Pair of portrait miniatures by William Wood – £2900 at Amersham Auctions.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Painted in watercolour on ivory, one (with a significant crack to the right of the image) depicts a soldier in the red and gilt braid frock coat of a British army office, the other a woman with ringlets in her hair who clutches a gold guard necklace.

Although not mentioned in the lot description, the photos that accompanied it showed that both images were signed on the backing card for William Wood of Cork Street, London, with the male subject identified as John Jebb Esq.

Wood is one of the more inventive miniaturists of the period – as well as portraits, he painted subject miniatures – and his work is quite distinctive. He is known to have been working from Bristol in 1791 and 1803 and from Gloucester in 1798 but was based in London for much of his career.

Scientist and artist


Set of five plumbago miniatures by James Ferguson – £17,000 at Sworders.

At Sworders(25% buyer’s premium) Fine Interiors sale in Stansted Mountfitchet on December 14, a family group of five plumbago miniatures by James Ferguson (1710-76) sold well over hopes of £700-1000 to bring £17,000.

As would have been his wish, Ferguson is perhaps better known today as a scientist who, despite never receiving formal training, became famed for his travelling lectures and easy-to-understand works on the basics of astronomy, mechanics and electricity.

However, being from a humble background, he made his living as a portrait painter working predominantly in Indian ink.

Single images tend to bring modest sums: a large number of Ferguson portraits were sold by Bonhams Edinburgh in May last year in groups of four and five for around £1000-2000.

However, it was the survival of these five works as a family group which appears to have been their main attraction. All images were in good condition with some small losses to the frames.