Australian gold in Gloucestershire
This rare survivor from the Australian gold rush era came up for sale at Chorley’s of Prinknash Abbey in September where it sold for a multi-estimate £57,000 to an Australian private collector.
The bracelet was consigned by descendants of Hugh Hamilton (1822-1900), who took on the post of assistant gold commissioner at Ophir near Bathhurst during the 1851 gold rush after losing most of his cattle herd in the 1849 drought.
It is marked for the goldsmith and topographical photographer Christian Ludwig Qwist (1818-77) and, with its oxidised silver emu, kangaroo and aborigine, is among the first examples of Antipodean jewellery to depict native flora, fauna and people.
Medieval mourners in Paris
Two rare medieval mourning figures from a frieze of 40 that originally decorated the tomb constructed for Jean de France, duc de Berry (1340-1416), sold for €4.4m (£3.67m) at Christie’s Paris in June. They were secured by the Louvre, exercising its right of pre-emption as a French institution to claim them at the fall of the hammer.
The duc, a famous patron of the arts, commissioned his own tomb for the Sainte Chapelle of the Ducal palace in Bourges, appointing the sculptor Jean de Cambrai to build it.
De Cambrai managed to complete a life-size statue for the top and five mourners before the duc died in 1416. The carving of the remaining figures was taken up by sculptors Etienne Bobillet and Paul Mosselmann and the tomb was completed c.1459. It remained in the chapel at Bourges until it was vandalised during the Revolution.
Star Wars in Stockton
Vectis set a new auction record for a Star Wars production figure in July when the Thornaby firm sold a French issue of Boba Fett, the memorable bit-part character in The Empire Strikes Back, for £21,000.
All carded production figures of Boba Fett are very desirable. The figure was initially available only as a mail order freebie for those who had bought other models.
When Vectis sold the Craig Stevens collection in 2013, the Palitoy version of this figure, preserved in mint condition on its un-punched card back, took £15,000. The French version, retailed by Meccano, is thought to be rarer still. This example was deemed near mint with the square punched card back rated as ‘good plus’. Part of a collection that had been 40 years in the making, it sold to an American buyer.
Dobson depiction in London
This early self-portrait by William Dobson (1611-46) was the highlight of Bonhams’ July Old Masters sale in New Bond Street, selling to a UK collector for £920,000.
London-based Dobson painted himself sometime during the 1630s, his introspective and troubled gaze reflecting a tumultuous period in English history. He later joined Charles I’s court in Oxford during the Civil War where he replaced the deceased Anthony Van Dyck as the king’s official painter and established his reputation as the most distinguished native-born British artist before William Hogarth.
By 1791, the 2ft x 18in (62 x 47cm) portrait hung at Howsham Hall in Whitby remaining there until it was bought by the vendor’s grandfather at the Howsham contents sale in 1948. Bonhams’ price tripled the previous high for the artist.
17th century souvenir in Somerset
When silver specialist Alex Butcher sold a 17th century spoon commemorating the 1683-84 Frost Fair on the Thames for £2000 at Phillips in 1997, he thought it a once-in-a-lifetime event. But on January 19 at Lawrences in Crewkerne he sold another of these rare souvenirs – for £11,500. The lace-back trefid assumes a typical form but key to its desirability is the inscription to the handle: This spoon was bought upon the Frozen river Thames January 28th 1683-4.
The winter of 1683-84 was the most severe in recent history with the river frozen to 18 inches, enough to allow a ‘street’ with booths to be set up from Temple to Southwark. The king and queen visited the fair on January 30, 1683, two days before this spoon was bought.
A collector in the room fought off competition from around nine phone bidders to secure it.