Antiques to 20th century design remain strong as auctions are now held solely online

Jul 01, 2020

Mid 20th century Scandinavian furniture remains in vogue, with prices soaring at auction. Hans Olsen (1919-1992), a Danish furniture designer, established his own studio in 1953 and experimented with design and form. A 1950/60s Hans Oslen for Frem Rojle teak circular dining table complete with four chairs was recently offered for sale at Wessex Auction Rooms. The Roundette Suite, designed in 1953, has continued as one of the most sought after designs of the Frem Rojle range. The three-legged curved dining table chairs fit seamlessly within the table’s apron. The design is utterly stunning in its simplicity, allowing the clean curved lines and the form to shine. With strong interest, the suite sold for £700.

Magic Lanterns are seen at auction on a regular basis. They are considered the predecessor to the modern slide projector. The Riley Brothers, heralded as innovators in British cinema, were one of the first to present Magic Lantern shows to the public. On the 6th April 1896 they screened a theatre performance at what was then the People’s Palace Theatre in Bradford. Between 1880-1914 they manufactured Magic Lanterns from their premises in Bradford. The late Victorian/ early 20th century example at Wessex Auction Rooms was the Riley Brothers Praestantia model; ‘praestantia’ meaning superiority and excellence in Latin. It is not only the magic lantern itself that is collectable but also the slides to go with it. With three boxes of slides depicting social history, Palestine and the Houses of Parliament, the collection together with the Magic Lantern sold for £500.

An Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929) watercolour caused a stir at Wessex Auction Rooms. Measuring just 34 x 34cm, the painting depicted a figure and dog in a windswept rural landscape and sold for £380. Heaton Cooper, a British artist born in Lancashire is known for his paintings of the Lake District and Norway. Heaton Cooper travelled to Norway and settled there but business in Norway was slow and so he returned to the Lake District to sell paintings of the local area to visiting tourists. He established the Heaton Cooper Studio which remains today as an Art Gallery and shop.

A Victorian raised woolwork depicting a recumbent cat with kittens atop a cushion was one of those Marmite items. You either loved it or you hated it. The vendor certainly hated it and was ready to throw it away, except for the fact that it belonged to his mother, so he brought it along to Wessex Auction Rooms for a free valuation and advice. Victorian raised woolwork pictures are rarely seen at auction but when they do come on the scene they tend to depict cats. This one was unusual with the addition of kittens. In lovely condition, complete with glass eyes the market loved it, selling for £380.

A Victorian burr walnut and oak stereoscopic viewer complete with adjustable brass stand, with label ‘F. Jones, 146 Oxford Street London’, together with a complete set of 100 stereoscopic cards depicting Japanese scenes by Underwood & Underwood, garnered a lot of attention selling for £320. The invention of the stereoscope can be credited to Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1832. In the 1840s Sir David Brewster adjusted Wheatstone’s design and created the refracting stereoscope which he exhibited to Queen Victorian in 1851 at the Great Exhibition. Following Queen Victoria’s interest in the instrument, over 250,000 were sold over the next three months. The design was developed over the next decade by various people, with the stereoscope remaining popular until the financial crash during the 1870s, forcing many photographers out of business (although until the rise in popularity of the television during the mid 20th century many children had a stereoscope). In addition to the scenes depicted and the age of the stereoscopic cards, the quality of the image is also important and is reflected in the price achieved for the images at auction. Following the financial crash in 1873, photographers began copying other people’s photographs to lower costs and remain in business, but this caused a decline in the image quality.

Shelley, established in Staffordshire during the 1820s under the name Wileman, have built a reputation for producing fine bone china of superb quality. An unusual mid twentieth century fish themed coffee set, retailed by Rowland Ward Nairobi, proved extremely popular at Wessex Auction Rooms. Bidders did not seem deterred that the set was missing the milk jug and sugar bowl, with the bids soaring to £250. Each of the six coffee cans was decorated with a different variety of fish, and the base to each item was stamped Rowland Ward Nairobi Kenya. With all the glorious sunshine seen across the country in the last couple of weeks it’s the perfect weather to sit outside and enjoy afternoon tea… but with coffee!

A lovely plique-à-jour brooch modelled as a dragonfly fluttered its way to £150. Created in 14ct gold with blue and purple enamelled plique-à-jour wings the body was set with sapphires and diamonds. Plique-à-jour, which translates as “letting in daylight”, is an enamel technique whereby the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but without a backing, thus letting light pass through. It is a complex process that can be traced back to the Byzantine Empire in the 6th century AD, yet it saw a revival during the Art Nouveau period with advocates such as René Lalique using it to great effect in his jewellery designs and creations.