Silver wine-cooler 'as big as a bathtub' sells for £2.51m

Yesterday Sotheby's held an extraordinary sale of aristocratic heirlooms in London which across just 21 lots spanned exceptional pieces from all areas of the decorative arts and achieved a staggering total of £13.95m.

Three lots achieved seven figure sums in their own right: Firstly, two pairs of Italian gilt-bronze mounted Brèche Violette marble topped Kingwood, Tulipwood and Parquetry commodes.

The Neapolitan furniture classics made in the Régence style in the 1730s or 1740s sold on target at £1.61m against an estimate of £1.4m-1.8m.

Doing even better against an identical listing was a pair of Imperial Porcelain palace vases. The imposing (4ft 10in) decorations date from 1842 - the reign of Russia's Nicholas I - and present beautiful images on their facing sides to complement the vase itself.

Russian Imperial Vases
Tsar Nicholas I's Imperial Vases
(Click to enlarge)

Charmed bidders buffeted the price up to £1.95m. But the day was won, as expected, by a piece made for Thomas Wentworth, 3rd Baron Raby, Ambassador Extraordinary to Berlin, 1706-1711 - later described by a certain Winston Churchill as "fractious and gallant".

The piece in question is a wine cistern of extraordinary dimensions: 129.5cm in length and weighing 11 ½ stone which was born in the workshops of Philip Rollos Senior and Junior, and John Rollos, c.1705-6, and bears the arms of Queen Anne.

Philip Rollos was responsible for many of the largest and most important pieces of silver produced in England in the 17th and early 18th centuries, and his son John became an engraver - well-celebrated in his own right.

Thomas Wentworth's great wine cistern
Thomas Wentworth's great wine cooler

It was created as a means of using a generous allowance of silver which Queen Anne granted her ambassadors to impress in their office. However, the 5,893oz of silver on offer was exceeded by some distance by the silversmith's masterpiece, and Raby had to stump up the difference - £40.

Even allowing for a great difference in currency between then and now, the value of the piece is now seen to be in another league entirely, squeaking past its £1.5m-2.5m estimate to sell for £2.51m.


Join our readers in 182 countries around the world - sign up for your free weekly Collectibles Newsletter today

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock