Thornhill’s Chinaman strikes a chord in Ayr

A life-size caricature of a smiling Chinese man clutching a willow-pattern plate clock with gilt dragon sold for £6000 at Thomas R Callan’s auction.

More of a curiosity than a clock but a decorator’s dream, a life-size caricature of a smiling Chinese man clutching a willow-pattern plate with gilt dragon hands emerged in the Ayr rooms of Thomas R Callan (17.5% buyer’s premium).

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Terence Ryle

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Standing 5ft 4in (1.63m) tall, it was by the successful Bond Street retailer Walter Thornhill (1807-87) whose inventions and luxury goods were exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. His patents included a series of sumptuous travelling cases and an anti-garrotting device – basically an adjustable steel dog collar with ribbons on the female version.

This clock had a label to verso reading The chinaman clock from Prince of Nepal’s collection – thought to be a name Thornhill gave to a line of Oriental-influenced decorative objects. Entered by a local vendor whose descendant had bought it 60 years at an Ayr auction, it sold to a local private buyer at a top-estimate £6000 at the auction on May 25.

Salt surprise

Biggest surprise of the day was a 1¾in (4.5cm) tall hammered silver table salt by Charles Robert Ashbee.

Marked for London 1900, in good condition and with its original Powell green glass liner, it was pitched at a modest £200-300 but sold at £3000.

The top-seller at the sale was a pair of rare c.1930-40 Carl Zeiss Jena marine binoculars with original oak tripod and carrying case for which a buyer travelled from the south of England to the sale and finally bought at £19,000 against a £6000-9000 estimate.