Choice silver should bring hefty sums at Heritage, Nov. 15
DALLAS – Heritage Auctions’ November 15 Silver & Vertu Signature® Auction is a celebration of expert silversmithing. From works by English greats such as John Samuel Hunt and John Bridge to American masters Gorham Mfg. Co. and Tiffany & Co., the auction teems with exquisitely detailed examples from some of the most notable names in silver. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
“This is probably the strongest collection of English silver that we’ve had in the last 10 years,” said Vice President of Fine Silver & Decorative Arts at Heritage Auctions, Karen Rigdon. “But the American offerings are equally exceptional, with rare and important pieces from the American Aesthetic Movement.”
As Rigdon notes, English silver dominated the industry until the mid-1800s, when the world began to take notice of the magnificent work being produced by American silversmiths.
“It’s right around the middle of the 19th century that we see this segue,” she said. “So I’m very excited about this sale illustrating the transition from one height of the industry’s craftsmanship to the next, with examples of the best of the best from both England and America.”
Two exquisite large-scale yachting trophies lead the American silver portion of the November auction. The first, a Gorham Mfg. Co. partial gilt silver punch bowl-form yachting trophy, comes out of the American Aesthetic Movement. It carries an estimate of $100,000-$150,000. One of three related bowls that were made by Gorham in 1884-1885, this exceptional punch bowl was a special commission and features a multitude of elaborate sea motifs inspired by Japanese art, including a finely chased design of an artist with palette and brushes riding a dragon alongside a serpent and a fish on the body of the bowl, as well as handles in the form of dragon heads. The bowl rests on a circular ring of intertwined snakes, and its undulating rim features seashells, sand and seaweed. Inscribed on the trophy’s base are the words: “WON BY THE SLOOP HERA IN A MATCH RACE WITH THE SLOOP LILLIE 1883.”
The second silver yachting trophy in the sale is by Tiffany & Co.: the Astor Cup from 1893, estimated at $50,000-$70,000. It was one of two cups commissioned by John J. Astor for a three-day race held for American contenders of the America’s Cup. Set on a domed base of waves, the bowl features swaying seagrass fronds, and on its sides, two figureheads blow on a conch shell in victory.
The November auction features an exceptional North Texas collection of English silver from the estate of Fort Worth philanthropist Mildred Hedrick Fender, granddaughter of Ross S. Sterling, founder of Humble Oil and the 31st governor of Texas. Highlights include a pair of Charles Reily & George Storer silver candelabra, made in 1844 and estimated at $30,000-$40,000; a John Bridge silver covered tureen on stand from 1827, estimated at $30,000-$50,000; and a George III silver and cut-glass epergne from 1805, estimated at $8,000-$12,000.
Known as the sport of kings during the Middle Ages, when it was first brought to Europe, falconry was the inspiration for a striking Lilford falconry centerpiece created by John Samuel Hunt in London in 1851 and estimated at $60,000-$80,000. Silversmith to Queen Victoria, Hunt adorned the silver figural covered cup with hooded hawks, hunting scenes and a gentleman tending a heron.
The origin of the cup’s commission is unknown and its subsequent history is a mystery, but at the time of its latest purchase from the 7th Baron Lilford, a photo was shared of the great ornithologist Thomas Littleton Powys, 4th Baron Lilford, with the centerpiece displayed in his study. Lilford’s passion for birds continued throughout his life. Known for his preference for “learning the habits of a bird to procuring a specimen,” he founded the British Ornithologists Union in 1858, the Northamptonshire Natural History Society in 1876 and was a founding member of the Old Hawking Club. He traveled the world collecting birds for his famed aviaries and wrote extensively on the topic. The centerpiece is believed to represent the banding of a bird, an early act of conservation.
View top auction results on LiveAuctioneers here: https://www.liveauctioneers.com/pages/recent-auction-sales/