Isambard Kingdom Brunel photograph

Brunel and others at the launching of the Great Eastern by Robert Howlett – £6000 at Dominic Winter.

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1. Photograph of Isambard Kingdom Brunel – £6000

Commissioned by the Illustrated London Times to document the construction of the Great Eastern, the young photographer Robert Howlett (1831-58) took some of the most famous images of ship’s designer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859). They include the iconic shot of the diminutive engineer in front of the giant launching chains wearing stove pipe hat, mud-spattered trousers and boots with cigar.

A less well-known image taken by Howlett on the same day in November 1857 is this arched top albumen print that depicts Brunel standing in the foreground together with (from left to right) the Scottish civil engineer and shipbuilder John Scott Russell; Henry Wakefield, a highly-regarded engineer in Brunel’s drawing office, and Edward Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby.

An uncommon print, this 11 x 9in (27 x 23cm) copy with the four figures identified in pencil to the original card mount, sold for £6000 (estimate £300-500) at the sale of Photographs, Autographs & Historical Documents held on November 24 at Dominic Winter of South Cerney, Gloucestershire.

2. Ewenny slipware jug – £6500

Ewenny slipware jug by Horace Elliot

Ewenny slipware jug by Horace Elliot – £6500 at Rogers Jones.

A pottery has stood in the Welsh village of Ewenny for five centuries but, with a few exceptions, the collecting market tends to focus on the decorative slipwares produced under the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement.

A key figure is the London designer and ceramics dealer Horace W Elliot, who visited the area regularly from 1883-1914, commissioning and designing pieces to sell in his Bayswater showrooms. It was Elliot who in 1890 registered the design for the characterful ‘wild pig’ jugs (often inscribed 'Y Mochyn Gwyllt'), that are perhaps the most recognised Ewenny products.

Those few pieces with a strong sense of Welshness that can be closely tied to Elliot command a premium.

The latest Welsh sale at Rogers Jones in Cardiff on November 26 included – via a vendor in Kansas City – a fine 11in (28cm) yellow and brown slipware jug that was signed to the foot 'Copyright Horace Elliott' and to the base 'Elliott, London 1893'. Clearly a piece of which he was proud, it’s wing-form handle is accompanied by a sgraffito poem reading: 'Here is a mixture, of Earth and Heaven, An Angel's wing to a pitcher given, Take hold of the wing, for a handle, pray! Or the vessel of earth may fly away'.

In generally excellent condition (some minor glaze loss is to be expected with these wares) it was given a guide of £700-1000. Doubtless the American vendor was delighted when bidding reached £6500 – a record for a Horace Elliot pot. The auctioneers set a new record for Ewenny pottery when a slipware wassail bowl and cover by the Claypits potter William Williams inscribed and dated 1832 took £15,000 in July 2021.

3. Rare interiors first edition – £3400

A Book Of Ceilings by George Richardson

A Book Of Ceilings by George Richardson – £3400 at Minster Auctions.

The sale at Minster Auctions in Leominster on November 24 included a copy of an important work on neoclassical interiors: A Book Of Ceilings, In The Stile Of The Antique Grotesque; Composed, Designed, And Etched by George Richardson (1776).

This was Richardson’s (c.1737-c.1813) first published work and in the preface declares himself a former student of the Adam brothers (he worked with them as a draughtsman in both Edinburgh and London and had accompanied James Adam on the Grand Tour) and states that many clients and architects have already patronised his designs.

He adds that some of the plates show designs already executed including Lord Montalt's house, Dublin; Draper's Hall, London; Sir Robert Dundas's house, Edinburgh; the Society of Artists' exhibition room, London and the hall at Kedleston, Derbyshire. The work is dedicated by the author to ‘Lord Scarsdale of Kedleston’.

The volume, initially sold in eight parts to subscribers at 16s each between 1774-76 was available with the plates uncoloured or, as here, decorated in watercolour. He followed it in 179 with a companion series of designs titled Iconology or A Collection of Emblematical Figures (1779). Both were circulated widely among plasterers, architects, designers and craftspeople.

A Book Of Ceilings received a second edition in 1793 and has since been republished in the 20th century but first edition copies are scarce. The example at Minster was offered in 18th century half calf and marbled boards. It was estimated at £100-150 but took £3400.

4. German silver elephant – £4200

German silver elephant

German silver elephant by Neresheimer & Söhne – £4200 at Noonans.

The most famous of the many silversmiths in the German city of Hanau in the late 19th century was the firm Neresheimer & Söhne.

Exporting worldwide its range of antique reproductions and table ornaments formed as birds, the firm exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition and at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (also known as St Louis World’s Fair).

Several fine works by Neresheimer & Söhne feature in the ‘silver menagerie’ offered as part of a sale of Selected Silver and Objects of Vertu at Noonans in Mayfair on November 29.

The property of a gentleman, the collection of more than a dozen Dutch, German and English silver animals from the late 19th and early 20th century, included this large 8in (19cm) high model of an elephant. Realistically modelled, with a detachable head, it has import marks for 1902.

It had a guide of £3000-5000 and made £4200.

5. Christopher Dresser claret jug – £5000

Christopher Dresser claret jug

Claret jug designed by Christopher Dresser for Hukin & Heath – £5000 at Catherine Southon. 

The Birmingham firm of Hukin & Heath gained kudos with the progressive (if slightly pompous) writers of The Furniture Gazette in 1878 when they signed a big name to produce some of its designs. Writing in the issue published in August that year the Gazette commented: "In order that the firm may be recognised by the trade as reliable in point of design in every article of manufacture…and to render themselves secure against the inroads of wedding-cake art, Hukin & Heath have wisely secured the services of one of the past masters of decoration, Dr Christopher Dresser.”

The designer, they continued, had “laboured for many years to teach that in order to be inexpensive – not cheap, that is gimcrack – an article need not be ugly”.

The Aesthetic movement cut glass and electroplated claret jug offered by Catherine Southon on November 16 at the Farleigh Golf Club, Surrey was amongst those designs. Distinctive for its fluted neck and flat lid, it shares the scrolled handle used on other Hukin & Heath vessels attributed to Dresser. This one, however, is fully stamped to the inside of the cover Designed by Dr C Dresser.

It was not in great condition – the silver plate is heavily rubbed to the base metal and the glass has a light bloom to the interior – but on account of its rarity it attracted sufficient admirers to bring £5000 (estimate £400-600).

A similar vessel but without the scalloped edge to the neck and in silver rather than silver plate was sold by Lyon & Turnbull in 2015. With hallmarks for Birmingham 1886, it had made £8000.