Clay model of Winston Churchill’s stars in our selection of five auction highlights


Sir Winston Churchill Oscar Nemon clay model – £ 4000 at Semley Auctions.

1. Sir Winston Churchill Oscar Nemon clay model – £ 4000

Anglo-Croatian sculptor Oscar Nemon (1906-85) first met Sir Winston Churchill while on vacation in Marrakech in 1951. Churchill was the sculptor’s choice when Elizabeth II commissioned a bust of Sir Winston for the Windsor Castle in 1952 and he went on to create over a dozen public wartime statues of the Prime Minister, including the 1970 bronze which can be found in the Hall of Members of the House of Commons.

This small clay model (above), 10in (25cm) high signed nemon, was put up for sale at Semley Auctions in Shaftesbury on November 13 under “Lady’s Ownership of Title”. It is closely related to the figure of Churchill which appears in Married love, the sculpture by Westerham Green, near Chartwell, which features the statesman in a similar sitting pose alongside his wife Clementine. She then commented: “This is how I see it and this is how I like it”.

Previous auction results for Nemon-Churchill’s bronze and resin casts suggested that the £ 200-300 estimate for this model was low. So that turned out when it took £ 4000.

2. Watercolor by John Ruskin in the Lake District – £ 3,200

Watercolor by William Gershom Collingwood

William Gershom Collingwood watercolor by John Ruskin in his study in Brantwood – £ 3,200 at Bainbridge.

This watercolor by William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932) depicts Brantwood, the Lake District home to the art and social critic John Ruskin (1819-1900). The two had met in Oxford in 1872 and for many years Collingwood, author, artist and antiquarian, devoting himself to helping Ruskin, remaining in Brantwood as an assistant and traveling with him to Switzerland.

When he married in 1883, Collingwood also settled in Coniston where, as president of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society and the Lake Artists’ Society, he edited a number of Ruskin’s texts, published his biography in 1893 and founded the Ruskin Museum in 1901..

Close inspection of this 8 x 10 inch (20 x 25 cm) painting shows Ruskin in the turret window of his office in Brantwood. It appears to be a gift from Collingwood to Dr John Kendall of Coniston, a friend and personal physician of Ruskin.

Offered for sale by one of Kendall’s descendants at Bainbridge in West Ruislip on November 11, it was priced between £ 200-250 but cost £ 3,200.

3. Staffordshire portrait figurine – £ 1900

William Palmer Staffordshire Portrait Figure

Staffordshire portrait figure of William Palmer – £ 1900 from Hansons.

A wide cast of popular and contemporary figures in ceramic form, Staffordshire portraits were a phenomenon of the Victorian era. To meet popular demand, royals and military heroes were by far the most common topics for these cheap and cheerful potters’ groups, but news was everything.

What is most curious in the eyes of today was the attraction of the notorious criminal figures of the time. The most desirable figure in the Dennis Silk collection of 261 Staffordshire portraits sold at Hansons in Bishton Hall, Staffordshire on November 12, was one of them.

William Palmer (1824-1856), also known as Rugeley Poisoner or Prince of Poisoners, was an English physician convicted of murdering his friend using strychnine in one of the most notorious cases of the 19th century . Charles Dickens called Palmer – also suspected of poisoning his wife, brother, stepmother and four toddlers – “the greatest villain who ever existed in the Old Bailey”.

Estimated between £ 700 and £ 1,000, this was comfortably the best-selling lot, selling for £ 1,900.

4. 18th Century Feather Collages – £ 6,500

18th century feather collages

One of a pair of 18th century feather collages – £ 6,500 from Dreweatts.

This 18th century collage of a basket of flowers is part of a pair made entirely from painted feathers. Today, these are rare survivors, but it seems that the craft was popular in the 18th century both as a winter hobby for women and as a professional business.

The best known name in pen work is that of Nicolas Le Normand (died 1736), born in France, who worked in a workshop in Putney. He is described in 1732 as ‘the ingenious Mr Le Normond’ [sic], who sold his photos of feathers at a number of Georgian luxury toy stores, including Mr. Bertrand’s toy store at Terrace Walk in Bath and Paul Daniel Chenevix’s Charing Cross store.

The feather fashion continued until the end of the Georgian period. As detailed in a Country life magazine article in January 1976, these panels, each measuring 20.5 x 153/4 inches (52 x 40 cm) in mahogany frames, were created by Susanna Jennens (1688-1760) for Weston Hall, Northamptonshire, the house over two centuries.

Included in the Dreweatts sale titled Weston Hall and the Sitwells: A Family Legacy on November 16-17, they were priced between £ 400 and £ 600 but sold for £ 6,500.

5. Omega Speedmaster – £ 85,000

Omega Red Racing Professional Speedmaster

Omega Red Racing Professional Speedmaster – £ 85,000 at Tennants.

Sold for a double estimate of £ 85,000 at Tennants in Leyburn on November 13th, this Omega ‘Red Racing’ Professional Speedmaster (ref 145012). There are many variations of the Speedy from the 1960s – all extremely collectable – but few are better than those with the exotic “Red Racing” dial.

They were only produced by Omega in 1967-68, in two generations and three different executions. This watch, the second variant, had been in the same family since its purchase from Bagshaws of Liverpool in 1970 and was sold with the original papers. It’s one of six half-dozen to hit the market, although another sold at Sotheby’s New York in February for $ 75,000. This example had Meister’s name on the dial – the Zurich-based retailer where shipper Henk de Vries had bought it in 1969.

De Vries, a Dutch-Canadian adventurer who wore his trusty Speedmaster as he crossed the Andes and sailed the Atlantic Ocean.

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