Year Ends on a Spectacular High at the Canterbury Auction Galleries

16/12/20

A flurry of bidding from international buyers saw sales end on a high and optimistic note to close another successful year at The Canterbury Auction Galleries.

The prize in the three-day November bonanza was a pair of 18th/19th century Italian "Grand Tour" bronze busts of the Roman Emperor Lucius Septimius Geta and his sister-in-law, Fulvia Plautilla from the Florence workshop of Pietro Cipriani (circa 1679-1745). Consigned from the home of a retired Kent antiques dealer they sold for £106,000.

Four telephone bidders competed for ownership of the busts, the hammer falling eventually after a lengthy contest to a buyer from a firm of international sculpture specialists. They had been estimated at £8,000-12,000.

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The dealer, who asked not to be named, had owned the busts for 25 years after purchasing them at a small provincial auction where they were on view on top of a wardrobe and catalogued as cast iron.

The life-sized busts had later dark green patination and were mounted on classical square incurved limestone bases, titled to the front. They measured 19.25ins and 18.5ins high respectively, 25.75ins and 25ins high including the pedestals.

Empress Plautilla (circa 185-212 BC) was the wife of Emperor Caracalla (188-217 BC), her paternal second cousin. The marriage was forced and unhappy. Co-emperor Geta (209-211) ruled alongside Caracalla until he was murdered by the Praetorian Guard, supposedly under orders from his brother, who also possibly ordered Plautilla’s subsequent execution.

Pietro Cipriani was one of the most gifted bronze sculptors in Florence. He made a number of pieces for the Earl of Macclesfield and assisted in casting figures for the Duke of Marlborough's collection at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. He is also noted for supplying plaster casts to Grand Tourists, including Horace Walpole.

Another highlight in the sale was the much-anticipated dispersal of paintings and studio pottery from the private collection of dealer-collector Michael Dickens, a leading authority on the work of Sir Stanley Spencer. Dickens died in March, aged 77. The collection raised a total of £18,890.

Dickens’ first career was in medical research, but after becoming an art dealer, he curated a number of exhibitions in London, New York and San Francisco, concentrating on paintings by Dorothy Hepworth (1894-1975), the lifelong companion and lover of Spencer’s second wife, Patricia Preece (1894-1966).

All of the Hepworth paintings in the collection were by her hand but many were either signed or inscribed by Preece, a deception that had fooled collectors and galleries for years. One Scottish buyer purchased seven of the 18 examples in the sale, most wanted being an early still life of a bowl and fruit on a table, an oil on panel 24.5ins x 33ins, which sold for £1,400 against an estimate of £300-500. It was purchased by a West Country buyer who was particularly active in this section of the sale.

The collection also included a number of pieces of studio pottery, among them five pieces by Quentin Bell (1910-1996), a figure of a blonde haired lady lying horizontal and apparently levitating beneath a multi-coloured coverlet. The piece had a painted mark and 8.75ins high, with wooden base and sold for £2,400 against an estimate of £600-800.

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Also found in Dickens home in Broadstairs were two 1920s leather Louis Vuitton cabin trunks now highly prized among collectors. More valuable of the two proved to be an example covered in the iconic “LV” patterned cloth with brass fittings, three clasps, leather carrying handles, centre leather strap and its original trade label "Louis Vuitton Paris 70 Champs Elysees and 149 New Bond Street, London W". It measured 24ins x 15ins x 20ins and sold to an Essex dealer after competitive bidding for £6,200.

A similar, smaller example, but covered in fawn coloured cotton cloth with removable interior tray and initialled “F.B.G.” measured 34ins x 20ins x 15ins and sold to a London interior designer for £2,300, both prices being multiples of their pre-sale estimates.

Despite being by appointment only during the current Covid restrictions, the saleroom’s free valuations mornings on Mondays and Fridays continue to uncover valuable antiques and works of art. Most noteworthy in this sale was an oil painting by the Australian artist Derwent Lees (1885-1931) titled "The Blue Mediterranean", an expansive and striking view of the blue sea and cloud formations. It sold on mid-estimate to a London gallery for £4,600.

The work, 10ins x 14ins in its original gilt moulded frame, was purchased in 1930 by Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill (1898-1956) cousin of Winston Churchill and the younger son of the 9th Duke of Marlborough and his first wife, the American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. From there it passed into the collection of Arthur Knyvett-Lee (1887-1974), founder and co-owner of the Redfern Gallery, the painting bearing his name and address on a label together with that of the Redfern Gallery 27 Old Bond Street, London, and thence by family descent.

