Pick of the week

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

John Everett Mil­lais was a su­perb pen-and-ink draughts­man and early ex­am­ples, of­ten on such so­cial themes as ‘May and De­cem­ber’, are un­sur­pris­ingly ex­pen­sive. It might rea­son­ably have been thought that a 9in by 7¼in Sky Stars: Ar­chi­tec­tural De­sign for Win­dow (1853) (right) would have less ap­peal and John Nicholson of Fern­hurst, Sus­sex, es­ti­mated it ac­cord­ingly at up to £3,000. In the event, qual­ity, the name and a cer­tain Blakean whimsy pushed the price to £12,400. A full-sized ver­sion made £150 at Sotheby’s Bel­gravia in the 1970s.

The Nicholson sale also in­cluded a pair of wa­ter­colours of Ice­landic sub­jects by Ni­cholas Po­co­cok (1740–1821) at £5,208. An­other charm­ing late-18th-cen­tury English wa­ter­colour, at £1,984, was a study of the heads of three daugh­ters of the Duke of Marl­bor­ough, the Ladies Clan­carty and Lans­down and Mary Neville, dated 1792, by Richard Cosway. It was like a Row­land­son with no hint of car­i­ca­ture.

in real terms per­haps not so far from the £65,000 now be­ing asked for what could very well be the same piece of fur­ni­ture in W. R. Har­vey’s au­tumn ex­hi­bi­tion in Wit­ney from Satur­day to Novem­ber 20 (Figs 1 and 2).

The dealer has han­dled the piece twice be­fore and re­grets that, on each oc­ca­sion, it sold too quickly for him to re­search it fully. The de­sign was pub­lished by Hep­ple­white’s widow in 1786 and by

an­other cab­i­net-maker, Thomas Shearer, in 1788, both some years af­ter the news­pa­per de­scrip­tion, so one of them could have been that un­for­tu­nate up­hol­sterer.

The de­sign re­mained pop­u­lar for decades af­ter­wards and it was a heav­ier vari­ant, com­bin­ing a chest of draw­ers, at­trib­uted to Gil­lows, of about 1820, that I il­lus­trated here in 1997.

So far, the au­tumn fairs in Lon­don have been modest suc­cesses for ex­hibitors, with few if any ma­jor ex­cite­ments. Those fairs have all been at the up­per end of the mar­ket and, at the time of writ­ing, I can­not yet re­port on the new TEFAF ven­ture in New York. How­ever, re­ports from the Esher Fair, from Oc­to­ber 7 to 9, in­di­cate that the mid­dle mar­ket is ben­e­fit­ing from the col­lapse of ster­ling.

Among the over­seas vis­i­tors tak­ing ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion were four fu­neral di­rec­tors from Ocean City, Mary­land, USA, on a two-week an­tiques-buy­ing spree. Chi­nese ce­ram­ics, Cham­pagne glasses, clocks, 19th-cen­tury and con­tem­po­rary sculp­ture, jew­ellery, sil­ver and books are all said to have sold well.

Fur­ther­more, there was in­ter­est in such fur­ni­ture as a late-17thor early-18th-cen­tury walnut and in­laid chest of draw­ers sold by Melody An­tiques at £6,950 (Fig 3).

For some time now, Swann Auc­tion Gal­leries in New York has been po­si­tion­ing it­self to take ad­van­tage of the aban­don­ment by Lon­don auc­tion­eers of mid­dle and lower fields of col­lect­ing in­ter­est. I will look at its Oc­to­ber 27 vin­tage-poster sale in a later col­umn; in the mean­time, the late-septem­ber Illustration Art sale had sev­eral re­sults of in­ter­est to Bri­tish buy­ers and sell­ers.

A 3in by 3¼in pen-and-blackink draw­ing of stylised roses by Aubrey Beard­s­ley, the most elab­o­rate of a small group of dec­o­ra­tions for his Le Morte d’arthur (1893–4), reached $12,500 (£10,220) (Fig 5) and a sim­i­lar clema­tis de­sign made $9,375 (£7,664). There was also a book-trade car­toon by Ron­ald Searle, Spine De­fec­tive, at $5,500 (£4,497), and an 11½in by 8½in ink-and-wash de­sign for the end boards and spine of Rud­yard Ki­pling’s A Song of the English (1909) by Heath Robin­son, sold for $3,000 (£2,452) (Fig 4).

At $52,500 (£42,923), the most ex­pen­sive lot was Ge­orges Lepape’s de­sign, Le Miroir, for a 1927 Vogue cover.

The Ste­ward’s Tale

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