For me, Karel Čapek's 1913 Cubist painting Guitar Player from the November sale is very special.
Although best remembered for his writing, Karel Čapek was also a skilled painter and fascinated, in particular, by Cubism. Čapek's 1913 Cubist creation Guitar Player features a clearly delineated and simplistic half-length figure. The figure's arms and body are robotic and share qualities with the robot characters that would come to feature in his 1920 play Rossum's Universal Robots (RUR).
Sold for £17,500 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Louis Christian Hess’ Friend from the March sale also stands out for me:
Painted in 1931, this work echoes many tendencies found in Max Beckmann’s (1884 – 1950) works: the plasticity of the figure, the powerful use of light and dark, the black outlines that brilliantly carve out the form of the sitter and the use of the deliberately vibrant rich, almost garish yellow.
Sold for £10,625 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Baya Mahieddine’s La danse (or Femme aux instruments de musique) from the April 2021 sale is the standout item of 2021 for me:
One of Algeria’s most celebrated artists, Baya Mahieddine is famous for iconic work that would inspire Picasso's series Les Femmes d’Alger (1954-55). Her raw artistic vocabulary featuring women, musical instruments, birds, animals and vegetation was enriched by local culture and traditions of the textiles, ceramics, gardens and the architecture she encountered on a daily basis. Her works are now highly sought after in the international market and feature in collections worldwide and I was delighted to be able to have this painting in my sale.
Sold for £21,250 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My first choice is the Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne of 1996 from the wine and spirits sale of 4th June:
This is a vintage close to my heart. Cristal, though well-known, is always a bottle of interest, not only for the Champagne but for the very bottle itself. A favourite of Tsar Alexander II (1818 – 1881), he imported it in vast quantities. However, forever in fear, he asked for the bottles to be clear, ‘crystal clear’ so as to see the contents and for the base to be flat for the very same reason – thus forming the unique bottle that we have today.
Sold for £266 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Next, a Chateau La Pointe 1981 from the sale of 6th October:
The Wines of Bordeaux’s Right Bank often take second place to their famed cousins on the Left, which is not to omit the incredibly brilliant and incredibly expensive wines of Le Pin and Petrus – the latter of which is quite literally out of this world (Cosmonaut Grapes: Petrus had made its maiden space flight last year). Le Pointe was a personal standout at this year’s tastings by the prestigious Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. Merlot-dominated, it is incredibly elegant With great investment in recent years, this, much like a lot of Pomerol and St Emilion will go from strength to strength – worth keeping tabs on.
Sold for £508 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
This first lot came from a private estate in Eaton Square, London, of an important American lady who came to the UK with her husband and was very involved in helping political relations between the UK and USA:
This is from the 24th March Interiors, Homes & Antiques Sale, to include the Property of a Lady, Eaton Square, London
This piano was made for the client’s mother in New York and shipped to her in Boston; there it was hardly used but she then shipped it over to her home in Eaton Square in London, where it was played when entertaining. When it came to auction, a number of concert pianists came forward and asked if they could come to play it, which they did. It was such a delight hearing such talent in the salerooms. The interesting thing is that they revealed that this New York model is actually not as well esteemed as its counterparts made in Germany because it is heavy on the base notes. The ebonised case is very appealing, however; people often have the whole instrument re strung with parts from Germany to improve its tone and resonance - a very costly exercise!
Sold for £14,750 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
A Lalique Collection in the September Design sale https://www.chiswickauctions.co.uk/auction/search/?au=711 (lots 10 to 32). This series of lots were the Lalique collection from a private client I visited in Chelsea. The whole collection sold for just under £20,000 hammer. The Client was downsizing and decided to part with her lifetime collection. Here there were rare opalescent and coloured glass items which exude the highest quality of Lalique’s repertoire, these are also rarer and more sought after as production stopped following his death in 1945. A collection curated to such a standard is a rare find in itself and if you're interested in 20th century Design, these are the types of item that we sell frequently.