A local regular client, meanwhile, consigned a watercolour by Thomas Matthews Rooke (1842-1942), who was Edward Burne-Jones' studio assistant from 1868-1898, and from 1879 also a designer for William Morris & Co. "The Last Judgment", a view heightened with body colour and touches of gold after Fra Angelico (1395-1455), depicted Paradise as the Garden of Eden with Seraph Angels leading souls of the righteous into the garden.

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Between 1879 and 1885, Rooke was employed by John Ruskin to record threatened landscapes and buildings in Italy. Fra Angelico's “Last Judgment” in tempera on panel was originally in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence, and it was probably during this period that Rooke drew inspiration for his watercolour.

Entered by the family of a Mrs Celia Rooke in a sale of Victorian, Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art at Christie's in London in 2018 but unsold, this time out it was purchased by a London collector for £4,300.

Collectors of vintage Rolex wristwatches continue to clamour for quality examples, as evidenced by the £10,500 hammer price of an 18 carat gold Oyster Perpetual "Day-Date" automatic chronometer dating from 1994. Offered in its original manufacturer's inner and outer box with full Rolex paperwork, the watch had a champagne dial with Roman baton numerals, separate day and date windows and an 18ct gold Rolex presidential bracelet. From a North Kent home, it sold to a buyer in Sheffield who prized it more than its £5,000-7,000 estimate.

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Private vendors of antique and pre-owned jewellery are drawn to the Canterbury sales by the attractive terms of zero commission on pieces that sell for more than £1,000. A case in point was a good sapphire ring, the cushion-cut natural Sri Lankan stone weighing a certificated 9.71cts surrounded in its platinum mount by approximately 1ct of brilliant-cut white diamonds. From another North Kent home, it sold to a local buyer on estimate for £5,000.

 

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Another from the same home was a quality opal ring, the rare black iridescent stone set in a platinum mount with 20 small diamonds. It sold to a Coventry buyer for £2,400, while a late 19th century French butterfly brooch, the wings made from cut panels of moonstone and garnet flanked by rose diamond-set borders, the reverse back inset with an oval sapphire, sold to a local private buyer for £2,000. Jewellery specialist and managing director Dave Parker described the galleried piece made to allow transparency of the gems as one of the best he had seen.

The brooch came from the same home as the Rooke watercolour already mentioned, as did a George III period silver two-handled cup and cover by Charles Wright, (London 1782, 19ozs), the domed cover with turned finial, the body engraved with bandings, lozenge and oval paterae and two vacant oval cartouches, flanked by cast silver twin serpent pattern handles and standing on a square footrim. It sold to a London buyer for an above estimate £1,250

Silver from the workshop of famed designer Georg Jensen (1866-1935) always attracts high prices among dealers and collectors. The business he founded in Copenhagen in 1904 continues today and a 20th century “Bernadotte” pattern table service for eight place settings was no exception. Comprising eight table forks, table spoons, dessert forks and a pair of servers, weighing 46ozs, it was complete with a further 12 table knives, cheese knife, butter knife, a pair of fruit servers, two similar forks and spoons and an oval napkin ring, the service from a local home sold to a London buyer for £2,600.

In ceramics, a Fulham Pottery stoneware tavern mug, circa 1730 but sadly undated, possibly from “Factory B”, was rare and, at eight inches high, unusually large. Sprigged in relief with a hunting scene, a coach and horses, rosettes, palm trees and cottages, the upper half with brown dip glaze, the mug came from a local deceased estate and was purchased by Surrey buyer for £1,250.

 

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Carefully curated entries in the furniture section continue to reward sellers. Notable this time was a good 17th century English oak refectory table with cleated four-plank top, plain apron with moulded border and six bulbous turned supports, purchased previously by its local owner from Elaine Phillips Antiques in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, a dealer noted for quality pieces. It sold to a buyer based in Monmouthshire for £3,500, while in contrast, a trio of George III mahogany hall chairs, the shield-shaped backs carved with carved twin eagle terminals hinting at American federal inspiration, sold for £3,000. Discovered during a valuation in a local home whose owners were downsizing, they were purchased by a London buyer against an estimate of £500-700.

Entries of good quality furniture, antiques, works of art, jewellery and collectors’ items are invited for the next two-day weekend fine art sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, which is on February 6-7, 2021. Free saleroom valuations can be arranged, either in person with an appointment or by email with good quality images. Valuations for probate purposes are done under strict safety conditions. For further information, please contact the saleroom, telephone 01277 763337 or general@tcag.co.uk.

 

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