Hanson1 2542HH 06 05 2022

Southern Song hare’s fur bowl with a presentation mark – £56,000 at Hansons.

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1. Chinese bowl with a presentation mark – £56,000

It was during the Song dynasty that tea parties became the vogue and tea houses flourished in China. Particularly fashionable was the so-called 'whipped tea', whisked to produce a white froth on the top, and so bowl that showed this to its best advantage were regarded as desirable.

Black and deep purple tea bowls became fashionable and were made at a number of kilns.

The Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r.1101-1125), a great devotee of tea drinking who wrote a 12-chapter book on the subject, particularly admired the so-called hare's fur bowls. He stated: "The black hued tea bowls are to be preferred. Those with the distinctive hare's fur glaze are the best".

Southern Song hare’s fur bowl

The mark to the Southern Song hare’s fur bowl with a presentation mark that made £56,000 at Hansons.

This Southern Song example, offered for sale by Hansons, with a brown-streaked black glaze was the highlight of the Hurdle Collection of classic era Chinese ceramics offered by Hansons in Etwall, Derbyshire on April 29. In addition to its good glaze and exceptional condition, this is an inscribed piece with a painted mark to the unglazed foot that reads Gongyu (imperial tribute) or Jin Zhan (for presentation). It is thought bowls of this type represented the finest wares of their type and were made to be presented to the court.

It was estimated at £1500-2000 but raced away to bring £56,000.

2. Inscribed Mark Twain first edition – £20,000

Mark Twain First Edition

Inscribed first edition copy of Mark Twain’s Sketches, New and Old – £20,000 at Cheffins

This first edition copy of Sketches, New and Old by Mark Twain (1835-1910) illustrated by True Williams came for sale at Cheffins in Cambridge on April 28. A decent example of the late 1875 second state issue (printed without the brief story From Hospital Days by another author that was included in error), its key appeal is the inscription.

To the front free endpaper that reads To Dr John Brown with the love of Mark Twain (otherwise Samuel Clemens) Hartford, December 1875.

This appears to be a reference to the Scottish physician and essayist John Brown (1810-82) who Twain first contacted when his wife Livy fell ill during a tour of the UK in 1873. After treating Livy, a friendship developed which continued through letters until Brown’s death.

Samuel, Livy and baby Suzie Clements (Mark Twain and family) were photographed with Brown in John Moffat’s studio in Edinburgh in 1873.

This personal connection with the author galvanised bidding that, beginning around the £400-600 estimate, rose to £20,000.

3. Joanna Constantinidis ‘Body Pot’ – £8800

Joanna Constantinidis stoneware ’Body Pot’

Joanna Constantinidis stoneware ’Body Pot’ – £8800 at Adam Partridge.

Typically, the works of studio potter Joanna Constantinidis (1927-2000), for nearly 40 years a lecturer in Ceramics at Chelmsford Technical College and School of Art, have tended to occupy the second tier of the burgeoning contemporary ceramics market.

Most of her pared-down thrown forms, often enhanced by lustre glazes, have sold in the high hundreds rather than the thousands.

However, price levels for her best works have changed significantly, particularly after a large stoneware ’Body Pot’ from c.1975 took a record £15,000 at Maak, London, June 2021).

Another of these prime-period asymmetrical lustred stoneware vessels, indicative of the work for which Constantinidis was awarded the Medal of Honour at the international exhibition of ceramic art in Faenza, Italy in 1978, emerged for sale at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield on April 29. Standing 17in (42cm), it was estimated at £400-600 but made £8800.

4. Return of the Jedi shop display model – £13,000

Return of the Jedi shop display model

Return of the Jedi shop display model – £13,000 at Vectis.

To mark the new range of Star Wars toys that came with the release of Return of the Jedi in 1982, the Leicester firm Palitoy commissioned a series of hand built and hand painted store displays to send to soe of its best retailers.

The example here depicting a battle scene on the planet Endor was made by NJ Farmers Associates Ltd and given at the time to one of Teesside best-known toy shops, Romer Parrish on Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough. It was bought by a collector when the store closed in the mid 1990s.

These large toy displays, fondly remembered by so many children, are today valuable Star Wars collectables. Offered for sale at toy specialist Vectis in Stockton-on-Tees on April 28 with a guide of £5000-10,000, it sold to an internet bidder at £13,000.

5. Study for a tapestry– £24,000

Dom Robert

The Flowering Garden – Study for a tapestry by Dom Robert – £24,000 at Lyon & Turnbull.

The Flowering Garden – Study for a tapestry by Dom Robert (1907-97) raced away to bring £24,000 at Lyon & Turnbull’s Modern Made sale held in London on April 29 – by some distance the highest price ever paid for a picture by the French artist. Robert, who used the pseudonym Guy de Chaunac-Lanzac, was an atypical artist. 

A Benedictine monk living in the Abbaye d'En Calcat in Dourgne, he is remembered as the painter who helped revive the fortunes of the venerable Aubusson tapestry factory in the post-war era.

This joyous scene of figures enjoying a flower garden rendered in acrylic and collage on canvas was dated 1951 and had a provenance to the London modern and contemporary dealership Gimpel Fils.

6. Nelson memorial ring – £25,000

Nelson memorial ring

Gold and enamel Nelson memorial ring with hair aperture – £25,000 at Bonhams.

The Marine Sale at Bonhams on April 25 included this rare gold and enamel ring marking the death of Admiral Lord Nelson in 1805. It relates to the series of 58 rings made by the London jeweller and sworder cutter John Salter that were distributed by the Executors of Nelson's will to relations, close friends and pall bearers.

Each is worked in black, white and red enamel with a coronet and the word Trafalgar. The gold shanks are engraved on the outside Palmem Qui Meruit Ferate (let him bear the palm of victory who has won it) and the inner surface engraved Lost to his Country 21 Oct 1805 Aged 47.

A number of ‘standard’ rings have appeared at auction over the last 20 years – selling for prices up to £18,000 depending on condition – and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich have three in their collection.

Nelson memorial ring

Gold and enamel Nelson memorial ring with hair aperture – £25,000 at Bonhams.

However, there is no record of another to this design that includes a window below the coronet design for a hair insert. It is thought it must have been made either by special request or for important individuals at added cost, as Nelson's hair samples were extremely rare even at the time.

Bonhams estimated it at £15,000-20,000 and were rewarded with a hammer price of £25,000.