Table made from Parrot Charcoal Stars in our selection of five auction highlights
Coal Parrot side table dated 1836 – £6000 at Woolley & Wallis.
1. Parrot Charcoal Table – £6,000
Among the more unusual entries in the Woolley & Wallis Furniture, Works of Art & Clocks sale in Salisbury on January 12 was this Victorian table carved from parrot charcoal.
Cinnamon or parrot coal – a form of anthracite so called because of the crackling, popping sound it makes when burning – was mined largely for industrial purposes in the Wemyss area of Fife. However, it has characteristics similar to marble.
Most of the small corpus of charcoal furniture is attributed to Thomas Williamson (1817-1860), a stonemason from West Wemyss whose orders included a table and two chairs inscribed Wemyss Charcoal Parrot made for Wemyss Castle in 1855 (now in the Kirkcaldy Museum & Art Gallery) and furniture for the offices of the Fife Coal Company in Leven.
At the Great Exhibition of 1851 he exhibited a coal-fired parrot garden seat which now stands in the grounds of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
However, this Guillaume IV table has been signed and dated under the top R Martin 1836. It went on sale with a provenance from David and Paula Newman’s London and Eastbourne dealership with a £500-800 guide but sold for £6,000.
These large-scale parrot charcoal pieces rarely appear for sale, but Christie’s New York sold a work table with a carved foliage plinth in 2008 for $6,500 while Mallams of Cheltenham took £7,500 for a work table. table in February 2011. In 1996, Phillips in Edinburgh took £19,000 for a similar table.
2. Gstaad ski poster – £10,000
At the top of any ski poster’s budget are Art Deco images promoting Gstaad. They are perfect for decorating a lodge in one of the most exclusive resorts in Switzerland.
This classic design by Swiss graphic designer Alex Walter Diggelmann (1902-87) depicts a party on a gondola – a new addition to the landscape when the poster was printed in 1938. Gstaad’s first ski school opened in 1923 with the first ski lifts following in 1934-44.
Examples of this poster have sold for over £15,000 in the past, but this one, offered at the Lyon & Turnbull ski sale in Edinburgh on January 18, flew to its low estimate of £10,000.
The sale included only original lithographed posters focusing on winter sports and travel assembled for sale by former Christie’s vintage poster specialists Nicolette Tomkinson and Sophie Churcher. The pair first teamed up with Lyon & Turnbull to launch dedicated poster sales in 2018 and it was the biggest selection on offer yet with almost 100 ski posters from before and after. after war.
3. Egyptian Head of a King – £32,000
The sale at Stroud Auctions in Gloucestershire on January 12 included this 10-inch (24cm) Egyptian greywacke or green siltstone head carved in the shape of a king. The subject wears the nemes headgear with a chiselled cavity at the forehead where a uraeus (cobra symbol of the goddess Wadjet) may have been attached.
He has some of the facial features of 13and King of the Mentuhotep VI dynasty (1675-1650 BC). As evidenced by an original catalog included with the lot, it had been bought for £1300 in 1978 at a Christie’s antiques sale in London.
It was offered for sale at Stroud for a similar sum, only £1500-2000, but did rather better, selling for £32,000.
4. Debossed Keychain – £9,500
The subject of an unexpected auction at Taylor’s in Montrose on January 13 was a large number of debossed carnelian keyrings priced at £30-50. One was Victorian, engraved with a crest and monogram, the other more speculative, finely worked with the profile bust of a bearded man.
An inscription in ancient Greek translates as “Trophonios” – the Greek hero with a rich mythological and cult tradition. In the classical tradition, ‘descending into the cave of Trophonios’ has become a proverbial way of saying ‘to have a great fright’.
This fine example of the glyph arts will require research to determine if it is a Grand Tour piece, a Renaissance copy, or perhaps an ancient Hellenistic or Roman gem. Speculating it could be the latter, he was sued for up to £9,500.
5. Killarney Games Table – £5800
Just as in Tunbridge Wells, a thriving cottage industry existed in Killarney in the 19and century making marquetry souvenirs for tourism. They were made from mostly local woods (including the distinctive arbutus) with the inlaid scenes of local beauty spots based on engravings in guidebooks and topographical works of the region.
It was common for owners to invite visitors to inspect their craftsmen at work in the hope of encouraging a purchase. One maker, James Egan, even introduced caged mountain eagles into the upper room of his workshop as an added attraction.
The Yew and Marquetry Games Table from Killarney shown here is a particularly good example of circa 1850 craftsmanship. When open it has playing surfaces for chess, backgammon and cribbage. In addition to the trefoil trailing spray borders, there is a series of oval vignettes including Muckross Abbey, Ross Castle and Glena Cottage.
Offered for sale at Bamfords in Derby from January 13-17, it was guided to £2000-3000 but sold for £5800.