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A wide variety of pictures and prints in Lawrences’ recent auction in Crewkerne ensured that there was something for almost every collector, but a plastic elephant from a local garden shed attracted more bids than almost any other lot.
The 32cm (13”) high moulded grey plastic elephant was designed by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi in 1973 and was used for marketing a Scottish flooring company. Three thousand were made and number 420 was given by a flooring salesman to Lawrences’ consignor. “He had kept it in his shed for 43 years so the elephant needed a gentle clean but it was otherwise in remarkably good condition,” says Lawrences’ specialist, Richard Kay. “It has a linear, semi-abstract outline so may not be immediately recognizable to many but its design exemplifies the best and most irreverent `Pop Art` styles of the era.” Estimated at £500-800, this plastic pachyderm plodded purposefully to just over £900.
Other highlights included a charming portrait from the late 17th Century in the style of Gerard Soest that made £6460; a grandly monumental watercolour by Douglas Percy Bliss of a Scottish quarry, c.1936 (£3170), a watercolour by John Nash that doubled its estimate, despite some fading £6220; two evocative watercolours of Paris streets by Edouard Cortes that made a total of £7560; and a 2006 landscape entitled `Clouds and Mist` by Geoffrey Key that made £4390.
There were lots made in America, Germany, France, China and India but it took a tiny carved wooden Yorkshire mouse to command some of the biggest prices in Lawrences’ recent Decorative Arts auction. Nine lots of highly distinctive furniture by Robert `Mouseman` Thompson of Kilburn in Yorkshire attracted keen bids and, unusually, there were larger items on offer instead of the more commonly found ashtrays and cheeseboards. All pieces are carved with an integral wood `mouse` signature: two stools made £210 and £310 but scarcer items such as bookcases (£3230 for two), a smoking chair (£1520) and a headboard for a bed (£200) were eclipsed by a reading chair with book rest (£4880) and two wardrobes (£10,600 for the two). In addition, a rare `Aquarium` lighter by Dunhill made ten times expectations at £5490 and 27 items of tangerine coloured Whitefriars glass from a private collection realised £3020. A Tiffany Favrile floriform glass vase blossomed to £3050.
Top prices within European ceramics and glass included £730 for a Worcester bowl c.1755 with floral decoration, £8290 for a 24-piece Meissen part tea service and £1280 for a Baccarat paperweight from 1848. Strong prices for Oriental wares included £4390 for a pair of Chinese famille rose cases and covers and £1460 for a fine Pahari (Indian) school watercolour of `Parvati riding Nandi`, c.1820, that attracted bids from collectors in India.
Gemstones of all shapes and sizes are to be found in Lawrences’ popular jewellery auctions in Crewkerne. Although diamonds regularly attract the keenest interest, bids at the firm’s last sale showed strength across the market and there were plenty of strong results.
Amber is undergoing a surge in popularity and a necklace of graduated beads made £1830, whilst a Victorian moonstone winged cherub brooch surprised many by going over estimate to take £3290 after keen bidding. Natural pearls continue to be in great demand and a single row of 91 graduated pearls made £5000 with three bidders interested over £3000. Opals can make good price, too, and an opal and diamond cluster ring made £4880 whilst a finely preserved Austro-Hungarian `Renaissance Revival` cased set of emerald and silver jewellery made £950 after a prolonged exchange of bids with an online buyer. Amongst the highest prices of the day was the £6830 paid for a Victorian diamond brooch pendant formed of new fewer than 27 old brilliant-cut diamonds in an intricate symmetrical pattern.
From the usual huge assortment of silver and vertu at Lawrences on July 12th – ranging from fans and flatware to salvers and snuff boxes – there were plenty of strong prices to suggest that bidders are especially keen on anything that catches the eye as unusual or distinctive. Good quality lots of flatware and cutlery sold reassuringly, reflecting the upswing in the price of silver in recent weeks: 94 pieces of King’s pattern cutlery from Glasgow, 1819/20, made £4880, double the estimate. A single Charles I seal top spoon from c.1630 had a West Country finial and made £670.
Elsewhere, a pair of Irish goblets from Dublin, 1814 exceeded hopes to make £1520 and an Art Deco electroplated cocktail shaker raised some good cheer at £390. A pair of Victorian `hob and nob` beakers that join to form a barrel were beautifully made and doubled hopes to take £1000 whilst a substantial double-lipped sauce boat by John Swift (1736) made £2190. Paul Storr’s legendary status as the finest silversmith of his generation ensured that a simple butter shell from 1824 (sold with another by Matthew Boulton) was bought for £1700. A fine quality `castletop` card case by Nasmyth and Co of Edinburgh made £2680, a rare Staffordshire enamel nutmeg grater added spice to the sale at £2560 and a Spanish portrait miniature led a collection of miniatures from a local vendor to take £4270.