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.
Britain's 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.
This sale is a wonderful opportunity to learn about this neglected field and to begin a new collection.
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