Pick of the week

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

Now that March is here, it would be churl­ish not to in­clude this charm­ing 2¾in-high Bow porce­lain model of a hare scratch­ing its ear, which dates from about 1760. De­spite a lit­tle restora­tion on the ears, it sold for £5,308 at Woolley & Wal­lis of Sal­is­bury at the end of last month.

more than the First World War was to end all wars.

The two stead­fast nurses were in­deed re­mem­bered in Hong Kong and their graves are still tended, al­though the stained­glass win­dow erected to hon­our them in St John’s Cathe­dral was de­stroyed dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Sis­ter Frances’s Plague Medal

(Fig 1), one of only about 40 struck in gold, was sold for £24,780 last month by Cather­ine Southon in her auc­tion at the Far­leigh Court Golf Club, Sur­rey. It had de­scended in the fam­ily of her sis­ter. Es­ti­mated to £8,000, it pro­voked quite a bid­ding bat­tle, so the Sis­ters are not yet for­got­ten.

Where, one won­ders, is Sis­ter Gertrude’s medal?

A more dra­matic es­ti­mate up­set came in a Fe­bru­ary sale at Fel­lows in Edg­bas­ton, when a large Chi­nese porce­lain wu-cai, or five-colour, bowl painted with golden carp, lo­tus blos­soms and grasses (Fig 2) es­ti­mated to £1,800 made the largest price in the firm’s 141-year his­tory.

The num­ber five was aus­pi­cious and this enamel dec­o­ra­tion was de­vel­oped par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the reign of Ji­a­jing (1522– 66), but the cat­a­loguers of­fered no sug­ges­tion as to date, other than that the base had ‘a borderless six-char­ac­ter mark (pseu­doJi­a­jing)’. They were aware of prece­dents for a high prices, but felt that this bowl, con­signed through a Chi­nese client, was a lit­tle less so­phis­ti­cated.

How­ever, the views were well at­tended and many bid­ders then came to the sale in person, in­clud­ing a col­lec­tor from Ja­pan, with many more on­line and on the tele­phone. Bid­ding started at £1,000 and fin­ished at £810,000 ham­mer—£913,200 in to­tal— go­ing to a Chi­nese tele­phone bid­der.

A lot in a Colch­ester sale held by Ree­man Dan­sie took me back more than 30 years to when we were fur­nish­ing a kitchen. We could not af­ford a cus­tomde­signed one, even if we had wanted it, pre­fer­ring an old farm­house look. We achieved it by search­ing coun­try and other sales and an­tique shops and adapt­ing or can­ni­bal­is­ing dam­aged pieces. In this way, we cre­ated a quite suc­cess­ful dresser.

In those days, stripped pine was all the fash­ion, even if the wood had never been in­tended to be seen, and we prob­a­bly could not have af­forded this very hand­some early-19th-cen­tury oak high dresser (Fig 3). Now, how­ever, £843 seems re­ally rather a rea­son­able price, es­pe­cially as it was ‘in good con­di­tion, com­men­su­rate with age’.

An­other lot in this sale was an illustration of hubris. It was a 10in by 187∕8in water­colour by James Danby (1816–75), son of the bet­ter-known Fran­cis, show­ing the cel­e­bra­tions for the com­ing of age of the Mar­quess of Chan­dos at Stowe in 1844

(Fig 4). Only four years later, thanks to the Mar­quess’s fa­ther, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Chan­dos, known as ‘the Great­est Debtor in the World’, most of the land and many of the con­tents of the house had been sold and Stowe’s great gar­dens had to be main­tained by a staff of four rather than 40. The £3,100 achieved by this water­colour might have been handy.

Next week CADA at the Palace

Fig 4: The cel­e­bra­tions for the com­ing of age of the Mar­quess of Chan­dos at Stowe in 1844 painted by James Danby. £3,100

Fig 3: Early-19th-cen­tury oak high dresser. £843

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