Fine Art and Antiques

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Sometimes an object can just take your breath away.  One of the most enjoyable parts of the job of an auctioneer or working with antiques is uncovering ‘treasures’ and that is precisely what was unearthed recently.

Brought to the Hansons Auction Centre, housed in a rectangular presentation case was the most wonderful object that would definitely fit in to the ‘treasure’ category.

When the latches of the green tooled leather outer case were unlocked and the cover lifted, what was revealed took away the breath of Hansons’ head of silver department Matthew Lafite who commented, “I am always intrigued when I see a leather presentation box and am filled with anticipation to see what is fitted inside, the object on this day fairly stopped me in my tracks.”

Uncovered was an almost 180 year old silver gilt casket fitted with Sevres style porcelain plaques surrounding an ivory lined core.

“The quality of this object is unquestionable. Crafted of the highest possible standard of silver then gilt and finely engraved – further embellished with superb porcelain panels all encasing a precious ivory superstructure.”  Matthew added.

Crafted by the esoteric goldsmith, Edward Farrell in 1836 at his Covent Garden workshop in London and made from Britannia standard silver (which is a higher purity than sterling standard), few comparable examples are known today. Little is known of Farrell who was not apprenticed through the Goldsmiths’ Company nor was he a Freeman of the Company, however his work is of such a wonderful standard, it is considered important today. Similarly the purpose for such an item is not yet understood. The dimensions and keyhole suggest a role as a dressing table or bijouterie box, however so few are extant  today that the more likely reasoning is that this casket was a special commission from Farrell’s workshop as an official presentation gift to a dignitary.

Even though the porcelain plaques do not bare a visible signature or factory mark, their quality is such that they are almost certainly the work of the prized Imperial Sevres factory. The tooled leather fitted case bears the retailer’s inscription for Partridge Fine Arts of New Bond Street London which once again is a testament to the pedigree of this piece.

“The silversmith even chose to use the more costly Britannia standard silver, which he was under no obligation at all to do and could easily have opted for the cheaper sterling standard. Some objects you immediately recognise as special; everything about this item shouts quality and I am delighted the vendor chose to bring this piece to Hansons for our December sale. We thrive on the buzz and excitement special items create!” said Matthew.

HANSONS AUCTIONEERS & VALUERS LTD. The Auction Centre, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. DE65 6LS. Tel:  01283 733988

Fine Art As An Investment by Arts Bank

We’ve all thought about it at least once. There is some spare cash hidden away somewhere, or an investment has just paid dividends, or you’ve just come into an inheritance. You’ve paid off the mortgage and recently bought a new car and the children are all grown up, so what do you do with the money? Then you read an article in the paper about how a Van Gogh that couldn’t be sold for love nor money in the artist’s lifetime has just gone for £20 million, and then another article caught your eye about how some long forgotten artist has been rediscovered and his work has quintupled in value in the last year. So you consider maybe buying art as a long term investment and your local gallery has some pictures you quite like and the prices seem reasonable and the artist has built up a small reputation for himself.
What should you do?

Well, if you are at all serious about buying fine art as an investment, you start by educating yourself about the art market as much as you do about the art itself. A good way to combine these two disciplines is to go round as many art galleries as you are able and ask lots of questions about why the gallery chose to curate this artist’s work and how they set the prices for the art and whether they specialise in a particular segment of the market and how they chose their specialisation. Really ask lots of questions about everything and anything and don’t be shy about asking questions that might sound naïve or stupid. After all, you are here to learn from the experts and the best way to learn is to start from a position of complete ignorance without any assumptions or preconceptions about how the art business works or why a particular artist or style of art is more valuable than another.

Once you feel you have a handle on current trends and potential future trends in the art market, there is one essential thing to decide: whether you will be buying art purely for investment purposes, primarily as an investment but also as something you’d like to hang on your living room wall, or as something you’ve absolutely fallen in love with that might just also appreciate in value when passed on as a family heirloom. Naturally going purely for the investment value of the piece is more likely to make you money, but in that case you might as well invest in stocks and shares. If, as is more likely the case, you want to invest your money in something that you also like the look of, make sure that your heart doesn’t rule your head and you buy something that looks pretty but is unlikely to ever accrue very much more value than you paid for it. Regardless of the circumstances that have resulted in your buying the piece of art, there are two essential things to determine from the seller that guarantee its resale value: a statement of authenticity and a detailed history of ownership going back to the time the work was created, because without these two pieces of documentation the work is effectively worthless.

