Portrait miniatures sell for £18,000

27th September 2012

A collection of portrait miniatures from the estate of the late Arnold 'Bill' Beresford of Lincoln sold for over £18,000 in the September sale at the city's auction rooms.

Mr Beresford, who lived off Doddington Road, passed away earlier this year and many items from his large collection went under the auctioneer's hammer in the August sale at Golding Young & Mawer. His collection of over 60 portrait miniatures, dating from the 18th century to the early 20th century, were sold on Wednesday (September 19).

Mr Beresford's collection of Asian Art is being sold at The Grantham Auction Room on October 10. Auctioneer John Leatt said: "This was an interesting and important collection of portrait miniatures collected by one man over his lifetime and it was certainly unusual to see so many miniatures in one collection. "Mr Beresford and his wife were considered to be a collecting connoisseurs, always buying the very best they could afford. "We received extensive worldwide interest in the miniatures with many specialist collectors and dealers arriving on the morning of the sale specifically for that section. We are very pleased with the prices obtained for our vendor."

Among the lots, the highest price paid was £1,900 for a late 18th century to early 19th century portrait miniature in the manner of Samuel Shelley. The portrait, which had an estimate of between £300 and £500, depicted a seated lady wearing a cream dress and featured the initials 'S.S.' on the gilt metal frame. A 19th century portrait miniature of George Powley Thompson (1797-1849), a member of the Bengal Civil Service in India, sold for £1,300 against an estimate of £150 to £200 and an 18th century portrait miniature of an officer of the 85th Regiment wearing a red dress jacket and black cravat in an oval yellow frame sold for £1,000, well over its £200 to £300 estimate. The reverse of the miniature contained a lock of hair.

Miniatures were first painted to decorate hand written books and the word 'miniature' comes from the Latin word 'miniare', meaning 'to colour with red lead'. From the 1460s, wealthy patrons demanding luxury goods would commission artists such as Simon Bening to paint miniatures of themselves or their loved ones. By the 1520s, the first portrait miniatures appeared in the French and English courts with the earliest examples painted by two artists from the Netherlands, Jean Clouet working in France and Lucas Horenbout in England. Horenbout painted the family of Henry VIII.

By the 17th and 18th centuries, the popularity

of miniatures had soared with soldiers and sailors carrying miniatures of their loved ones. The first miniaturists used watercolour to paint on vellum but by the 18th century miniatures were painted with watercolour on ivory. From the mid-19th century, the development of photography contributed to a decline in the popularity of the miniature.

Elsewhere in the sale, a pewter and enamel mantle timepiece designed for Liberty & Co by Archibald Knox sold for £3,500, well above its £500 to £1,000 estimate. Born in the Isle of Man of Scottish parentage, Knox's designs are synonymous with British Art Nouveau and he is regarded as being a prominent influence in the Arts and Crafts movement. His work is world famous and his designs for Liberty & Co, along with his watercolours, are highly sought-after. Meanwhile, a collection of over 50 lots of specialist toys, including die cast toys, Airfix models, model railway items, tin plate toys, Action Man, Star Wars and Scalextrix toys, dolls and teddy bears, from vendors across Lincolnshire sold for over £3,800.

Highlights of this section included a 1960s BBC authorised figure of a Dalek, sold with an Action Man and a wind-up tin-plate airport, which made £140, three Thunderbird battery operated vehicles (No 1, 4 and 5) in their original boxes which made £82 and three unmade Airfix models which made £108. A Burggrub Princess Elizabeth bisque headed doll, stamped to the back of the head 'Made in Germany, D.R.G.M.', sold for £340, well over its £100 to £150 estimate. Auctioneer John Leatt said: "This sale attracted over 300 live bidders, a record for our Lincoln saleroom. The appetite for toys and collectables is immense at the moment with many internet buyers from Russia, America and the Far East participating in our auctions at every price level.

"As illustrated above, it does not have to necessarily be old to make a lot of money. Many collectors are looking for iconic pieces that remind them of their youth." Among the silver and jewellery, a heavy flatware silver service of cutlery in its original mahogany canteen sold for £3,200. Within a specialist section of vintage clothing, a collection of six original 'Teddy Boy' suits made by the tailor Clive Reed of Grimsby made almost £380. One of the highlights of a section of over 30 clocks was a Victorian dial clock by R. Wilson of Lincoln which sold for £650, well over its £300 to £400 estimate.

The furniture section included a mid-19th century teak and brass bound military chest with a carved raised back which sold for £980, well above its £400 to £600 estimate. Among the pottery and porcelain, 12 lots of German Fat Lava ceramics sold for £344.

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