Of war, roar and fore

Roger Field com­piles a sub­lime as­sem­blage of the lat­est lots to sell at auc­tion, in­clud­ing a Colt .45 pis­tol from the Bat­tle of the Lit­tle Bighorn

The Field - - UNDER THE HAMMER - A Du­cati 996SPS “FR2” (top right) sold for £16,500 while a barn-find con­di­tion 1949 Vin­cent HRD 998CC White Shadow (right) rock­eted through its £60,000 top es­ti­mate to clock £145,000

on 5 April, 25 Blythe Road Auc­tions in Lon­don’s W14 took sneaky mar­ket­ing to a new level when it in­vited dogs and their own­ers to a spe­cial break­fast view­ing of “Prop­erty from a pri­vate Lon­don club”; in­fu­ri­at­ingly, they refuse to di­vulge which club. The re­sult was that 15 pooches of var­i­ous pedi­grees ar­rived to sam­ple dog treats from Pet Pav­il­ion while their walk­ers snaf­fled “vi­en­nois­eries” (what­ever they might be when they are at home) and checked out the sporty art as their ca­nines duly sniffed bot­toms and eye-balled each other. De­spite there be­ing a fine se­lec­tion of dachshunds, labradors, mul­ti­ple ter­ri­ers and, even, an Aus­tralian cat­tle dog in close prox­im­ity, war­fare did not break out. The re­sult, from the auc­tion­eer’s point of view, was a tri­umph as var­i­ous own­ers – not dogs – left ab­sen­tee bids and most lots were sold. Per­haps the Westies present in­sisted that their own­ers bid for the four Sir Ed­ward Land­seer en­grav­ings – one print com­plete with a cute-look­ing West High­land White – be­cause on the day a bark­ing con­test broke out and this lot dou­bled its top £300 es­ti­mate to sell for £600.

We Brits may love our dogs but we re­vere our horses, as a splen­did 18th-cen­tury oil paint­ing of The Godol­phin Ara­bian by Daniel Quigley, in an im­pres­sive 3ft x 4ft gilt frame, demon­strated when Bon­hams sold some of Lord Har­lech’s prop­erty at Glyn Cy­warch in north Wales on 29 March; the money raised go­ing back into re­pair­ing the house. This steed was said to have been given by the Bey of Tu­nis to King Louis XV of France in 1730 be­fore be­ing ac­quired and put to stud by Sir Ed­ward Coke at Long­ford, Der­byshire. Even though it was, even back when it was painted, a copy of an al­ready fa­mous paint­ing and per­haps not the most tech­ni­cally re­fined, it cer­tainly holds its own and once held pride of place in Lord Har­lech’s din­ing room. The paint­ing is un­usual in that it is heav­ily in­scribed on both sides and at the bot­tom. The left-hand side reads: “ES­TEEM’D one of the best for­eign horses ever brought into Eng­land; Ap­pear­ing so both from the coun­try he came from, and from the per­for­mance of his pos­ter­ity. They be­ing Ex­cel.nt both as Rac­ers and Stal­lions, and Hit­ting with most other Pedi­grees, and mend­ing the Im­per­fec­tions of their Shape.” This “ad­ver­tis­ing” does not lie and The Godol­phin Ara­bian was a truly su­perb “Hit­ter” with other pedi­grees. Along with the Byerley Turk and the Dar­ley Ara­bian, he went on to be­come one of the three main pro­gen­i­tors of the mod­ern thor­ough­bred. It was es­ti­mated at £15,000 to £20,000 but, given the sub­ject and the prove­nance, should have been “must have” for any rac­ing en­thu­si­ast. Un­sur­pris­ingly, it gal­loped on to sell for a wor­thy £80,000.

