Good figures at Bonhams Oxford’s penultimate sale shows the market for early oak is remarkably robust, writes John Andrews
Fig 1. Lot 385 A late 16th-century oak and fruitwood Anglo-German Nonsuch chest c.1580. £13,750 including premium
Fig 2. Lot 108 Charles 1 oak and inlaid joined panel-back open armchair,Yorkshire/ Derbyshire, dated 1631. £40,000
A SOUTHWARD PROGRESSION: from Chester to Oxford two years ago and, shortly, from Oxford to London. Bonhams’ oak sales are to go to New Bond Street after its next sale, on September 30. Members of the trade have expressed dismay at the prospect of sending country furniture to London, with parking, travel and costs all more difficult to cope with than the provinces, but so it is to be.The expertise will be transported to London too, reflecting perhaps the economic concentration that affects other fields of activity at a time when electronic communications were never more accurate and rapid than they are now.A quizzical reaction to the move was predictable.
STRONG SHOWING This penultimate Oxford oak sale had some notable pieces in it, from collections such as Graham and Susan James, Peter Gould, Danny Robinson, Longley Old Hall and Mr and Mrs H Beedham. From our view point the arresting sight of the Nonsuch chest Bonhams sold for £13, 750 (including premium) provided a moment of visual comparison with the one belonging to Griselda Lewis featured in the May issue of the magazine page 39.This sold for £2,600 at auction, where it was described as 19th century.The Bonhams’ chest (fig 1) was put at a date of c.1580 and of AngloGerman origin. Certainly it appeared to be much more antique than Griselda’s and sported turned corner pillars as well as extra sophisticated architectural inlaid decoration. This is more akin to the Victoria & Albert Museum one illustrated by Victor Chinnery, in his book Oak Furniture, (published by the Antique Collectors’ Club, 1979, page 356), which has a diagonal-banded corner decoration rather than turned bobbins. For
more information about Nonsuch chests, see the May issue, page 39.
SHOW STOPPERS One of the stars of the sale was the Charles 1 oak and inlaid panel back armchair, fig 2, of Yorkshire/Derbyshire origin, which had a panel back carved with a guilloche-filled arch whose pillars were carved with a stylised male face and a conforming female face, each wearing a ruff.The centre was chequer inlaid with a building façade also incorporating columns, towers and a gabled roof above the date and initials ‘1631 W V’.The top rail had flower filled strapwork and the arm supports and front legs were inverted baluster-turned. There were other features of decoration and
Fig 4 Lot 15 Rare Elizabeth1/James 1 oak joined panel backed armchair, possibly South-East, c16001620, £12,500.
Fig 3. Lot 95 James 1 oak and elm joined standing livery cupboard,West Country, possibly Gloucestershire, c.1620. £40,000.
.some restoration but this splendid example went for £40,000 including premium.
Another £40,000 went towards the James 1 oak and elm livery cupboard, fig 3.This was of West Country, possibly Gloucester shire origin, c.1620, of partly enclosed construction with a single-piece top, a corbel and triangular boss embellished carved frieze over a cupboard formed by a single panelled door with canted sides, all carved with stylized foliage.There was also a lunette carved frieze drawer and open undertier with a single-piece board and elm bulbous turned and carved front supports. Its distinguished provenance included the specialist dealers Sam Wolsey and Mary Bellis, the latter deeming it one of her prize pieces.
TABLES AND CHAIRS Not so expensive at £12,500 but of considerable interest was the chair shown in fig 4, which was an Elizabeth 1/James 1 oak joined panel-back open armchair possibly from the South East, c.1600-1620, featured in Toby Jellinek’s distinguished book Early British Chairs and Seats 1500 to 1700 (published by the Antique Collectors’ Club, 2009, page 63).
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