Last Friday I went along to my favourite auction house to view the lots coming up for sale on Saturday; it was probably the best collection of lots I've seen for a long time and the rooms were crowded with people talking excitedly and making notes.
I'd spotted five things in the on-line catalogue, that I wanted to look at and maybe to leave commission bids for – once again I wasn't able to go to the auction and to bid in person, but this focuses the mind and prevents snap purchases so it's no bad thing!
The five lots were:
• A wooden framed over-mantle mirror
• Five woodblock prints by Hiroshige from the "100 views of Edo" series
• An oil painting of two ceramic jugs by Manuel Blesa
• A silver bracelet by Georg Jensen
• An oil painting of a farmyard by Roger Nicholson
I quickly crossed off the mirror – it was the wrong size for our fireplace. On to the Hiroshige prints, the estimate of £80 seemed too low and I smelled a rat, so I'd done some homework and checked the size of the original prints – these prints were slightly smaller, looked brand new but were printed from woodblocks . . . mmmm? The labels on the back of the frames said they were purchased at the Kyoto Arts Centre – I've been there and they sell reproduction copy prints, skillfully done but not original Hiroshiges. I was tempted, but crossed them off my list (they went for £85).
Now I was down to the final three . . . the Manuel Blesa painting was delightful, serene and beautifully painted, framed in a very Spanish heavy black frame it would look perfect in our dining room once I get the walls repainted . . . I checked with the auctioneer – there was a reserve of £250, I wouldn't be getting a bargain but the painting was worth at least that. I crossed it off my list. (It sold for £340, there's no way I'd have gone that high but I could see why someone paid that much.)
I asked the auctioneer to open one of the secure cabinets so I could look at the bracelet, I'm not an expert on Jensen but I really like his designs and want to learn more. I wish I'd done more homework before I looked at this . . . the lovely 'Seed and Pod' design was much more attractive in real life than in the catalogue photo, the workmanship was top quality – I loved the clever little lock on the catch. I was only going to bid if the reserve was low – at £250 it wasn't. As I walked away I overheard a confident dealer list the things he wanted to check out including the bracelet . . . I wasn't alone in spotting a quality piece (the Jensen 'Seed and Pod' bracelet sold for £440!)
I had one lot left on my list . . . the painting by Roger Nicholson; I usually only consider buying original prints but this painting really caught my eye – there was something special about it.
Before I went to the auction rooms I did a bit of research about the painter – Roger Nicholson was a highly skilled artist and designer. He is better known for his textile designs in the 1950s and the V&A Museum has a large collection of his designs. I wanted this painting but I was in a cautious mood, the estimate was only £50. I wrote down a very modest commission bid, handed it into the auctioneer and drove home.
The Roger Nicholson painting sold for £240.
I didn't get the painting (but I learned a lot).