browse and buy art and antiques at auctions


  • A Platinum and Diamo
  • An important bronze
  • Crowder, Henry und R
  • A boxed Moorcroft Po
  • Duponchel, Paris “Pi
  • Zivy Frères Grande C
  • Lot 530 – An unusual
  • Lot 83 – Roy Lichten
Follow Me on Pinterest

And now for a reminder of Edward VIII the playboy

EDWARD VIII lots are like buses. None for ages then…

The final page of a letter the future Edward VIII sent to the father of his mistress 'Freda' Dudley Ward on sale at Cuttlestones.

The final page of a letter the future Edward VIII sent to the father of his mistress ‘Freda’ Dudley Ward on sale at Cuttlestones.

Fresh on the heels of 1937 photos showing the former king giving a Nazi salute on a visit to a German colliery, a collection of letters from him have come up at auction.

The photos (see our earlier blog), which sold at north Wales saleroom Morgan Evans on July 30 for £1800, reflected the Duke of Windsor’s Nazi-sympathiser status, but these latest letters shed light on another side of his character.

Edward was ‘a bit of a lad’, some would say.

In 1936 his ongoing relationship with American divorcee Wallis Simpson – who had married for a second time – caused outrage among the political elite and religious authorities. It ultimately resulted in Edward abdicating the throne to his younger brother Albert (later King George VI).

Edward’s playboy lifestyle included a number of romantic liaisons with married women prior to his Coronation. Cuttlestones auctioneers of Wolverhampton are offering on August 14 a letter he sent to the father of his former mistress, ‘Freda’ Dudley Ward.

more »

Richard Attenborough and the day dinosaurs came to Cheltenham

I WATCHED Jurassic Park in a Cheltenham cinema with rain battering down outside in what seems like prehistoric times now: way back in 1993. Blown away by the special effects as I was, and bemused by the back-of-an-envelope script and dialogue, I could not have envisaged that 22 years later the third sequel would be released.

Replica of the cane used by Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park to be offered by Bonhams.

Replica of the cane used by Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park to be offered by Bonhams.

Jurassic Park was wildly successful, surpassing another Spielberg effort, his 1982 film ET the Extra-Terrestrial, to become the highest-grossing film worldwide until Titanic (1997).

The third sequel, Jurassic World, just released, is certainly no plodding diplodocus of a blockbuster either. It became the highest global opener of all time with a gigantic $511.8m (£330m) in its first days in cinemas.

One of the ingredients for the success of the first film in the series was the presence of Richard Attenborough, now sadly departed, in the role of the zoo’s founder, John Hammond.

A familiar prop for his character was his cane topped with a whopping great insect in amber. If that brings fond memories of the landmark film, and the great British actor and director, keep an eye on a Bonhams’ auction in Knightsbridge, London, on October 21.

The auctioneers are holding a special sale: Richard Attenborough: a life both sides of the camera – a sale of Lord Attenborough’s (1923-2014) memorabilia and selected contents from his houses in London and on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.

One of the stand-out items is a replica of the prop cane used by Attenborough in Jurassic Park. Estimated at £3000-5000, this distinctive 2ft 10in (86.5cm) long design, similar to the one used by Attenborough throughout the production, is moulded as dinosaur bone, painted white, with faux amber top encasing a large crane fly.

more »

Edward VIII Nazi salute photo album is perfectly timed at auction

TIMING can make a huge difference when it comes to auctions. As noted previously on this blog, anniversaries such as the First World War centenary entice consignments as well as tempt the bidders.

Some of these timings can of course be planned, with auction houses and dealers holding back stock even for years for the right moment to test the market.

Then again, on other occasions it is simply a happy coincidence – and it is then up to the auctioneer or dealer to seize the moment.

A lot on offer at the Morgan Evans saleroom in Anglesey, north Wales, on July 30 is a wonderfully timed example. With the national media full of frothing indignation over the Queen Elizabeth ‘Heil Hitler’ picture storm, with Nazi-sympathising Edward shown in close attendance, what better time is there to have an album of photos showing the ex-king giving the salute on a 1937 trip to Germany?

