Posted on: August 16, 2018

Standing Ovation for Trevanion & Dean

It was a day of big names and big numbers at Trevanion & Dean’s September auction as their autumn season of auctions started with some record breaking results.

Of the 954 lots on offer in the September Fine Art and Antiques Auction the first to cause a stir in the saleroom was a magnificent cased gold dressing set by Cartier and Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Co Ltd dating to 1912 and bearing the initials of Louise Garland Emmet who was the  daughter of James Albert Garland, co-founder of the First National Bank of New York.

The exquisite and rare dressing table suite was housed within a Cartier case, as auctioneer Christina Trevanion explained ‘It is so rare to find a gold set, so often you find these sets in silver, but to have an example commissioned in 18ct gold by two of the very best makers of their time is exceptionally rare’. The auctioneers reported healthy pre-sale interest and two telephone bidders battled it out to secure the set before it sold to a telephone bidder for £32,000, smashing the previous top selling lot record of £21,000 for a Chinese vase, ‘It was incredibly exciting to sell’ said partner Christina Trevanion ‘There was such a buzz in the saleroom, it was electric’.

Cartier was also responsible for two of the other top selling lots of the day as an Art Deco Cartier compact sold to an international buyer for £3,200 despite damage and a Cartier bracelet dating to 1965 sold for £2,600 to a London buyer.  ‘Just the name of Cartier is synonymous with luxury, antique pieces by the world famous jeweller are always sought after at auction and it shows in the prices achieved’ said Christina.

The next lots to light up the saleroom were a fascinating collection of letters which were unearthed in a routine house clearance and consigned to the firm’s September auction.  The internationally important collection featured some of the biggest and most important names in the late 19th century art world, including members of the Pre-Raphaelites, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his brother William Michael Rossetti, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, George Frederick Watts, John Macallan Swan, Alphonse Legros, Valentine Cameron Prinsep, William Strang, Robert Macaulay Stevenson, Sir Edward Poynter and Laurence Binyon.

The series of letters were all written to members of the Ionides family, a famous dynasty of British art patrons and collectors of Greek ancestry, the majority of which were addressed to Constantine Alexander Ionides (1833-1900) who is most well known for his bequest of over one thousand pictures, drawings and prints including eighty two oil paintings to the Victoria and Albert museum after his death in 1901.

The letters gave a fascinating insight and often revealing glimpse at the sometimes unknown relationship between patron and artist.  Auctioneer Aaron Dean explains ‘When we first started transcribing the letters it was just magical to see the type of dialogue that had been going back and forth constantly between patron and artist, in this instance Ionides is kept in touch at every stage of the process, often suggesting subtle changes here and there, it is fascinating to see how much influence the patron had on the finished article, Christina and I spent many long hours transcribing the letters, and it was wonderful to think that we were some of the first people to see these letters for many, many years’.

The letters unearthed by the team not only provided an insight into an exceptionally important art collector of his time, but also the subtle and often unknown relationships between artists and their patrons in the late 19th century.  As Aaron explains ‘The characters involved within the letters, the works discussed and the stories woven within them will not only help to complete archives they will fill in historical gaps, and in some instances, will change art history as we know it’.  The auctioneers reported exceptionally high levels of interest from not only institutions but scholars and connoisseurs from around the globe.

The sixty six letters, offered in thirty lots sold for a phenomenal £25,000 at the auction and the section  was finished off with a standing ovation from the assembled crowd.  ‘It was so exciting to handle this internationally important collection – it really was the stuff that dreams are made of! We worked incredibly hard, not only in transcribing the letters but marketing them to all the right places and informing interested parties, and it showed in the results achieved on the day.  It was a record breaking and very memorable day!’ said auctioneer Aaron Dean.