The buyers trudged through the snow to Salisbury on Tuesday for Woolley and Wallis's first auction of 2010. The Furniture and Works of Art sale drew a surprisingly large attendance considering the recent weather conditions, but the bank of phone bidders at the back of the room also bore tribute to those keen buyers who were unable to attend.
An elaborate 18th century wood and cut paper maritime diorama was a key highlight, proving the current strength of demand for unusual and collectable works of art. The 2ft wide framed model depicted a ship full of figures (including a drowning sailor) and was precise in its detail of life aboard a large ship nearly 300 years ago. What increased its interest for collectors was the fact that it was unusually signed and dated - 'A. Walker Invt et Fecit 1763'. Eleven telephone lines had been booked by eager bidders for the lot, and it sold on the phone to theLondon trade for £7,500.
The Works of Art section was further strengthened by items from the collection of the late Ernest Ohly of Berkeley Galleries, London. This included Italian and French bronzes as well as other carvings - the chief of which was an 18th century ivory panel of a lady in an interior which sold for £4,400 against a very modest estimate of £150-250.
Also performing well in the sale was a selection of over 30 antique rugs, all of which managed to find buyers, with several going well over estimate. Most had been privately consigned, and specialist Will Hobbs attributed this, along with their market freshness and age, to the section's success.
While good quality items of traditional furniture are still finding buyers, the continued depression in the market for more run-of-the-mill items has highlighted the contrast with the growing Works of Art market - an area that Woolley and Wallis are continuing to expand. "We do not want to turn our back on the traditional furniture market," said specialist Will Hobbs, "but we do have to recognise the demands of our buyers and this is a very strong area at the moment. We've also been very fortunate to get in several good private collections and they have undoubtedly raised interest in this section of the market".