19th century portrait miniature, French boulle marquetry cabinetry and artwork featuring Marlon Brando – six auction highlights that caught the eye of bidders last week


A pair of 19th century French boulle armoires, £10,000 at Stroud Auctions.

1. Miniature Portrait – £5,200

Miniature portrait

Miniature portrait on ivory of Sir Henry D’Esterre Darby, £5200 at Tennants.

By tradition, this early 19th century portrait miniature offered for sale at Tennants in Leyburn on January 11 depicts Irish naval officer Sir Henry D’Esterre Darby (1749-1823). On the reverse is a crystal holding a lock of hair.

The image (possibly based on a half-length portrait of Darby painted by Sir William Beechley in 1801 and later sold as an engraving) shows the subject wearing a Nile Medal – a reference to the Battle of the Nile in 1798 where Darby had command of HMS Bellerophon. Some 49 of Bellerophon’s crew were killed and 148 wounded in the battle with Darby himself rendered unconscious with a head wound.

After the last day of fighting on August 3, Nelson (who had also received a serious head wound) wrote to Darby saying, “My dear Darby, I weep for your heavy loss of braves, but look at our glorious victory. We will give you all the help as soon as you join us, until then, God bless you. We will both hopefully heal soon.

Tennants estimated the 3 by 2.75 inch (8 by 7 cm) watercolor on ivory at a conservative price of £300–400, but auctions reached £5,200.

2. Rudell & Rose Eight Key Flute – £1800

Popular in the early decades of the 19th century, the eight-keyed flute is something of a transitional instrument – an instrument that retained much of the characteristics of the earlier baroque flute, but also had elements of the modern instrument. .

Among the best-known manufacturers at the time was Rudell & Rose, a partnership between London flautist and instructor George Rudall, and Edinburgh wind instrument maker John Mitchell Rose which flourished from 1821 to 1850.

Interest in the eight-keyed flute as an orchestral instrument waned in the Victorian era in favor of the “modern” flute based on the designs of Theobald Boehm of Bavaria. However, the eight-keyed flute remained popular with folk musicians. Since the revival of Irish music especially in the 1970s, they have been highly sought after.

Only occasionally are Rudell & Rose eight-key flutes sold at auction. The example here, in rosewood and white metal with the Rudell & Rose Patentees boss on one end, was offered by auctioneer Battle Burstow & Hewett on January 8 with an estimate of just £30-50.

Many bids followed before being passed on to an internet bidder using thesaleroom.com at £1,800.

3. The Missouri Breaks artwork – £1300

Sketch of Marlon Brando by Bob Peak

A mixed media sketch of Marlon Brando by Bob Peak, £13,000 at Ewbanks.

The sale at Ewbanks in Surrey on January 9 included items from the estate of American film producer Elliott Kastner (1930-2010) whose credits included where eagles dare (1968), The long goodbye (1973), Missouri Breaks (1976) and angel heart (1987). The majority of the items were kept in his office at Pinewood Studios.

Pictured is the original artwork used in the posters to promote Missouri Breaks. The 2ft x 3ft (61 x 91cm) paper board of a mixed media sketch of leading actor Marlon Brando by the influential American commercial artist Bob Peak (1927-92) was used both on a single sheet and on quadruple UK posters.

A gift from the artist to Kastner, it was launched at £1,500-2,000 but sold for £13,000. A similar job for the film portraying Jack Nicholson cost £6,500.

4. Czech Impressionist Landscape – £3600

winter landscape

Oil on card winter landscape signed ‘Václav Radimský’, £3600 at Chiswick Auctions.

This winter landscape is signed lower left for Václav Radimský (1867-1946), the artist credited with introducing Impressionism to Czech audiences. Born in Kolín in Bohemia, he studied in Vienna and Munich before settling in Paris where he fell under the spell of Claude Monet.

Accompanied by a substantial catalogue, an exhibition of his work held at the Municipal Library in Prague from October 2011 to February 2012 did much to restore his reputation.

This 60 x 71cm oil on card went on sale at Chiswick Auctions on January 13 with an estimate of £80-120, but faced stiff competition before selling to an internet bidder using thesaleroom.com for £3,600 .

5. Boulle marquetry cupboards

French boulle cabinets

A pair of 19th century French boulle armoires, £10,000 at Stroud Auctions.

At Stroud Auctions in Gloucestershire on January 8, this pair of Napoleon III boulle marquetry armoires sparked a lot of interest.

Benefiting enormously from the “power of the pair”, they were also of higher quality than much French revivalism with marble tops, crisp gilt bronze mounts and detailed brass and tortoiseshell marquetry work. The blue boulle panels of the pilasters were also unusual while the interiors were veneered in mahogany.

Estimated between £1,000 and £2,000, it sold for £10,000.

6. Salisbury Cathedral Print – £850

'The Rainbow, Salisbury Cathedral', a mezzotint engraving by David Lucas after John Constable

‘The Rainbow, Salisbury Cathedral’, a mezzotint by David Lucas after John Constable, £850 to Capes Dunn.

Although loosely cataloged and valued at only £30-50, this mezzotint after John Constable fetched £850 at Capes Dunn in Stockport on 14 January.

It has been identified as one of the original suites of 22 prints produced by the engraver David Lucas (1802–81) between 1829 and 1832 as part of the portfolio titled Various landscape subjects, English landscape features. The project, a response to Liber Studiorum, Turner’s mezzotints on foreign landscapes, were fraught with difficulty as Constable, lacking in health, frequently reworked the plates to their dark and brooding conclusion. In one case, up to 200 “progressive” prints were made from a single image.

This 21 inch x 2 foot 3 inch (55 x 68 cm) image on wove paper is known as The Rainbow, Salisbury Cathedral. Housed in a blackened frame, it bore a later inscription dated 1917 on the gilt leaf. The winning bidder came via saleroom.com.


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