Georgian portrait miniatures in our selection of five auction highlights


A close-up of the pair of portrait miniatures by William Wood – £2900 at Amersham Auctions.

1. Georgian portrait miniatures

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Pair of portrait miniatures by William Wood – £2900 at Amersham Auctions.

Estimated at just £60-80, this pair of Georgian portrait miniatures sold for £2,900 at Amersham Auctions in Buckinghamshire on January 6. Painted in watercolor on ivory, one (with a prominent crack to the right of the image) depicts a soldier in the braided red and gold frock coat of a British Army office, the other a woman with curls in the hair that clasps a gold hilt collar. Although not cataloged as such, both images were signed on William Wood’s carrier card of Cork Street, London with the male subject identified as John Jebb Esq.

Wood is one of the most inventive miniaturists of the time and his work is quite particular. He is known to have worked in Bristol in 1791 and 1803 and in Gloucester in 1798, but was based in London for much of his career. In addition to portraits, Wood also painted miniatures of subjects.

2. Coquilla Nut Snuffbox

snuff box

Early 18th Century Coquilla Nut Snuff Box – £1,500 at Hannams.

By the early 19th century, the shell nut had been “discovered” by British craftsmen as a suitable medium for carving. The influential taste journal Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions, and Politics sang its praises in 1812. , renders it liable to be employed with the most pleasing effect, as it is susceptible to the most savory forms.Whatever has been formed from ivory may be produced from the shell of the coquilla, of which the beauty is sure to attract, while the price of the item will satisfy the buyer.

The signature coquilla carved trinket was the snuff box, and in particular the comic “nut men” made in northern Europe in the first half of the 19th century. Most represent caricatured European “types”. Typically these are priced between £300 and £500, but the best examples, often with picked details from the bone, can fetch a whole lot more. The box here of a round gentleman with a beaming jocular face fetched £1500 (estimate £100-150) at Hannams in Selbourne on January 4, sold to a buyer via

3. Palatoy Droid Action Figure

droid action figure

Palitoy Power Droid Action Figure – £1850 at C&T Auctions

Although hugely important to the Star Wars galaxy, the “power droids” used to recharge vehicles and machinery go almost unnoticed in the movies. With little fanfare, these boxy mobile plug-in generators appear in every episode of the 1977-1983 trilogy.

Power Droid action figures were produced by Kenner in Ohio and Palitoy in Leicestershire for all three “classic” Star Wars films although, overshadowed by more iconic characters, they sold in relatively low numbers.

Palitoy examples are particularly hard to find in their original packaging. This one made for Return of the Jedi came on sale at C&T Auctions in Kenardington, Kent on January 6 where, guided at £100-150, it took a surprise £1,850.

4. Carved wooden figure

carved figure

Victorian Carved Wooden Figure – £7,000 at Greenslade Taylor Hunt.

Carved wooden lay figures make terrific decorative objects – guaranteed to enliven a range of interior spaces far removed from the artist’s studio. The best examples command very large sums.

The figure pictured here stands 3ft 4in (1m) tall, is fully articulated, uniquely sculpted, and has good color and patina. It went on sale at Greenslade Taylor Hunt in Taunton on January 6 from a family home where it had been for many years. Toe blemishes have been blamed on a starving pet. Estimated between £300 and £500, it had to sell for £7,000 via

5. Aesthetic Movement Side Chair

Accent chair

Blackened, gold and polychrome side chair in the style of Christopher Dresser – £3100 at Smiths.

Although cataloged by Smiths of Newent as an early 19th century Empire period chair, the ebonized, gilt, and polychrome mahogany side chair is more likely mid-Victorian. It is probably one of the aesthetic movement chair designs created in the 1870s by Christopher Dresser for the Art Furnishers Alliance, the association of progressive interior designers he helped to establish in 1880. Manufacturer’s George Hayter Chubb furniture company Chubb & Co was named project president. which only operated for a few years from Queen Street in London before going into liquidation. The remaining stock was then advertised by Chubb & Co or sold at auction.

Dresser borrowed extensively from a range of ‘exotic’ sources to create his designs, this chair with its stylized palmettes and foliage reflecting his interest in Egyptian motifs as well as botanical forms. Its importance was recognized on January 6 with a winning bid of £3,100, well above the £60-100 estimate.


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