Rarity, provenance & quality in demand as traditional antiques show encouraging results

Tennants’ Summer Fine Art Sale on 15th July saw encouraging results for traditional art and antiques, in a sale that had a particularly strong selection of rare and unusual items across all departments. From a rare Donegal Carpet designed by CFA Voysey c.1900 (hammer price £6,200) to a fine and rare ‘Ed White’ Pre-Moon Chronograph Omega Speedmaster wristwatch (hammer price £7,500), collectors from around the world sought out unique lots from good makers.

This sale saw the strongest results for traditional ‘brown’ furniture that the saleroom has seen in recent years, with particularly high levels of interest in good period 17th and 18th century oak furniture. Top lots included a 17th century oak three-drawer dresser which rocketed over the £700-1,000 estimate to reach a hammer price of £3,400. Elsewhere, it was the fine and the unusual that were eagerly competed over, such as an impressive late Regency mahogany wine cooler from the 2nd quarter of the 19th century, which finally sold at £7,500; Jeremy Pattison, Furniture Specialist attributed its success to the superb quality and rare design. Perhaps the rarest item of furniture in the sale was a late 19th century Jerusalem Olivewood Davenport, the likes of which have never been seen in this saleroom before; Jerusalem olivewood is usually found made into small items such as boxes, but this unusual and beautifully figured desk certainly caught the eye of the bidders and sold for £4,400 against an estimate of £500-700.

Elsewhere in the sale, it was again the rare items and pieces from in-demand makers that attracted the most interest. A London Delft Pill Slab from c.1740, painted with the arms of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries, sold for its top estimate of £6,000, and a Swiss Vari-Colour Gold Snuff Box probably made in Geneva c.1780 decorated with painted enamels sold for £8,500 against an estimate of £3,000-5,000. Pocket watches from good makers again sold strongly, with an 18ct gold pocket chronometer signed Dent of London 1842 (watchmaker to the Queen and maker of the clock in Big Ben) selling for £6,000 (estimate £3,000-4,000), and an 18th century Gold Repousse Pair Cased Repeating Verge Pocket Watch signed John Ellicott of London selling for its top estimate of £5,000. One of the highlights of the picture section was a pencil and watercolour by John Duncan RSA, RSW (1866-1945), the most renowned artist to hail from Dundee; ‘Shining Land’ attracted much interest from Scottish collectors, finally selling for £8,000.

Period emeralds, diamonds and pearls rose to the top of the jewellery section of the sale, with three lots in particular performing strongly against estimate: an Emerald and Diamond Brooch sold for £4,800 (estimate £1500-2000), a Pearl Necklace with an Emerald and Diamond set clasp sold for £1,000 (estimate £500-800), and a second Pearl Necklace with an Emerald and Diamond set clasp sold for £2,300 (estimate £400-600).

Twentieth Century highlights in the sale again included rare and unusual items, such as an Arts & Crafts enamelled copper and white metal casket c.1900 that attracted bidding up to £5,000 against an estimate of £300-500; Christopher Lanigan O’Keeffe, Silver Specialist commented that “this unusual, period piece was attractively priced which generated a lot of interest and speculation about the maker pre-sale; the trade were knocked out and it was bought privately by an avid collector in the north of England. It exemplifies the strong interest in works from this period”.   Items with traditionally sought-after names performed strongly such as a Lalique ‘Salmonides’ Vase (hammer price £6,500) and an elegant cold-painted bronze and ivory figure by Ferdinand Priess entitled ‘Sun Worshipper’ (hammer price £6,000). Provenance also appealed to buyers in the picture section, with works from the estate of Grosvenor School artist Edith Lawrence (1890-1973) fetching strong prices, led by the linocut print ‘Cricket’ which made £6,500. A new world auction record was set for a Norman Cornish (1919-2014); ‘General Bar Scene, Spennymoor’, which was sold with provenance from the University of Northumbria, achieved a hammer price of £16,000. A particular demand was also noted for interwar pictures evidenced by strong prices for ‘Survivor at Arras’ an etching by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946) which sold for £2,800, and a captivating image by Rowland Wheelwright (1870-1955), ‘The Bather’,  which sold for £8,000.

The Summer Fine Art Sale saw a change to the usual Fine Art Sale format at Tennants – with all lots selling on one day, rather than spread over two. Buyers responded positively to the change and the saleroom had never been busier, which was reflected in a healthy 83% of the 987 lots selling with a total Hammer Price of £1,103,520.

We are currently accepting lots for the Autumn Fine Art Sale on 18th November, please contact us on 01969 623780 or enquiry@tennants-ltd.co.uk for details.


(top left) A rare 18ct gold pocket chronometer with original mahogany deck box, signed Dent, Watchmaker to the Queen, London, 1842 – Sold for £6,000
A Late 19th century Jerusalem Olivewood Davenport – Sold for £4,400
John Duncan RSA, RSW (1866-1945) ‘Shining Lad’ – Sold for £8,800