Thursday, 1 October 2009


Better known as Sleepers in the trade, every once in a while, one stumbles upon a hidden gem in an auction; it happens all too infrequently truth be told.   Perhaps once a year.   You keep the discovery under your hat becoming increasingly excited as the days wear on to the hammer drop and all the while you dig, delve and fret yourself to the conclusions your gut had already alerted you to.

So tell me about these pictures - lets call them a & b.   We shall come back to them.

I have had a few finds over the years, the first was a very good and very well bought Anglo-Chinese card table which only required the lightest waxing.   I sold it quickly for a good profit to a dealer in NYC who then went on to double up and sell the piece:

£146 became £8500 became approx $32,000

Another instance was three years ago on a visit to Cambridge, the intention was to buy a pair of chairs (I did and they are in my drawing room) but slumped in a corner was a very close approximation of this

Yup, those eagled eye souls who spotted the mirror in the background of the Arnolfini Marriage, are getting gold stars.   Mine, was ebonised on beech, with a convex mirror of the perfect patina but the roundels were made from the centres of Kangxi period porcelain plates.   Everything about it sang.

It was late nineteenth century and had all the hallmarks of an artist made prop, to my initial eyes at least.   A phone bid was booked and back to town.

I'm very terrier-like when on the case and a well stocked library helps but it wasn't until I drew the outline for my girlfriend that she pointed out the van Eyck link.   Coupled with the late nineteenth century age I headed into the Aesthetic territory to discover this

Designed by Thomas Jeckyll for Heath Old Hall, the home of Edward Green and sold by Christies in 1999.   The Fine Art Society purchased this particular overmantle.   Mine and this are brother and sister.   I would also like to think that the FAS were the purchasers of the Arnolfini mirror at the ripe sum of £18,250 (the estimate had been 3 - 400); I just didn't have the banking legs at that time.

So back to the watercolours - have you figured them out?

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