Damaged Vase Sells for over Half-a-million Pounds at Toovey’s

The Chinese famille rose vase

A chipped and heavily repaired vase went under the hammer for an extraordinary £520,000 at fine art auctioneers Toovey’s Spring Gardens salerooms at Washington on Thursday 4th December 2014.

The 40.3cm-high Chinese famille rose and pea green ground vase dated from the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795) and would originally have been a decorative piece made for one of the emperor’s palaces. It was decorated with four floral panels representing the seasons, alternating with four further panels with poems in different calligraphic scripts.

Some of the damage to the vase

At some point in the 19th century, the rim had been broken into a number of pieces and repaired with rivets and metal wire, a popular form of restoration right up until the 1960s, when epoxy and polyester resin glues were developed. The rim also had a fair-size piece missing and there were other smaller areas of loss. None of this put off a host of Oriental antiques specialists around the world and on the day nine telephone bidders, a strong presence bidding live online and a number of key UK and Chinese players in the room all vied for the piece. After a lengthy battle, the final bidding was left to two major collectors, one bidding from China by telephone, the other, the eventual winner, bidding in the room.

The vase was discovered by Toovey’s following a routine enquiry by email from a local couple, attaching a number of images of items at their property which they wanted to auction. They were all modest items, except for the vase, which Toovey’s Oriental specialist Tom Rowsell immediately spotted as something potentially very interesting. The couple subsequently brought the vase to Toovey’s to show Tom in person and he confirmed his thoughts that the vase was almost certainly Qianlong mark and period and a highly commercial piece in the current market. Toovey’s Oriental consultant, Lars Tharp, later concurred with Tom’s opinion. The vase had been inherited by the wife from her late father, who, she believed, bought it at auction in the 1960s. The couple had no idea that the vase was of any importance or value prior to contacting Toovey’s.

This remarkable hammer price rounds off a record year for Toovey’s, who have been steadily notching up an impressive run of results throughout 2014.

Watch the lot selling below:

Amazing Result at Toovey’s!

The charcoal and chalk drawing auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000

A genre scene picture of a woman standing in an interior reading a book created an electric atmosphere when it was auctioned at Toovey’s for £320,000 on Wednesday 8th October 2014.
“It’s an age-old saying in the auction world that you only need two people to create an extraordinary price. £320,000 for an 18th century French School charcoal and chalk drawing is extraordinary by any measure,” said company director Rupert Toovey.
This unsigned, unattributed drawing, with little family provenance, was entered by a long-standing Toovey’s client from London, who had inherited it as part of her late mother’s estate. It had lain out of sight in a remover’s store in Southsea for more than fifteen years. The client, who said the drawing was always regarded as an insignificant picture by her family, was amazed and delighted with the result.
The result surprised even the experts and vastly exceeded the modest pre-sale estimate. The quality of the picture, however, was not ignored. The picture was illustrated in the auction catalogue and online and actively marketed to collectors and specialist galleries across the globe. On the day, bids rose rapidly from the saleroom floor and live internet bidding. Two leading commercial fine art galleries, one in Paris, the other in London, then locked horns in a bidding battle which resulted in auctioneer Nicholas Toovey’s gavel finally falling at £320,000. “It’s results like this that make our profession so fascinating and exciting!” Mr Toovey exclaimed. “Every piece we auction is marketed on the major collectors’ websites. Our own website, www.tooveys.com, is key to our marketing strategy, bringing almost a quarter-of-a-million potential clients to our salerooms every year.” The fruits of Toovey’s investment in this industry-leading technology is apparent in their ability to reach worldwide collectors’ markets. Rupert Toovey concluded: “In our internet age it is remarkable that so much can still rest on the opinions of a few courageous bidders.”

Five Lot Preview of the Toovey’s August Auction

Lot 2200
A pair of late 19th century Louis XV style kingwood marquetry and parquetry card tables at Toovey's August Auction
Lot 3023

Ahead of Toovey’s auction on the 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th August, we look at five lots that will feature in the summer sale.

The Specialist Sale of Paper Collectables is the largest to date and boasts some fantastic quality items, including the Great Britain 1882 5 shilling rose on blued paper Plate 4, used. Offered as Lot 3023, this single stamp carries a presale estimate of £500-600.

Lot 1025
Lot 1050

The Asian & Islamic Ceramics & Works of Art Specialist Auction includes two interesting highlights: Lot 1025 is a large Chinese archaistic bronze hu vase, in the Han style but 16th century, height 42.5cm, estimate £2000-3000. Lot 1050 is a Chinese white jade vase and cover, probably late Qing dynasty, height 15.8cm, estimate £800-1200.

