As 2022 comes to a close, we take a look back at what has been another busy and successful year across all departments, and recap some of our most notable highlights.
20 December 2022
We started the year with our January Design sale, where a Koloman Moser highback chair took to the spotlight, after selling for £16,250. The chair was found in a junk shop on the south coast earlier in the year. The vendor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "When I got the chair home, I had a closer look and thought it looked really interesting. I emailed some pictures to the V&A museum but had no response. My next stop was Sworders. I emailed Design specialist, John Black, and he responded immediately".
February saw the return of our annual Out of the Ordinary sale, where curiosities and the estranged performed well as always. We were honoured to feature two original works by Terry Curtis, one of the principal sculptors of British Supermarionation. Working on both Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, as well as several other of Gerry Anderson’s projects, Curtis sculpted some of the most iconic characters of the genre, including Captain Paul Travers of the Thunderbirds film, as well as Captain Blue, Ochre, and Grey from Captain Scarlet. In spite of this being a modern reproduction, the puppet of Captain Grey, who Curtis modelled loosely after Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond, was made as he would have made him in the 60s, with specifically sourced vintage parts to make it as true to the original as possible. As soon as it was announced the puppet was to be offered, interest was strong, with the department being contacted by Gerry Anderson fan societies from around the world. After a lot of interest, the item sold to an Academy Award winning director in Hollywood for £5,200.
The Out of the Ordinary sale also saw an unprecedented demand for sorcerer’s mirrors with some exceptional prices achieved. Dating as far back as the 16th century, they saw their peak of popularity in Victorian England, where interest in the spiritual and occult was at an all-time high. The superstitious would believe that the distorted image cast by the concave lenses of the plate would ward off spirits, whereas others used them in séances or scrying ceremonies with the intention of contacting the spirit realm. Today they are favoured by interior designers as the optics of the plates allow for interesting placements of statement pieces, casting multifaceted images of whatever is placed before them. Going into 2023 we have seen a large quantity already consigned, each of different shape, with different decoration and etchings, ensuring a wide and unique selection.
Captain Grey,a modern Supermarionation puppet of Captain Grey, sculpted by Terry Curtis, Sold for £5,200 & A Sorcerer's Mirror, 19th century, Sold for £4,420
March saw a busy schedule, with three specialist sales, The Russell Barnes Collection, The Douglas Fairbanks Collection and our first Fine Interiors sale of 2022, alongside regular Homes and Interiors and our monthly Jewellery auction. Getting excited over antique embroidery is usually something our Fine Interiors department like to keep under wraps, but we were lucky to have not one, but two, 17th century stumpwork panels in their March sale. Variably called ‘stumpwork’ or ‘raised work’, these embroidered panels usually depicting mythological, biblical, topical, or landscape scenes were used to decorate small caskets or workboxes. Like many domestic crafts, these are often unsigned, so we are seldom able to attribute them to an individual. However, they are rare and admired on the market, proved by a final price of £9,100 for the example depicting a king and queen. We are always interested to see where our lots end up after their short time with us and were over the moon to discover this was purchased by a gentleman as a very special and unique anniversary present for his wife.
A Charles II stumpwork needlework picture, 17th century, Sold for £9,100
Moving into April, we welcomed another busy month, with two Timed sales for Books & Maps and Coins & Medals, alongside our first Modern & Contemporary Art sale of the year. There was a strong contemporary art section in our April sale, the highlight of which was ‘Emollient’. This painting is evocative of the work of Jenny Saville, who is now married to Paul McPhail, but at the time of its execution was a close friend of the artist. In 1994, both artists visited a plastic surgeon’s operating theatre, witnessing procedures that exposed the fragility of skin. This is a study of the human head with its finished, perfect face stripped away to reveal the under layers of flesh, blood, muscular structure, gums, and bloodshot eyes. It encourages the viewer to look closer at the head’s violent surface through its execution of texturally-rich brushwork, and proved popular, selling for an impressive £26,650.