A very happy coincidence for Morgan Evans, as auctioneer Simon Bower confirms. “It was catalogued two to three days before the video thing broke,” he says. “It’s the first time on the market for over 30 years – only the second time ever.”

more »

Boxing belt for a David and Goliath fight over gruelling 39 rounds

IN the 1980s the maximum length for a boxing match was set at 12 rounds of three minutes each. Back in the late 19th century, it was a very different matter.

Detail of the centre plate of the Mitchell boxing belt

Detail of the centre plate of the Mitchell boxing belt

Spare a thought for fighters such as Englishman Charley Mitchell and the American John L Sullivan, who slugged it out on March 10, 1888, in the rain, for three hours and 11 minutes – a gruelling 39 rounds.

But it could have gone on longer. The fight, staged in Chantilly at Baron Rothschild’s chateau, was broken up by armed French police. The battered boxers were locked in jail. Faced with charges of violating French laws banning boxing, the pair jumped bail and fled.

Despite the inconclusive result, fans of the English fighter were so impressed with the efforts of their man in that they commissioned a special, one-off silver and gold trophy belt. This belt is now on offer at Heritage Auctions of Dallas as part of their July 30 auction, guided at $30,000 and above.

Chris Ivy, the Heritage director of sports auctions, says: ““Few early boxing relics survive from this era and Mitchell’s belt is one of the most coveted. Mitchell’s countrymen gifted this rather elaborate belt to him on his valour and effort in the ring. The belt is both a piece of sporting history as well as English history.”

more »

Cloak believed to have been worn by Wellington at Waterloo

WOULD you pay £38,000 for a well-used cloak spattered with mud and marred by sweat stains?

The cloak believed to have been worn by Wellington in the Waterloo campaign, sold by Sotheby's on July 14.

The cloak believed to have been worn by Wellington in the Waterloo campaign, sold by Sotheby’s on July 14.

If you thought it was the one used by the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo you might.

That was the enticing prospect for bidders at Sotheby’s in London on July 14. They offered the campaign cloak he is believed to have worn during his greatest victory, estimated at £20,000-30,000. It is one of the stand-out items from numerous sales scheduled to take advantage of the Waterloo 200th anniversary.

While Wellington boots have endured, his choice of cloak is not so famous.

GR Greig, in his 1867 work Life of the Duke of Wellington, sheds some light: “The military costume of the Duke on active service was singularly plain, though becoming, and very peculiar … in the field his garb was either a blue or a grey frock, blue when fighting was not expected; grey, if a battle were in preparation or in progress. Over this, that he might be more easily recognised from afar, he often threw a short white cloak.”

In their catalogue notes, Sotheby’s said this was “the best documented item of Wellington’s costume from the campaign ever likely to come to auction”. They added that it “matches both contemporary descriptions of Wellington’s garb on campaign and later portraits of him at Waterloo” (with slight discrepancies), and “is marked with clear signs of use including mud spatters and probably perspiration stains, and is documented from the early 1820s”. While these things can never be absolutely certain, the cloak does have an impressive story behind the provenance.

more »

Relic from the surviving sixth wife of Henry VIII

HOW do you remember the fates of Henry VIII’s six wives?

The lock of Catherine Parr's hair on offer at Lawrences of Crewkerne.

The lock of Catherine Parr’s hair on offer at Lawrences of Crewkerne.

Easy: Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. The rhyme does help. But can you remember which fate matched which wife?

Where does Catherine Parr fit in? She was the fortunate one: number six. When Henry died in 1547 her head was very much on her shoulders and she had not even been discarded.

A reminder of her is coming up at auction on July 31 at Lawrences in Crewkerne, Somerset: a lock of her golden hair. Specialist Robert Ansell says: “After the king’s death, Queen Catherine married Sir Thomas Seymour and she died at Sudeley in 1548 following a difficult delivery of a baby girl.”

more »

Second World War heroine Violette Szabo medal group for sale

I FIND medals absolutely fascinating. Although they are intrinsically just lumps of metal on a ribbon, the stories behind them bring these inanimate objects to life.

Signed photograph of Second World War heroine Violette Szabo.

Signed photograph of Second World War heroine Violette Szabo.

But even I have to admit that, as with so many things, they can get a bit, well, ‘samey’ sometimes. No matter how important they are – and without wishing to denigrate the heroic recipients – the stories often have a very familiar feel.

A George Cross medal group coming up for sale at London auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb on July 22 is far from ‘samey’, however. It is really one to make you sit up and take notice.

In short, it is as good as it gets.

DNW are offering the posthumous honours awarded to Second World War heroine Violette Szabo. The group and a unique archive of documents and photographs are expected to fetch £250,000-300,000. They have been consigned by her daughter by her daughter Tania.

Violette’s exploits as part of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) have been immortalised in books and film.

more »

Do Bacon and Holbein make happy bedfellows?

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 11:  Francis Bacon's Study for a Pope I (estimated £25-35 million) is pictured alongside Portrait of Henry VIIIfrom the workshop of Hans Holbein (estimated £800,000 -£1.2 million) in prepartion for the Masterworks In Dialogue exhibition at Sotheby's June 11, 2015 in London.England. The Masterworks In Dialogue exhibition is open to the public from the 12-15th June 2015.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's)

Francis Bacon’s Study for a Pope I (estimated £25-35 million) is pictured alongside Portrait of Henry VIII from the workshop of Hans Holbein (estimated £800,000 -£1.2 million) in preparation for the Masterworks In Dialogue exhibition at Sotheby’s. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

The next three weeks will see the London’s biggest sales of the year with the flagship auctions of Impressionist & Modern art, Contemporary art and Old Masters.

This year Sotheby’s and Christie’s have both been staging exhibitions to showcase what they describe as ‘dynamic juxtapositions’ in addition to the regular run of viewings.

What on earth does this mean?

As far as one can tell, the idea of these ‘curated’ exhibitions is to arrange works thematically by attempting to show how art from different periods is linked.

This is an extension of what the auctioneers have been doing in print for some time – for example displaying images of famous Old Master paintings in a catalogue entry for a piece of Contemporary art to which supposedly relates.

Most commentators are sceptical of this approach. Presumably the idea is to add historical weight to the often more airy pieces of modern and contemporary art, and, conversely, trying to show how the less voguish older art can be still be fashionable. more »

Napoleon relics are hair-raising and razor-sharp at auction

PROVING the origin of a lock of hair can be tricky. The label may be right, the dates could match, but without the benefit of presumably DNA testing to clinch it, a leap of faith is always going to be involved on the part of the buyer.

Strand of Napoleon's hair sold by Cottees at auction for £130 on June 9.

Strand of Napoleon’s hair sold by Cottees at auction for £130 on June 9.

And a lot of locks of hair from historical figures/celebs are out there, a bit like pieces of the Berlin Wall or castles where Queen Mary apparently stayed the night.

A single strand of hair is more unusual, though. Among the huge range of Waterloo and Napoleonic wars memorabilia consigned around the 200th anniversary of the epic battle on June 18 was this strand said to be taken from the ‘Corsican Ogre’ in 1816.

Estimated at £100-200 at a Cottees of Dorset auction on June 9, it sold for £130 (plus 15% buyer’s premium) to a man living in the area who had seen coverage in the local press. The hair is contained within a folded piece of contemporary paper, inscribed in ink ‘ A single hair of Napoleon Bonaparte’s head 29th August 1816 ’ and subsequently ‘obt. 5th May 1821’ – the latter is the date of Napoleon’s death. The single strand is attached to the paper by red sealing wax.

more »

Sculptor who escaped the Nazis but was interned on Isle of Man

KURT Schwitters, Archibald Knox and Josef Pilates may not seem to share an obvious link.

Ernst Eisenmeyer pictured in 1997 next to the sculpture now on offer at Summers Place Auctions.

Ernst Eisenmeyer pictured in 1997 next to the sculpture now on offer at Summers Place Auctions.

And the fact that the link is the Isle of Man will come as a surprise to most people, but add ‘internment’ as another connection and you have an unusual set of circumstances that involved a set of highly creative personalities – and great art to follow.

Pilates is more famous in a different field of course, but Schwitters became a painter, sculptor and designer of note. He arrived in England in 1940 and was immediately interned in a camp on the Isle of Man, as foreign nationals – including many of Jewish descent – were to be in both world wars.

A lesser-known name who was also interned on the island during the Second World War is Ernst Eisenmeyer (b.1920). His skill is shown in an 12ft 2in (3.7m) high sheet copper abstract figure which is estimated at £8000-12,000 at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, on June 23.

more »