Lot 1494

A Troika pottery two-face mask, Lot 1494, is one of the highlights of the British & Continental Ceramics & Glass auction. Each side is decorated with a relief mask motif and was produced circa 1970-1983. It carries a pre-sale estimate of £300-500.

The Furniture auction includes a pair of late 19th century Louis XV style kingwood marquetry and parquetry card tables. This pair, Lot 2200, is estimated at £2000-4000.

The catalogue for the auction will be available online by 7th August at www.tooveys.com

Viewing for the August Auction as follows:

Saturday 9th August: 10am to 4pm
Monday 11th August: 10am to 4pm
Tuesday 12th August: 10am to 4pm (10am to 1pm for the Paper Collectables)
Wednesday 13th to Friday 15th: 9am to the start of each session.

Order of sales for the August Auction as follows:

Sale of Paper Collectables

Tuesday 12th August
At 1.30pm Stamps. Postcards. Cigarette Cards.
Autographs, Photographs & Ephemera.

Sale of Antiques, Fine Art & Collectors’ Items

Wednesday 13th August
At 10am Decorative Art.
At 1pm Silver & Plate. Jewellery. Objects of Virtu.

Thursday 14th August
At 10am Asian & Islamic Ceramics & Works of Art.
At 1pm British & Continental Ceramics & Glass.

Friday 15th August
At 10am
Furniture.
At 1.30pm Tea Caddies, Boxes & Diminuitive Furniture.
Collectors’ Items, Works of Art, Metalwork & Light Fittings.
Needleworks & Textiles. Rugs & Carpets.

Preview of Toovey’s June Select Fine Art Auction

Lot 71 William Russell Flint's 'The Model with the Fringe'
Lot 71 William Russell Flint's 'The Model with the Fringe'

On the 18th June, Toovey’s will host their second Select Painting Sale of 2014. Prior to the printed catalogue landing on doorsteps around the world and in advance of the online catalogue being uploaded to Toovey’s website, we thought a preview of five of the highlights might be in order.

Firstly we look at the £3000-5000 sanguine drawing above, it is by an artist who needs no introduction, William Russell Flint (1880-1969). While most people are familiar with his colour prints, his original works are not often seen for sale at auction. This sanguine comes with a letter from the artist dated 9.12.68 which states ‘the rubbing must be my own unless the drawing has been taken from its frame and smeared’, referring to the minor smudging to some lines. Having no sign of being taken out of its frame, this can no longer be seen as a condition flaw, instead it is part of the drawings character. The work on paper measuring 38cm x 56.5cm is titled ‘The Model with the Fringe’. Other works by Flint in the auction include three drypoint etchings and a scarce line block.

Lot 27 Henry Ryland's 'Calm of Evening'
Lot 27 Henry Ryland's 'Calm of Evening'
Annie French original watercolour and ink
Lot 123 Annie French's 'A Lady with a Bouquet'

Another painting included in the sale is an original watercolour by Henry Ryland (1856-1924), which in subject matter is certainly similar to that of Flint, albeit a little bit earlier. The soft quality and palette reflects the tradition of classical scenes of the late 19th Century, popularized by the likes of Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Albert Moore. ‘Calm of Evening’ by Ryland measures 38cm x 56cm and is offered with a pre-sale estimate of £1000-1500.

An original watercolour and ink by Annie French (1872-1965) is included in the June auction of Select Fine Art. Titled ‘A Lady with a Bouquet’ this beautiful work measures 25cm x 8cm. The labels on the back show that it has previously been retailed by Kaye Michie and the Maas Gallery prior to being offered in Toovey’s auction. It is presented in a bespoke mount with ink stylized flowerheads to reflect the artist’s hand. This work by a leading member of the Glasgow School and talented book illustrator carries a pre-sale estimate of £2000-3000.

‘It’s all in the name’ is a phrase often associated with the Fine Art market. Perhaps the inclusion of two works by Noël Coward (1899-1973) in the sale reflects this. The works by the English playright, composer, director and singer show an amateur charm. In his diary Coward wrote: “Compared with the pretentious muck in some London galleries… my amateur efforts appear brilliant.” Many of Coward’s paintings feature in a work by Sheridan Morley, who wrote:

“In his lifetime, Noël always reserved his own paintings as first-night or birthday gifts, allowing only one or two to go for the very occasional charity auction and fearing, as he once wrote, that a kind of ‘celebrity snobbism’ might otherwise make them valued more for their autograph than for their intrinsic worth.”

