1. Cameo of Napoleon – £22,000
The best examples of the glyphic arts continue to shine at auction. This carved sardonyx cameo depicting Napoleon as a classical emperor sold for £22,000 (estimate £600-800) at Chiswick Auctions on June 11.
Unknown to the local vendor, who had kept it in a drawer, it was of the period c.1810 and is signed Morelli for the Roman engraver Niccolò Morelli (1771-1830). Measuring 1.75in (4cm) and mounted in gold, it is housed in later ebonised frame.
Napoleon gave much encouragement to the glyptic arts in France, extending the Prix de Rome (a scholarship for arts students) to gem engravers from 1805 and fostering a school for students of the subject under Roman-Vincent Jeuffroy of the Paris Mint. Many gem engravers chose to portray the emperor and his family. However, Niccolò Morelli (whose clients included Francis I of Austria and Count Sommariva) was considered his favourite and became virtually the empire’s official engraver.
Back in November 2020, Bonhams offered a cameo believed to be a portrait of Marie, Countess Walewska, (1786-1817), the Polish noblewoman and mistress of Napoleon Bonaparte, who bore him a son in 1810. It was unsold with a guide of £15,000-20,000.
2. Queen Anne gold medal – £12,500
The 1702 Accession of Queen Anne medal is not uncommon in copper and silver but very rare in gold. Examples of the medal in copper can be found for under £100 and those in silver priced from £100-500 depending on condition.
This example in gold (in a contemporary shagreen case) came for sale at Bamford's in Derby on June 10 where, estimated at £3000-5000, it took £12,500.
The medal is a relatively early design by John Croker, who would become chief engraver at the Tower of London from 1705-41. A bust portrait of the monarch appears to the obverse with the obverse depicting a heart, within branches of oak set on a pedestal inscribed, Atavis Regievs together with the words Entirely English. The latter are a reference to Anne’s first speech to Parliament in which, after a decade of rule by William of Orange, she proclaimed ‘I know mine own Heart to be entirely English’.
3. Portrait of a life cut short – £5800
The sale at Semley Auctions in Shaftesbury, Dorset on June 12 included this 14 x 10in (35 x 25cm) portrait of a young boy in profile by Maurice William Greiffenhagen (1862-1931). It had a guide of just £150-250 but sold at £5800.
Worked in both pastel and watercolour, it is signed and dated 1906 – the year Greiffenhagen first taught at the Glasgow School of Art – with the subject named as Gilbert Maurice Parkinson. It came for sale from a member of the Haviland Parkinson family, a descendant of the sitter.
The subject was one Greiffenhagen painted on a number of occasions, most famously as part of the 1915 portrait The Sons of William Parkinson (Captain William Haviland Parkinson, 1891-1976 and Captain Gilbert Maurice Parkinson, 1896-1918) that now resides in The Fusiliers Museum of Northumberland.
After almost four years as a soldier in France and Italy, Gilbert was struck down in the influenza epidemic that ravaged Europe in the closing months of the war and died in Italy in 1918.
After the death of both artist and sitter, the picture was exhibited at The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition in 1933 when it was titled simply Head of a Young Boy.
4. Dominion petrol pump globe – £15,500
Every collector of original glass petrol pump globes hopes to own examples by the classic big brands – BP, Shell, Esso and the like. With a little patience and a decent budget, plenty of examples are available across a year.
However, once those ‘entry level’ pieces have been acquired, it is the globes by the more obscure brands that come highest on the wish list. They can be much harder to find – and much more expensive.
Richard Edmonds in Chippenham has sold some very rare British petrol pump globes in recent years – including a lantern-shaped globe for Dominion sold for £13,000 in October 2019 and, precisely a year later, another Deco-inspired Dominion Guaranteed globe dated to c.1937 sold at £23,000 – thought to be a record for a British petrol globe.
Dominion was launched in 1923 but was quickly swallowed up by Sealand Petroleum.
The best things come in threes and another Dominion globe surfaced at the Wiltshire firm on June 12. In excellent condition it sold at £15,500.
5. Sir Henry Raeburn portrait – £80,000
This three-quarter length portrait by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) depicts Lady Agnes Carnegie (1763-1860). Born in Edinburgh in 1763 and raised in colonial America where her father Andrew Elliot was the last Governor of New York, she returned with her family to Scotland when American independence was acknowledged in 1783.
There she married Sir David Carnegie, MP for Kincardineshire and deputy governor of the British Linen Company. The couple and their 12 children lived between Kinnaird Castle and their house in Gloucester Place, London.
This 4ft 2in x 3ft 4in (1.27 x 1.02m) portrait with its subtle palette was made c.1810, when Raeburn was at the height of his powers. He shows Lady Carnegie looking towards the viewer with soft, smiling poise, the light playing on the stripes of her ivory headdress.
This portrait came for sale at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh on June 10 from the collection of John Reid (1861-1933), a son of James Reid of Auchterarder, who founded the Hyde Park Locomotive Works in Glasgow. The Reid family were early collectors of Barbizon and Hague school paintings, and also owned several important Old Masters alongside a fine selection of British paintings.
Estimated at £15,000-20,000, this Scottish portrait was generated a sale-topping £80,000, selling to a private US buyer.