Posted on: March 14, 2019

Old masters find new homes

Trevanion & Dean’s March auction was full of surprises as the auctioneers offered the contents of a Shrewsbury ‘Palace’.

The buoyant auction offered buyers over 950 lots of fine art and antiques, the majority of which had come from one of Shropshire’s greatest country houses.  Yeaton Peverey Hall located six miles outside Shrewsbury.  The hall was built by Sir Aston Webb who was also responsible for redesigning the facade of Buckingham Palace in 1913 and designing the Victoria and Albert Museum building, two of the countries most iconic buildings.

A famous architect at the time, Sir Webb built Yeaton Peverey Hall for the then owner Sir Offley Wakeman, wealthy baronet, antiquary and local politician.  The hall was completed in 1892 and proved to be Webb’s only full-scale country house.  On Wakeman’s instructions, no expense was spared on the build and an eleven bedroom mansion was constructed including an orangery, chapel, ballroom, billiards room and servants wing, the house was at the cutting edge of technology and included one of the newest innovations – central heating!

The present owners bought Yeaton Peverey in the 1980’s and lovingly restored it back to its former glory, having recently secured a buyer for the property the owners called in Whitchurch based auctioneers Trevanion and Dean to help them clear the Hall prior to their move. ‘It was a joy to spend time at the hall’ explained auctioneer Christina Trevanion ‘It had been beautifully and sympathetically furnished.  Facing a down-size, the owners simply couldn’t take everything with them to their new home and so we helped them decide what to retain and what to dispose of’.

The top lots of the day were dominated by old master portraits from the hall, the most sought after of which was a portrait of Catherine, Lady Percival by the studio of the great Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680).  Christina explains that ‘Lely was a painter of Dutch origin whose career was nearly all spent in England, where he became the dominant portrait painter to the court in the seventeenth century, he succeeded Anthony Van Dyke as the most fashionable portrait artist in England and he became a naturalised English subject in 1662.  His portraits were incredibly well received and demand for his work was high, anyone who was anyone had their portrait painted by Lely and as a result, Lely and his workshop were prolific.  After Lely himself painted a sitter’s head and features, his pupils would often complete the portrait in one of a series of numbered poses; a fascinating process!’.    

The exquisite portrait offered by Trevanion and Dean depicted the young Lady Percival in a gold and blue sumptuous dress and simple pearl jewellery and held a pre-sale estimate of £6,000-£10,000.  Online and room bidders battled it out to secure the portrait before it was finally secured by a London buyer on the telephone for £11,160.

Lely was replaced as court painter by Sir Godfrey Kneller, also a German born Dutchman and responsible for another of the top selling lots of auction day; a portrait of Prince William, the Duke of Gloucester (1689-1700).  Christina explains ‘The portrait itself is stunning, but holds a tragic story.  Prince William was the eldest son of Queen Anne, he was her only child from seventeen pregnancies to survive infancy.  Sadly, Prince William was a poorly child, it is believed he suffered meningitis as a child resulting in hydrocephalus, and he passed away aged only eleven years old, leaving poor Queen Anne prostrate with grief’.  The portrait was bought by a Midlands based private collector for £3,720.  

It was not only pieces from the 17th century that proved to be the most popular at the auction, moving into the 18th century, an enamelled posy ring dating to the 1770’s also generated a flurry of bids.  The badly damaged, yet beautiful ring, belonged to the English satirical novelist, diarist and playwright Frances Burney, known as ‘Fanny Burney’ (1752-1842).  Although damaged it was still possible to make out the text around the outside of the ring which stated ‘Sa douceur m’enchante’ which translates as ‘His sweetness enchanted me’, as Fanny’s first husband was French, it is possible that this ring was a sweethearts gift from her husband. 

The ring was consigned to the auction by a Shropshire lady who had inherited it from a relative and was unaware of it’s value.  Christina explains ‘18th century jewellery is proving incredibly popular at auction at the moment and we are seeing very strong prices in this area, I placed a modest estimate on the pieces as the enamel was in such poor condition and is so very difficult to have repaired, but even I was surprised at the final price achieved of £2,350.  What was delightful for me was that the ring was purchased by a private collector as an anniversary present for his wife, exactly as it was originally intended nearly 250 years ago!’

Elsewhere around the auction room a group of four William De Morgan tiles caused delight when they sold for £2730 to a London buyer via the internet, a George II style carved gilt wood and gesso table in the manner of William Kent sold for £2,600 and a large Chinese porcelain famille rose vase sold for £2,230.

(All prices quoted include buyers premium of 24% including VAT)