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Things are still rosy in the English garden however, even if the market for indoor furnishings has turned chilly, and the statuary trade were prepared to contest a pair of 19th century stoneware maidens to the highest price of the sale.

Measuring 8ft 1in (2.46m) high on their panelled square pedestals, the figures had been strikingly modelled in their diaphanous robes and were appealingly weathered and lichened.

The only problem appeared to be their 1920s whitewash, although much of this had flaked off. Estimated at £5000-8000, the maidens were chased to £11,500.

The furniture saw plenty of high priced casualties, notably a 19th century French kingwood rosewood parquetry and floral marquetry meuble d’appui in the Louis XV-style with an estimate of £6000-8000 which failed to elicit a response from the assembled bidders, and a 19th century ebonized gilt and polychrome painted female blackamoor with a torch lamp, 6ft (1.81m) high, which graced the front cover of the catalogue but failed against expectations of £5000-7000.

“You cannot give some things away,” was auctioneer David Houlston’s verdict. Not at those prices anyway, it seemed.

A local private buyer bid the top furniture price for a George III mahogany serpentine front chest of four long drawers with fan spandrel inlay and a brushing slide above.

The top of the 3ft 3in (1m) wide chest was also inlaid with an oval panel of a festooned urn, and these decorative features helped to attract the winning, above-estimate bid of £8600. In the opinion of the auctioneers, the inlay was entirely original to the piece of furniture, although some of it had sprung loose.

Although the meuble d’appui failed to sell, a serpentine bombé vitrine, of the same style and period and carrying the same estimate of £6000-8000, did find a Continental buyer. Key to the success of the late 19th century kingwood vitrine were the gilt metal mounts – a profusion of them but still stylistically restrained – and the elegance of the bombé shape. The 6ft 8in high by 3ft 8in wide (2.04 x 1.13m) vitrine cabinet fetched £6500.

The other prominent display cabinet in the Chester sale was an early 20th century mahogany example moulded with husks and swags in the neoclassical style but with none of the satinwood inlay normally associated with furniture of that type.

However, the private bid of £5500 against an estimate of £1500-2000 for the 6ft 6in by 4ft 5in (1.97 x 1.35m) cabinet was certainly commensurate with satinwood models.

Mr Houlston noted that demand for decorative, if somewhat damaged furniture was strong. He cited the near pair of 19th century giltwood girandole wall mirrors with circular convex plates with lotus leaf clasps, winged eagle surmounts, acanthus aprons and sconces, each 3ft 10in by 2ft 11in (1.18m x 90cm) which took £5000 from the New York trade despite an eagle having lost a wing and some of the acanthus having been reglued.

Also included in this category was the Regency black japanned chinoiserie decorated wine cooler, the serpentine oval form on bamboo-style legs.

Wine coolers of this sort are rarely encountered in the salerooms and although the japanned decoration was quite faded. The style of the cooler was very much of its Regency period and it attracted a double-estimate £3100 from a French dealer.

A private collection of more than 100 desk and fob seals and related items was offered in 58 lots and almost all sold – the best seller being a mid-16th century silver gilt signet ring engraved with the initials E H joined by knotted rope and tasselled ends, which sold to a collector at £850.

The second day was devoted to paintings and the first day comprised silver, the best of which was a large model of a wheelbarrow with the Chester marks of Nathan and Hayes (1908) 17oz, which understandably attracted local interest and sold at £1900.

Bonhams, Chester, June 26-28
Number of lots offered: 1021
Number of lots sold: n/a
Sale total: £330,000
Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent