Portrait of artist Sarah Biffin, born without hands, arms or feet, is part of the latest selection of five auction highlights

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A Miniature Portrait of an Army Officer by Sarah Biffin – £5800 at Wilson55.

1. Portrait of Sarah Biffin

The July 8 Fine & Classic auction at Wilson55 in Nantwich included this miniature portrait of Sarah Biffin (1784-1850) (pictured above). Born with phocomelia, a birth defect, she taught herself to write, paint and hold scissors with her mouth and spent her formative years traveling the country as a “limbless wonder” in the part of Emmanuel Dukes’ traveling show. It was at the St. Bartholomew’s Fair in 1808 that she was presented to the Earl of Morton, an encounter that led to professional training, aristocratic patronage and ultimately recognition by the Royal Academy.

Biffin’s story of talent and triumph over adversity is becoming better known. The sale at Sotheby’s in December 2019 of a self-portrait for a multiple estimate of £110,000 was a ‘sit and take note’ moment in the collectors’ market: so far the previous record high bidding for Biffin was the £1600 auction at Bonhams Knightsbridge in 2009 for A lady, seated in a red upholstered chair. It seems to be changing. Here, an oval watercolor-on-ivory miniature of a Regency-era military officer, with an inscribed label and printed biography on the reverse, was offered for sale at a Cheshire estate along with the guidebook of 300 at £500. It attracted huge interest from collectors before the hammer dropped to £5,800.

2. Famous cricket match engraving


cricket picture


‘The eleven from England who beat thirty-three from Norfolk in one run and thirteen runs’ – £4,000 at Knights Sporting Auctions.

This engraving documents a once-famous cricket match played between an England 11 and a Norfolk 33 in 1797. The match was played at Swaffham Racecourse over three days in front of a crowd that saw the home team digitally stronger falling in a crushing round defeat.

After England scored 144, Norfolk managed a total of just 130 in two sets of 50 and 80 runs. Only one Norfolk batsman hit double figures (14) and of the 64 wickets taken by the English attack, 35 were ducks.

This humiliation of local talent nevertheless helped to instil an appetite for cricket in Norfolk which, by 1827, had formed its own county club. The print, measuring 15 x 13 inches (37 x 32 cm), is titled simply The Eleven of England that beat Thirty-Three of Norfolk in One Innings & Thirteen runs, July 17, 1797 & Two Next Days and includes the imprint London printers G Shepheard and J Dadley. There were stains throughout the image but, offered by Norwich Knights Sporting Auctions on July 9, it improved an estimate of £300-400 to fetch £4,000.

3. Georgian Newmarket Print


Map of Newmarket


‘A Plan of the Town of Newmarket’ by John Chapman – £2600 from Railtons.

Another rare Georgian sports-themed print was donated by Railtons of Wooler, Northumberland, on July 9 and 10. by John Chapman A map of the town of Newmarketdated March 31, 1787, is of primary interest for a key which lists the stables belonging to ‘Noblemen & Gentlemen’, many of whom are important figures in the history of the Turf.

This is a second version of this 22 x 18 inch (55 x 45 cm) print that was first published by local cartographer Chapman around 1768. The original plates were sold with the rest of the stock by Chapman after the death of his widow in 1784 when they were acquired by the Charing Cross printer William Faden who reprinted them with some alterations.

The bottom left photo of the famous racehorse Eclipse has remained unchanged (the undefeated thoroughbred had actually retired in 1771) but the list of aristocratic stable owners has been updated.

The fact that it is headed by the Prince of Wales dates the printing to the period 1787-91. It was in 1791 that the Jockey Club accused the Prince’s jockey of race-fixing after he pulled his horse Escape in one race in order to gain favorable odds in another. To avoid a new scandal, the prince sold all his racehorses.

Chapman’s maps are frequently mentioned in Newmarket and Turf histories, but few copies of the 1768 or 1787 editions of A map of the town of Newmarket have already appeared for sale. This one, on offer at just £30-40, sold to a buyer via thesaleroom.com for £2600.

4. Caricature for stained glass


Caricature for a stained glass window


One of five stained glass cartoons by George Daniels – £1500 at Sworders.

The Sworders’ Design sale included a collection of stained glass cartoons by George Daniels (1854-1940). His work can be seen in many English cathedrals, including Lichfield, Gloucester, York, Ely and Truro, as well as hundreds of parish churches across the UK and overseas.

These life-size working drawings, which go on sale July 13, were made in the 1920s and 1930s when the 70-year-old Daniels was working with architect Frederick Charles Eden (1864-1944). The couple shared an appreciation for late medieval and early Northern Renaissance art and worked on a wide range of projects.

Most of these pencil drawings were created for existing stained glass windows in churches in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. Pictured here is one of five designs made for a church in Chedburgh, Suffolk in 1925: three on the theme of the Annunciation and two others on the Crucifixion. The band sold for £1500.

5. Snuff box


snuff box


Scottish Presentation Table Snuffbox – £4200 at Woolley & Waliis.

The silver sale at Woolley & Wallis on July 13 included a selection of 24 snuffboxes from the Lion Collection as published in British Silver Boxes 1640-1840, The Lion Collection (2015).

This gilt table snuffbox, purchased from Christie’s South Kensington in 2006, is from Alexander Gardner and Co, Edinburgh 1802. Next to an armorial is a presentation inscription stating Presented by the Western Abernethy Company of Volunteers to James Grant Esq. of Birchfield their captain.

The unit was among those raised during the Napoleonic Wars. Grant, who in 1793 had raised a regiment of Fencibles almost exclusively from his own farm, raised the Strathspey Battalion of Volunteers in 1798. At Abernethy there were two companies, the Eastern and the Western, the latter numbering 80 men . Estimated between £2,000 and £3,000, it turned out to be among the most sought after of the 24 boxes that sold for £4,200.

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