Paul McPhail (b.1966) 'Emollient' signed 'Paul McPhail' and dated '1998' verso, oil on canvas 152.5 x 106.5cm, unframed, Sold for £26,650
We also hosted ‘Let There be Light - The Christopher Butterworth Collection’ later in the month, which brought together 250 lots ranging in price from £250 to £5,000. It included both typical stock items and a significant selection of items from Pimlico Road dealer, Christopher Butterworth's own collection. A beautiful George III ormolu three-light candelabrum, led the sale, selling for £14,300, proving that antique lighting is still as popular as ever.
George III ormolu three-light candelabrum, Sold for £14,300
A 900-year-old bronze figure of a Buddhist deity smashed all expectations to bring £273,000 at our Asian Art sale on May 13. The diminutive figure of the four-faced, eight-armed goddess Amoghapasa (wisdom giver) measuring just 8cm high, had come for sale from a private source with modest hopes. The Buddha was found in the bottom of a box of miscellaneous metalware by Sworders Asian Art specialist, Yexue Li. The rather ‘shell shocked’ seller has subsequently invited specialists back to their house to look through further items.
An Indian bronze bodhisattva, 12th century, Sold for £273,000
In May, our Design department saw the successful sale of a Peter Collingwood (1922-2008) microgauze wall hanging, which sold for £26,000. This was recorded as one of Collingwood’s highest prices at auction, and all the proceeds of the sale went to the Disasters Emergency Committee ‘Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal’.
Bringing the month to a close, our annual Sporting Art, Wildlife & Dogs sale on 31 May, had several noteable highlights. There was a large selection of dog portraiture, the highlight of which was a Sealyham terrier by Arthur Wardle. Another favourite among the picture department, this sweet terrier in a country house interior invited heated bidding topping out at £7,150. And our sporting sale would not be complete without a selection of racing paintings, Peter Biegel is one of the foremost equine painters of the 20th century, and his painting, 'Hurdlers' conveying the excitement of a horse race, where you can almost hear the galloping hooves leaping over the hurdles, sold for an impressive £6,500.
Arthur Wardle (1864-1949), Sealyham terrier by the hearth, signed 'Arthur Wardle' l.l., oil on canvas, 46 x 36cm, Sold for £7,150
Our Fine Interiors team feel it is an exciting day in their department when they can sink their teeth into a bit of research and uncover the stories behind lots offered for sale. An example of this came from lot 184 in the June Fine Interiors sale, a pair of George II gilt gesso pier mirrors. Coming directly from the Pleydell-Bouverie descendants, Alex was able to trace their history to the family seat, Longford Castle in Wiltshire, and after one glorious afternoon at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the team were able to attribute the pair to English cabinet maker, Benjamin Goodison (c.1700-1767). After intense bidding, the mirrors hammered down at a staggering £36,400.
Our June timed sale of Fine Wine & Spirits proved popular amongst bidders, with two minatures including one Macallan spiral label miniature malt Scotch Whisky, achieving £2,180. The demand for good quality whisky has never been higher, whether for investment or for drinking. This rare ‘spiral label’ miniature bottle of The Macallan, made as a marketing sample, combines both quality and rarity and found a new home in an Asian collection.
Our Jewellery department saw success in our summer Fine Jewellery & Watches sale, with a three stone unheated ruby and diamond ring, with an oval mixed cut ruby double claw set to a plain collet, selling for £22,100. Another notable highlight was a Georgian diamond set closed crescent brooch, which achieved £12,350.
A three stone unheated ruby and diamond ring, Sold for £22,100 (left) and A Georgian diamond set closed crescent brooch, Sold for £12,350 (right)
Although the summer months saw a quieter auction calendar, our July Design auction and timed online Modern & Contemporary Art sale, kept us busy throughout the summer. In August, we then held our triumphant Books & Maps auction, which featured over 400 lots, including a large collection of books from the estate of Cambridgeshire antique dealer Peter Croft (1924-2001). The sale was led by a rare Tudor manuscript designed to help with swan-keeping in the era when mute swans were owned by the English crown, used from the 16th to the 19th century by landowners in Norfolk and Suffolk. After much pre-sale interest, the book had a guide price of £8,000 to £16,000 but sold to a Canadian Institute for £67,500.