Aside from this, it is a good idea to find out more about the kind of seller you are dealing with. Request references and check to ensure their authenticity and impartiality. Get a feel for how the dealer is viewed in the industry by asking about him in museums and other art galleries. The dealer might have his finger on the zeitgeist and be in a position to source work from artists who are hot at the moment, but for how long will they remain hot and is their work selling for over-inflated amounts as a result? Or perhaps the seller specialises in the type of art you are thinking of buying, so has a good idea of the value of the piece, or the style was in vogue five years ago but has fallen off since and the seller hasn’t altered his prices accordingly.

One failsafe way of looking into the dealers reputation is to look at what has happened to the art he has handled in the past. Have the prices for this work generally gone up, stayed the same or even gone down in valuation. Any respectable dealer or seller should have a record of their past sales and be willing to share this information. If they are not, this suggests they may well have something to hide.
Aside from conventional bricks and mortar sellers, it is highly recommended that you look into what is on offer for sale on the internet. An obvious advantage of using the internet is that you are better placed to shop around and compare prices, in addition to doing the necessary research to determine what sort of art is hot or coming up at the moment. In addition to this, products are often cheaper on the internet because virtual shops don’t have to pay rent or salaries to shop assistants. This factor is particularly significant in the art world, where up to 30% of the total sale price for a painting can go to the gallery as commission.

One such online site for buying contemporary art as an investment is, the UK’s premier fine art trading website. Artbank has a wonderful selection of paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures and ceramics for you to browse through. The art is categorised into styles ranging from abstract, figurative and surreal and by the artist’s nationality and subject matter to be easily searchable, and the seller can be contacted directly. One of the features of Artbank that might appeal to the budding investor is that anybody can post art on the site, so it is more likely that they will be able to uncover a hidden gem. Alternatively, if there is a particular artist that interests you, Artbank can contact you whenever a piece by that artist comes up for sale on the site. And remember that Artbank lets you contact the seller directly and doesn’t charge either you or the seller any fees or a commission on the final sale, enabling you to buy the painting at the lowest possible rate.

Insurance issues are also a consideration when collecting art for personal or investment purposes, so seek advice from the dealer to ensure that you are properly covered. Also, it is a good idea to check with your financial advisor for more details about how investing in art might be a valuable asset to your investment portfolio. Once you have established the financial sense of investing in fine art and the various tax brakes attendant to it, in combination with learning more about the art market itself, you are in a good position to start collecting. Here’s hoping you uncover the next Picasso or Van Gogh. The very best of luck!

Art is something that speaks to each and every one of us. We may not necessarily like everything that our friends or family like, but there will be a piece of art somewhere that can capture your heart. It’s interesting that this should be the case; shouldn’t we all like the same kind of art? Shouldn’t there be a criteria which art is judged by?

Well, our honest opinion is no. The whole point of art is that it is a reflection of that person at that time. It is a picture of their emotions and their vision at that precise moment. How much you enjoy a piece of art will depend upon how greatly you connect to the ideas they were able to convey with the piece. Your interpretation will also be affected by your own attitudes and values that you are inevitably going to bring to the piece.

The great thing about galleries are that there is one out there designed exactly for you. Whether you prefer fine art, impressionism, abstract, digital – there is a gallery bringing together the finest modern or traditional examples of that particular form. There will also be galleries that combine a number of different genres. These are especially useful for people who are unsure of what kind of art they are interested in. The team, here at the Herald & Advertiser, have numerous examples where we’ve wondered around a gallery and found a piece of art that we’d never normally look at because it was classified as ‘abstract’ and taken it home!

Before we leave you to enjoy the links to our sponsors below, we’d like you to consider an experiment carried out by Oxford University just a few months ago. Researchers attached 14 people up to brain scanners (sounds terrifying – doesn’t it?) and showed them paintings by famous artist Rembrandt. What the experiment found was that when a subject was told the piece was ‘fake’ they didn’t respond nearly as positively as when they were told it was ‘real’. What this shows is that human beings have a natural admiration for individual creativity. They are able to put themselves into the mind of an artist and therefore art is as much about engagement with our mind as our eyes.


The Congregational Gallery is a new art space in a Grade II listed former church, Rothbury, Northumberland. A space where natural light illuminates the very best of British contempory art, showcasing paintings, scultpure and high quality limited edition prints; all with a Northern edge. At the Congregational Gallery we don’t believe in typecasting ourselves around a single style, medium or subject. The art world is as rich and varied as the world we live in; our one aim is to reflect this vast and fantastic variation.

The Congregational, High Street, Rothbury, Northumberland, NE65 7TL

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