Buyers and saleroom staff rise to the challenge of online-only business


With one determined collector outbidding seven dealers to pay £40,000 for a pair of vases she’d seen only in the auction catalogue, expect to see sales at The Canterbury Auction Galleries continuing online for the foreseeable future, according to chairman Tony Pratt.

 “Judging by the success of our two-day June sale, which was run by the auctioneer and a handful of socially distanced staff in the room, everyone else was either on their computers – one man was bidding from his car parked outside – or on the telephone,” he said. “This has become the new normal and such was its success, I can foresee us carrying on like this certainly for the foreseeable future and possibly until the end of the year.”

 The saleroom’s clients adapted readily to the online-only sale, which totalled £402,000 with 70% sold. More than 2,000 condition reports were provided, prompting requests for more than 10,000 additional images to those in the online catalogue supplied to potential bidders, 1,600 of whom registered to bid online. Online bidders purchased 348 lots, 30% via and 20% using the saleroom’s own free to use bidding platform The remainder of the sold lots went respectively to 58 telephone bidders and 169 commission bidders, both groups bidding on multiple lots. “

 “All these results are impressive in these extraordinary times,” said Tony Pratt.

 The fine pair of George III ormolu-mounted Blue John vases, among the most coveted objects designed by engineer and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), were the prize of the sale, with one Irish dealer offering to buy them ahead of the auction, which had been postponed from April.


It was hardly surprising. Designed cleverly with reversible covers to double as either candle holders or cassolettes – a vessel to hold perfume or incense – standing either 7.5ins or 8.5ins high with the candle sconces uppermost, they were decorated with ormolu acanthus swags and leaf-capped loop handles above ram's heads. From the East Kent home of a deceased London dealer, the vases were estimated at £15,000-25,000 and will join a distinguished local private collection against trade bidders in London, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands, the latter being the underbidder.

 “Both the owner and buyer were happy with the outcome,” Tony Pratt said. “As with all lots offered online and in the absence of being able to view lots in person, it is vital that auctioneers illustrate objects with sufficient images and prepare highly detailed condition reports that are honest and reliable. Several buyers congratulated us on what we provided and the service we offered ahead of the sale.”

 Similarly hotly contested was a 19th century cast iron circular garden table on three shaped griffin supports, the Coalbrookdale design attracting much internet attention. A Durham bidder was the eventual winner, paying £980 against an estimate of £100-150.

 Dominating the ceramics section of the sale and underlining the determination of Chinese buyers to secure pieces from antiquity, a Beijing buyer paid £15,500, a multiple of its estimate, for a rare Jian Ware ash-glazed tea bowl, made in Jianying in Fujian province in the 12th century Northern Song Dynasty.


 In his book “Hare's Fur, Tortoiseshell, and Partridge Feathers-Chinese Brown and Black Glazed Ceramics, 400-1400” (Harvard University Art Museum Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1996) author Robert D. Mowry writes: “Though treasured by Emperors, Jian ware was not an imperial ware per se, in that the kilns did not produce ceramics exclusively for the court, nor were they owned, operated, or supervised by the government. Because Jian tea bowls were prized at court, however, the kilns supplied tribute ware each year. Some rare bowls have characters reading jinzhan, or ‘presentation tea bowl', on their shallow bases.

 This was borne out by the two-character mark on the conical tea bowl, which had been consigned by a local owner. It had a reeded lip and a dark greyish body covered overall in an olive-black glaze falling short of the foot rim and thinning at the rim and measured 5ins (12.5cm) in diameter by 2.5ins (6.5cm) high.

 Nearer to home, an amusing and rare Minton majolica "Mouse" oval cheese dish and cover, circa 1876, sold on mid estimate for £6,000. From a London vendor, the cheese dish cover was decorated with ears of corn on a yellow ground, while a green-painted mouse standing to one side nibbles at his meal. The base had a further four creatures, three with their heads buried entirely in the cheese. Impressed with a Minton mark and date code for 1876, the dish measured 9.5ins x 8ins x 5ins high, and sold to an American buyer on the internet.

 Selected pieces of furniture sold remarkably well given the unavailability of presale viewing. Most wanted was an elaborately carved and highly decorative 19th century walnut armoire of “Renaissance” design, made or retailed by Pauly & Cie, Venice, which sold to a Surrey buyer for £9,200 against an estimate of £3,000-5,000.



Carved with ornate cresting depicting two Cupids astride a shaped cartouche flanked by putti astride dolphins, the armoire’s frieze was carved with lion masks and a moulded strap shell and leaf scroll frieze, the pair of panelled doors, carved with a lion's mask and ring, flanked by bearded male caryatids on scroll supports. The fitted single drawer at the base was carved with a chariot and putti and leaf scroll and shell ornament.

