News & Insights

The Autumn Fine Art Sale Preview

23rd October 2019.

An impressive line-up of rare works of art in Tennants Auctioneers’ Autumn Fine Art Sale on 16th November is led by a late 19th century mahogany cabinet built around five period narwhal tusks. Once said to be the horns of the mythical unicorn and imbued with magical qualities, narwhal ‘tusks’ are actually teeth that grow through the lip of the male narwhal in a tight spiral. Long prized, narwhal tusks have garnered high prices throughout the centuries, and this exceptional cabinet now is offered for sale with an estimate of £10,000-15,000 (plus buyer’s premium). The cabinet is sold with a CITES A10 (non-transferable) licence.

A late 17th century wassail bowl and cover, made from turned lignum vitae is also amongst the unusual lots in the sale (estimate: £3,500-5,000). Lignum vitae, the densest of all traded woods, was much sought after for its strength and durability. Indeed Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary entry for 21st November 1680 that “my cozen Thomas Pepys the turner sent me a cupp of lignum vitae”, clearly a gift worth recording. Further rare works of art include an early 19th century Vizagapatam Ivory Sewing Box in the form of a cottage (estimate: £3,000-4,000), and Indian schist altar carving depicting Shiva and Parvati seated with animals at their feet, probably executed in Uttarakhand in the 9th or 10th century (estimate: £3,000-5.000), and a Tibetan gilt-bronze figure of Guhyasimaija Akshobhyavajra and Consort dating from the 18th century (estimate: £3,000-5,000).

A colourful note is lent to the sale by a Private Collection of mid-19th century paperweights made by Baccarat, Clichy and St Louis; highlights of the collection include a Baccarat Butterfly paperweight estimated at £1,500-2,000. A collection of Damascus pottery tiles is also on offer, with tiles dating from c.1580 to the late 17th/early 18th century. Painted in vivid blues and greens, the top lot of the collection is a late 16th century Damascus tile decorated with stylised flowerheads on offer with an estimate of £1,000-1,500.

Rare examples of fine clocks are also set to cause a stir in the sale, with a strong offering headed by a fourteen-tune musical eight-day longcase clock made by Hugh Lough of Penrith in 1773 (estimate: £7,000-9,000). The clock also features an unusual dial display for lunar and solar equation and comes with provenance from the Lough family. Hugh Lough was born in Penrith in 1739 and worked as a clockmaker until his death in 1790. Only around twenty clocks have been documented by Hugh Lough and these are usually eight day and thirty-hour brass dial examples. This must be one of his masterpieces - a true reflection of his outstanding workmanship. Of local interest is a mid-18th century quarter striking table clock made by Henry Hindley of York c.1750 (estimate: £6,000-8,000). Hindley, who was born near Wigan, was a very fine and talented clockmaker who made a clock for York Minster in 1750. An almost identical clock to the present lot is on exhibition at Fairfax House in York.

The stand-out painting of the sale is a Portrait of Lady Armatrude Waechter de Grimston by Philip de László (1869-1937), which has descended through the sitter’s family (estimate: £6,000-8,000). The portrait is to be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of portraits by the artist and is a shining example of his elegant and assured use of paint. The sitter, Lady Waechter de Grimston was a patroness of the Arts and Crafts movement, a landowner in East Yorkshire and a notable beauty of the time.

Silver is well represented in the sale, with the top lot being a set of twelve George III silver dinner plates made by Paul Storr in London in 1800 (estimate: £10,000-15,000). The circular plates are stamped underneath ‘Wright 142 Strand’ which relates to John Wright of the Turk’s Hotel and Coffee House, which was re-opened at the address in 1838 after lavish building and refurnishing works. The business was not a success, and by 1847 Wright had died and the contents of the hotels were sold at auction. The plates were later engraved for William Lehman Ashmead Bartlett-Burdett-Coutts (1851-1921) with the crests of the Bartlett, Burdett and Coutts families. William was born in Massachusetts but moved to England in childhood and went on to study at Oxford before working as secretary to the celebrated philanthropist Baroness Burdett-Coutts, granddaughter of the banker Thomas Coutts. The two married, and in 1906 he inherited her wealth and carried on her philanthropic work. Also by the noted silversmith Paul Storr is a George III large silver salver from 1802 engraved with the coat-of-arms for the Montgomery family of Stobo Castle (estimate: £5,000-8,000).

Vintage and luxury watches have seen strengthening results at auction over the last couple of years, and the Autumn Fine Art Sale sees a strong offering by the likes of Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier and Breitling. Rolex has been the name to watch at auction, and a 1960 Rolex Explorer (reference 6610) is on offer with an estimate of £4,000-6,000. The sale also offers a good selection of Breitling chronographs, one of the earliest being a Breitling Navitimer (reference 806) made circa 1968 (estimate: £2,500-3,000).

Beautiful period diamond brooches are much in evidence in the jewellery section of the sale, with the star being a circa 1900 brooch set with old cut diamonds (the central stone being approximately 2.8carats), which is sold alongside a pearl choker converting the brooch into a pendant. It is on offer with an estimate of £7,000-10,000. Also of note is a square-form brooch made circa 1880, set with old brilliant cut diamonds estimated at £4,000-6,000. The top lot of the whole sale, however, is a diamond ring made around 1935 which is estimated at £40,000-50,000. The ring was purchased by the vendor’s grandfather in the 1930s and has been passed down through the family. The ring is accompanied by a lab report, certifying that the central cushion-cut diamond is 3.74 carat, with E colour and VS1 clarity.

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