Newbury auction house Dreweatts (25% buyer’s premium) held a strong furniture sale on March 30-31.
Without relying on a couple of huge spends, no fewer than 15 pieces of English cabinetmaking and seating furniture took five-figure bids over the two days when 86% of the 620 lots sold to a hammer total of more than £1.65m.
It was more evidence that, at least in some areas, the market is moving back from the precipice it had reached a few years ago.
By chance, a number of vendors had consigned a number of Georgian Gothic Revival items.
Dated c.1760 was a mahogany side chair provenanced to a Berkshire house built in 1763 in the Strawberry Hill taste. It is similar to the chair in the V&A designed by Richard Bentley and made by William Hallett for Walpole’s ‘Gothick’ villa at Twickenham.
An almost identical chair took a premium-inclusive £5625 Christie’s in November 2015. The one at Dreweatts was pitched at £3000-5000 and went to a private bidder online at £10,000.
The catalogue cover lot, a 5ft (1.54m) tall carved giltwood mirror and pair of matching girandoles, was of less certain date. Although catalogued as late 18th or 19th century there was an addendum that ‘this lot could date to as late as the third quarter of the 19th century’ and that ‘it is possible that the girandoles are associated to the mirror’.
None of this worried bidders and the lot, pitched at £6000-8000 sold to a UK private buyer at £32,000.
Giltwood mirrors were in high demand. Benefiting from the ‘power of the pair’ and a commercial size at 5ft tall x 3ft 3in wide (1.54 x 1m) were a pair of George III wall mirrors c.1780 (one pictured top). They were in fair condition: typical glued repairs and areas of regilding plus a missing plate.
The estimate was certainly undercooked at £3000-5000 but the mirrors brought the top price of the day, selling to the UK trade at £45,000.
Plenty of competition emerged for a 3ft 9in x 4ft 3in (1.14 x 1.29m) overmantel of similar date. It featured a tripartite plate to the lower half and, to the upper half, an oil on canvas of shipping near a shore.
The painting was signed F Swaine, presumably for the documented London marine artist Francis Swaine (1725-82), and seems to have been a major factor in it selling to a UK private buyer at £11,000 (estimate £800-1200).
Guides set to encourage interest in a market where confidence is lacking sometimes proved unduly modest.
A c.1720 gilt gesso side table, 2ft 10in (86cm) wide, came with a provenance to a Christie’s sale in 2008 when it had sold at a premium-inclusive £30,000. A textbook George I design in the manner of James Moore (c.1670-1726), it was in typical condition with various cracks and gilding sympathetically refreshed but pitched at just £2000-3000.
It went to another UK private buyer online at £24,000.
Another confident bid from a UK private purchaser came for a c.1770 mahogany serpentine chest of drawers, in the Chippendale-Adam neoclassical taste – pitched at £4000-6000, it sold at £35,000 – while a 7ft (2.15m) wide mahogany hall or serving table in the manner of fellow designer-cabinetmaker John Linnell (1729-96) quadrupled the lower estimate, taking £20,000 from the UK trade.
Among the lighting pieces, a c.1820 Gothic gilt bronze and glazed hexagonal hall lantern from the Regency or George IV period doubled top hopes in selling to the London trade at £12,000. About 3ft 3in (98cm) high, its medieval-style tracery is similar to one that hang in minstrel gallery staircase at Longleat and closely related to another which took a premium-inclusive £17,500 at Christie’s in June 2011.
The other five-figure lighting piece was a Meiji patinated bronze garden lantern. Standing 6ft 3in (1.92m) tall, it had a waisted hexagonal base supporting a domed lantern decorated with dragon-headed fish, shachi, interspersed with mon and topped with a flaming sphere finial.
Some elements were loosely secured but it had no serious faults and against an estimate of just £1000-1700 was a private buy at £17,000.