 In contrast, a striking modern octagonal table and set of eight matching dining chairs (6+2)) in exotic Zebrano wood by Shropshire maker Kevin Ley of Coppice Cottage, Knowlegate, Ludgate, also exceeded expectation to sell for £3,600. Both seller and buyer were delighted, the former generously donating the proceeds to the mental health charity Mind, the latter looking to furnish a new home in Surrey.

 Continuing the contemporary theme, a nest of three 1960s bent beech ply occasional tables, after a 1930s design by Marcel Breuer, each on four tapered supports, sold to a Gloucestershire telephone bidder for £1,450 against an estimate of £300-400. The tables had been consigned after the local vendor sent in photographs for appraisal. As lockdown restrictions ease, valuations in person and for probate purposes are now permitted by appointment.

 A good Edwardian “Sheraton” design satinwood, rosewood and marquetry bow-fronted side cabinet, the top and front inlaid in the neo classical manner with urns, crossed trophies, floral and ribbon swags and bold oval fan paterae, sold to a London buyer for £2,800 against an estimate of £1,200-1,600, while a traditional George III mahogany circular drum-top table with typical tooled leather central panel within a crossbanded border and four real and four dummy drawers around its circumference sold to another Gloucestershire telephone bidder for £2,500, the £500-700 guide price reflecting its faded condition.

 The most valuable painting in the sale was also consigned following a valuation day visit. James Bateman (1893-1959) was born in Kendal and specialised in depicting farms, farming and other agricultural scenes such as "The Sale Ring", a view of cattle auction in progress, an oil sketch signed in red "J. Bateman" and dated 1937(?) on a panel 7.25ins x 10.5ins. Acquired for 15 guineas from an exhibition of works from the collection of the late Sir Hugh Walpole, held at the Leicester Galleries, Leicester Square, London, in April , it sold to an internet bidder for £5,600, another multiple of its estimate.

 A view of Kensington Gardens on a cloudy day was initialled “PM” for Paul Maitland (1869-1909). A printed label dated November 1962 and inscribed in ink "Exhibition of Works by Paul Maitland (1869-1909) held at The Leicester Galleries", helped give the framed oil on panel, 4.25ins x 7.75ins, another day in the sun when it sold to a London buyer for £2,200.

 Irish-British horse racing commentator for the BBC Sir Peter O'Sullevan (1918-2015) was a personal friend of the Daily Express cartoonist Ronald “Carl” Giles (1916-1995) and an Ink and watercolour cartoon titled "O'Sullevan 3.0 Newbury", signed, 11ins x 18.25ins, the mount with personal inscription from artist "To Peter from GILES '84", was typical of his humour. Showing grandma sitting close to a television set watching the racing about to start through binoculars, it sold to a West Midland buyer for £2,600 against an estimate of £600-800.

 A collection of eight albums of photographs of football teams and individual players from the 1950s, many autographed, another valuation morning discovery, sold for £2,400, while more childhood memories were stirred by a good and large walnut rocking horse by top makers, Ashford-based  Stevenson Brothers, sent for sale following an email valuation and secured by a Yorkshire telephone bidder for £2,000. A copy of the original receipt of purchase showed it had cost £3,360.50 in 1994.

 Top-quality antique and modern jewellery continues to attract canny buyers and collectors and this online-only sale proved the point yet again. Top of the shop was a glittering late 19th century diamond hair ornament in 18ct gold and platinum, mounted with a floral spray and scroll pattern set with approximately 20 carats of old cut diamonds. Contained in its original red leather-covered fitted case and sold by top retailer S. J. Phillips, 113 New Bond Street, London, it came from a private East Kent home and sold to an internet bidder in Somerset for £17,400, almost twice its pre-sale high estimate.

From the same home was a lady's 18ct gold automatic wristwatch, in its original red cloth-covered box by the ever-popular Cartier, which sold for an above estimate £7,400, while a local collector paid £3,800 for a gentleman’s 18ct gold automatic wristwatch by Blancpain, the white dial with gold Roman numerals, black Arabic date numerals, and day, month and phases of the moon complications, both prices underlining lasting strength of the watch market.

 From the same home as the Blancpain was an emerald and diamond ring set with a rectangular-cut Columbian emerald, weighing approximate 2.7ct, flanked by baguette-cut diamonds, which sold for £3,600, a strong price for a Columbian stone, and an emerald and diamond bar brooch, by Cartier, the 18ct gold and platinum mount set with rectangular and square-cut emeralds, weighing approximately 3ct, flanked by round brilliant cut diamonds, weighing approximately 1ct, sold for £3,500. Both were purchased by a discerning American buyer of Cartier jewellery, bidding on the internet, who also paid £3,500 for an 18ct gold Cartier floral brooch with open wirework and rope mounts, scattered with diamonds and set with an articulated round brilliant-cut diamond with a total weight of 3ct, also in its original red leather box.

The next two-day weekend fine art sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries is on August 1-2. For further information, please call on 01227 763337 or email

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