Small Chinese oil paintings sell big at Canterbury

Chinese paintings wowed buyers – and thrilled sellers – in the October Two Day Sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries, with the price of one pair of small oils spiralling beyond expectation to £11,000.

A pair of Canton hongs sold for £11,000Painted on brass panels measuring just 4.25ins x 5.75ins, the rare early 19th century paintings showed respectively a view of the hongs in the harbour at Canton with various boats to foreground and a panoramic view of the harbour at Macau from the hills. They had been sent for sale by a member of a local family who had inherited them.

The Canton hongs were buildings that served as trading headquarters, warehouses and residential quarters for Western merchants. They were destroyed in a fire in 1856, making the pictures important records for historians studying the development of trade with a country whose ports had remained largely closed to European ships. They were purchased by a collector in the room

The enthusiasm continued for a signed late 19th century watercolour painted on silk showing an extensive panoramic scene of figures in a pavilioned garden landscape. It measured 15.75ins (400mm) x 125ins (3100mm), and sold to a Chinese buyer on the telephone for £3,400, another multiple of its estimate.

Six 19th century Chinese School watercolours and gouache on pith paper showing figures weighing and packing tea, each approximately 12.5ins (318mm) x 7.5ins (190mm), all in lacquered frames, had been seen at one of the saleroom’s free Fridays morning valuation sessions. They sold to a London buyer on the internet for £1,200.

Chinese porcelain continues to sell strongly, led in this sale by a two blue and white circular dishes, each painted with the ‘Three Friends of Winter’ pattern – pine, bamboo and plum – the exterior with a lady and two children in a garden, which dated from the Tongzhi period (1862-1874). They sold to a London-based Chinese buyer for £4,600 against an estimate of £1,000-1,500.

Formerly in the collection of Dr. J. Vixseboxse (1916-1986), a Dutch Sinologist and diplomat who had acquired the dishes in China sometime after the 1940s, they were sold on behalf of a Dutch vendor who had inherited them.

Eager bidders pursued even damaged late 18th and early 19th century Chinese porcelain. A cracked oval meat plate enamelled in colours with the ‘Tobacco Leaf’ pattern, sold with a blue and white octagonal meat plate decorated with pavilions by a lake, also cracked, and a damaged Cantonese jardinière enamelled in colours with figures on a terrace. They were estimated together at £200-300, but sold to for £2,300. From a local estate, they were purchased by a telephone bidder in Brazil.

Martinware grotesque bird £10,500However, it was a distinctive piece of English ceramic art that took the honours as top lot in the section: a rare Martinware stoneware ‘Grotesque’ bird, which despite being cracked and chipped, sold for £10,500, another multiple of its estimate.

Brought to a Friday valuation morning by its owner who had travelled specially from Hertfordshire to consign the piece, the creature had a detachable crow-like head modelled with a quizzical look and an incised inscription, repeated on the base, which read “R.W. Martin & Bros London” and “Southall 16.4.1905”.

The same seller was also rewarded with an £820 bid from an internet bidder from Pasadena, for a Martinware stoneware double sided “Face” jug, one side laughing, the other leering. The jug was incised “1901 R.W. Martin Bros, London” and the eyes, handle and neck were glazed, while the remaining body was unglazed.

Pick of a small selection of Moorcroft pottery was a pair of baluster shaped vases circa 1925 with flared rims, finely tube lined and decorated in greens and blues with the “Moonlit Blue Landscape” design on a mottled blue ground, which despite slight damage sold for on top estimate for £600. From a Dover estate, they were purchased by an internet bidder in Devon.

Charles II silver porringerA local private collector chose this sale to consign some fine early English silver, the most wanted among which was a good Charles II two-handled porringer and cover, which attracted much interest because of its chased decoration of tulips, flowers and leaves. It was assayed (tested for silver content) in London in 1663, and stamped crisply on both the cover and base with the maker’s mark “SR” in a shield reserve, while the body and interior of the cover had pin pricked engraved initials “I over IE” in a shaped circular reserve. It weighed 17ozs and sold to a private collector from the Isle of Man for £5,100 against an estimate of £2,000-3,000.

The same vendor also consigned a good Britannia Standard silver George I tankard with cast double scroll handle by David Willaume I (London 1721 10ozs), decorated with a contemporary engraving of a coat of arms within rococo pattern surround, which sold to the London trade for £2,100, while a George IV circular three-branch table centre, each branch with cast floral and leaf mounts supporting a heavy slice, diamond and fan-cut shallow dish with serrated rim, on a shaped triangular base by Joseph Angell, (London 1826 weight 84ozs) was purchased by a local farmer bidding in the room for £3,900.

Private buyers contested ownership of fine watches and jewellery in the sale, emerging largely as victors for the more valuable pieces. They included a lady’s wristwatch by Piaget, which although secured by a London dealer, was purchased on behalf of his client in the U.S.

The watch had a diamond and onyx set rectangular face and bracelet in 18ct white gold hallmarked London 1977 and was contained in a Piaget red leather covered case. It sold for an above estimate £9,000, while a little-worn 2005 gentleman’s 18ct gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day/Datejust wristwatch, with Presidential bracelet in its original green leather Rolex covered, which had been seen at a Friday valuation morning, sold for £8,000. It was purchased by a London-based Chinese buyer.

In jewellery, a gold mounted enamel, emerald and diamond set scarab brooch had brown and green enamelled wings pavé set with small rose cut diamonds and an oval cabochon emerald, itself cut with a scarab (estimated weight 18.6ct) flanked by two green and brown enamelled birds and three collet set old cut diamonds. It was purchased as a gift by a Lancashire telephone bidder for £3,500.

A highlight in the paintings section was a pair of watercolours titled “Redcar Races”, by Lionel Edwards (1878-1966) each 13ins x 19.25ins, signed in black in full, titled and dated 1952, which will remain in private ownership, changing hands to a Folkestone telephone bidder for £3,400

The Canterbury auctions invariably turn up the rare and unusual, among them this time being a small group of six lots of 19th century scrimshaw – carved whale’s teeth – from the collection of Kenneth McConnell, of Matthews Farm, Shottenden. They sold for a total of £1,750, the most valuable being one engraved with a battle scene between two ships of the line and the reverse showing a ship of the line off the coast with a fort. It sold to a London internet bidder for £460.

A Victorian perspective view of the Thames Tunnel, a paper and cardboard optical toy in six folding sections, the cover showing the main tunnel staircase with vignettes including the Crystal Palace and Parliament buildings, sold to a local book collector for £300, while a 19th century imperial Japanese gold lacquer Eboshi Nari Kabuto, a helmet first used by Japanese warriors, which sold for £1,150.

Recalling the Second World War service of Major Alfred William Sansom OBE, of the Intelligence Corps, a group comprising his 1940-1945 Star; Africa Star; Defence Medal; 1939-1945 War Medal (with Oak Leaves), and General Service Medal with single bar for “Malaya” and Oak leaves, was sold with a copy of a book written by Major Sansom entitled “I Spied Spies” and a copy of the book “The Cat and the Mice” by Leonard Mosley, which was partly about Major Sansom. The latter was subsequently made into a film in which his role was played by James Robertson Justice. The lot sold for £2,200 against an estimate of £600-800.

In the same section, a good Imperial Model 12 bore side by side shotgun by E.J. Churchill, with 25-inch barrels, highly engraved action and a walnut stock with its former owner’s initials let into it in gold, in original fitted leather case sold for £2,800.

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