1. Japanese folding screen – £11,000
During the Meiji period, the Kyoto artist and entrepreneur Nishimura Sozaemon (1855-1935) used Western mechanised weaving techniques to develop new styles of Japanese decorative textiles.
These detailed pictorial weavings were shown at a series of high-profile international exhibitions: the Third National Industrial Exhibition Tokyo in 1881, the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1899, the National Industrial Exposition in 1903, and the St. Louis Exposition in 1904. The Nishimura firm (now trading as Chiso) provided an order of 24 pieces of embroidery to the Imperial household and was awarded with the Order of the Green Cordon and the 6th Order of the Sacred Treasure.
Single panels of Nishimura needlework occasionally appear for sale but this more expansive piece, pictured above, a four-panel folding screen depicting captive birds of prey against a royal blue ground, is typical of the sort of pieces that would have been on the firm’s exhibition stand. It is signed to the wood and lacquer frame in gilt with characters that translate as Empire of Japan Kyoto Nishimura Sozaemon Products.
It came for sale at Rowley Fine Art in Ely on March 12 in decent if tired condition with a guide of £1000-1500 but took £11,000.
2. English delft teapot – £3300
Teapots made in delftware were never particularly functional or popular in either England or Holland. More refined vessels made in porcelain or silver were much preferred for serving the precious leaves of the tea plant than coarser earthenware. On a practical level, delft also proved a poor material for holding boiling water being prone to crazing and cracking when subject to temperature change.
The example pictured here, decorated in polychrome with a geometric repeating design came for sale at Lay’s in Penzance. Probably dating from the first quarter of the 18th century, it was in relatively good condition with a star crack to the body and chips to the lid and the foot.
It was guided at £80-120 but sold at £3300.
A delft teapot of similar decoration but different form attributed to Jonathan Chilwells delftworks in Vauxhall c.1720 sold for £2500 as part of Syd Leverthan’s Longridge collection at Christie’s in 2011.
3. Birmingham Guild of Handicraft lamp – £3600
This Arts & Crafts brass table lamp sold for £3600 (estimate £150-250) at Hartleys in Ilkley on March 16. It was identified by bidders as a design by Arthur Stansfeld Dixon (1856-1929), the English metal worker and architect who founded the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft in 1890. It shares the same conical shade as another better known Dixon lamp – the example in the Victoria & Albert Museum given as a wedding gift to Charles Robert Ashbee in 1895.
The Birmingham Guild of Handicraft (its headquarters in Great Charles Street still extant) was the first to make Arts & Crafts metalwork in a city that had become synonymous with the worst of Victorian industrialisation. Dixon wrote: 'A man should not be cut off from the full effect of his work... if art is to live and not die, mens work must be so arranged that they may be able to keep their souls alive...the craftsman must come before the merchant, and the machine must be subservient to the hand of man.’
He designed simple metalwork with an emphasis on hand craftsmanship.
Alan Crawford’s 1984 catalogue for the exhibition By Hammer and Hand held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery includes a contemporary illustration of a display of similar lamps by the Guild.
Despite the modest estimate, the hammer price was among the highest for this model.
Several other examples of this ‘horn’ lamp have appeared for sale in recent memory. Others sold at Woolley & Wallis in 2014 (£3000), Moore Allen & Innocent in 2016 (£2300) and Lyon & Turnbull (£1600).
4. Metamorphic table – £5200
Fred Francis Foster (d.1968) does not have the immediate name recognition of Peter Waals or Sidney Barnsley but he worked alongside both men and other Cotswold School craftsmen. A founding member of the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen, he lived and worked in Whiteway Colony near Stroud.
This walnut occasional table, offered for sale at Mallams in Cheltenham on March 16, is signed in ink 'Designed & Made by Fred F Foster, 1951, Camp, Nr Stroud, Glos’. It is a metamorphic piece, extending to 3ft (90cm) across from a diminutive ‘fold-away’ 22in (54cm) wide.
Cotswolds School furniture from this mid-century period is enjoying something of a purple patch in the saleroom. This table, guided at £300-500 as part of Mallams Modern Living sale, took £5200 from an overseas buyer.
5. Niagara ‘index’ typewriter – £3900
The Blickensderfer Typewriter Co of Stanford, Connecticut introduced the Niagara ‘index’ typewriter in 1902. Priced at $15 it was relatively inexpensive, smaller and lighter than many other typewriters on the market and made using far fewer induvial parts. Essentially it used the carriage, escapement and typewheel of earlier Blickensderfer models, but instead of keys, there was a circular index that could be turned to select a character. It was sold by George Blickensderfer as the Niagara and also rebranded for other markets as the Best, the Stella, the Marion and the Dactyle.
However, probably due to the absence of a keyboard, it did not sell particularly well. The now familiar Qwerty keyboard (debuted on the Sholes & Gliddon typewriter in 1874) was fast becoming the standard and many typists who had learned to use it were reluctant to experiment with a new system.
Today the Niagara is one of the rarer and more expensive of early 20th century typewriters. The example pictured here – in somewhat tired but seemingly complete condition with its original stained pine box – came for sale at HRD of Brading on the Isle of Wight on March 15.
It was guided at £100-200 but bidding reached £3900.
6. George IV wine coolers – £8500
The London firm Samuel Jackson seems to have specialised in mounting other materials in silver to produce wine-coolers. Several variants on the theme are known including examples in various types of marble and glass. A pair of frosted glass examples mounted in silver-gilt in the form of the Warwick vase (London 1825) sold at Sotheby's in April 2011 for £10,000 and again in New York in 2018 for $8500.
The pair of 13in (32cm) George IV wine coolers pictured here are fashioned in antico rosso marble and mounted in silver with bearded mask handles and a coat-of-arms for the Astley Baronets of Hill Morton. Dated 1821, they were almost certainly made for Jacob Astley (1797-1859), 6th Baronet and later 16th Baron Hastings who succeeded to the title and large family estates in Norfolk and Northumberland upon the death of his father in 1817.
Last sold at Sotheby’s in 2016 for £10,000, they returned to auction at Tennants in Leyburn on March 19 where they took £8500.