Victorian table, Duleep Singh’s falconning bell and Ottoman portrait miniature – five auction highlights that caught the eye of bidders


A Johann Marti Levien side table in exotic New Zealand wood, £12,000 at Dreweatts.

1. Painting by Johann Marti Levien – £12,000

The side table shown above is crafted from totara and hinan knot wood – a hint of its exotic origins. A label on the underside reads: ‘This wood imported from Wellington, New Zealand and manufactured by GDM Levene, New Zealand House, New Broad St, London’.

Born in Prussia where he did his cabinetmaking apprenticeship, Johann Marti Levien (1811-1871) is best known today for his ties with New Zealand where he worked for several years in the early 1840s and then delivered exotic woods to his London studio. Among his clients were Queen Victoria, from whom he received a royal appointment, and Baron Rothschild, who requested a whole piece made of totara and hinau.

This table, estimated at £1,500-2,000 but sold to a buyer via for £12,000, dates from around 1845. It was part of a landmark sale led by Dreweatts of the Donnington Priory auction house this week : the private collection of architect Sir William Whitfield (1920-2019).

The 570 lots, sold over two days on March 10 and 11, arrived in Newbury from St Helen Hall in County Durham, the Palladian home that Whitfield bought in 1967 and restored and furnished with high-quality items for 40 years .

2. Tiger Textile – £7400

Regency textiles

A picture of Regency silk and wool, £7400 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

This large Regency silk and woolen picture was among the most popular lots at the sole proprietor sale conducted by Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood in Exeter on March 10. Brimming with naive charm, the 72 x 82cm textile worked with a tiger walking with its head down through a landscape, was estimated at a modest £800-1200 but sold for £7400.

The sale of 481 lots included furniture and artwork displayed by Roderick and Valentine Butler at their home, Marwood House in Honiton. Roderick joined his father Noel in the family antique business in Marwood in 1957 and met Valentine when she came to work for the Butlers as a restorer in 1969.

The bulk of the items the company buys and sells – and those the butlers choose to keep – were acquired in the West Country, a testament to the wide range of products that were readily available in the pre-internet era.

The butlers are not moving and the family business of antiques will continue in the showrooms adjacent to the house.

3. Ottoman Governor Portrait Miniature – £1900

As inscribed on the reverse in Turkish, the subject of this 19th century oval miniature portrait on porcelain is the Ottoman Marshal and Governor Omar Pasha Latas (1806-1871). It was probably painted shortly after the Crimean War where the victories at Silistra and Eupatoria won him great popularity.

He still has many admirers today.

Measuring 9 x 7cm in a gold metal frame, it went on sale at Wokingham Auctions in Berkshire on March 7 with hopes of £80-160 but found a buyer at £1,900.

4. Duleep Singh’s Peddling Bell – £5,500

Hawking bell belonging to Prince Duleep Singh

A white metal peddling bell with an inscription relating to Prince Duleep Singh, £5,500 at Kingham & Orme.

Objects with a close personal connection to Duleep Singh (1838-1893), the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire exiled to Britain at the age of 15, have a particular resonance in the Sikh community.

This white metal peddling bell bears the inscription HH Prince Duleep Singh, Mulgrave Castle, Whitby, Yorkshire, £2 reward. Mulgrave is where Duleep Singh lived from 1858 to 1862 with this bell possibly belonging to one of the falcons he brought with him.

It went on sale at the Evesham Kingham & Orme auction house on March 5 with an estimate of £80-120, but sold for £5,500.

5. Howard & Sons Three Room Suite – £16,000

Howard and Son Sofa

Howard & Sons three-seater sofa and pair of armchairs, £16,000 at Morphets.

This three-seater sofa and pair of armchairs for sale at Morphets in Harrogate may look a little tired, but they carry a series of marks identifying them as the most sought-after name in upholstered furniture – Howard & Sons of London.

The company established in 1820 by John Howard is known for its exceptional quality upholstered furniture which won awards at several international exhibitions and won the patronage of exclusive customers throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Most of their work is marked – in this case with stamps on the brass casters, paper tags on the wooden carriers, and an initialed original ticking.

Very fashionable today, this lot was also atypical as a matching set.

Estimated at £2,000 at auction on March 5, it fetched a very impactful £16,000.


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