In a tough market Bonhams
produced the weeks three top prices at its sale in New Bond Street on April 23rd. The sale made a total of £3.6m.
Top lot in the sale was a rare carved Sri Lankan temple step known as a moonstone because of its half-moon shape. There was a battle between buyers in the room and on the telephone for this remarkable find which finally sold for £553,250 against a pre-sale estimate of £20,000 to £30,000. There were no fewer than eight telephone bidders and three in the saleroom.
One of Indias greatest painters, Tyeb Mehta (1925-2009) produced the second highest price of the week with an untitled oil on canvas for £505,250.
Two rare Iznik bottles from the golden age of the Ottoman Empire sold at Bonhams for a total of £748,500 with one making £447,250 a new world record for an Iznnik bottle and the second bottle selling for £301,250.
The bottles were previously sold by the well-known antiques dealer Frank Dickinson from his gallery at 104 New Bond Street in January 1919 for what was then the huge sum of £501 10s. The buyer was Leonard Daneham Cunliffe, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, co-founder of the merchant bank Cunliffe Brothers, a Director of the Hudson Bay Company and a major investor in Harrods. Cunliffe, whose tastes were eclectic, but always with a great eye for quality, used his ever expanding collection of antiques to decorate his various homes, which included properties at 109 Eaton Square and a neo-classical country house, Trelissick House, near Truro.
Alice Bailey, Head of Bonhams Islamic Department, says: To find one Iznik bottle of this type from the second half of the 16th century is very rare, but to come across two splendid examples in the same English collection is astonishing. The market for important Iznik ceramics is very strong, particularly amongst Turkish collectors, and these pieces certainly did not disappoint.
Temple Step from Devon Garden:
The carved granite temple step (Sandakada pahana) similar to those found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. The beautiful 1,000 year old pre-Hindu stone step is one of only six examples known to date from this period, making this discovery the seventh. The temple step is a feature unique to Sinhalese architecture in Sri Lanka. The massively heavy three-quarters of a ton stone measure eight ft by four foot.
The Devon based owners, Mike and Bronwyn Hickmott, commented after the sale: We are overwhelmed with the price achieved. It goes beyond all our expectations. Mrs Hickmott added: Id like to say a special thank you to Sam Tuke of Bonhams Exeter office. We had been turned away by other international auction houses as well as television antiques shows. Everyone pooh-poohed our belief that the stone was special. It was only Sams determination to research the stone that has led to this happy result. We are thrilled.
Alice Bailey, Head of Indian and Islamic Art, commenting on Bonhams performance, said: These truly outstanding results are the best in London this week. We are thrilled to have brought such strong works to the market, works which demonstrate the demand for quality and rarity. There was a very encouraging amount of bidding activity throughout all areas of the sale with a number of new buyers entering the field - encouraging signs of growth in a tough market. Bonhams has demonstrated that it has the expertise to compete at the top level for Islamic and Indian works of art.