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Country House Fine Art & Library Auction Review

Posted on 23/10/2019 in Press Coverage

Adrian Rathbone, Associate Director and Head of Fine Art looks back at the highlights from the October Country House & Library Auction held onsite at Bishton Hall, Staffordshire from the 9th to 11th October. Note, all figures quoted exclude the 20% plus VAT buyer’s premium and any additional online bidding fees.

The October Fine Art & Library Auction held at Grade II listed Bishton Hall was a resounding success all round. The auction held over three days encapsulated the country house aesthetic with items on offer ranging from desirable ceramics, the Finnikin vesta collection, selected paintings, works of art and rare and desirable books.

Day one, included the Connoisseur Ceramics section. This included European and Asian Ceramics and works of art. It was the Asian ceramics that ruled the day with two notable highlights. Lot 169, a large pair of 19th Century celadon twin handled vases with slip ware decoration had been sourced from a private client based in Sheffield. In excellent and un-restored condition, the pair were contested to £3,400 by the Chinese trade. Lot 162, a high quality pair of Japanese square section satsuma vases with detailed decoration of figures in landscapes, I had found in a property in Warwickshire. Estimated at £1,000-1,500, one had a few chips but this did not deter buyers who recognised the sheer quality. The sold for £4,200.

I was proud to have been assigned to market the Finnikin Collection of vesta cases. These had been collected over a number of years by the great late Mick Finnikin of Ashbourne. Most were silver and there were a number of novelty and hunting related examples by Mordan & Co. The collection totalled just under £10,000 and the highest single price was for my personal favourite, Lot 328, an unusual early 20th Century 18ct gold vesta case with a rebus design of four vices – women, champagne, gambling and horse racing. It sold for £1,300.

Day two provided the real excitement and the highest single grossing Lots in the auction. Paintings had been carefully selected taking into account provenance, quality and a broad range of works from the 17th to 20th Century. Lot 1020, an excellent example of a watercolour by the celebrated St Ives artist Walter Langley (1852-1922) had been found on a home visit in Uttoxeter. It had not official title so I decided to call it simply ‘Waiting for the Boats’ and showed a pretty young lady looking out to sea with an elderly lady at her side. Carrying immense charm, Walter Langley collectors agreed it was a formidable example. It sold at the higher estimate of £10,500.

Discovered at a property a few miles from Bishton Hall was Lot 1089. A facial study in pencil and coloured pastels on paper of a classical male was a preparatory study for the Sorbonne fresco by French artist Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929). Four phone bidders battled against a room bidder with the gavel falling to the previous for £17,000.

Lot 1051 provided the second highest single price Lot of the auction. Discovered in a Staffordshire property, it was an oil on panel by the celebrated Flemish marine artist Bonaventura Peeters (1614-1652). Showing a Dutch Man o War and other sailing vessels of a coastal town had B.P initials lower right. Three phone bidders took it to £19,000.

Highlights from the 20th Century included two signed prints by Lowry which are enjoying a high at present. Lot 1211, Market Scene in a Northern Town sold for £4,400.

The Library section overseen by Jim Spencer provided Lot 1147, the much publicised first edition hardback of J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. Complete with characteristic errors and being a first impression, the volume, (one of only 500) was in remarkable condition. Sourced from a UK private client and appearing on BBC Breakfast News the day before carried a £25,000-30,000 estimate. With worldwide pre-sale interest and seven telephone bidders, after a lengthy battle it sold to an anonymous UK phone bidder for £46,000.

Day three included privately sourced clocks and antique furniture. Lot 2083, a 19th Century Chinese export black Japanned cabinet on base found favour with buyers wanting a taste of the orient. With extensive scenes of figures of leisure in landscapes, it sold to a private buyer for £1,000.

We are now inviting entries for our 11th to 13th December Country House Fine Art & Library Auction at Bishton Hall. For further information, please contact Adrian Rathbone on 01889 358050 or email [email protected] Free and confidential home visits can be arranged for large/multiple items, estate clearance and downsizing advice.