Bringing the biggest leap above expectations in Harrogate on March 5 was a woollen shoulder shawl.
Catalogued as an early 19th century hand block-printed shawl with all-over repeat stylised flower motifs, the 4ft (1.22m) square shawl with some moth holes was estimated at £70-100.
Pre-sale interest, booked phones and online registering made a much higher price likely and although auctioneer Nicholas Mellors started the bidding at £50, within two minutes the shawl went to an Indian bidder at £12,000.
Avalon Fotheringham, curator of the V&A’s Asian department, later told ATG exactly why.
“The piece is of a class of Kashmir shawls known as ‘moon shawls’ which were produced over the second half of the 18th century into the 19th century,” she said. “The shawl in question may date from the later 18th century, based on its style and size.
“Kashmir shawls can be popular collector’s items and it is not uncommon for fine pieces to fetch higher-than-estimated prices,” she added, pointing to a collection sold at a Christie’s online sale last June where premium-inclusive prices for moon shawls ranged from £3000 to £20,000.
The shawl was consigned by a charitable trust now handling the estate of a venerable family, the last of whose line has died. It was among the material at the family’s Kent home, now let out and its contents removed to the family’s Yorkshire estate.
Rather incongruently, the shawl was offered with a fine pair of infant’s lace socks. Another lot of childhood footwear opened the sale with great success. The first lot of the day was a 17th century pair of child’s shoes of black silk embroidered with birds and flowers in gilt metal thread on leather soles and stacked heels.
The 4in (10cm) long shoes had apparently never been worn – which may have implied a long-ago tragedy but was a draw for bidders. The pair more than doubled expectations at £3200.
The charitable trust had been keen its consignments were priced to sell – hence the £2000-3000 estimate on an Edwardian Howard & Sons suite of three-seater sofa and a pair of armchairs.
Hugely popular in the late 19th-early 20th century, the firm’s upholstered furniture was rated as highly as the wooden furniture from manufacturers such as Gillows. It has been recession proof for the past 10 years or so.
The company name lives on today with high-quality repro but the most desirable pieces are the late 19th and early 20th century items produced in Berners Street to the north of Oxford Street in London.
The suite at Harrogate was stamped and numbered to the mahogany frame of the 7ft 11in (2.4m) sofa and to the chairs’ brass castors. All three pieces came with paper labels and when the tired chintz was removed the original Howard & Son ticking fabric was revealed.
The winning bid from the Yorkshire trade was £16,000 – serious money, particularly when premium and taxes take it up to around £19,000, but suites are rare.
Also going at five times above estimate was a Cantonese porcelain punch bowl, c.1830.
Unusually large at 23in (58.5cm) diameter, it was painted to the well with court figures in a garden along with bats, birds and flowers and, to the exterior, with dignitaries in panels against a background of birds and butterflies among peonies and fruiting branches.
Pitched at £1500-2500, it was contested by Chinese bidders but sold to a London dealer at £12,000.
So many good items from the Kent house – offered across the 645- lot sale – noticeably improved the mood in the saleroom. Morphets’ active owner Elizabeth Pepper-Darling said it made a welcome change from the thinner pickings of multi-property sales. “The rooms were crowded, the atmosphere exciting and more than one dealer said it reminded him of the mood of 30 years ago,” she said.
Two late 17th century table cabinets caught the eye – one Flemish in tortoiseshell, the other inlaid with mother-of-pearl flower heads on a gilt-lacquer ground catalogued as Dutch colonial.
The 19in (49cm) square Flemish cabinet was inlaid with ivory stringing and applied with silver putti mounts. It more than doubled the mid-estimate, going back to the Netherlands at £5500.
The 21in (53.5cm) high pagoda-top cabinet was a typical cross-culture piece combining a western form with exotic decoration. It was probably Japanese. Estimated at £1500-2000, it was another buy for the Yorkshire trade at £7000.