The whole collection sold for £20,000
Both of these items are from the May 28th sale Photographs (1840 - 2020) and were a pleasure to work with as they show the full history and heritage of photography.
This first item is possibly the earliest example of the ambrotype process to ever be offered on the open market. It has the sitter looking suspiciously (but inconclusively) like the inventor of the process. We had much institutional interest here and thankfully the lot went to a British institution where the image and sitter will be further researched and conserved. Quite a find for the vendor of this item!
Sold for £7,500 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My second choice is:
This is one of the first significant Gustave Le Gray’s the department has offered, and the resulting sale figure illustrates that our London saleroom stands shoulder to shoulder with other houses worldwide that are offering French Photographic masterworks from the 1840s.
Sold for £6,875 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
A favourite lot of mine was Lot 586 of the 17th November 2021 Asian Art II sale:
A set of seven Chinese export dishes. Someone who works as a valuer for Oxfam spotted these dishes, which had been discarded at a local charity shop; however, she recognised that they might be of specialist interest. She brought the dishes to me and I recognised them as 18th Century Chinese porcelain dishes, made for the export market. They surpassed their estimate of £300-500 to sell for a good hammer price, all of which will go to benefit Oxfam, as Chiswick Auctions waives its selling charges for charities.
Sold for £1,625 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
The top selling lot of the year from the Asian Art Department was of course:
These are legendary works of exceptional artistic, historical and political importance, a set of 24 works embodying the highest level of skills and artistry and also highlighting international commerce, diplomacy and history as well as art virtuosity. The full and remarkable story of these paintings is worth reading on the website and the sale itself made for a memorable sale result for the vendors.
Sold for £175,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
We have found a much increased demand for Men’s luxury fashion this year, and this has resulted in exceptional hammer prices, in particular for our inaugural Men’s Designer Fashion Sale The Designer Men’s Edit of 7th September 2021
In that sale my two favourite lots were lot 1, the Dior Red Silk Military Bomber Jacket, with gold braid applique, a stunning example of Dior’s art and creativity. The price realised reflected the value put on men’s fashion currently:
Sold for £1,250 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My other highlight is from the same sale, and this time is Lot 92 – the Gucci Champagne Silk Reversible Bomber Jacket:
This is at first sight a similar jacket but it is in such a different style and approach to my first choice. But, again, this shows how is an item of Men’s fashion can achieve a really good result in a Chiswick sale!
Sold for £1,188 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My two lots here are shared after much careful thought was given to my selection. These are the two, and they are both works on paper, which does not represent the extraordinary variety of items I work with and sell, but are among our best sellers this year and each of them comes with an extra footnote with my research notes and references.
Lot 290 – Islamic and Indian Art – 16th April 2021:
Sold for £3,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
It is interesting to contrast these two items, as the first is so quintessentially Indian while the second is Iranian, so as well as their beauty and the fascinating stories they tell, they also help to show two of the different cultures we deal with on a regular basis.
Sold for £4,750 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Iraqi silver has been my defining category of 2021, and I have been delighted to offer over 100 lots of Iraqi silver in 2021 (109 lots to be precise). My two items here were what I think of as the leading items of my sales of Iraqi silver. They belonged to Brigadier Sir Iltyd Nicholl Clayton KBE (1886 – 1955) and the four items presented to Brigadier Clayton were initially sold as one lot in Bonham’s The Channel Island Sale, (in April 2008) for £252 incl. premium; however, here at Chiswick Auctions they were split over four lots and in my sales made a total of £6,850 hammer (£8562.5 incl. premium) a 3297.81 % increase in sale value.
This demonstrates that interest in and demand for Iraqi silver is now considerable, especially for distinct, large, signed, presentation pieces such as these.
In recommending my two top items of 2021 I would suggest these two - items that show the range of urban and contemporary pieces we offer for sale and the sorts of prices we can offer to buyers and also deliver for vendors.
