Worth the wait

12th August 2020

A full nineteen weeks after it was originally scheduled, the Furniture and Works of Art sale on 11th August proved that it was not just long-awaited but also hotly anticipated.

Breaking the department’s record for a sale total, the auction finished at £977,700 with a selling rate of 88%, dispelling all fears that August sales can be sleepy and disregarded.

Key to the sale’s success were 18 lots from Exbury House in Hampshire, with a provenance to the de Rothschild family, which totalled £317,000. From these came the auction’s top lot – a pair of Louis XVI period ormolu-mounted marble vases after the Borghese vase (lot 262), selling to the French trade for £118,750 – and another highlight with a pair of silver-gilt models of an elephant and rhinoceros (lot 261), which sold to a Hong Kong buyer for £97,500.

“The response to this auction was overwhelmingly strong,” commented Furniture specialist, Mark Yuan-Richards. “After such a long wait we were concerned that things might have gone off the boil, but it’s clear that buyers are undeterred by global events. Time and again we’re finding that prices are soaring for really good things with a great provenance.”

Other key highlights among the items of furniture included a pair of George III mahogany dining room urns (lot 170) at £18,750, a Chinese hardwood writing desk (lot 307) at £16,250 and an Indo-Portuguese ivory inlaid cabinet on stand (lot 340) at £30,000.

Among the works of art, a rare torpedo industrial timepiece and automaton (lot 459) caused a ripple of excitement as bidding jumped from £6,000 to £20,000 online, with the lot eventually selling for £37,500. Further drama was created during bidding for a marble fragment (lot 511) when the winning telephone bidder’s phone stopped working just as the lot opened at £600. Luckily modern technology saved the day and the bidding was carried out over FaceTime (a Woolley and Wallis first!), chasing the lot to a closing price of £7,500.

Live internet bidding was the preferred option for the majority of bidders who, between them, contributed to over a third of the final sale total. In common with most of the auctions scheduled since lockdown began to lift, registrations for online bidding were up around 40-50% on the equivalent sales at the start of 2020.

“There is no doubt that auctioneers need to accept the role that online bidding now plays, and that has certainly been accelerated by the pandemic,” explained Yuan-Richards. “However, the truly serious buyers are, by and large, still looking for that more direct contact and are either attending the sale or booking a telephone line in order to bid. We might sell fewer of our lots by those methods, but in terms of value they still account for the majority.”

The next Furniture and Works of Art sale is on 21st October and consignments are now being accepted for the sale in January 2021. View full results of the sale on 11th August by clicking here.

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