Posted on: 9 December 2020

Not Just for Christmas: Exceptionally Rare silver claret jug achieves £30,000 in our December auction

After an exciting (albeit unpredictable!) year, Trevanion & Dean finished 2020 on a high with a blockbuster Christmas auction. Comprising over 1000 lots, including a remarkable collection of 17th century art from a Welsh country estate and a once-in-a-lifetime consignment of rare silverware. The December two-day auction broke previous sale records and became the firm’s most successful auctions since they were established in 2014. Of the sale, Managing Director Christina Trevanion said “2020 has been a challenging year for all business owners. I feel incredibly blessed that the auction market has remained robust and we have adapted incredibly well to the ever changing and challenging times we find ourselves in. I remain incredibly grateful and humbled by the phenomenal support we have received from both our wonderful vendors and buyers alike.”

A Sampson Mordan claret jug sold for £30,000

The top price of the day was achieved by an exceptionally rare Victorian silver claret jug by renowned silversmith Sampson Mordan. The jug, realistically modelled as Punch & Judy’s faithful dog Toby was discovered in a house in Cheshire, as part of a routine visit by auctioneer and valuer Ashley Jones. Ashley – “upon first seeing this wonderful claret jug, I instantly knew that this unusual piece would be incredibly sought after in the auction market by both private collectors and international buyers. After further research it became clear just how rare this particular model is, and we placed an inviting estimate of £8,000 – £12,000 upon it.”

Born in 1790, Sampson Mordan began his career as an apprentice to inventor Joseph Bramah, before starting his own company in 1815. In 1822, he joined forces with co-inventor John Isaac Hawkins, and together they patented the first mechanical pencil, which the company became synonymous with. Mordan bought out Hawkins the following year and began producing his mechanical pencils in silver and gold, before adding many other types of items to his product line. Mordan’s pieces where not only renowned for their expert craftmanship, but also for their ‘whimsical’ figural designs – the firm produced pencils in the form of animals, weaponry and even Egyptian mummies. When Mordan died in 1843, his sons Sampson Junior and Augustus inherited the firm, and their catalogue of products continued to expand. As the years went by Sampson Mordan & Co never lost their sense of playfulness, and their designs continued to draw inspiration from the animal kingdom, popular culture and children’s literature. The firm continued to produce silverware and goldware until the factory was destroyed during the London Blitz in 1941.

“While Sampson Mordan & Co are noted for their compact and portable everyday objects such as pencils, vestas, hipflasks and bookmarks, their claret jugs are one of the most collectable products that the firm produced on the market today,” Ashley says. “Examples in the form of birds, sea creatures and exotic land mammals, which are rare in themselves, can sell for thousands. These jugs are usually glass bodied, with realistically modelled spouts and mounts in silver, which we have been fortunate to handle in past auctions. The example in our December auction was even more exceptional in that its body was made entirely of solid silver, few examples of which have ever come on to the market before. It is made even more unusual in that it is modelled as a specific character from British popular culture, rather than a more generic rendering of an animal. Not only is this jug exceptionally rare, but its appeal is multi-faceted – we had interest from collectors of rare silver and Sampson Mordan collectors, but we even had interest from collectors of Punch and Judy memorabilia!” After a flurry of pre-sale interest culminating in a competitive bidding battle between five telephone bidders, the claret jug sold to a private collector in the South of England for £37,800 including Buyer’s Premium.

Attributed to David Teniers the younger (1610-1690), Oil on panel, sold for £2,400

Elsewhere in the sale, an impressive collection of paintings from a Welsh country estate caught the eye of bidders from across the UK and overseas, with many exceeding pre-sale estimates – most notably, a selection a works attributed to Flemish baroque painter David Teniers the Younger, which took the collective sum of £5300 + Buyer’s premium. Teniers was one of the most successful Flemish Painters of the 17th century, renowned for his luminous depictions of everyday peasant life. Though his works were modest in scale, Teniers output was prolific, and he is thought to have produced over 2,000 works in his lifetime. Many of his works can be found today in the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London.

Other highlights from the collection include a 17th century classical Dutch Landscape by a follower of Philips Wouwerman which sold for £2200 and a portrait of a Satyr in the manner of Reubens which made £1300. The collection grossed over £12,000 + Buyer’s Premium. Reflecting on the success of the sale, valuer Simon Grover said “It’s always exciting when a private collection comes fresh to the market, and this collection contained some stunning pieces. David Teniers the Younger was hugely popular in his time and remains popular today. This sale demonstrates that high quality oil paintings are much in demand at all levels of the market, and anything with character and charm is sure to find a buyer.”

Looking ahead, the new year is set to be an exciting time for the team at Trevanion and Dean, with expansion plans on the horizon, and some exciting consignments set to go under the hammer in early 2021. “We are very much looking forward to the coming year and being able to welcome our valued customers back to the sale room,” says Christina.

For information on valuation and selling email call 01948 800202.