not athletes: they are vulnerable, they are running away from something, or towards it." The print, executed in an edition of just 70 and printed in shades of blue and grey is accompanied by another, more light-hearted screenprint of a playful dog, estimated at £500-800, as well as two works by her son Lin Jammet. Jammet's style imitates his mother's closely and his impressive "Horse of Gold" of 1996 is expected to make £300-500 whilst his large "Fallen Rider" watercolour of 1992 is guided at £800-1200. "Frink's connections with Dorset were strong and heartfelt. She lived at Woolland from 1977 until her death in 1993 and Sherborne House held a highly successful exhibition of her work in Spring 2008," says Lawrences' Richard Kay. "Her prints are well made and highly distinctive and the market for good post-War images of this sort is so strong at present that we can expect some keen competition for these lots."
Nowadays, most of us keep tea (or teabags) in a jar by the kettle but, for many years, it was too valuable a commodity to be stored with other kitchen ingredients and was preserved in elaborate caddies to keep it from getting damp or too dry. These caddies were made of all manner of materials from porcelain and glass to fruitwood, hardwood and ivory. Silver was not unusual, either, but it is rare to see a Victorian silver caddy quite so elaborately made as the example to be offered in Lawrences's fine art auction in Crewkerne later this month. Standing 18cm (7 in) high, the silver baluster body has been worked "en repousse" with ten Chinese figures in a garden, skilfully hammered out from the body from the inside so that they stand proud of the surface of the caddy. The garden details, pagodas and bridges are worked in lower relief to create an illusion of depth and space. Made in 1853 by William Robert Smily, the caddy is more typical of the sort of the extravagant Chinese-inspired styles one would expect to find in late 18th Century design when trade with China was booming. The pull-off cover even has a seated Chinaman as a terminal and the detail throughout is exquisite. It has clearly been treasured by its Dorset owners as none of the decoration is worn or punctured and it has the pale blueish/grey patination of silver that has only ever been lightly polished. Whether it will ever be used again to hold tea is debatable, but the auctioneers expect it to find a home on January 22nd for £300-500
Lawrences' recent Fine Art auction in Crewkerne included silver, jewellery and ceramics and the auctioneers sold the vast majority of what was on offer in a room that was filled with eager buyers and delighted sellers.
Silver has a loyal following amongst private buyers who seem happy to collect items that other vendors no longer wish to keep. A little tea caddy made by Liberty and Co in 1917 had distinctive Art Nouveau decoration and made just over £500. A George IV toast rack made by John Bridge of Piddletrenthide (near Dorchester) in 1825 made £310 and an unusual wine taster by Messrs Phipps and Robinson dated from 1801 and made £980. The handsome Chinoiserie tea caddy, featured previously on these pages, exceeded its upper estimate to make £655 whilst a 1915 tea caddy of appealingly simple plain drum shape caught the eyeof private collectors who bid it to £285. Amongst the objects of vertu, three portrait miniatures of the Lloyd family of County Roscommon in Ireland dated from the first quarter of the 19th Century and took over £1300 whilst an early 18th Century ivory spice box from Goa made a similar sum. There were barely half a dozen unsold items from the 160 on offer but it was the more unusual pieces that attracted the most interest overall.
Highlights in a consistently strong 240-lot jewellery section included £4300 for a diamond and enamel pocket watch by Cartier, £3580 for a fancy cinnamon coloured diamond on a white gold band and £1600 for a fine quality silver cigarette case made by August Hollming for Faberge and once owned by Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch (1878-1918) for whom it was made. Although attention focused upon eye-catching items of quality and good design , there was steady demand for good wristwatches, novelty items and groups of semi-precious or paste items of traditional design.
Over 400 lots of ceramics and glass from as far apart as Poole Pottery and China rounded off the day but, once again, interest was keen throughout and a number of solid prices showed that there are collectors out there for nearly everything. An Art Deco bronze by Pierre Le Faguays led a small group of decorative arts at £3100 whilst an unusual carved white jade figure of a lady steering a log raft with a basket of flowers and an urn at her side demonstrated superb Chinese craftsmanship and took £3465. It measured just 9cm (3.5 in) long. In between these two extremes, a Weesp water jug and stand decorated with bold floral sprays made £2030, a Silesian glass marriage goblet with a flask cover made £835 and a pair of Staffordshire spaniels was brought to heel at £500. An elegant figure of Columbine by Meissen made £645, an unusual Capodimonte "Centurion" helmet moulded with panels of figures in bold relief made £430 and a pair of cloisonne enamel incense burners in the form of quails, circa 1790-1820, made £1900. The total for the day's sale amounted to just under £200,000 with very little unsold.
If this decorative porcelain item, sprigged with puce roses and with gilt borders, looks rather like a sauce boat do not be tempted to use it as such.
It is a bourdalou, named for Louis Bourdaloue (1632-1704), an eloquent but excessively long-winded Jesuit preacher whose sermons were admirable for their simplicity and coherence but which ran sometimes to two hours or more. Ladies who were keen to hear him preach but who lacked the constitutional strength to withstand hours in a church pew without the need for a "comfort break" would take a bourdalou into church with them to ease their discomfort. Examples were made by factories in China in blue and white patterns and many English and French factories made bourdaloux throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. Josiah Wedgwood made creamware pots, called "coach pots", that were equally convenient for ladies on long carriage journeys. Quite how an elegantly dressed lady would be able to leave church or alight from a coach with a filled bourdalou is not recounted.