The relatively unusual plaque by Stik had been gifted by the artist to the current owner and it was very popular with bidders, in the end achieving a positive result for the vendors.
Sold for £15,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
2021 has been a very successful year indeed for sales of carpets and rugs, with the results achieved for vendors being very positive and the range of items brought to sale very impressive. The two lots I have selected as highlights show the range of, and quality of, the items we have been able to offer for sale.
From the Fine Rugs and Carpets Sale of 10th June 2021 I select Lot 127 : A Fine Manchester Kashan Rug, Central Persia:
This was a very good example for great wool quality and fine weave, and is a sought after type of rug seldom found in auction sales
Sold for £1,625 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My second choice is from the Fine Rugs & Carpets sale of 21st September 2021 and is Lot 55 A Fine Heriz Carpet, North-West Persia:
This rug is a classic for this type, with bold design and very good colour combination.
Sold for £688 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Both of these are great furnishing carpets, and in my experience are now very popular on the market.
Of all the lots we have sold this year, I think these two (although they are from the end of the year) are probably my favourites. Both are from the Fine Books & Works on Paper Sale of the 9th November 2021
Firstly, Asiatick Researches: or transactions of the Society, Instituted in Bengal, for inquiring into the history and antiquities, the arts, sciences, and literature of Asia – in 20 volumes:
What pleased me about this lot is that it is rare to find a book that has never appeared either at auction or retail for sale, or to be able to find a complete copy available in an institution. This was a wonderful find and a great privilege to handle.
Sold for £75,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My second lot is from the same sale and is Gell and Gandy’ Pompeiana, The Topography, Edifices, and Ornaments of Pompeii, the second edition, ‘Large Paper Copy’, with its original watercolour illustrations.
This was another wonderful find of an item that is unique and fresh to the market.
Sold for £9,375 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
I am delighted to be able to share these two: firstly, lot 1078 from the November 9th sale – a draft of a wartime typed letter signed 'Winston Churchill', addressed to Paul Reynaud, Prime Minister of France:
This was a real piece of British history. Lots like this are offered at auction once in a lifetime, perhaps. It was an absolute privilege to research and sell it.
Sold for £30,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Then, lot 1143 from the July 7th sale, a letter from JK Rowling:
Letters by Rowling mentioning the Harry Potter saga are exceptionally rare. In the one we sold she discussed the end of the series and her feelings towards it, which made this letter a must-have for Harry Potter fans!
Sold for £4,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
In terms of the standout items we have sold this year I would like to share two examples from my first sale of 2021, on 15th April.
The first of these was lot 9 in that sale - An attractive and well preserved 18k gold ultra thin art deco pocket watch. by Audemars Piguet, with chain
Audemars Piguet is not a ostentatious brand and never has been. Their designs, in fact, demonstrate exactly the opposite attributes. What started as a family business became one of the most important watch brands in the world, never ceasing to impress thanks to Piguet’s traditional watchmaking and fine production of some of the most complex mechanisms in the world. Consequently, the brand became famous for its complications, minute repeaters, chronographs ... and outstanding quality in every single part.
Our pocket watch here couldn't be a better example of this - simple and elegant on the outside but impressive within. The slim 18K yellow gold case contains a secret, a beautiful surprise: one of the thinnest pocket watch movements, a mechanical piece of art made to endure, to pass on to the next generation, a perfect example of a traditional past.
Sold for £3,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
My second choice would be the rare and well-preserved men's stainless steel automatic pilot's flyback vintage chronograph wristwatch by Heuer. This was Lot 53 - and is an example of the watches originally produced for pilots in the German military, the Bundeswehr, with a rugged functionality designed particularly for navigators. The chronograph flyback function allows the operator to zero the chronograph with the push of one button while still being able to record the minutes on the secondary dial, especially beneficial for navigators. The red '3H' at the 6 o'clock position on the dial signifies the fact that this model has luminous paint with tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen-3 hence the 3H, while the Valjoux 230 movement with a 48-hour power reserve further enhances the capability and usefulness of the watch in all situations. It is an icon of a vintage military watch and wears incredibly well.
