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Georgian frivolities: fine English enamels from the Mort and Moira Lesser collection for sale at Bonhams
Consisting of 203 lots, estimates range from £500-18,000 and the entire collection is expected to fetch £250,000-350,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- The sale of the Mort and Moira Lesser Collection of Fine English Enamels will take place at Bonhams on 19th October 2011. Consisting of 203 lots, estimates range from £500-18,000 and the entire collection is expected to fetch £250,000-350,000.

When society ladies went shopping for objects d’vertu in 18th century England, few could resist the colourful charm of enamel. Snuff boxes and bonbonnières, scent bottles and other trinkets, made from painted enamel, were a speciality of ‘toy-makers’ in Birmingham and the nearby village of Bilston in South-Staffordshire. English enamel has a charming folk quality that appeals to discerning collectors. Our royal family has one of the finest collections, formed by Queen Mary and added to by the late Queen Mother. Not every piece costs a queen’s ransom, however, and Bonhams auction presents a special opportunity for new collectors to acquire many exceptional pieces at affordable prices.

The Lesser collection is the finest and most comprehensive collection of English enamels to come on the market since the celebrated Ionides Collection, which was dispersed forty years ago. Since the early 1980s Mort and Moira Lesser from Ontario were regular visitors to London where they indulged their passion, buying choice enamels from Grosvenor House and other antiques fairs and from leading dealers and auctions. Among many highlights of their collection are a selection of enamel wine labels known as Bottle Tickets, made at Battersea (estimate £4,000-6,000 each) and a wide selection of snuff boxes in the form of animals and birds. These rare and delightful novelties range in price and for under £500 it is possible to buy charming patch boxes, the interiors containing a mirror used by fashionable ladies to apply ‘beauty spots’ to their painted faces.

Contrasted with the fabulous Meissen porcelain snuff boxes and other precious boxes in silver and gold that Bonhams has recently sold, English enamel is something altogether different. These are beautiful objects enjoyed by the fine gentlemen and society ladies of Georgian England. Ironically, though, the enamellers of Staffordshire also created a form of British folk art, full of naive charm and enormously appealing. This sale really is a wonderful opportunity to learn about this neglected field and to begin a new collection.

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