A very dif­fer­ent type of pic­ture was on sale at Sotheby’s on 5 April: art­works by vi­ciously won­der­ful car­toon­ist Ger­ald Scarfe. He is now aged 80 but is still skew­er­ing those who come into his line of sight. My favourite, and oh so top­i­cal, was a 2015 car­toon first pub­lished in The Times of Her Majesty “hand­bag­ging” a flee­ing Jeremy Cor­byn while shout­ing: “Kneel you sniv­el­ling bas­tard”. Es­ti­mated at £4,000 to £6,000, it sold for a well de­served £8,000: a pic­ture that will surely stand the test of time and be­come ever more valu­able. Back at Glyn Cy­warch there was, how­ever, a re­minder of

My favourite [Scarfe car­toon] was of Her Majesty “hand­bag­ging” a flee­ing Jeremy Cor­byn whilst shout­ing: ‘Kneel you sniv­el­ling bas­tard’

a time when de­fy­ing your ruler re­sulted in some­thing far sharper than Mul­berry’s finest con­nect­ing with the back of your neck; a very rare – at least in this con­di­tion and style – Civil War sword that be­longed to the Roy­al­ist Lord Capell of Had­ham who was be­headed in 1649. The dou­ble-edged rapier blade bears a poignant etch­ing that reads: “Lord Capel [sic] the day be­fore his Ex­e­cu­tion pre­sented this sword to Sir John Owen by whom he said he was con­vinced it would be worn with honour.” Owen was a fel­low Roy­al­ist and did not dis­ap­point as he con­tin­ued to re­sist, al­most fol­low­ing Capell to the ex­e­cu­tioner’s block. A later, hand-writ­ten la­bel records that he must have stayed in fear of his life as the sword was found stored in a “cleft” in Owen’s bed­stead, “sup­posed to have been kept there ready for a sud­den at­tack”. Hap­pily, he sur­vived long enough to see the Restora­tion in 1660 and, un­like so many of his friends, died peace­fully in 1666. Dec­o­rated with gold dam­a­scen­ing, with a triple thick­ness of twisted sil­ver wire form­ing its grip and re­tain­ing its vel­vet bur­gundy scab­bard, it was not sur­pris­ing that it more than dou­bled its top £7,000 es­ti­mate to sell for £15,000: an ex­tra­or­di­nary piece of Bri­tish his­tory and a pointed re­minder of just what hap­pens when jaw-jaw turns to war-war.

Failed jaw-jaw is why a well-worn .45 cal­i­bre, 1874 Colt pis­tol was the star per­former at James D Ju­lia’s (Maine, USA) three-day April sale. Only in Amer­ica – OK, per­haps in Iraq, too – could an auc­tion­eer put to­gether enough weapons and buy­ers to merit a three­day sale. The rea­son this weapon more than dou­bled its top $200,000 es­ti­mate to scoop an as­ton­ish­ing $460,000 is that it is the only Colt pis­tol in ex­is­tence that can be proven to have been used at the dis­as­trous – de­pend­ing on your na­tion­al­ity and perspective, of course – Bat­tle of the Lit­tle Bighorn on 25 June 1876. It has been traced to a Lt Reilly of Com­pany E, 7th Cavalry, who met a grisly end dur­ing the fi­nal mas­sacre as is re­lated in an in­ter­view with his killer, in­cluded in the cat­a­logue: “Runs-the-en­emy, a Two-ket­tle Sioux, who par­tic­i­pated through­out the en­tire Custer Mas­sacre… he re­lates that he was fol­low­ing an Ara­pa­hoe named Water­man who killed a ‘horse sol­dier chief’ [any of­fi­cer was re­ferred to as a ‘chief’] who was point­ing a 6-shooter at Water­man. Water­man cut off this sol­dier’s lit­tle fin­ger with a tom­a­hawk. He re­lates: ‘Horse sol­dier chief drop 6-shooter pis­tol. He hold hand and cry. Water­man shoot horse sol­dier chief with ri­fle. Water­man take horse sol­dier chief 6-shooter pis­tol. Water­man say hair too short to scalp. I scalp.’”

Hav­ing de­parted this earth in a very un­hol­ly­wood but all too re­al­is­tic way, Reilly’s pis­tol was gifted to a Cheyenne chief called Two Moons: his dou­ble dot mark is carved into one of the wooden pis­tol grips. A truly iconic item to Amer­i­cans, de­serv­ing of a truly hair-rais­ing price.

