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Lawrences’ Autumn picture auction offered over 200 lots and over 85% of the lots found buyers.
A charming 1908 watercolour by Carlton Alfred Smith, depicting a mother with her young daughter on her lap peeling an orange, made £3050. A fine late 16th Century portrait of a lady, by an artist working in the style of Robert Peake and dated 1591, came from a Somerset private collection and took £9500 whilst two 1770’s portraits of John Stafford and Barbara Tatton by Joseph Wright of Derby were bought for just over £20000. A superbly composed and atmospheric marine scene off Tynemouth by celebrated Yorkshire artist John Wilson Carmichael dated from the late 1850s and made £15860. Two exotic pictures by Georges Antoine Rochegrosse – one showing a diaphanously draped nude upon a bed, the other an elegant Oriental dancer – made £8780 and £6830 respectively. Each came from a Wiltshire lady who had brought them in to Lawrences during a Monday valuation morning, unaware of their commercial potential.
Not every good picture needs a frame – and not every good frame needs a picture: an impressively carved and gilded `Sansovino` picture frame from c.1600 doubled hopes to take £3530. The sale’s largest picture, measuring 5 feet by 7 ½ feet plus a substantial frame, was a Royal Academy picture from 1892 by Frank Richards and depicted a fisherman near Christchurch Priory. Consigned for sale by Shepton Mallet Town Council, it was reeled in by a London buyer for £26840 against an estimate of £18000-25000.
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A large selection of clocks, furniture and works of art at Lawrences in October showed strengths in the market at all levels and there were some remarkable prices amongst the hundreds of lots on offer.
A mahogany cased drop dial wall clock by James McCabbe of London ticked above its estimate to make £8780 and a Japanese wood clock print entitled `Night Rain at Teradomari` by Kawase Hasui made £3170. A fine pair of Spanish mirrors, formerly in the collection of Marshal of the Royal Air Force The Viscount Trenchard (1873-1956), dated from c.1770 and one had a scrap of newspaper from 1767 on the back. These made £5730. A less sophisticated but equally appealing oak chair, in the style of a distinctive `Glastonbury Chair` took £3900, and a big Howard and Son sofa (spotted by an eagle-eyed porter in a general sale consignment and transferred to the Furniture department) made £6220 against hopes of £1500, and a William and Mary laburnum oyster-veneered cabinet on stand reached its estimate to take £3660. Two 19th Century circular tables, one with radiating veneers and on lion paw feet, the other by Taprell Holland & Son with elaborate inlays of brass ivory and abalone, took £2920 and £10000 respectively.
'Blue and white' proved to be the order of the day at Lawrences’ recent auction of ceramics in Crewkerne but the most notable prices were paid for items made hundreds of years – and thousands of miles – apart.
The sale began with a selection of Decorative Arts. A rare jug by Clarice Cliff in the `Crocus` design from the Bizarre range exceeded hopes to take £1220 whilst a bronze vase by Gustav Gurschner decorated in a `Byzantine` style reached £2560. In keeping with many recent successes for Mouseman furniture at Lawrences, an oak wardrobe was bid to £3290.
A slipware bowl, probably 18th Century, decorated with a sinuous design that was at once traditional and modern, made £3780. However, more elaborately decorated pottery occupied the lion’s share of the auction: 900 pieces of English blue and white pottery from the collection of Somerset gentleman Anthony Pugh-Thomas were sorted into 300 lots. Top prices were paid for large platters in good condition: from the Spode `Indian Sporting Series`, two shaped octagonal platters took £3050; a John Ridgway `Giraffe` pattern platter reached appropriately high and took £1460; and `Deer in a Country Setting` from the `Domestic Cattle` series made £1580. All manner of domestic wares were represented: jugs, cheese stands, toilet boxes, coffee cans, tea bowls, pickle sets, baby feeders, mugs, comports and asparagus servers. The broad selection reflected the huge popularity of such items over a long period of production and prices started at as little as £35. In total, the collection realised just over £58000
Five lots of Chinese ceramics deserve special mention: a terracotta horse, probably Tang dynasty (618-907), leapt to £1220; a famille verte vase from the 18th Century made £3530; a pair of pale blue Hu vases with deer mask handles, made £3290. Appropriately enough, the two top prices in this section were both blue and white: a Ming style shallow bowl, painted with maidens gardening against a mountainous background, made £9760; whilst the sale’s best result was the triple estimate paid for a fine Ming vase from the reign of the 13th Emperor Wanli (1572-1620). Keenly contested by European and Chinese bidders, a prolonged tussle between those online and on the telephones resulted in a remarkable price of £80,000.
Lawrences’ recent jewellery auction in Crewkerne showed predictable strength for the enduring appeal of superb diamonds but a host of strong prices elsewhere reflected a solid consistency across the market. A striking Arts and Crafts silver openwork pendant by the husband and wife team of Arthur and Georgie Gaskin attracted many bids. The foliate design included a pearl, rock crystals and luminous green paste stones. Even the case was designed by the makers and this sense of completeness appeals to collectors in this market. It made £6580. Another pendant, set with a pale blue aquamarine of approximately 45 carats was set within a diamond border. It was supplied with its original screwdriver in the case enabling the pendant to be converted to a brooch. This was bought for £4880. A Victorian diamond brooch pendant was set with old brilliant-cut stones and just exceeded its estimate to make £6340. Although dependable favourites such as a three-stone diamond ring (2.5 carats approx) made £3530, it was a superb 2.04 carat solitaire with VS1 clarity that led the day: it was bought for £14640.
An encouraging eagerness amongst collectors to buy at Lawrences’ recent sale of silver and vertu ensured a string of high prices, in many cases confounding all reasonable expectations.
A massive iron bound oak chest, specially strengthened to withstand the rigours of a sea voyage to Australia in the 1860’s, contained over 360 ounces of silver. This comprised a full complement of additional tableware such as entree dishes and covers, salvers, a cake basket, decanter stand, candelabra and candlesticks. In addition, there were place settings for as many as two dozen diners in the attractive Queen’s Pattern design. Estimated at £3000-4000, this made £10730. A single ladle almost exceeded even this remarkable price: a 38cm (15in) soup ladle by George Moore of Limerick with a large fluted bowl and a hooked end to stop it slipping into the tureen dated from c.1770 and was chased by Irish collectors to £10000.
Elsewhere, Irish interest showed its strength again when a small (16cm/6in) pair of cast candlesticks by Joseph Walker of Dublin, made in 1696, met a blaze of bids to take £14640. It is possible that the strength of the Euro against Sterling encouraged more determined bidding. A small portrait miniature of Francis Skeete by the esteemed John Smart dated from 1778 and made £3900 whilst Australian interest helped once again to conclude the sale as eight gold sovereigns from Sydney, dated 1858-1865 in consecutive years, rolled to £9580 against hopes of £3000
Andy Sagar joins us as a General Valuer having recently migrated south (escaped) from the West Midlands. He obtained his degree in French Studies at the University of Birmingham in 2011 and then spent the next three years heading up the General Saleroom of a Birmingham-based auctioneers. He can now be found either on the road visiting clients or in the saleroom working alongside Neil in the furniture and ceramics department. Having spent some time living in Paris, Andy has a keen interest in French culture and history and will visit France as often as possible with his fiancée Nell – he says for research purposes, we believe it’s actually just for the food and wine. A motorsports enthusiast, Andy travels the country with friends following any racing series they can find. If, by chance, they find themselves in the pub afterwards...well, then, so be it.