Our May 2022 edition of Five Centuries featured an exciting selection of rare and unique furniture, paintings and works of art and included specialist collecting areas encompassing clocks, bronzes, ceramics & glass, rugs & carpets.
Ahead of the sale our team chose a few of their favourite things to share as highlights that featured in our auction...
The stand-out lot for me in this instalment of Five Centuries is without doubt lot 161, the exquisite pair of marquetry console tables attributed to Thomas Chippendale. The tables are made of satinwood and a variety of exotic wood veneers and exude all the refined elegance of the neoclassical so popular in the latter decades of the 18th century. Not only are they beautifully executed with fine inlay and precisely detailed carving, but they come with a fascinating story as well, having once belonged to one of the wealthiest women in America, Mrs. John E. Rovensky, or Maesie as she was known. The four-times married socialite was a fixture of New York society for over fifty years, with additional homes in Palm Beach, Newport, Hartford, and Groton. The tables graced the Italian Renaissance Revival mansion on E. 89th Street and Fifth Avenue that her second husband Morton Plant had built, and were sold with her estate by Parke-Bernet in 1957 in a series of sales that took over a week to conduct. She had been purchased the tables from the English expat dealer Arthur Stannard Vernay, himself a fascinating character, who was not only a leading New York dealer in English antiques, but also a noted big game hunter supplying many specimens to the American Museum of Natural History. Their history beyond the early 20th century is a mystery, but they do bear some similarities to the famous Chippendale library table made for Harewood House in the 1760s, now in the collection at Temple Newsam. Perhaps further research will unravel the story further.
- Douglas Girton, Head of Fine Furniture and Works of Art
These three oil lamps just feel like a great bit of history to me, they are such fantastic everyday items that would have been found in nearly every Roman household and been used day to day. They are so well designed and functional that oil lamps made from ceramic like these have been in use throughout from around 2000 BCE until the Middle Ages. The lamps also show off a bit of personality of the previous owner: The central concave offers a vast variety of impressed designs, from fairly simple patterns to more complex scenes relating to different gods and popular entertainment; they would have been picked by the owner to suit their taste. Particularly exciting in this group is the lamp depicting the discarded gladiator armour!
- Kerstin Schaeffer, Auction Administrator
My favourite lot in the Five Centuries sale is Lot 202, 'A Prize Pig' by John Vine of Colchester. John Vine was known for his animal painting in the first half of the 19th Century. There was a strong demand during this period for farmers to have their livestock painted to impress those around them. The exaggerated proportions depicted of the animals came about from the fashion for these farmers, to compete at agricultural shows, having bred the largest animals possible, in the shortest amount of time, on the least amount of food. In fact, some of the animals bred were so fat they could barely stand up on their feet. John Vine began his career as a portrait painter, however he became renowned for this style of work. His success was recognised when he was appointed official painter to the Royal Agricultural Society. Today, we know this distinct style of work as ‘naïve’ or ‘primitive’. Paintings such as these are in high demand for their visual charm and ability to fit into any modern interior, this trend sees little chance of abating anytime soon.
- Katie Hannah, Furniture, Clocks & Works of Art
The two delightful ‘Sailor’s Valentine’s’, lots 298 and 299, are a couple of my favourite lots in this auction. These pieces were made in the West Indies in the mid-19th century. They are intricately crafted from hundreds of tiny shells, arranged in geometric patterns, and grouped by shape and colour, forming concentric bands. One is centred with a heart motif and the other with a star-shaped design, which may represent the points of a compass. The shellwork is enclosed within an octagonal glass fronted box.
The seaside has always played a large part in my life and therefore I’m drawn to these two shell pictures. It is romantically thought that shell works of art such as these were made by sailors for their sweethearts, as they passed the time during long voyages sailing home from foreign shores. Although this may have been the case, in the West Indies, particularly Barbados, there were specialist retailers selling such pieces as souvenirs for sailors to buy as they left their final port of call. The examples being offered in our sale are particularly appealing due to the large size of each picture, the fresh, bright colours of the shells, the pleasing designs, and the fine condition. I can’t think of anything nicer than these to hang on the walls of a house by the sea.
- Katherine Wright, Ceramics & Glass
Selling fine antique furniture has always been at the core of our business, ever since Lyon & Turnbull’s establishment in 1826. Today, our specialist Fine Furniture Auctions department conducts four auctions throughout the year both through our beautiful period saleroom in Edinburgh and via our live online auctions. Our specialists’ knowledge of furniture and the current market are essential to the overall success of sales of antique pieces spanning five centuries of design; from 17th century oak through the finest walnut, mahogany, and satinwood examples of the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods.
The Works of Art department sells a wide variety of antique items covering nearly 400 years of European and British design. Sold as part of our Five Centuries: Furniture, Paintings & Works of Art sale series, items offered at auction range from the esoteric to those of popular appeal and include sculpture, mechanical items, textiles, decorative objects and artworks. Primarily focused on works produced during the 18th and 19th centuries, our team of specialists and consultants are able to value and advise on the current market.