They were secured by one of several continental European bidders well above the estimate of £8000-12,000.
The Italian word ‘capezzale’ literally means a headboard, but also refers to the devotional shrines that were hung above a bed. These 5½in (14cm) plaques, which carried a provenance to St Mary’s Bourne Street, the Anglican church near Sloane Square in London, were a genuine pair depicting the Annunication and the Nativity.
They were probably made in one of the carving workshops in the coastal town of Trapani during the mid to late 17th century using the locally harvested coral.
The engraved gilt metal and enamel frames are characteristic of these pieces, the panel verso concealing the unsightly wax and pitch glue that holds the coral, a method of adhesion termed ‘retroincastro’.
By the end of the 18th century the coral reefs in the region had been thoroughly depleted and the industry at Trapani disappeared.
The buyer’s premium at Olympia Auctions was 25%.