Sworders’ Fine Interiors auction in Stansted Mountfitchet on September 10-11 generated moments of good old fashioned saleroom drama. Topping the price list
at a surprise £96,000 was an Italian marble bust of an emperor that had attracted ten phone bidders. The 52cm bust had many signs of repair but was of obvious quality. The bust came from Glenthorne House which once belonged to the Halliday family in Devon. It is possible that this bust, and another 18th century marble bust of Socrates sold at £21,000, were in the house since the 19th century.
Before the sale many different opinions regarding the date of the bust were voiced, ranging from 17th century ‘after the antique’ to Roman or ancient Greek. The buyer, who travelled to Sworders to bid in person, believed it was the head of the Greek god Aristophanes, also known as ‘the father of comedy’.
A 68cm high Roman white marble torso of a child wearing a one-shouldered toga from the 2nd or 3rd century AD came from a private collection. It excited buyers, selling at £6,200.
Some of the finest pieces in the sale came from the collection pieced together by Baroness Patricia Rawlings at Burnham Westgate Hall, Norfolk. They included a 19th century carved, painted and gilded pine serving table in the manner of Henry Flitcroft sold for £9,000. It once formed part of the furnishings of 45 Belgrave Square, London, now The Malaysian Embassy.
Although not in the best condition, a pair of large 19th century gilt gesso framed mirrors were much admired for their huge size at 2.65 x 1.71m. They sold at £25,000, many times the estimate, to a buyer using Sworders Live, our own online bidding service.
Something rather different was a large 2.2m wide unholstered Knowle settee with drop ends - one of a handful of lots consigned for sale by Sir Rod Stewart, it took £3,750 - while more traditional British antique furniture included an 18th century Windsor armchair with a stick and comb back and some rustic old metal repairs sold at £2,600.
A delft pottery blue dash ‘tulip’ charger made in London or Bristol c.1660 (£2,300), a 19th century scrimshawed whalebone plaque (£1,850) and a large early 20th century Russian silver and glass kvosh (£7,500) demonstrated the breadth of quality items on offer across the two days.
The sale included a near-sell out selection of 30 etchings by Herbert Thomas Dicksee (1862-1942) from the collection of Bryan and Valerie Steele. The couple were fanatical collectors of Dicksee’s work and amassed a near complete collection of his etchings, many of them depicting dogs (particularly the deerhound) or the big cats at London Zoo. Highlights here included a signed artist's proof of Comrades (a Scottish deerhound and a West Highland terrier) printed in an edition of 325 by Frost & Reed in 1928. It took £1,200. This was the second tranche of the Steele collection: more will be offered in December.
A copy of the most famous of all George Stubbs (1724-1806) prints, A Horse Affrighted at a Lion, sold at an unexpected £7,200. It was one of 12 etchings that Stubbs published as a group on May 1, 1788 in an effort to promote his work. This print, glued to its mount, included a typed label reading: This picture was presented to Sampson Bennett by Mr Spratt, a fellow of St Catherine's College Cambridge. Mr Bennett had successfully operated upon Mr Spratt's spaniel.
Unusual visitors to the Essex saleroom were two paintings by Richard Gabriel (1924-2016), a founder member of the ’43 Group’ of Sri Lankan modernist painters. Two oils from the 1980s, both titled The Massacre of the Innocents, sold for £3.200 and £9.000. From the same source - a prominent private West Country collector - was the 1951 oil on canvas portrait Rodiya Woman by fellow Sri Lankan artist Tissa Ranasinghe (b.1925) sold at £4,200.
The diaries, journals and letters of Lady Ann Cullum (1807-75) of Hardwick House near Bury St Edmunds sold for a combined total of £8,000.
The daughter of John Flood of Farmley, Kilkenny, Miss Anne Lloyd was educated in England at Mrs Schnell’s School of Young Ladies. It was while on a Grand Tour with her aunt in 1831 that she met the Reverend Sir Thomas Cullum (1777-1855), 8th Baronet of Hardwick.
Included in the sale were Ann’s leather-bound travel journals from the 1830s (covering four trips they sold at prices from £650 to £1,300 each) plus an album of around 160 autograph letters sent to the Cullum family in the 18th and 19th centuries pitched at £300-500 but sold at £3,400. Royalty, statesmen, military leaders and men and women of letters, arts and science were among the correspondents.
Lady Cullum's diaries in three volumes from 1854-65 describe her meetings with many similar luminaries. Following regular meetings in London with the historical writer and poet Agnes Strickland she waspishly observed: “Miss S is very prosy and always talking of herself and her books - she is an extraordinary looking woman, very well-meaning but most tiresome companion. She has a high opinion of her celebrity which almost amounts to mania”. This lot took £1,100. An album of watercolours, including sketches of Hardwick House, where the Cullum family lived for almost three centuries took £820.
From another source was a complete set of the 16 volumes that make up John Curtis’ British Entomology: being illustrations and descriptions of the Genera of Insects found in Great Britain and Ireland. This set, in matching half leather bindings, with all 770 hand coloured plates present displayed the bookplate of the author and entomologist HLG Stroyan. It sold well at £3,100.
All prices do not include 27.6% buyer’s premium