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Mary Beale portrait of an eight-year-old boy, which hammered for £15,000 ($19,100) and sold for £19,650 ($25,000) with buyer’s premium at Lyon & Turnbull May 15.

Portrait of a Child by Mary Beale leads our five auction highlights

Portrait of a Child by Mary Beale, $25,000

EDINBURGH, UK – Mary Beale (1633-1699) was one of only a small number of female artists working professionally in London in the 17th century. Born in Barrow, England, the daughter of a clergyman, she studied under the portraitist Sir Peter Lely and, as her reputation grew, by the 1670s her work was in considerable demand.

Lost to art history for several centuries – her paintings were often reattributed to male artists of the Restoration period – she is now one of a number of female painters whose work commands a premium. Two studies of her son Bartholomew hold the current auction record for Beale: one sold for £75,000 (about $95,500) at Sotheby’s in July 2019, another for £100,000 (roughly $127,350) at Reeman Dansie in Colchester, England in January 2021.

The half-portrait of a young boy by Beale offered at Lyon & Turnbull as part of its Five Centuries sale on May 15 was signed, titled William Foster Aged 8, and dated 1683. The construction of the stretchers, with their half-lapped joins secured by three nails, is similar to that shared by a number of Beale canvases. The picture was estimated at an appealing £4,000-£6,000 ($5,100-$7,640), hammered for £15,000 ($19,100), and sold for £19,650 ($25,000) with buyer’s premium. 

In 2019, Lyon & Turnbull held an exhibition in London titled Bright Souls: The Forgotten Story of Britain’s First Female Artists, showing how Mary Beale and her contemporaries Joan Carlile and Anne Killigrew managed to achieve success in an age when women had few rights or career options.

Centennial Turquoise-glazed Saucer Made for the Society of the Cincinnati, $9,375

Glasgow Pottery Co. Centennial saucer for the Society of the Cincinnati, which sold for $9,375 with buyer’s premium at Hilliard & Co. on May 11.
Glasgow Pottery Co. Centennial saucer for the Society of the Cincinnati, which sold for $9,375 with buyer’s premium at Hilliard & Co. on May 11.

MADISON, VA – The stock-in-trade of the Glasgow Pottery Co., founded in 1863 by John Moses in Trenton, New Jersey, was functional hotel and steamboat china. However, the firm is best known today for a single line it produced for the Centennial celebrations in 1876. The so-called John Hancock teacups and saucers, printed with patriotic images and slogans, were used at official Centennial tea parties. Made for different states, institutions, and cities – some in only very small numbers – they are widely collected today.

Most make relatively modest three-figure sums, but a turquoise glazed saucer for the Society of the Cincinnati took a remarkable sum at Hilliard & Co. on May 11. Estimated at $20-$40, an extraordinary online bidding battle took it to $7,500 ($9,375 with buyer’s premium).

‘Head Shop’ Poster Reproduction of Atlantic Records’ ‘Houses of the Holy’ Billboard Magazine Advertisement, $2,160

‘Head shop’ poster for Atlantic Records’ Billboard magazine ad promoting Led Zeppelin’s 1973 release ‘Houses of the Holy’, which sold for $2,160 with buyer’s premium at Psychedelic Art Exchange May 5.
‘Head shop’ poster for Atlantic Records’ Billboard magazine ad promoting Led Zeppelin’s 1973 release ‘Houses of the Holy’, which sold for $2,160 with buyer’s premium at Psychedelic Art Exchange May 5.

BALTIMORE – In the 1970s, intellectual property theft was commonplace in the underground economy, particularly at ‘head shops’, aka marijuana paraphernalia merchants. Everyone from famed comix artist Robert Crumb to Jimi Hendrix saw millions of potential profits literally go up in smoke as small-time printers would reproduce their imagery without licenses.

Atlantic Records took a significant hit when its 1973 Billboard magazine advertisement for the D’Yer Mak’er single on Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy LP was pirated and turned into a poster. Sold in head shops – because of course it was – a surviving example with minor handling and creasing appeared on May 5 at Psychedelic Art Exchange’s Spring 2024 Vintage Concert Posters sale. Estimated at only $50-$75, it soared thanks to high demand online and hammered for $1,800 ($2,160 with buyer’s premium) to a LiveAuctioneers bidder.

Medieval Devotional Statue Made in Limoges, France, $49,125

Circa-1200 Limoges gilt copper and enamel devotional group of the Madonna and Child as the Queen and Prince of Heaven, which sold for $49,125 with buyer’s premium at Clars on May 17.
Circa-1200 Limoges gilt copper and enamel devotional group of the Madonna and Child as the Queen and Prince of Heaven, which sold for $49,125 with buyer’s premium at Clars on May 17.

OAKLAND, CA – A lot cataloged simply as a ’French gilt bronze figure of Madonna and Child’ proved the highlight of the Furniture, Art & Asian auction at Clars on May 17. It hammered for $37,500 ($49,125 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $1,000-$2,000 after several bidders recognized it as a textbook devotional statue produced in medieval times in Limoges, France.

Many of these portable gilded copper sculptures with enamel accents were made by goldsmiths in Limoges throughout the 13th century. Most show the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus wearing a crown as the queen and prince of heaven. This example, measuring just shy of 9in, was mounted in the late 19th century on a red velvet plaque with an easel support.

Pair of Meissen Revivalist Earth and Air Ewers, $30,000

Meissen Revivalist Earth and Air ewers, which sold for $30,000 with buyer’s premium at Vogt Auction Texas May 11.
Meissen Revivalist Earth and Air ewers, which sold for $30,000 with buyer’s premium at Vogt Auction Texas May 11.

SAN ANTONIO – Among the most recognizable products of the Meissen factory are the ‘Elements’ ewers, the set of four ewers emblematic of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire that were designed by Johann Joachim Kaendler in 1741. Most of the examples that are consigned to auction are revivalist wares made by the factory in the late 19th century. They include the pair representing Earth and Air that were offered for sale at Vogt Auction Texas on May 11 as part of the collection of the Grammy-winning vocalist Vikki Carr (b.1941-).

The model of Earth includes the figures of Diana and Pan, and Air features the figures of Juno and Zephyr. Both ewers had signs of old repair and some losses but, modestly estimated at $3,000-$5,000, the pair sold to an online bidder via LiveAuctioneers at $24,000, or $30,000 with buyer’s premium.