1. Miniature of an Indian prince – £8000
Although catalogued simply as an 18th century English School miniature, this portrait of an Indian prince is discretely signed and dated JS 1793.
The great John Smart (1741-1811) painted it during the decade he worked in Madras where his customers included both wealthy English residents and Indian princes. Smart’s portraits from his time in India are easily identifiable as he included an ‘I’ for ‘India’ although in this case it is the subject that gives a clue to its origins.
The portrait, painted in watercolour on card, is one of two versions known, the other painted on ivory in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Given a modest estimate at £30-50 at Hannams in Selborne, Hampshire on May 3, this new discovery took £8000.
2. Silver decanter stands – £10,500
This pair of silver wine decanter stands or bottle coasters by Philip Rundell (1746-1827) for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, (London 1819 and 1820) sold for £10,500 at Lay’s in Penzance on May 4. These are a full-blown Regency Bacchic model by the royal goldsmiths – the firm responsible for the crown jewels used at the coronations of George IV, William IV and Queen Victoria – and one that was supplied to some of the firm’s most illustrious clients.
This pair, that was estimated at £2000-3000, carry the engraved arms for Edward Hughes Ball Hughes (1798-1863), who, at the age of 21, inherited a fortune that paid him £40,000 a year. No surprise he was known in the society press as the Golden Ball. Such funds afforded a former royal palace in Surrey and furnishings from some of the most fashionable suppliers of the day.
However, Ball Hughes was notorious at the time as a man seemingly oblivious to the value of money. Having gambled away his legacy in just 10 years, he evaded his creditors and his wife by moving to France where he went on to have five children with two other women.
3. Fairylite Fireball XL5 toy – £5200
While many toys were made as merchandise for the Gerry Anderson TV series Thunderbirds, those relating to Fireball XL5, created two years earlier in 1962-63 are less common.
The show’s name refers to a craft of the World Space Patrol that polices the cosmos in the year 2062.
A toy Fireball XL5 came up for auction at C&T Auctions of Kenardington in Kent on May 3 estimated at £80-120. It did rather better, selling for £5200.
While most of the later Anderson-related toys were produced by Century 21 and Rosenthal, Fireball XL5 toys were made by a number of different manufacturers including Louis Marx, Merit and Quercetti (a series of later diecast issues were made by Product Enterprise.
Akin to some of Japanese space toys of same era, this 12in (30cm) long No 4409 plastic spaceship was made by Fairylite, the Merton, South London company that manufactured toys for many early Anderson shows including Supercar (1961-62) and Stingray (1964-65) and also action figures for Thunderbirds in 1966.
It is thought perhaps only a handful of these Fairylite Fireball XL5 toys now exist and this example came with its original illustrated box in very good (if not perfect) condition. It had a small repair to one rear and the rear clear plastic turbine was missing.
4. Portrait of a Georgian beauty – £24,000
Signed and dated T Beach Pinxt 1793, this portrait depicts the famous Georgian beauty Anne Templar, Lady de la Pole (1758-1832). The daughter of James Templer of Stover House, Devon, she married Sir John William Pole of Antony House, Cornwall in 1781.
Lady de la Pole had her likeness taken on a number of occasions including by John Flaxman (modelled in blue-dip jasperware, she was the fifth and last in a series of portraits of well-known British and French women issued by Wedgwood in the late 1780s). She was also painted by George Romney, whose 1786 full-length portrait was sold at auction in London by Christie’s in 1913 for a mighty $206,850. At the time it was the highest price ever paid for any fine art object. It is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Several other images of Lady de la Pole currently reside in the collection at Antony House (now a National Trust property) including both a copy of the Romney portrait and another full-length by the Dorset artist Thomas Beach (1738-1806), that shows the sitter leaning on a stone plinth, her head resting against her right hand.
The oil on canvas offered by Ripon firm Elstob Auctions as part of a timed online sale was directly related to this image. Although painted half-length in an oval format, the pose, the gaze and the clothing are nonetheless the same. The painting had arrived at Elstob as a portrait of an unknown lady but further research by specialist Rohan McCulloch identified her.
A pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Beach spent much of his career painting portraits in the fashionable resort of Bath. Many of his portraits bring relatively modest sums today but the £2000-3000 estimate on this attributed work proved too modest. When bidding closed on May 7, it had reached £24,000.
The winning bid was placed by a private collector who saw off interest from a UK dealer.
5. Punjab plate book – £11,000
The sale at Dominic Winter in South Cerney on May 10 included a library devoted to the history of British India assembled by the renowned military historian Brian Russell (1940-2022). His collection of Indian Army medals and decorations was sold by Spink in April this year.
The highpoint of the Gloucestershire sale was one of the few known copies of a plate book titled Original Sketches in the Punjaub. By a Lady. Published in 1854 (possibly as a private venture) it features 20 fine hand-coloured lithographs, primarily of Amritsar and Lahore, with the artist stating: ‘No attempt has been made to draw pictures as they ought to be; the desire has been to convey to an English eye some notion of the bright, vivid colouring of Indian scenes and their costume.’
It is thought the artist was the wife of a British officer. Copies are in the British Library, the Bodleian Library and the Victoria & Albert Museum while others were sold at Christie’s in 2005 for £4500 and at Bonhams in 2011 (£7000). The Russell copy was guided at £5000-8000 and sold at £11,000.