1. 18th century pannier dress – £3600
By the mid-18th century, as the fashion for the pannier dress reached its peak, some women wore dresses measuring seven feet wide. Such voluminous gowns, supported by a frame made of metal, cane or whalebone, accentuated the small waist of the wearer and underlined their wealth and status.
Only the richest members of society could afford to purchase such a large quantity of costly material for a single garment.
A good example was offered by Gloucestershire auction house Dominic Winter in South Cerney, on July 21. Correctly titled a robe à la Française (the name pannier comes from the French term for the cane baskets slung on either side of a pack animal), it was made of a gold metallised gauze that had been hand-embroidered with large and small floral sprays. The skirt measured around 5ft (1.52m) wide.
As one might expect from a garment made c.1750, it was worn and frayed in places and had received a number of darns and repairs. However, it was sufficiently rare to surpass estimate five-fold and sell at £3600.
2. Rare Star Wars figure – £21,000
The Vinyl Cape Jawa was the first Star Wars action figure to assume mythic status among collectors. One of the original series of a dozen figures that accompanied the release of the film in 1978 (jawas are the hooded creatures with glowing eyes that buy and sell droids), the very first ‘early bird’ issues featured the character in a brown plastic cape.
After negative feedback that suggested this 4in (10cm) model looked a little cheap, the design was changed to give Jawa a more upmarket cloth cape.
Most surviving Vinyl Cape Jawa figures were made in the US by Kenner. But rarer still are the handful of British-manufactured figures, made by Palitoy of Coalville, near Leicester. Only around a dozen ‘carded’ Palitoy examples are known.
The first of these surfaced on eBay in 2013 when it sold for £11,300. Since then, a few others have been offered including two at Vectis – one sold in 2013 for £10,200, another for £18,000 in 2017 – and the near mint example that made a record £22,000 at Aston’s in Dudley in 2020.
The figure offered by Excalibur Auctions in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire on July 22 was one of three 12-back Palitoy models sold by a vendor who worked as an art director for Marvel UK between 1974-79. The figures, that had the odd scuff and crease to the cards but were unpunched, were gifted by Palitoy to Marvel as part of the promotion of the figures in their comics.
More common issues of a Sand Person and a Stormtrooper sold for £600 and £300 respectively, but the Vinyl Cape Jawa described as being in ‘very good to excellent’ topped out at £21,000 (estimate £10,000-15,000).
3. Sketching club’s minutes – £2000
This handwritten volume bound in maroon calf boards with brass clasp is titled inside The Minute Book of The Auld Lang Syne Sketching Club. It came for sale at McTear’s in Glasgow on July 20 with a guide of £100-200 but sold via thesaleroom.com for £2000.
This society for Scottish artists living in London had its origins in the Smashers Club, a drawing club created in Edinburgh New Town in 1848. The founding members were William Fettes Douglas, William Crawford, Thomas Faed, James Archer and John Ballantyne – almost all of whom went on to national recognition.
The exact origin of the club’s name is unclear, but it is thought to reference a pub and imply a degree of alcohol consumption.
In 1863, largely due to the relocation of the members, the club moved to London and renamed itself the Auld Lang Syne Sketching Club. New members included Erskine Nicol, John Stirling and Andrew Maclure – all of them names mentioned in the pages of this minute book that documents the events of meetings held at various London hostels. The opening pages dated May 1865 read: ‘Four members of the Smashers Sketching Club (instituted in Edinburgh April 1848) having become residents in London, it seemed good unto them to reconstitute the Club in the new locality under a new title – namely as the Auld Lang Syne Club – and to this end a preliminary meeting was held at Mr Erskine Nicol’s on Saturday November 21sr 1863. The Smashers present being John Faed, Thomas Faed, Erskine Nicol and John Ballantyne.’
John Ballantyne, who is today best known for his 17 canvases showing contemporary artists at work in their studios, painted a series of head and shoulders images of members of the Auld Lang Syne Sketching Club, London, in the 1860s.
4. Paint advertising sign – £12,500
The sale of Enamel Signs, Automobilia and Advertising at Chippenham Auction Rooms on July included this rare pictorial enamel sign depicting the Mauretania at full steam advertising Holzapfels Composition.
Based in Felling-on-Tyne, Holzapfels specialised in making anti-corrosive paints and varnishes for marine purposes. The 2ft 2in x 3ft 4in (70cm x 1.02m) image by Patent Enamel has some professional restoration but, estimated at £4000-6000, took £12,500.
5. Minton majolica tureen – £15,000
The boar’s head tureen with matching stand is considered the rarest of all the game tureens made by the Minton factory in its colourful majolica range. The 15in (37cm) model, with the date letter for 1877, replicates an 18th century design made popular by Chelsea in soft paste porcelain.
Only a handful of these are known and those that have appeared at auction have made spectacular sums. In May 2022 one appeared for sale as part of the Betsy and Rick Porter collection at Strawser Auctions in Indiana where it took $47,500.
This example offered by Keys (00% buyer’s premium) of Aylsham on the first day of the firm’s July 26-28 Fine Art and Antiques sale was found earlier this year in a Norfolk home. In excellent condition save a reglued chip to the base it was given what was a realistic estimate of £15,000-18,000 and got away at the lower guide selling to a US buyer.