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A Chinese bowl sells for 28 times the stars in our selection of six auction highlights


Southern Song hare fur bowl with presentation mark – £56,000 at Hansons.

1. Chinese bowl with presentation mark – £56,000

It was during the Song dynasty that tea parties came into fashion and teahouses flourished in China. The so-called “whipped tea” was particularly fashionable, whipped to produce a white foam on top, and so a bowl which showed this to its best advantage was considered desirable.

Black and dark purple tea bowls came into fashion and were made in a number of kilns.

Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r.1101-1125), a great devotee of tea drinking who wrote a 12-chapter book on the subject, particularly admired so-called hare’s fur bowls. He said, “The black-tinted tea bowls are to be preferred. Those with the distinctive hare’s fur glaze are the best”.


Southern Song Hare Fur Bowl

The mark of the Southern Song hare fur bowl with a presentation mark which fetched £56,000 at Hansons.

This Southern Song example, offered for sale by Hansons, with a black glaze streaked with brown was the highlight of the Hurdle collection of classical Chinese ceramics offered by Hansons at Etwall, Derbyshire on April 29. In addition to its good glaze and its exceptional condition, it is an inscribed piece with a mark painted on the unglazed foot which reads gongyu (imperial tribute) or Jin Zhan (for presentation). It is believed that bowls of this type represented the finest wares of their type and were made for display at court.

It was estimated between £1,500 and £2,000 but soared to gross £56,000.

2. Mark Twain First Edition Listed – £20,000


Mark Twain first edition

Copy of Mark Twain’s first inscribed edition Sketches, new and old – £20,000 at Cheffins

This copy of the first edition of Sketches, new and old by Mark Twain (1835-1910) illustrated by True Williams went on sale at Cheffins in Cambridge on April 28. A decent example of the late 1875 second state issue (printed without the brief history hospital days by another author who was mistakenly included), its main attraction is the inscription.

To the free cover page that reads To Dr. John Brown with the love of Mark Twain (formerly Samuel Clemens) Hartford, December 1875.

This appears to be a reference to Scottish physician and essayist John Brown (1810-1882) whom Twain first contacted when his wife Livy fell ill while on a tour of the United Kingdom in 1873. After treating Livy, a friendship developed which continued through letters until Brown’s death.

Samuel, Livy and little Suzie Clements (Mark Twain and his family) were photographed with Brown in John Moffat’s studio in Edinburgh in 1873.

This personal connection to the author galvanized bidding which, starting around the £400-600 estimate, rose to £20,000.

3. Joanna Constantinidis ‘Body Pot’ – £8800


Joanna Constantinidis stoneware 'Body Pot'

Stoneware body pot by Joanna Constantinidis – £8,800 at Adam Partridge.

Typically, the works of studio potter Joanna Constantinidis (1927-2000), a lecturer in ceramics at the Chelmsford Technical College and School of Art for nearly 40 years, tended to take second place in the market in boom in contemporary ceramics.

Most of his clean thrown forms, often enhanced with luster glazes, sold in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

However, price levels for his best work have changed dramatically, particularly after a large stoneware “Body Pot” from around 1975 fetched a record £15,000 at Maak, London, June 2021).

Another of these asymmetrical glazed stoneware vessels from the main period, indicative of the work for which Constantinidis received the Medal of Honor at the International Exhibition of Ceramic Art in Faenza, Italy, in 1978, was placed on sale at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield on April 29. Standing 17 inches (42 cm), he was estimated at £400-600 but fetched £8,800.

4. Jedi Shop Display Model Return – £13,000


Return of the Jedi Shop Display Template

Jedi Shop Display Model Return – £13,000 at Vectis.

To mark the new range of Star Wars toys that accompanied the release of Return of the Jedi in 1982 the Palitoy company of Leicester commissioned a series of hand built and painted shop displays to be sent to some of its top retailers.

The example here depicting a battle scene on the planet Endor was made by NJ Farmers Associates Ltd and donated at the time to one of Teesside’s best known toy shops, Romer Parrish on Linthorpe Road, Middlesbrough. It was purchased by a collector when the store closed in the mid-1990s.

These large toy displays, fondly remembered by so many children, are treasured Star Wars collectibles today. Listed for sale at toy specialist Vectis in Stockton-on-Tees on April 28 with a guide for £5,000-10,000, it sold to an internet bidder for £13,000.

5. Study for a Tapestry – £24,000


Dom Robert

The Flower Garden – Study for a tapestry by Dom Robert – £24,000 to Lyon & Turnbull.

The Flower Garden – Study for a tapestry by Dom Robert (1907-1997) fled to net £24,000 for Lyon & Turnbull Modern Made Sale held in London on April 29 – by far the highest price ever paid for a painting by the French artist. Robert, who used the pseudonym of Guy de Chaunac-Lanzac, was an atypical artist.

A Benedictine monk living at the Abbaye d’En Calcat in Dourgne, he is remembered as the painter who helped revive the fortunes of the venerable Aubusson tapestry factory in the post-war period.

This cheerful scene of figures enjoying a flower garden rendered in acrylic and collage on canvas was dated 1951 and was from the modern and contemporary London dealer Gimpel Fils.

6. Nelson Memorial Ring – £25,000


Nelson Memorial Ring

Gold and enamel Nelson memorial ring with hair opening – £25,000 at Bonhams.

The Marine Sale at Bonhams on April 25 included this rare gold and enamel ring marking the death of Admiral Lord Nelson in 1805. It relates to the series of 58 rings made by London jeweler and swordsman John Salter which were distributed by the executors of Nelson’s Will to relations, close friends and pallbearers.

Each is worked in black, white and red enamel with a crown and the word Trafalgar. The gold rods are engraved on the outside Palmem Qui Meruit Ferate (that he wears the palm of the victory who won it) and the engraved inner surface Lost for his country on October 21, 1805 at the age of 47.

A number of ‘standard’ rings have appeared at auction over the past 20 years – selling for up to £18,000 depending on condition – and the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has three in its collection.


Nelson Memorial Ring

Gold and enamel Nelson memorial ring with hair opening – £25,000 at Bonhams.

However, there is no record of another such design which includes a window below the crown design for a hair insert. It is thought to have been made either by special request or for important people at extra cost, as Nelson’s hair samples were extremely rare even at the time.

Bonhams valued it at £15,000-20,000 and was rewarded with a hammer price of £25,000.


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