1. Mouseman elephants clock – £10,000
Appealing to a coterie of committed enthusiasts, prices for Mouseman carvings continue to bring muscular sums in the salerooms.
The latest example of this was the £10,000 (estimate £3000-4000) bid at Tennants in Leyburn on March 4 for an oak mantel clock case c.1967 carved with elephants and the mouse trademark. Housing a battery-operated German movement, it measures 18in (44cm) across.
A decade ago, these were much more affordable. By way of example, one sold for £1300 at Bonhams Edinburgh in 2009, another selling for £1700 at Tennants in 2012.
The carver Stan ‘Woodpeckerman’ Dodds carved a number of these before and after leaving the Kilburn workshop. A similar clock carrying Dodds’ rabbit signature (one he used before switching to the woodpecker in the 1960s) sold at Tennants for £5000 in December 2020.
Dating from the 1960s, these clocks are later than the record-setting pair of Mouseman elephant bookends sold at Lawrences of Crewkerne in July 2019. Probably made by master carver George Weightman in the 1930s, they were believed to have been commissioned by African wildlife enthusiast John Weston Adamson while he lived at Oldstead Hall, near Kilburn.
2. Maori portrait tiles – £1550
The potter George Cartlidge, who worked for Sherwin & Cotton in Hanley for close to 30 years, is best known as the designer of the Arts and Crafts Morris Ware. However, among tile collectors, his name is associated with a range of portrait tiles in sepia monochrome glazes, that through fine modelling rather than transfer printing mirror the photographs they copied.
A large range of subjects were produced in the first decade of the 20th century but today the Maori series are probably the most commercial. Two of these were offered at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield on March 2 – portraits of two well-known Maori guides Sophia and Bella, both shown wearing a korowai (cloak), pounamu tiki and pendant and huia feather in their hair.
Measuring 6 x 9in (15 x 22cm), they are impressed with Sherwin & Cotton factory marks plus the artist’s monogram. These are most frequently sold in New Zealand where they can bring prices of more than £1000 each. This pair, was guided at just £40-60, but sold for £1550.
3. Signed detective novel – £2100
Writing during the ‘Golden Age’ of detective fiction, Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957) was dubbed one of the four Queens of Crime alongside Agatha Christie, Margaret Allingham and Ngaio Marsh.
She is best known for a series of mystery novels that feature the aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey and the fictional detective novelist Harriet Vane. Gaudy Night is the 10th in the series.
George Orwell was not a fan. Writing his review in 1936 he said Sayers’ "slickness in writing has blinded many readers to the fact that her stories, considered as detective stories, are very bad ones”. Nonetheless the narrative that interweaves a love story with an examination of the stifled role of women in 1930s England, has since been described as ‘the first feminist mystery novel’.
Gaudy Night is a desirable first edition, particularly when offered with its ‘Just Out’ dust jacket in good order. Better still are copies signed by the author such as this one with an imperfect but intact jacket offered by Truro auctioneer Lodge Thomas on March 3.
Estimated modestly at £120-180, it took £2100 from a bidder using thesaleroom.com.
4. Watercolour of Dublin – €12,000
The jobbing artist Joseph Tudor (c.1695-1759) is well -known for a series of engravings of Dublin made in the 1750s but his surviving oeuvre of original works is tiny.
The watercolour drawing offered as part of the sale of Irish art at Adam’s in Dublin on March 1 is only the fourth recorded. Showing a view of the city from the Phoenix Park, it is thought to be the preparatory study for an engraving made in London by James Mason and published in 1753 by Laurie & Whittle as A Prospect of the City of Dublin.
As was standard practice, Tudor’s drawing focuses squarely on the architecture (his work is considered an important record of buildings that no longer stand) with the engraver adding the elegant figures and livestock in the foreground.
This newly identified drawing was previously owned by Sir Jack Baer (1924-2016), the art dealer who built Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox into a world class gallery. It had been acquired as an unattributed picture from Baer’s estate sale by Adam’s vendor. Estimated at €3000-5000, it sold at €12,000 (£10,670).
Joseph Tudor is thought to have been a pupil of William Van der Hagen. He enjoyed a busy practice as a landscape and decorative painter in the decades from about 1740 to his death.
5. Chinese ‘Baptism of Christ’ bowl – €18,000
From the 16th to the 18th centuries Christian missionaries played a significant role in the transmission of knowledge, science and culture between China and the West. Famously it was Jesuits that introduced the Qing court to the technology necessary for enameling on porcelain. One of the consequences of this was the range of porcelain known as Jesuit ware.
Predominantly made in the reign of Qianlong (1736-96) for export via Portuguese traders, it is typically decorated en grisaille and gilt with subject matter taken from European engravings. A rarer series of wares from the 1720s are those with blue and white decoration.
These include a group of large 18in (45cm) bowls painted to the centre with a scene of the baptism of Christ. He is shown as a young man standing with John the Baptist at the water's edge with the Holy Ghost represented as an ascending angel. The border of fruit and cherubs includes the inscription Mat 3.16 – a reference to the relevant passage in the New Testament.
A dish from the Mottahedeh collection, dated to c.1725, is pictured in David Howard and John Ayers’ China for the West, where it is noted that ‘it is possible that this ware was made for use in China and Japan and was only incidentally exported to Europe as a curiosity or as evidence of the missionary work being done’.
A similar bowl sold for £26,000 at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury back in 2013 and another appeared for sale at DVC Auctions in Ghent on March 4. It was estimated at just €500-1500 but sold at €18,000 (£16,000).