Published: March 1, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring. Photos Courtesy Sworders
STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET, U.K. – Now in its fifth year, Sworders’ annual “Out of the Ordinary” sale, conducted February 15-16, presented more than 600 lots of all things magical, mythical and macabre. The sale conjured up $299,200, a bit lower than the sale has recorded in previous sales but nonetheless, Sworders’ head of department, Mark Wilkinson, was upbeat when we reached him after the sale.
“I think generally we’re very, very pleased. It was a very large sale and there was a lot to sell. All of the sections did well, though some of the average things had difficulty but all of the good things went well. The lockdown helped our sale total last year – we did about $350,000 then – which was our best ever sale. We have more buyers who are computer savvy and who bid online without coming in to see things, but we had some things that presented better in person that could have brought more.”
The “Out of the Ordinary” sale bills itself as “an eclectic mix of art, antiques, design and collectibles with a wow factor…things outside the norm that make people stop and stare.” In the past, headlining results have included taxidermy unicorns and cave bear skeletons; in this edition, the highest price of the weekend was $12,022, for a rare plaster model of Satan or Mephistopheles after Jean-Jacques Feuchère (French, 1807-1852). Though the 15-inch-tall model was a rare, nearly 200-year-old survivor, it had not endured intact, and Wilkinson justified a conservative estimate ($275/400) by saying there had been damage to both wings and other losses. Interest in the piece came from both the United Kingdom and France but, in the end, it sold to a private French collector who was bidding by phone.
A small but unusual – and clearly choice – group Wilkinson was quick to point out were three sorcerer’s mirrors and a witch’s mirror; all were, as Wilkinson put it, fairly rare and the house “had a lot of people bidding on them.” The highest price realized by the group was $6,011 for a circular Nineteenth Century Victorian sorcerer’s mirror, 17 inches in diameter, that had eight convex circles at the center of the plate within an inset garland of brushed steel; Wilkinson thought it might be a record for a sorcerer’s mirror. The next highest price, $4,243, was realized by the 9¾-inch Victorian black scrying witch’s mirror. All of the sorcerer’s and witch’s mirrors sold to buyers in the United Kingdom.
Current events can influence demand for lots. Wilkinson wondered if the present situation between Russia and Ukraine was behind the success of a number of Russian early and mid-Twentieth Century posters that saw considerable demand. Of particular note was a circa 1922 Soviet Communist anti-Polish propaganda poster by Dmitry Moor (Russian, 1883-1946). The poster, which warns of the potential Soviet response to Poland’s continued hostile intentions, sold for $4,420, more than five times its high estimate.
Despite a relatively low estimate, Sworders had aggressively advertised a carved Haida argillite pipe and Wilkinson was pleased to report that despite some condition issues, it sold to a phone bidder from Canada, prevailing against “considerable interest,” for $4,597.
Sworders’ next “Out of the Ordinary” sale will take place in February 2023. Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house and have been converted into US Dollars.
For information, www.sworder.co.uk.
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