Mourning jewellery, Valentines, greetings cards and ephemera amassed by highly regarded collector Judith Howard sparked a ‘phenomenal’ white glove sale at Hansons Auctioneers.
All 211 items in The Judith Howard Collection sold on September 27 – and frenzied bidding saw several objects smash their estimates to smithereens. The total hammer price achieved was £66,194.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “This was a phenomenal result and I’m delighted for all concerned. Jim Spencer, our works on paper specialist who managed the sale, worked into the night to catalogue the cards and ephemera with great attention to detail.
“Love, romance and the art of mourning dominated this wonderfully eclectic mix of items and it was an honour to sell it at our new country house auction venue in Staffordshire, Bishton Hall.”
The top lot, 89, two late Georgian handmade cut-out Valentines, one with the words, ‘If you refuse to be my wife, your will bereive me of my life, pale death at last must stand my friend, and turn my sorrows at an end,’ sold for a hammer price of £4,000 from an estimate of £200-£300.
Romance powered other strong results such as Lot 103. A 'Flowers of Fortune', early-Victorian handmade fortune-telling Valentine, circa 1840, and a handmade wheel of fortune Valentine game, sold for £1,400 from an estimate of £60-£100.
The wheel of fortune, spun from a silk cord, was filled with descriptions of the man or woman you would meet. Messages included, 'A wealthy farmer you shall wed, although a grumbler it is said' or 'Be careful or you'll be left in the dirt, for the girl you love is a terrible flirt'.
Lot 84 also exceeded expectations. A Regency period handmade Valentine in the form of a rebus, a puzzle with words represented by pictures, sold for £1,100 from an estimate of £200-£300.
Another rare lot to shine was 164, a set of hand-coloured lithographic sheet of outfit designs, circa 1860, from Dolly’s Dressmaker, London, together with an Edwardian children’s dressing-up fashion game, stamped to ‘Emma S. Windsor, Kindergarten, Toy & Crawling Rug Depot, South Kensington’. It sold for £2,700 from an estimate of £40-£60.
Jim Spencer, Hansons’ associate director, said: “Many of the items were incredibly rare if not unique. Judith Howard had a discerning eye for unusual objects with a rich historical pedigree.
“Some smashed their estimates by considerable amounts but they were unique. Out of the several thousand cards and little bits of paper in boxes, I pulled these out and put them on their own with a great essay of a description. They were speculative, and I thought might do well. I catalogued very carefully, lots of tiny groupings, so there was no chance of anything going under the radar.”
More than 70 examples of mourning jewellery also soared to success. Lot 7, a late 18th century gold enamel and diamond navette-shape sentimental ring featuring a miniature of a lady in a pink dress, sold for £3,600 from an estimate of £300-£400.
Lot 51, an 18th/19th century gold oval mourning brooch/pendant made £2,100 from an estimate of £300-£400, and Lot 1, an early 18th century gold memento mori mourning ring, engraved with a skull and inscribed to ‘S.S Aug 9,1712, sold for £1,800 from £600-£800.
Isabel Murtough, Hansons jewellery valuer, said: “What I loved about Judith Howard’s mourning jewellery was not just the sentimentality of it, the fact that a family member would wear it forever to honour a loved one, but the way it allowed us to connect with history, social status, family wealth and health.
“I know Judith’s family were delighted with the result. The fact that her lifetime’s collection was so sought after, with countless advance and phone bids, paid tribute to her impeccable taste.”
Antiques expert Eric Knowles, who provided the foreward for Hansons’ Judith Howard Collection catalogue, described it as a sale ‘the likes of which we are unlikely to ever see again’.
Mr Spencer added: “Following on from the great success of Hansons’ Harold and Mary Wilson Auction earlier this year, we’re developing a fine track record for achieving exceptional results for important private collection sales. I’m very proud to play my part.”
The late Judith Howard worked in the textiles and ceramics departments at London’s V&A. Her captivation with mourning jewellery and ephemera was in part inspired by two family business, a stationery supplier and monumental stonemasons.
The Judith Howard Collection Auction took place at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire, on September 27.