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The variety of lots in Lawrences’ recent sale of books and manuscripts was remarkable and spanned five centuries. The Crewkerne auctioneers reported very keen interest in the whole auction and bidders in the room competed with telephone bidders and internet interest to yield some very strong prices from the 400 lots on offer.
Early highlights included £3820 paid for Henry Meyer’s `Illustrations of British Birds` in four volumes, illustrated throughout with 320 hand-coloured lithographs; £1430 for 20 volumes of the `Illustrated London News`, spanning over half a century from 1843-1898; £980 for a mid-17th Century edition of Aesop’s Fables; £810 for Seigfried Sassoon’s `Memoirs of an Infantry Officer`; and £740 for a copy of the scarce and controversially lewd 1908 copy of `Amphora` by the legendary occultist Aleister Crowley. Distinguished volumes by the 17th Century diarist and writer John Evelyn included his `Numismata` (£3340) and `Dendrologia` (£1970). Sir Walter Raleigh’s `The Marrow of Historie`, also formerly in Evelyn’s library, was bid to £1490.
A fascinating archive from the family of Robert Loraine (1876-1935) attracted some very determined bidding. Loraine was an actor in London and on Broadway and a successful actor-manager. He was noted for his performances in major roles by Shakespeare, Strindberg and G. B. Shaw but was also a pioneering early aviator, being the first man to cross the Irish Sea in an aircraft, amongst other exploits. So varied were his interests and abilities that his archive comprised a captured Boer War flag (£1370), a captured Mauser `broomhandle` shoulder stock (£810), his compass used in the flight across the Irish Sea (£1550, image 2401), a captured rudder control for a German Albatross combat aircraft (£2620), a pair of German binoculars from an airplane shot down by Loraine in 1915 (£1190) and numerous other effects. The archive, offered as 35 lots, totalled £26,500.
Three other lots of foreign content deserve special mention: an album compiled by Winifred Warneford of drawings, portrait photographs and cuttings relating to Rorke’s Drift and life in the Cape in 1872-1900 made £5730; and James Prinsep’s album of `Benares Illustrated` containing lithographs of India (1833) took £2620. An exceptional rare album of 68 albumen photographs of China and Japan, compiled by Capt Roderick Dew, RN (1823-1869) and composed of images acquired by him from the celebrated photographer Felice Beato lead the day. The views included panoramas and town scenes in China and Japan, views of the Emperor’s Palace and the Summer Palace in Peking, scenes in Hong Kong and architectural subjects of historical significance. Against keen competition from British and Oriental specialist dealers, the album was secured by a buyer in China, bidding by telephone, who was keen enough to exceed the firm’s estimate of £50000-70000 to buy the lot for £173,000. The day’s total was just a little shy of £300,000
Lawrences’ recent three-day Winter Fine Art Auction concluded with a day of sales devoted to pictures, works of art, furniture and carpets.
Highlights in the picture section included £4750 paid for a collection of superb architectural etchings by Sir Henry Rushbury; £8360 for a decorative 16th Century portrait of an unknown lady by a painter working in the style of the elusive `Master of the Countess of Warwick`; 13740 for an intriguingly grubby portrait of Admiral Sir George Anson, known to be a copy of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ lost original of c.1755; £8600 for a small but atmospheric study of fisherfolk on a beach at twilight by William Wyllie; and £10000 for a bracing seascape by Victorian artist David James. The top price was a remarkable record-breaking £32260 for an energetic watercolour by Charles Napier Hemy. This proved to be a study for his notable Royal Academy exhibit of 1903 entitled `Youth` and its brilliant depiction of the exhilaration of sailing in a fresh wind attracted a dozen telephone bidders. It had been consigned to the saleroom within a box of sundry pictures of relatively little value and was in a white wooden frame so that it looked like a mere print.
In the afternoon, £3820 was paid for an ebonised mantel clock; £8600 for a fine mahogany longcase clock by Eardley Norton of London; £1430 for a Cantonese red and white ivory chess set; and £6090 for a pair of Viennese Bergmann cold painted bronze figures of Arab singers. Furniture performed solidly and with signs of reassuring strength returning to the much-maligned market for Victorian mahogany pieces. A good mahogany breakfront library bookcase doubled expectations to make £3940; a George IV mahogany drum table also tripled its estimate to make £5130; and an ingenious expanding circular mahogany dining table of a type designed by Robert Jupe took £6810 against an estimate of £1000-1500.
