A remarkable and extensive group of medieval tiles took some of the top prices in the dispersal of the Clem Wittenberg Collection of early English and Continental antiques and works of art at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on June 9.

The most valuable in the group was a rare 15th century panel of four encaustic tiles forming a circle, decorated in white slip with the name “Sir John Talbot” and the family crest of a white dog. They sold to a Warwickshire trade buyer for an above estimate £3,100.


 John Talbot, First Earl of Shrewsbury, circa 1394-1453, was a Commander during the Hundred Years War, who was present at Henry V's entry into Paris. For his skill as a military leader he was given the title of Earl of Shrewsbury in 1442 and was known as the "Achilles of England". He died in the battle during the Siege of Castillon in 1453.

The same buyer paid £1,800 for a panel of nine diamond-shaped tiles relief-decorated with human heads, some with animal headdresses, while a London buyer secured 16 18th century polychrome English delft tiles painted in blue, green and red with flowers in a vase. They dated from 1720-1740 and were mounted on a 20-inch square board.


 A set of six theatrical portrait English delft tiles alternating in puce and black, transfer-printed in Liverpool by Sadler & Green with named actors and the characters they played sold to a Worcestershire buyer for £1,000. They were mounted on a board measuring 15 by 10 inches.


 The 70-odd lots of tiles were a highlight of the collection of some 280 lots of Flemish, Dutch and English paintings; Tudor and later wood carvings; English and Dutch Delft; early furniture and metalwork; armour and rare collectors’ items created by Clem Wittenberg, 67, a former De Beers diamond valuer and housed in his historic timbered home in East Sussex.

 Mr Wittenberg retired in 2004 after 37 years with the company, during which time his duties as an appraiser and valuer of rough diamonds took him all around the world, presenting him with the opportunity to add further pieces to his collection, which he started as a child. The sale followed his decision to downsize.

 Most valuable single object in Mr Wittenberg’s collection proved to be a carved limewood figure of St. George and the Dragon, one of his favourite pieces, which sold for £7,000 to a local collector, while a stunning example of mid 17th century silk embroidered stumpwork, sold to a local private collector for an above estimate £4,100. The picture depicted two regal ladies surrounded by motifs including a deer and unicorn, lion and leopard, flowers and insects in an ebonised frame.


Among a small number of arms and armour was a charming pair of late 19th century miniature suits of armour in 15th centrury Gothic style, which sold to the London trade for £3,100, while a London book dealer paid £3,000 for a copy of John Carey’s “New Universal Atlas containing distinct maps of all principle States and Kingdoms throughout the World”.

 Rare in its complete form with 60 coloured double page engravings and in good condition fully bound in tooled calf, few such examples have come onto the market in recent times.


 Much presale interest sent the price of a good English shaft-and globe English wine bottle to £2,300, more than three times its estimate. The bottle dated from circa 1670 and it was secured in strong online bidding by a Cornish collector.


 Portraits with interesting historical connections were another feature of the sale. Most wanted depicted Sir Nicholas Conyngham Tindal (1776-1846) an eminent lawyer who served with Lord Brougham on the defence of Queen Caroline at her trial in the House of Lords in 1820.  By Thomas Phillips (1770-1845) the shoulder length oil on canvas, 30ins x 25ins, circa 1815, sold on top estimate for £2,500. It was purchased by an Essex buyer, bidding in the room.


 A 17th century English School full-length portrait of William III, an oil on canvas 32,5ins x 26ins sold to a London buyer for £1,550.

 A superbly carved pair of English oak portrait panels, the subjects with distinctive elongated necks, circa 1520-1540 went to the Kent specialist trade on estimate for £2,000, as did an early 16th century Netherlands oak carving of a bearded man on horseback with standing companion against a rocky background, probably from an altar piece. It sold for £1,800.


 In ceramics, a documentary late 16th century salt glazed stoneware bellarmine had a restored handle but nevertheless sold for £1,500 underlining its historical significance.


 The jug was dated 1594, and might have commemorated a partnership agreement made that year between a William Simpson and two merchants, Joos Croppenberch and William Brunyack, for the former to import of stoneware to the UK from Cologne between 1595 and 1597. It was purchased by a Warwickshire buyer.

 An even earlier survivor was an amusing pair of Hellenistic terracotta figures of dolphins, which dated from the late 3rd or early 2nd Century BC. Each six inches long and still retaining traces of blue paint, they attracted the attention of a buyer in California who secured them with an Internet bid on for £1,200. They had been estimated at £600-800.


 Entries of good quality antiques, fine art and collectors’ items are now being accepted for the next two-day sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, which is on August 2-3. For more information, please contact the auctioneers on 01227 763337.

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