Posted on: 16 April 2021

April Fine Art & Antiques: Auction Highlights

April 14th marked a triumphant return to business for Trevanion Auctioneers, with their first auction of the 2021 calendar yielding some astonishing results and breaking previous sale records.

Some of the top prices of the day came from the furniture section, which saw many pieces exceed pre-sale estimates. Highlights included a mid-19th century satin birch breakfront open bookcase which sold for £2800 and a Victorian pine housekeepers’ cupboard which sold for an astonishing £2600.  Auctioneers Christina Trevanion and Ashley Jones discovered the cupboard when they called in to assess the contents of the house and outbuildings of a property in Shropshire, where they found it in the barn destined for the ‘burn pile’ having languished there for decades.  Much to their joy, after a brief clean to remove years of cobwebs and birds’ nests, the cupboard was highly sought after before selling to an interior designer for £2,600.  ‘It just goes to show that what some people consider worthless, can actually be worth a huge amount!’ said and managing partner Christina Trevanion. 

Elsewhere in the furniture section an unusual 19th century Anglo-Indian camel form occasional table sold for £1900. “The furniture market has been thriving this year, but many of the prices achieved in the April auction far surpassed our pre-sale expectations – the prices were some of the best results I’ve seen for over a decade!” said furniture valuer and auctioneer Ian Woodward. “As usual, fine quality pieces from the 18th/19th century are bringing consistently strong prices, but even pieces from the late Victorian and Edwardian period, which seemed to have fallen out of style in the last ten years, have been accomplishing some incredible results.

A 19th century Anglo Indian table sold for £1900

“Some of our regular buyers are saying that the ‘boom’ we have been experiencing for the last twelve months is due to lockdown, and that the bubble is sure to burst; however, I think there are many factors contributing to the renewed success the market is experiencing which goes beyond the pandemic. Taste is cyclical – items which had become unfashionable in the last ten to twenty years are now in high demand. We are seeing a trend amongst our audience for smaller, lighter pieces of furniture of the 18th/19th century which are unusual but can be easily adapted into the modern home. In particular, carved furniture such as the camel table which sold for almost £2000 is proving extremely popular, with many of our buyers drawing interior inspiration from decorative pieces of the middle east/Anglo-Indian taste.

“We’re also finding that it is becoming more common for items bought to be shipped abroad – a number of lots in this auction sold to America, Canada and Eastern Europe. This can be attributed to the increasing rarity of pieces of this kind of quality; the craftsmanship of furniture cannot be matched by modern replicas, and there is a limited number coming to market. I think this also explains why buyers who previously snubbed Victorian and Edwardian pieces are now reconsidering them, as the results being achieved by older examples are pricing them out of the range of the average buyer”.

A pearlware lustre jug sold for £2100

Moving away from the furniture section, one of the most surprising results of the day came from a 19th century jug depicting Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, who was a celebrated British statesman. Born in Edinburgh in 1778, Brougham became an elected MP in 1810 as part of the Whig Party where he quickly became one of the most forceful members of the House of Commons. In 1812, he gained notoriety as one of the Chief Advisors for Caroline of Brunswick, the estranged wife of King George IV. After he ascended to the throne, King George introduced the Pains & Penalties bill, aimed at dissolving the marriage and stripping Caroline of her Royal title on the grounds of adultery. Brougham led a legal team which eloquently defended the Princess. The British public had mainly been on the Princess’s side, and the outcome of the trial made Brougham one of the most famous men in the country.

Throughout his career, Brougham was a committed opponent of slavery; he was a driving force in the Anti-Slavery Society and was instrumental in the passing on the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, expanded the jurisdiction of the Slave Trade Act 1807 and made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire. The jug celebrates Brougham as an ‘incorruptible patriot’ and commemorates his triumph in making the ‘traffic of human flesh a felony.’ The piece drew the attention of ceramic enthusiasts across the country, before selling to a collector in the South of England for a staggering £2100 despite being chipped and damaged, much to the vendors delight.

11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars (oil on canvas) sold for £2600

Another result of note came from a 19th century oil painting by William Henderson entitled ’11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.’ Discovered by valuer Ashley Jones in an outbuilding just across the border in Wales, the painting offers its viewers insight into an infamous deadly battle of the Crimean War. As picture valuer Simon Grover explains, “On 25th October 1854 during the battle of Balaclava (a key engagement of the Crimean War), a fatal miscommunication led to the British Army’s Light Brigade being ordered to charge headlong into a well defended valley to attack a dug-in Russian artillery battery.  The Brigade faced hostile fire from three sides and suffered 118 losses, with 127 wounded and around 60 captured.  The fateful attack was immortalised by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’.  The 11th Hussars were a key regiment of the Light Brigade, and Henderson’s haunting painting depicts an exhausted Hussar staring back into the valley having survived the charge.”  The painting was hotly contested by domestic and international buyers before selling to a private military collector via a telephone bid.

Looking to the year ahead, Managing Director Christina Trevanion said “We have spent the lockdown period undertaking a full refurbishment of our wonderful and historic saleroom in Whitchurch.  It has been great to welcome back our customers to our beautiful showrooms and show them that we have not been resting on our laurels during lockdown.  It was wonderful that our first auction of 2021 was such a great success for our valued clients.  We are looking forward to an exciting few months ahead as our next auction includes a wonderful collection of furniture and fine art from Ruyton Hall, an impressive country house just outside Shrewsbury”.

To view the results from this auction, click here.