May Auction News and Highlights

04 June 2021

Bellmans started its May auctions with the sale of a unique collection of smoking pipes, collected by Charles Finch, the Managing Director of one of the leading tobacco companies. The collection of around 600 pipes, collected over almost 40 years at the beginning of the 20th century, was sold in 83 lots. The top price for an individual pipe was for Lot 1, a mid-19th century Continental carved wood pipe bowl, modelled as a pulpit and carved with knights standing between spiral columns, which was estimated to sell for £150 - £250 and achieved £800 going to an online bidder in Italy. Another pipe, an exceptionally rare 19th Century Chinese famille-rose opium pipe, from the collection and included in the Asian Art part of the auction, sold for £20,000 against an estimate of £1,000 - £1,500.

This week's auctions certainly had a bit of a smoking theme as a cigar butt that belonged to Sir Winston Churchill sold for £3,500 against an estimate of £800 - £1,200. The vendor's grandfather, Arthur Church, served as a policeman at Scotland Yard in the 1940s and while he was on police duty escorting Sir Winston Churchill, Mr Church picked up Churchill’s discarded cigar butt. The 7cm long butt was sold with a piece of paper in three parts inscribed 'THROWN AWAY TUESDAY SEPT *** 194* BY RT HON WINSTON CHURCHILL.

On the paintings side, the top lot was the rare oil by the leading Romanian Modern artist, Nicolae Grigorescu. The beautiful portrait of a woman at her bureau had been in the collection of the Romanian Ambassador to the UK, Viorel Tilea (1896-1972) and had been in his family until now. It sold above the high estimate for £32,000 to an online bidder in Europe.

Other unexpected highlights included a wonderful painted wood Noah's Ark with a collection of carved animals, probably made in Germany in the late 19th or early 20th Century, which sold for £3,500 against an estimate of £200 - £400 and a Chinese blue and white 'crane and trigram' bowl with a Jiaqing seal mark which was estimated at £200 - £300, but reached £6,500.

During the jewellery and watches part of the auction week, a ruby and diamond collar or belt front achieved £5,500 against the estimated £600 - £900. The centre, modelled as a griffin holding a heart and standing on a crown within an oval winged dragon form with variously cut rubies and rose cut diamonds, was most likely made in Europe in the second half of the 19th century. A Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Wristwatch from circa 1991 sold for £6,000, twice its low estimate.