Swan Mark Registers of Owners, (Two Volumes), Sold for £67,500
In September, we launched our inaugural Old Master, British & European Art sale. The core of the September 27 sale was provided by items from 9 Phillimore Terrace, the Kensington house where Jack and Diana Baer lived for more than 50 years. As befitting the home of one of the most successful and well-regarded picture dealers of his generation (Jack Baer was the man who built Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox into a world-class concern), art was at the centre of the home. Hundreds of paintings, drawings and prints were hung throughout the house. Nineteenth-century French drawings and oils, always a strength of the Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox gallery, were a favourite but so too were colourful works from the Modern British canon. The 22 lots offered in September topped at £24,700, an oil sketch by Théodore Rousseau (1812-67). Painted on paper and then laid down on board, this 11 x 33cm scene titled simply, 'Paysage', had formed part of a 1956 Hazlitt gallery exhibition of Barbizon School art and was later included in Michael Schulman’s 1999 catalogue raisonné of Rousseau’s work.
Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812-1867), Paysage, Sold for £24,700
A large number of items from the Baer estate were also sold in our September Fine Interiors sale. These Italian hardstone panels were the dream lot for our Fine Interiors team - rare and beautiful with a strong provenance straight from private hands. Owned by Sir Jack Baer, the much-loved figure of the London art world, the panels had hung in the Kensington sitting room he shared with his wife, Diana, for many decades before coming to Sworders. This element of added personality undoubtedly contributed to the works’ allure and after much pre-sale interest, realised a remarkable £169,000. The panels themselves were exquisite and comparable in quality to other examples in museum collections around the world, however, Sale Coordinator, Charlotte, also had a particular soft spot for a second lot of panels from the same collection. Depicting a camel and boar in a simplistic and naïve style, they were full of character. After selling for £19,500, the team was sad to see them scamper away!
A set of nine pietra dura panels, mid-17th century, Sold for £169,000
Our Modern & Contemporary Art sales would not be complete without a selection of East Anglian offerings. In our October sale, we had a fantastic collection of work from the Great Barfield artists, with a record-breaking price for John Aldridge. 'Hayfield, North Essex' was eye-catching due to its grand scale and beautiful depiction of the Essex countryside. Two private bidders were determined to be the owners of this fine work and battled it out before selling for £27,300, far exceeding its £5,000-7,000 estimate. Modern British Art also featured prominently in our Autumn sale and the pinnacle was an intimate portrait sketch by Gwen John, from the estate of Sir Jack and Lady Baer. The sitter Chloë Boughton-Leigh was a close friend of the artist and had studied alongside her at the Slade. A combination of factors resulted in the fantastic sale price achieved for this work. Subject matter, excellent provenance and the increasing interest in work by leading female artists, resulted in a new auction record for a drawing by John.
Gwen John (1876-1939), Portrait of Chloë Boughton-Leigh, bust-length, signed 'Gwen John' l.l., pencil and grey washes, 20 x 15cm, £58,500
October saw the return of another timed online Fine Wine & Spirits sale. The mild winter, wet spring, and exceptionally hot summer of 1989 led to one of the great vintages of the 20th Century with Chateau Haut-Brion, in particular, producing wonderful wines, as proven through a range of competitive bidding. Seven bottles of Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 1989 that came from a collector who stored them in a purpose built, temperature and humidity controlled, cellar, sold for an impressive £10,500.
Our Design sale in October saw how bold, statement furniture performs well at auction with a Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), white 'Aqua' table, selling for an impressive £26,000 to a client in the US.
Chateau Haut-Brion, Pessac-Leognan, 1989 (7), Sold for £10,500 & A Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), white 'Aqua' table, 2006, Sold for £26,000
November was extremely busy for Sworders with 3 live specialist sales and 2 online timed sales for Coins & Stamps and Modern & Contemporary Art across the month. Our Asian Art sale on 4 November, attracted a range of bidders from overseas and within the UK. Taking to the spotlight, a Chinese polychrome-enamelled porcelain plaque, which was acquired at auction in Singapore in 1980 and brought back to UK in 1990s on retirement, sold for £37,700.
