The highest prices paid on the day were £22,000 for an ice pick from Frank Debenham’s Antarctic expedition and £19,000 for an early 19th century micro mosaic. Similarly, decorative items amongst the furniture section were most popular, with a sale rate of 87 per cent over the two-day auction.
Luke Macdonald, Director in the Fine Art Department says: “The Fine Sale saw a series of lots selling for two or three times their estimates over the two-day period. The general lack of good quality items available continues to feed a buoyant market for the best in class of decorative furniture, paintings and antiques. There has been a notable lack of stock on the market, partly due to the slowdown of country house sales over recent months, and this has led to a tangible uptick in prices. Similarly, tastes have changed fairly rapidly, and demand is now very much focussed on certain items, such as early oak and country furniture, upholstered sofas and chairs, marble top tables, desks and gilt framed mirrors, which are now achieving far higher prices than a few years ago.”
The ice pick which achieved £22,000 was used by Frank Debenham, first director of the world-famous Scott Polar Research Institute, on Captain Scott’s doomed Terra Nova Antarctic Expedition of 1910-1913. The pick was a gift from Debenham to a friend and neighbour in Cambridge and came with exceptional provenance. Having achieved national and international media interest, it eventually sold for over a hundred times its estimate at £22,000 to a UK-based collector of Arctic and Antarctic memorabilia. Similarly, a 19th century micro mosaic panel, dating back to 1820 sold for £19,000. As a rare example of Grand Tour memorabilia, the item had an estimate of £3,000 - £5,000, but well exceeded expectations. Another item which drew a huge amount of interest was a 17th century stumpwork picture of Charles II and Catherine of Braganza which sold for £5,000.
Luke Macdonald, continues: “The provenance of the ice pick is second-to-none and we’ve definitely seen an uplift in interest in collectors’ items from the early Arctic and Antarctic exploration. Our estimate was very conservative for this particularly special item and whilst we did expect it to be popular, it sold for way over our forecasts.”
Another key lot within the sale was a portrait by rare Italian artist, Marco Benefial, of Edward Curtis of Mardyke House, Bristol which dates back to 1750. The sitter is depicted seated in a remarkable finely embroidered waistcoat, the original of which was offered within the same lot. The portrait sold for £9,500 to one of the UK’s largest institutions. Also popular amongst the paintings section was a picture by Dutch artist, Gerrit van Honthorst, which was sold for £13,000.
The furniture section saw an 87 per cent sale rate with several decorative pieces selling to both private and trade buyers. An early 19th century Scottish mahogany longcase was sold for £5,000, whilst other items which were popular include a specimen inlay marble table which sold for £4,000. A 16th century decorative carved oak four poster bed sold for £3,200 and a William and Mary walnut cabinet sold for £2,400. Library furniture also sold particularly well, with desks and library chairs all exceeding expectations.
The Fine Sale was previously named ‘The Fine Art Sale.’