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Tennants Catalogue Sale Totals £1.8 million

Tennants three day Catalogue Sale produced a strong total of £1.8 million from 1936 lots, 20-22 November at The Auction Centre, Leyburn.

After their busiest viewing period ever, the auctioneers were delighted by the reaction of their buyers – responding favourably to “fresh to the market” objects at sensible pre-sale estimates. In the face of a volatile stock market and low bank interest rates, antiques appear to be something pleasing and tangible into which to put money.

Jewellery proved a credit crunch price “buster” with exceptional prices realised for jewellery both old and new – £1/4 million for this section alone.

chalcedony.jpgThe name Faberge is always a lure to buyers of fine jewellery, especially a diamond mounted piece from a private collection with provenance. The growing private wealth of numerous Russian collectors who wish to acquire the finest examples of their country’s jewellery led to fierce bidding for lot 273. Against an estimate of £7000-9000, this blue chalcedony and diamond pendant of circa 1900, believed to be the work of August Holmstrom, St Petersburg took £10,000.

Ancient jewellery has long been a source of inspiration for jewellery designers since the Renaissance. Carlo Giuliano (a Neopolitan working in London) made the ancient Egyptian inspired enamel and moonstone fringe necklace (lot 457) between 1874-1895. Sold on behalf of Miss D M Mounsey and Mrs M L Pratt (as part of the residual contents of West Linhams, Darlington), it’s fine condition and original fitted case helped it smash the estimate to sell at £17,000.

The Chinese are reknown for their exquisite carvings over many centuries. In the Oriental Works of Art section, a pair of carved ivory panels used as “wrist rests” by Chinese calligraphers were eagerly contested by Chinese buyers in the audience. Each panel represented Day and Night and were worked in relief with over twenty figures, many on horseback, wending up a mountain track – and all this was packed into a length of just 36.6cm (lot 258). They realised £8,000.

To the cathedral city of Worcester for a “small but beautifully formed” vase that fetched £6,000 despite being more “air” than porcelain (lot 40). The incised signature “G Owen” on the base of this lace-like lot was a passport to success. George Owen (1845-1917) perfected the art of piercing porcelain – every complex pattern was cut by hand using an oiled knife when the clay was still damp. One slip and the piece was ruined.

Another high performer was an “autumnal” majolica pottery casserole dish, made by Minton in 1876, with toadstool finial, the body modelled with foxes emerging to chase mallards around the fence-lined frieze. Despite a severely cracked and reglued lid, this beautifully glazed lot made £13,000 (lot 64).

Watches have noticeably increased in value (as investments) in the face of sliding economies. One lucky vendor who was selling a watch given to him “new” by his mother in 1958 saw a spectacular return on the original £85 cost price. The GMT Master stainless steel automatic wristwatch by Rolex (lot 485) was a rare model only produced for a short period until 1959 – and bidders chased it to £15,000.

The 248 lot section of Big Game Trophies and Natural History sold strongly, with former wildlife cameraman John Willett’s collection (Part I) alone providing a £27,000 sell-out. The highest priced Willett lot (1251) was a superb leopard head mount, by Rowland Ward 1930 which a private collector bought for £3000 after permanently holding up his bidding paddle throughout the protracted bidding duel.

The firm more than doubled its own previous world record price for a rhino head trophy. Sold on behalf of a Nobleman (and shot by his ancestors on safari in 1921) this stunning creature (lot 1310) saw telephone bidder vie for supremacy for over 10 minutes till the hammer ended the tussle at £65,000 (the previous world record was set by Tennants at £29,000 in July 2008).

Good stained glass is a rarity in provincial sales, so there was strong interest in two groups of stained glass panels (lot 1141) ranging from the 17th-19th century, remounted in iron framed hanging brackets. Light shone on the vendor as they took £11,000 against an over-cautious £600-900 estimate.

Pictures of sunshine and smiles are always of appeal to bidders and are the trademarks of Italian artist Vittorio Reggianini (lot 978) whose charming “snapshot” in oils of two children eating in a sunlit courtyard near pet songbirds took five times estimate £16,000.

Halifax born artist Sir Matthew Smith C.B.E. (1879-1959) was represented in the sale by a gloriously colourful “fruit in a brown bowl” (an oil on canvas measuring 40cm by 56) which showed an obvious debt to French artists of the period, and indeed the artist had for a short period of time lived in France and studied with Henri Matisse circa 1911. It sold at £15,000.

An evocative nocturne by Co Durham artist Tom McGuinness entitled Closing Time sold strongly to a private gentleman of the same county. The picture depicted figures leaving the “Cumberland Arms”, and after a protracted bidding battle the auctioneer called time at £7,000 (lot 1033).

The highest price in the clocks and barometers section was the punchy £8,000 paid for a fine George III mahogany bowfronted stick barometer (lot 1550) by Jesse Ramsden (1731-1800) who was perhaps one of the best scientific instrument makers of the period.

Furniture was strong across the board, and included a very “masculine” George III mahogany serpentine chest of drawers, the property of Duncan McLaren (lot 1748), which performed well beyond expectation – with attributes such as richly figured timber, brushing slide and fitted dressing drawer, taking this compact gem to £26,000. Another surprise price of £22,000 was paid for an early 19th century mahogany breakfront bookcase (lot 1774) which attracted bidders with its pleasingly plain design and slim proportions.

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