Published 18th November 2013
The mention of the words brown furniture is enough to bring a prolonged sigh to most people in the auction business, so it is pleasing to report some excellent individual results for items of furniture sold throughout the year. Whilst the general demand for standard pieces of oak, mahogany and walnut remains fairly flat, it has also been encouraging to detect a few green shoots of recovery in the latter stages of 2013.
The high point of the furniture sold in the twelve months has to be the pair of George III mahogany pedestal urns (FS18/813) attributable to Thomas Chippendale, which sold in April 2013 for £350,000. Consigned from a private house in Devon, they bore striking similarities to the pair of pedestal urns at Paxton House in Berwickshire, Scotland which were illustrated in Christopher Gilbert's book The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale.
In the same sale there featured a George III satinwood Carlton House writing desk (FS18/888) that sold well above estimate at £5,000 and an attractive pair of Regency mahogany and ebony strung waterfall bookcases (FS18/825) that were hotly contested over and soared past the £3,000-£5,000 estimate to sell for £7,300.
The name of Shapland and Petter of Barnstaple is synonymous with items of quality made furniture from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. There featured an oak wardrobe and dressing chest (FS18/856) with glazed pottery tiles by Flazman which sold in our April 2013 sale (FS18) for £4,900.
In the Autumn 2013 sale, further items of Shapland and Petter furniture were sold, notably a bookcase (FS20/1098) with a painted panel entitled The Village Band that realised £2,000 and a settle with a copper inset panel (FS20/1101) to the back inscribed Welcome Ever Smiles, which sold at £2,800.
It is always pleasing to see unusual items and none more so than a Victorian carved walnut presentation wheelbarrow with plated mounts possibly by Elkington (FS20/1106) and with a label to the underside inscribed J & W Cookes, Warwick, Manufacturers to her majesty. It was noted that Messrs Cookes & Sons had exhibited a magnificent elaborately carved 'buffet' in the 1851 Great Exhibition, although sadly no record could be found of a wheelbarrow being exhibited. Nevertheless, there was fierce competition between a bidder on the telephone and another on the Internet, the former being successful with a winning bid of £5,200.
Of particular attraction in the Autumn sale was a pair of Regency carved giltwood concave mirrors (FS20/1150). The reason for the attraction was that they had reverse paintings of Chinese estuary scenes on the plates making them extremely rare. This was reflected in the final hammer price of £17,500 against a pre-sale estimate of £8,000-£12,000.
At the beginning of the year an equally rare pair of Colonial carved padouk wood display cabinets on stands in the Chinese taste (FS17/864) attracted significant interest selling for £36,000, whilst an early 19th Century Chinese Export lacquer eight fold screen (FS18/869) sold for £6,200 against a £3,000-£5,000 estimate.