11 MAY 1929, Page 32

Art in the - Sale-Rooms

EVERYONE who strolled into .Christie's on May 2nd must have been impressed by the -crowd of patient sightseers who waited at least two hours to seethe Portland Vase put up to auction. No sale in our time has attracted so many people, but in the end the modest little glass vessel did not change hands. A Paris dealer bid 28,000 guineas. The auctioneers, however, were instructed not to sell for less than a considerably higher sum, and Mr. Seligmann's bid was of no avail. What, then, is the Portland Vase worth ? The question has yet to he defi- nitely answered. The Duke of Portland-has his own estimate, and the market has another. What is the Venus of Milo or the Olympian Hermes worth ? One can only reply that they are worth just as much as the most eager buyer is prepared to pay (it a given moment. Unique masterpieces apart, the market is very lively and prices rule high. Christie's sale on May 8rd contained 126 pictures, none of them supremely important, and yet the total realized was 1124,671—nearly £1,000 apiece. An early Rem- brandt, competent but uninteresting, of " Isaac refusing Esau his Blessing" fetched £8,400. A fine male portrait of the Antwerp period by Van Dyck brought more than double as much—£17,850—and showed the buyer's good taste. A hitherto unknown -Rembrandt portrait Of an old man, dated 1651 and very majestic, was sold. for £16,880. Romney had yet another triumph, fOr his iniposing study Of Lady Hainilion as " Cassandra " brought £8,025 ; it had belonged to Charles Preville, the lady's protector before she married Greville's pncle.. A graceful Hoppner portrait of two.boys of the Brown- low family, whose collection was being dispersed, was sold for £10,500. Two historic portraits of Henry V III's sister Mary and her husband Charles Brandon—tiny panels, not in the best condition, attributed to Corneille de Lyon—brought £1,995, because suCh things are scarce and much desired by

some collectors. - — - It is of interest to note that the very beautiful Gains- borough portrait of the Hon. Edmund Nugent, illustrated in,.

the ,Spectator of April 30th, was sold at Messrs. Puttiek and Simpson's, on May 2nd, for £15,250. The collection for which it is destined is fortunate, for as a Gainsborough of the Bath period it ranks very high in artistic quality and charm, and it is in immaculate condition. While these lines are being pinto) the same firm are selling, On May 9th, a notable series of auto. graphs, including a half-sheet of notepaper with verses on both sides in the handwriting of Keats. The " Sonnet_ to Sleep," dated June, 1820, is on one side ; on the other are two pat. rains beginning :— " Yes I I shall live—the breath of Fame Will not be lost to me and mine Since—I may write my name

Upon this spotless leaf of thine."

Keats wrote the verses in an album belonging to his friend, Sir John Bowring, well known to the literary folk of his day, Another page from the album contains verses 'signed by Charles and Mary Lamb. While fine pictures and rare books steadily advance in price, there can be no doubt that old silver is appreciating more rapidly than any other class of antiques. The American demand for old English, Dutch, and German silverware is insatiable, and American silver of the colonial period is fetching fabulous prices. Fashion, of course, has much to-dO with this, bid it is a very profitable fashion for our country families, who have masses of old silver that they never use and do-not care for—such as the • heavy dinner -services that were the vogue in George the Third's day, and that would annoy out modern domestics and puzzle our guests. Lord Brownlow's collection, sold at Christie's on March 13th; contained, for instance, a complete dinner --senice weighing 6,704 ounces- 120 dinner plates, 24 soup plates, 26 dishes and so on—which fetched £5,530 and now, doubtless, graces some millionaire's table in the Middle West. But the enlightened collector does not strive for these colossal piles of the precious metal. He prefers the finer and older -examples of the silversmith's craft, such as Air. W. E. Hurcomb often has with pictures and ftirniture at his Plena- dilly rooms, and such as have been seen' at the recent loan exhibitions at Sir Philip Sassoon's and Lord Howard de Walden's houses. The silver-mounted wooden bowl known as, a mazer, of fifteenth century date, which at Mr. Hurcomb's last November fetched £10,000, was of course a very excep- tional piece such as even an expert rarely sees outside a museum. The Waterbeach cup and ewer which Mr. Hurcomb sold for £2,000 is a beautiful object ; the St. Michael's cup, a very old and rare chalice, is even more desirable and, if its sale is sanctioned, may well fetch, at the same rooms, a far higher price. English church plate of pre-Reformation date is virtually unprocurable, and Elizabethan and Stuart examples seldom occur, for the very good reason that they ought to be in the care of the parishes for which they were made. This is the reason why collectors will pay 180 or £40, and sometimes much more, per ounce for ecclesiastical vessels of early date, and why, in default of these, they compete eagerly for bowls and cups and dishes, salt cellars, sugar casters and the like of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. The Restora- tion period saw much fine silver wrought in England, under French and Dutch influence, and the work of this age is justly coveted. The fashion for tea-drinking under Queen Anne gave new opportunities to the silversmith, in tea-kettles, milk-jugs and sugar-basins which are often exquisite and always com- mand high prices nowadays. At Christie's on May Day one had further proof of this passion for old silver in the sale of Mrs. R. H. Philipson'e collection. Two small sweetmeat stands with the Pauncefote crest, dated 1655 and weighing twenty-six ounces, fetched no less than £1,012. A very homely tankard and ewer, standing on three feet and bearing date 1665, fetched £938. A small oval sweetmeat box, charmingly embossed and, chased, with the date 1677, was sold for £754. Those who saw these, pretty trifles and who remembered what prices they would have commanded before the War—perhaps a fifth or less—could not but be amazed at the bidding. And the pieces of the tea' drinking age were scarcely less precious. Three- charming Queen Anne sugar-casters, octagonal in shape, one 9 -inches and the other two 61 inches high, were sold for £640. A plain silver tea-kettle and stand of 1719 fetched £808. A very plain octagonal sugar-basin and cover of Queen Anne's day, weighing 16 ounces, brought £490. Such prices are extraordinary, but, though they may bring more family hoards into the market. they will not abate the enthusiasm of the Collector of old silver. The supply of fine pieces, after all, is limited, whit'