Lot 101 Noël Coward's View of a Villa
Lot 101 Noël Coward's View of a Villa, one of two works by Coward included in the June Auction
Alfred Oliver's depiction of children picking flowers
Lot 70 Alfred Oliver's depiction of children picking flowers

The view of a villa above, presumably depicts an unidentified home in Jamaica. It is estimated at £800-1200, but will the purchaser be associating the value to the picture or the autograph? Hopefully a bit of both!

The final work in our preview is a tondo view of two children picking flowers in a landscape. It is by Royal Academician Alfred Oliver who flourished between 1886 and 1921. From this period is the oil on canvas shown here. Measuring 38.5cm in diameter, this work had previously been retailed by the Macconnal-Mason gallery, today, it carries a pre-sale estimate of £500-800.

Toovey’s Select Sale of Fine Art starts at 10.00am on Wednesday 18th June and is the opening session of Toovey’s June specialist auctions. Viewing times for the select painting sale is as follows:
Saturday 14th June 9.30am to 12.00 noon
Monday 16th June 10.00am to 4.00pm
Tuesday 17th June 10.00am to 4.00pm
and on the day of the auction, Wednesday 18th June, 9.00am to 10.00am (the start of the auction).

Scarce James II Silver Footed Salver at Toovey’s

James II Silver Chinoiserie Footed Salver at Toovey's Auction
James II Silver Chinoiserie Footed Salver to be offered at Toovey's Auction

Toovey’s forthcoming Specialist Sale of Silver on Wednesday 21st May 2014 includes a James II silver footed salver or tazza, flat-chased with a chinoiserie scene. This salver measures 34cm in diameter and is among the largest of its type. It is hallmarked for London 1688 by Benjamin Yate and carries a pre-sale estimate of £30,000-50,000.

Side View of Footed Salver
Side View of Footed Salver
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Hallmarks on James II Tazza
Hallmarks on James II Salver

Contextually, this piece was produced just twenty-two years after the Great Fire of London, following which an estimated four fifths of the city had to be rebuilt and, more importantly, countless homes refurnished. This is only five years after the English East India Company nearly went bankrupt after a ferocious price war with the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) over market share. It is also  the same year as the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’, with Prince William of Orange arriving with his army in November 1688. The footed salver was created during a period often referred to as England’s ‘Silver Age’. The higher production and quality of the pieces produced at the time ensure that items from the last quarter of the seventeenth century survive in surprisingly large numbers, spared from the melting pot for over four centuries.  The indulgence in the precious metal of the era was a reaction to and a celebration after the uncertain times preceding the reign of Charles II.

The influence of items originally imported from Asia by the Dutch East India Company had a huge impact. The fashion for anything Chinese swept across Europe, leaving a disparity between supply and demand. Manufacturers producing faux Chinese or ‘chinoiserie’ designs on pieces, including furniture and ceramics, became increasingly common. This piece is scarce because of its ornament; it is in stark contrast to the abundant embossed decoration more typical of the period. This distinctive chinoiserie decoration on silver is largely considered to have been undertaken at a single workshop between 1680 and 1688. It is speculated that only a few hundred pieces would have been decorated in this particular chinoiserie style. Perhaps the craftsman died, which would explain the small numbers and the distinct cut-off at the same date as this salver. Flat-chasing resembles the appearance of engraving but its creation uses the pressure of tools to make the delicate line, rather than digging away at the metal.

Today, it is largely believed that the designs were derived from a book written by Johan Nieuhoff, titled ‘Legatio Batavica Ad Magnum Tartariae Chamum Sungteium…’, first published in Amsterdam in 1668 with over 100 plates, plans and illustrations. It is certain that the decorator of the salver never travelled to Asia and probably used this book as inspiration, because the figures show the same ethnographic inaccuracies as Nieuhoff’s work.

While silver of this date does survive, examples of this type and quality are few and far between and seldom come to auction, unless part of an important silver collection. The consignment of this salver has a different story to tell. It was brought to Toovey’s reception with a few plated toast racks and valuer Will Rowsell recalls that the vendor did not even realize the salver was silver, let alone the importance of the piece. After consulting with Toovey’s silver specialist Tom Rowsell, the two brothers decided further research was required before offering a definitive opinion. Both were confident that the salver had all the indications of being an important piece of silver. The vendor had inherited the item from his father, an antiques dealer active in the middle part of the 20th century, but had never considered its value until recently. When reporting back to the vendor on the telephone, Tom recalls making sure they were sitting down before discussing the pre-sale valuation of £30,000-50,000!

The James II silver footed salver will be offered as Lot 350 in Toovey’s Specialist Sale of Silver on Wednesday 21st May 2014, commencing at 1pm. If you would like to have your silver valued, please contact our offices to discuss your requirements and the best way to proceed. This salver is proof that it is always worth checking an item’s value with the specialists at Toovey’s.