Sold for £4,250 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
The highlight for me this year was the sale on 9th July 2021 Cyril & Shirley Fry - A Life in Art. Cyril Fry was one of the last great dealers in British drawings and watercolours whose gallery in Jermyn Street, London, was a mecca for collectors and dealers for over 20 years. The sale included 136 lots of mainly British drawings and watercolours of the 18th and 19th Century and my highlights included:
This beautiful example of John White Abbott’s detailed studies of interesting trees and rocks rendered in his characteristic technique of drawing with a delicate pen and ink outline with a monochrome wash to create wonderful effects of light and shadow
Sold for £5,250 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Then there is:
William Henry Hunt was a great favourite of Cyril Fry’s and the sale included a number of examples in both pencil and watercolour. This beautiful image of the lady reading by lamplight had all the elements of Hunt’s meticulous observation of detail and vivid use of colour, capturing the intimate atmosphere of the interior and the wonderful warm glow of the lamplight on the sitter’s face as she quietly reads at the table.
Sold for £5,000 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
One of the most fascinating lots to have been sold this year, for me, is this painting from our sale Old Master Paintings, including Fine Frames & Property from the Library of the Late David Scrase, held on 12th October 2021.
A wonderful example of Gainsborough-style composition and technique, this painting relates very closely to a painting by Thomas Gainsborough now at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven and to a drawing by Gainsborough, Wooded Landscape with Group of Figures, c. 1745, in the Morgan Library, New York. In the event the price realised reflected the research we carried out on this work:
Sold for £21,250 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Though small, Wenzel Hollar’s Woman with a mask, hood and ruff was certainly an intriguing highlight of our recent ‘On Paper: Five Centuries of Master Drawings and Prints’ sale of 7th December.
Taken from a large collection of costume prints depicting mid-seventeenth century English women’s fashion, the etched figure wears a visard, an item initially pioneered by travelling women in the sixteenth century to maintain their fashionably pale complexions. Such visards, or visors, were often made of velvet and typically covered the entire face, both muting the wearer and concealing her modesty. The seventeenth-century variation, as depicted here, covered the upper half of the face and was a common winter accessory worn by affluent women in London.
Sold for £325 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Many lovely things were bought to sale this year – in particular I love Chadwick’s semi-abstract figures’ elegance, and particularly enjoyed offering Maquette III Two Winged Figures. Chadwick was one of Britain’s leading sculptors from the Post-War era, having represented Britain at the 1956 Venice Biennale where he was recognised with an international sculpture prize, becoming the youngest artist to receive it.
Sold for £47,500 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
Secondly, a superb painting to sell was Portrait of Joe by Sara Raphael; this is such a beautiful portrait. The fine brushstrokes bring the different textures to life and drew me in from the moment I saw it in the flesh. This work has made me look into Sarah Raphael’s output with a more curious eye.
Sold for £4,250 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
I’ve chosen two drastically different pieces from our 3rd December Jewellery Sale as they evoke very different feelings in the eye of the viewer or of the bearer.
The first piece is an articulated bracelet designed by Astrid Fog (1911-1993) - a Danish fashion designer who started designing jewellery to match her clothing designs. Her jewellery was produced by Georg Jensen. I love her modernist approach combined with the smoothness of silver jewellery, and how she uses very geometric shapes that perfectly fit the human body.
Sold for £650 (Includes Buyer's Premium)
The second piece is signed by A. Daou - a Lebanese jeweller in the 1960’s in Beirut. Even though this piece was contemporaneous with the first piece, it evokes a completely different feeling. The organic work of the metal, and the play between texture and void perfectly illustrates the new trend of producing sculptural effects with gold while incorporating precious gemstones.
Sold for £260 (Includes Buyer's Premium)