The day finished with a selection of carpets: a Ziegler pattern carpet made £2390, a Meshed carpet was bid to £2270; and a Ushak carpet in somewhat worn condition confounded expectations of £400-500 to take £2390. Lawrences reported a total for the week of sales of just over £1million
Collectors love a little luxury, it seems, and there was plenty on offer in Lawrences’ recent auctions of jewellery and ceramics.
A busy day of 700 lots began with keen bidding on mixed lots of jewellery and very competitive interest in the gold lots on offer. Very little was unsold and there was strong representation from absent bidders who were participating via the internet. A heavily-laden charm bracelet festooned with gold coins of British and Continental origin made £4180; a handsome Rolex `Automatic Royal Oak` wristwatch made £3220; and a string of 101 graduated natural pearls on a diamond clasp made £2740.
Four exquisite highlights rounded off the selection: a large art nouveau enamel and moonstone pendant with a butterfly-wing design fluttered up to £2390; an enamel bangle set with diamonds and pearls took a similar sum; whilst a cased Georgian set of garnet and gold jewels made £5370; a an Art Deco jade and diamond ring was bought for £7170; and a ruby and diamond sunburst brooch was bought for £4780.
Following on from these successes was a good selection of ceramics and glass. A single engraved wine glass with a coloured twist stem made £3220; a small goblet took £2620 and a small green glass wine bottle from 1755 was bought for a remarkable £4420. Amongst some strong prices for porcelain, top honours included £1430 for a Chamberlain Worcester `ornithological` chocolate cup and cover on stand; £4180 for a Sevres tea cup and saucer from 1761; £5130 for a Sevres coffee can and saucer from 1763; and £9080 for a rare St Petersburg coffee cup, cover and saucer. A sensuous and delicately painted Berlin plaque of `Psyche at the Sea` after a design by Wilhelm Kray particularly appealed to those seeking quality, elegance and fine craftsmanship and it was bought for a sale-topping £10,630.
Amongst the 600 lots of silver on offer at Lawrences on January 14th, top prices were paid for exquisite craftsmanhip and, it seemed, the smaller the better.
The firm’s silver sales are remarkable for the variety of what is on offer, so unusual novelties such as the Victorian cased breakfast set for the elegant traveller (butter dish, toast rack, condiment set) (£500), a 19th Century Chinese mug with a fierce dragon handle (£2030), a bell-shaped electroplated ear trumpet (£570), a rare silver saucepan made in the midst of the Second World War when such luxuries were almost unattainable (£470), and a small cast decanter label in the form of a four leaf clover (£1550) drew in eager bidders and there was considerable activity from buyers online throughout the sale.
A small but rare provincial beaker made by Joshua Geldart in York in 1650 doubled its estimate to make £3700, despite splits to the rim. A fine pair of 9-inch silvergilt candlesticks proved to be of truly `exhibition quality` as the makers are recorded as showing an identically described pair at London’s Great Exhibition in 1851. These made £9080. However, five lots of vertu towards the day’s end proved to be particularly popular. A Victorian novelty vinaigrette in the form of a quiver of arrows hit its target at £1300; a Victorian bronze seal in the form of an Officer of the 2nd Life Guards stood to attention at £1550; and a porcelain pipe bowl in the form of a Turk’s head was smoked out at £3700. This had been spotted by one of the firm’s valuers as it lay unnoticed in a box of assorted effects in the general saleroom so its discovery was a very pleasing surprise for the owner. A scent bottle and vinaigrette combined in the unusual form of the Eddystone lighthouse was a delight for collectors who were drawn towards it with enthusiasm. That is not quite what lighthouses are supposed to do, of course, but this little (3.5-inch) novelty from 1873 lit up the sale at £6090. Finally, a very unusual sportsman’s butt marker in the form of a tubular sleeve with numbered apertures for coloured beads dated from 1914 and shot to £5730.