Unlike teapots, claret jugs or coffee cans, it seems unliklely that anyone buys a bourdalou today to use it for its original purpose. The one on offer at Lawrences in Crewkerne next week is a pretty talking point at £80-120 but it should never be placed on the dinner table!
Lawrences in Crewkerne will be offering nearly 400 lots of books in their auction next month and, as usual, there is plenty of variety with estimates from just £20 upwards.
There are some excellent travel and topography volumes from all four corners of the world. Four albums of photographs contain late Victorian and Edwardian examples from Egypt, Spain, St. Moritz and (closer to home) the Isle of Wight (£200-300); W. Miller's 1803 volume of "The Costume of The Russian Empire" with 723 hand coloured plates is guided at £600-700 whilst G. H. Mason's "The Costume of China is accompanied by a gruesome book of "The Punishments of China" (£600-800); there are numerous county maps of Britain by cartographers such as Blaeu, Morden and Saxton with Robert de Vaugondy's 1750 map of Ireland (£200-300) and John Hutchins' popular 1774 work entitled "The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset" (£400-500). With other volumes covering places as far apart as Switzerland, Ceylon and The Congo, the auctioneers expect international interest but attention will focus upon a rare 1599 volume of maps and accounts of travel by the Dutch merchant and historian Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563-1611) who secretly acquired Portuguese nautical charts and thus revealed the coveted trade routes to the prosperous markets of the East Indies. Van Linschoten travelled extensivley and one of the seven fascinating maps in the lot is a view of the world showing the imagined land of Magallanica, a vast unexplored continent joined to the southern tip of South America. This connoisseur's lot is expected to realise £15000-18000.
For the natural history enthusiast, there is Edward Donovan's "Natural History of British Insects" which contains 576 coloured plates published between 1792 and 1813. They are accompanied by illustrated books of shells and birds by the same author, with 880 colour plates in total (£3500-4500). Capt. W. V. Legge's "History of the Birds of Ceylon" contains 34 finely coloured lithographs and is expected to make £2000-3000. One of the most unusual items in the sale is a coloured lithograph from 1833, depicting "An Account of the Sheep-Eater of Hindustan". This wild looking native would attack sheep, picking them up with just his teeth, killing them with his bare hands and then eating every part of them raw. Major General's print of this curious chap is expected to make £20-30. For those with more conventional diets and who plan to eat roast turkey next week, twenty two signed Christmas cards from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth dating from 1938-1951 may appeal (£1000-2000). From the same title lady vendor come signed photographs of King Edward VII (£100-300), King George V and Queen Mary (£250-350) and other Royal photographs of the era.
From a huge selection of books, maps and manuscripts covering all areas from children's literature and atlases to heraldry and photographs, interest focused upon Charles Darwin in Lawrences's auction in Crewkerne last week. Coinciding with the bicentenary of his birth (he was born on February 12th 1809), the small letter, pasted into a book about the Darwin family, describes how the eminent naturalist and explorer was "tired to death with writing letters; half the fools throughout Europe write to ask me the stupidest questions" and made reference to another Charles Darwin who had died in Edinburgh from a wound received whilst dissecting in a laboratory. The letter, written in haste ("pray forgive this very untidy letter") but with a large and stylish signature, attracted national coverage on the BBC and radio as well as in national broadsheet newspapers before being contested to £4540 (see illustration).
There was keen interest, too, in Royal photographs. A fine image of George VI with Queen Elizabeth and their two daughters was offered with over twenty other photographs and greeting cards (all were signed): they made £1195 (see illustration). The whole collection of nine such lots made £3160.
Stepping aside from Darwin but keeping up the natural history theme, three consecutive lots of beautifully illustrated books sold well: Edward Donovan's "Natural History of British Insects" and other volumes took £3940; Donovan's "Epitome of of The Natural History of the Insects of China" of 1798 made £3940 aswell; and his similar book on the Insects of India was bought for £5370. Travel in general was in demand with Awnsham and John Churchill's "Collection of Voyages and Travels" containing 167 maps and printed in 1732 in six volumes making £4300 whilst John Harris's "Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca" of 1744-1748 offered 22 maps with 39 plates and plans for £3345. A trio of albums containing gouache views around Naples and other studies in England of subjects as varied as comic sketches and infantry exercises appealed for its diversity: it made £930.
An academic selection of volumes on ecclesiastical monuments, covering learned works on brass rubbings, effigial slabs, stained glass, church architecture and even palimpsests (ie the backs of monumental brasses) for buildings from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall came from the Somerset estate of the late John Coales, OBE, FSA (1931-2007). Coales was a founder of the Francis Coales Charitable Foundation, an institution that fostered support into research into churches built before 1875. Rose Sanguinetti, Lawrences' book specialist, sorted the library of over 1750 books and hundreds of pamphlets into 83 lots and the collection realised over £12,500
Closer still to home, John Hutchins's "History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset" in the third edition of 1861-1870 contained 127 plates and plans and had once belonged to the Rev. E. N. Henning of Sherborne in 1875. His receipts for the purchase of the book were tucked inside and this little glimpse of a local transcation in the book trade from over 130 ago appealed to collectors who bid the lot up to £1050.
Finally, January is not too early to buy Christmas cards. A collection of Victorian and Edwardian cards, including unseasonal themes such as flowers and pets as well as one cleverly engineered pop-up nativity scene, took £215.
The whole sale comprised 369 lots and just 15 lots remained unsold with bids from a full room as well as telephone interest from Continental Europe, America and elsewhere.