Just as the high prairies in sum­mer once echoed to the war whoops of In­dian braves, so do the A roads of this green and pleas­ant land echo to the screams and growls of myr­iad mo­tor­bike ex­hausts as bands of leather-clad war­riors, many of an age when they should per­haps know bet­ter, strut their stuff of a sunny week­end. I only ever rode a Honda 50 at uni­ver­sity – ter­ri­fy­ing and near fa­tal – and am still jaun­diced when it comes to the con­flict­ing mer­its of Nor­ton Com­man­dos ver­sus Du­catis. On 23 April, Bon­hams tapped into that yearn­ing for near-sui­ci­dal ado­les­cence with a Mo­tor­bike sale. For £16,500 (just over bot­tom £15,000 es­ti­mate) you could have had a shiny, red, as new 2000 – that’s the year of man­u­fac­ture – 996SPS “FR2” (yawn…) Du­cati, with only 2km on the clock. Con­versely, a 2011 Nor­ton Com­mando – an im­pos­ing name for a bike, al­beit a Bri­tish mar­que with a some­times trou­bled his­tory – failed to make its bot­tom es­ti­mate £14,000, de­spite hav­ing the abil­ity to blast its rider along the A272 af­ter a pint of “Wife Beater” at more than 130mph. The real star of the show, how­ever, was the 1949 Vin­cent-hrd 998CC White Shadow Seri­esc Project (what is it with mo­tor­bike names?) in “barn-find” con­di­tion and ready for restora­tion. Back in the day, its 120mph per­for­mance made it just about the fastest thing on the road; this at a time when a nor­mal fam­ily sa­loon was strug­gling to hit 70mph, which makes it highly de­sir­able to our leather-clad brethren and ex­plains why the Vin­cent smashed its top es­ti­mate £60,000 to sell for a sphinc­ter tight­en­ing £145,000. Si­lence, apart from the oc­ca­sional sotto

voce ex­ple­tive when the small white ball mis­cues into the rough, is more the way of

golfers. On 12 May, Do­minic Win­ter sold a rather won­der­ful sil­ver golf­ing prize of a golf-play­ing devil pre­sented to Sec­ond World War Bat­tle of Bri­tain ace Group Cap­tain Sir Dou­glas Bader when he won the 1956 Spring Meet­ing. Founded in 1921, the Lu­cifer Club was named not for the fiendish ex­ploits of its mem­bers but for the Lu­cifer matches many of them had once used to light their cig­a­rettes in the trenches. Usu­ally any­thing as­so­ci­ated with Bader reaches for the fi­nan­cial sky (apolo­gies for the pun) but, per­haps be­cause this was golf as against avi­a­tion as­so­ci­ated, it “only” fetched £1,900, just un­der its al­ready Bader-in­flated es­ti­mate.

Another devil at the same sale had no such in­hi­bi­tions. Pre-war Mister Toads would mount a “Cock-a-snook” car mas­cot on the rear of their car to let their feel­ings be known to those who they had just over­taken or, I sup­pose, those fol­low­ing be­hind and un­able to get past. Mounted on the back of a mod­ern barouche, this par­tic­u­lar gurn­ing brass, cock-a-snook devil, with his two hands up to his nose in a ges­ture of con­tempt, would doubt­less now give suf­fi­cient grounds for an ac­cu­sa­tion of an at­tempt to in­cite ter­mi­nal road rage. It dou­bled its top es­ti­mate to sell for £200 and I look for­ward to see­ing it on the back of the car in front of me some day soon.

Teth­ered friends at 25 Blythe Road Auc­tions’ spe­cial view­ing of “Prop­erty from a pri­vate Lon­don club”

Pilot of the fair­ways: Do­minic Win­ter sold this sil­ver Lu­cifer Club golf tro­phy, pre­sented to fighter ace Group Cap­tain Sir Dou­glas Bader in 1956, for £1,900

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