Silver: Set of Gilbert Marks plates
A set of 12 plates by Gilbert Marks, English silversmith of the Arts & Crafts movement, was sold by The Peartree Collection during the opening hours of the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair.
The silversmith was famed for his repousse work, producing only around 1000 works, each one unique. Each plate in this rare early set featured a border with a different English flower or plant, signed for Marks, 1898, and assayed identically for London 1897. Some of the plants depicted, poppy seed heads, narcissus and cornflowers, are seen seldom if ever on Marks’ other works.
The set was in excellent condition and sold to a private collector for more than £30,000.
Miniature: Charles Dickens portrait
A public fundraising campaign helped The Charles Dickens Museum secure a rediscovered portrait miniature of the author from dealer Philip Mould.
The watercolour on ivory of the author by artist Margaret Gillies (1803-87) was exhibited at the 1844 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, after the publication of A Christmas Carol. Gillies’ picture became a defining image of Dickens at the time.
“This portrait adds greatly to our perception of the charismatic young blade that Dickens was at the time and is so different to the avuncular, bearded man we know from photographs,” Mould said. “Unlike other literary portraits of the period, that can be formulaic, the subject fixes you with an arresting gaze, boring into you with the same eyes that recorded a wealth of material about his life and times.”
It re-emerged at an auction in South Africa in a tray of miscellaneous trinkets. The owner paid just £27 for the lot. He sold its frame and due to the poor state of the painting he was going to throw the picture away until he cleaned it and realised it could be important. The owner contacted Philip Mould for advice.
The Charles Dickens Museum launched a campaign to bring the miniature into its permanent collection, finally hitting its fundraising target of £180,000 in July.
Furniture: Jamaica table
Thomas Coulborn & Sons of Sutton Coldfield sold a centre table by celebrated Jamaican cabinetmaker Ralph Turnbull to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Made c.1846-51, the table uses tropical hardwood in a marquetry and parquetry top decorated with roundels of flags, boats, lighthouses and, most remarkably, an envelope and letter addressed to Queen Victoria.
Modern British art: Andrew Sim sells two sets of wartime pictures
Within the field of Modern British art, Andrew Sim focuses on war paintings. At least once a year he stages a dedicated show, Holding the Line, but these pictures can attract buyers year-round.
In April, he reported selling 14 Second World War pictures, mostly drawings, by Polish-born artist Feliks Topolski (1907-89) to the Imperial War Museum. Most chronicled his journey with the first Arctic convoy to relieve the USSR.
The series joined IWM’s collection of Second World War art, which is otherwise largely by British artists. Sim said the sale was “particularly unusual and gratifying” since the Eastern Front “is entirely absent from their art collection – for the simple reason that the British didn’t fight on that front and therefore no official war artist could be sent over to cover the conflict”.
Later in the year, Sim sold a quartet of First World War pastels depicting members of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps harvesting peat moss for use in field dressings. Offered together for £45,000, they were exhibited at the British Art Fair. Painted by Mary Duncan (1854-1932) the series depicted a little-known moment of social history and a rare record of women’s activities in the conflict. It sold to the National Army Museum.
Clocks: Gould longcase
In his exhibition At the Sign of the Dial: Rare English Clocks by Great Makers, Howard Walwyn made a number of key sales including a miniature burr walnut longcase clock, c.1710, by Christopher Gould which sold for a price in the region of £100,000.
Made for the Italian market (it is engraved suona/non suona for ‘strike’ or ‘silent’), it strikes the hours and repeats the quarters on six bells.
It was among 20 sales made during the show at Walwyn’s Kensington Church Street premises. Three other Golden Age longcases went to new homes, including two by Thomas Tompion that were priced in the region of £230,000 each. Buyers included both new and returning clients.