Also in November, we welcomed the highly anticipated 'Instinct, Scholarship and Curiosity - The Jan Finch Collection'. A remarkable group of objects from the collection of the pioneering dealer, the late Jan Finch (1952-2021) came to auction after Jan's husband and business partner, Craig, aimed to downsize and spend more time outside of the UK. Attracting lots of international interest, notable highlights included a French prisoner-of-war ship model, c.1820, which sold for £27,300, and a pair of 17th/18th green silk brocaded trousers, said to have once been worn by Sir Jeffrey Hudson (1619-1682), court dwarf to Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, which sold for £9,750.
A fine prisoner-of-war ship model, Sold for £27,300 & A pair of green silk brocaded trousers, Sold for £9,750
Our Winter Fine Jewellery & Watches auction was led by a 16th or 17th century high carat gold 'toadstone' ring. 'Toadstones' were, throughout the Middle Ages and into the 18th century, thought to be found in the heads of living toads and were highly prized for their supposed magical properties. In particular, it was believed they could be used as an antidote to poison and were commonly worn about the person as amuletic rings and pendants. We now know that toadstones are in fact fossilied, button-like teeth, from lepidote fish, but early toadstone set jewellery rarely appears on the market and is always highly sought after - as demonstrated when this 16th century ring went up for sale in November and achieved £16,250 at auction. Watches also performed well across the board. Patek Philippe is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world, and is synonymous with luxury watchmaking. In November, after much pre-sale interest, Sworders sold an 18ct white gold Patek Philippe 'Calatrava' automatic bracelet watch, for £28,600. Patek produced the first Calatrava model in 1932, and the range has formed parts of its offering ever since.
A 16th or 17th century high carat gold 'toadstone' ring, Sold for £16,250
Drawing the year to a close, the final specialist sale of 2022 was our 6 December Fine Interiors sale. Several lots performed well throughout the sale, including a Regency pollard oak, yew, and ebony centre table attributed to George Bullock, c.1815, which sold for £20,800. Coming from the estate of Jasper Gibbons Grinling, Helions Bumpstead, Essex, this pollard oak centre table was attributed to one of the most celebrated English cabinetmakers of the Regency period, George Bullock (c.1777-1818).
Throughout the year, our monthly Jewellery auctions have performed well, and our regular Homes and Interiors have continued to thrive, offering a fascinating selection of high quality and affordable, modern and antique furnishings for the home and garden. In our 11 October sale, a Meissen Pagoda figure sold for £1,430. With its typical moving hands, head and tongue, this figure was a complex and instantly recognisable piece of Meissen porcelain. This example came from the collection of a lady who had originally lived in Germany, which is where this piece was acquired. With an increasing interest and strong market for Militaria, our August sale saw a Turkish miquelet lock carbine sell for £2,340. A Miquelet lock adds another layer of complexity to this piece, which is adorned with brass, bone and horn inlay. With its quality and rarity, this was hotly contested to over its high estimate of £1,500.
A Meissen Pagoda figure, Sold for £1,430 & A Turkish miquelet lock carbine, Sold for £2,340
After a busy year, we now look ahead to 2023. With a busy schedule already planned, make sure you keep up to date with the 2023 auction calendar here and stay up to date with the latest news over on our blog.
All at Sworders would like to wish our clients, vendors and partners a lovely Christmas and best wishes for the new year. We look forward to welcoming you at Sworders in 2023.
A piece of history will go under the hammer next month as a World War Two flying jacket, once owned by a Royal Australian Air Force gunner, is set to be featured in our 12 March Homes & Interiors Sale.
27 February 2024
The Fine Interiors department are extremely excited to be able to present a Louis XV Gobelins mythological tapestry of the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, lot 328, in our 19 and 20 March sale.
27 February 2024
From the fishing village of Polperro in Cornwall to the mountainous landscapes of Wales and Cumbria, Sworders are pleased to be offering a diverse selection of watercolour paintings by the artist Ronald Maddox for sale in our forthcoming Paint.Print.Sculpt auction.
9 February 2024