Exotic birds take off at auction

Jan 31, 2020

The sun was shining, the frost on the ground was glistening and Wessex Auction Rooms threw open their doors to welcome everyone in from the cold with steaming mugs of tea and coffee at their second auction of the year.

The highlight of the auction was a pair of 18th century oil paintings depicting exotic pheasants and guinea fowl. Unsigned, the paintings were attributed to Charles Collins (1680-1744), an Irish artist known primarily as a painter of animals and still life. He is acknowledged as one of the first British still life artists to produce museum quality works. Each painting measured approximately 36cm x 44cm and were the most watched lot online. With bids on commission and five phone lines booked the bidding soon overtook the conservative auction estimate and sold for £2,300 to a phone bidder.

De Beers were not only very clever when they stated “Diamonds are forever” but they appear to be right. Diamonds remain the most sought-after gemstone and the most valuable. Solitaire, three stone, five stone, cluster and eternity rings are the most popular diamond ring choices, never going out of fashion and suiting all hand shapes and all ages. A three stone diamond ring comprising round brilliant and princess cut diamonds with a total diamond weight of 1.0 carat sold for £1,500. Assessed as VS2, the clarity of the principle diamond ensured a strong hammer price together with the timeless elegance of the ring.

A 20th century decorative pierced silver oval dish raised on four feet sold for £250. What was particularly lovely were the two blank cartouches. So often at least one of the cartouches are monogrammed which tends to lower the value of an item. For the two to be blank is unusual and allows anyone to buy the dish and personalise it if they wish to.

A pair of 19th century Bohemian glass lustres saw lots of interest. Popular from 1850-1890, lustres were usually placed in pairs on a mantle, sideboard or table. Intended to hold candles, the glass bowl is usually decorated with floral and cameo panels from which colourless glass prisms are suspended, designed to reflect the candlelight. Green glass lustres tend to sell better than their more common red glass counterparts and condition is an important consideration: decoration to the bowl may be worn, and the prisms chipped or missing. The green glass lustres at Wessex Auction Rooms were in excellent condition and this was reflected in the hammer price selling for £1,000 to a room bidder.

Another item to create a stir was a large Rolls Royce nickel-plated “Spirit of Ecstasy” figure, mounted on a marble base. The Spirit of Ecstasy figure was commissioned by Rolls Royce and designed by Charles Sykes to be mounted on the bonnet of all Rolls Royce cars. The brief for Sykes was to create a car mascot that conveyed the essence of Rolls Royce: “speed with silence, the mysterious harnessing of great energy, and a beautiful living organism of superb grace”. Eleanor Velasco Thornton is believed to be the inspiration for what became the Spirit of Ecstasy, having previously been the muse for an earlier mascot designed by Sykes. The Spirit of Ecstasy figure has become a symbol of luxury and elegance and figures as large as the example at Wessex Auction Rooms (height approximately 76cm) are rare; with a battle between the internet and the room, the hammer fell to the room bidder at £750.

English Dial Clocks, also known as School Clocks and Station Clocks remain popular at auction, with a large example made by W Elliott Ltd, London selling for £750. Numbered 19599 and dated 1941 the mahogany cased clock diameter measured approximately 47cm with a simple white dial featuring black Roman numerals and poker hands, and a single train fusee movement. The English Dial Clock first appeared circa 1770 in response to the Industrial Revolution and the need for a simple and practical clock for non-domestic locations. Up until this point, clocks had primarily been the domain of the wealthy, who were buying longcase and bracket clocks.The popularity of English Dial Clocks then and now is in part because they take up very little space (which would otherwise would be unused) and if positioned correctly are visible across a crowded room together with their appealing simplicity.

There are some items that all children though the decades, generations and centuries continue to enjoy and that’s the rocking horse. For adults it’s nostalgia, for children it’s the thrill of riding an almost life-like pony (with a little imagination). The example sold at Wessex Auction rooms was a 20th century Lines Brothers Ltd Dappled Grey rocking horse. Lines Brothers Ltd was a British toy manufacturer operating under the Tri-ang Toys brand name. Their roots are found with brothers George and Joseph Lines who were makers of wooden toys during the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th century. The family business was continued by three of Joseph’s sons: William, Walter and Arthur. Shortly after the First World War they formed Lines Brothers Ltd from which Tri-ang was born: the three brothers were the three Lines of a triangle. In good condition with original trestle base, leather bridle and saddle the bids were flying from the internet, the room and on commission, the Lines Brothers rocking horse sold for £600.