Our regional treasures

Collectors were out in force for the latest chance to snap up regional treasures. Ian Collins surveys a landmark art and antiques auction for pointers to current tastes.

Collectors were out in force for the latest chance to snap up regional treasures. Ian Collins surveys a landmark art and antiques auction for pointers to current tastes.

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While fashions among art and antiques lovers may fluctuate over time, the popularity of Norfolk masters Alfred Munnings and Edward Seago only grows.

That was the message from an auction in Norwich yesterday at which lots of East Anglian treasures came under the hammer.

More than 650 paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, books, clocks, china, stuffed birds and fish, maps, models, Nelson memorabilia and the odd mystery object were offered in Bonham's annual East Anglian View sale.

Overall the Assembly House auction totalled £483,000.

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Top price of the day - £39,750 - was paid for a seductive portrait of 1901 by the young Munnings. The title (The Rendezvous) was even more suggestive.

Second biggest bid went on a shimmering Venetian oil by Edward Seago of the Salute church - a picture tipped to fetch £15,000-£20,000 but netting £35,250.

In all, 10 Seagos were offered, with most being eagerly contested. The best price for a watercolour, a study of another Venetian scene, tripled pre-sale estimates to finish above £10,300.

And Mary Newcomb, a Waveney farmer's wife turned prized painter, confirmed her position as our best-loved living painter with a charming 1971 oil Feeding the Speckly Birds chased to £23,500. When first shown at a Norwich Twenty Group exhibition it probably had a price tag of £20.

A monumental lino-cut of a steamy Liverpool Street station by the late great Edward Bawden also tripled pre-sale estimates to sell for £9,635. His panoramic pictures of the London rail terminus, along with others of Brighton pier, are now among the priciest modern British prints.

And a further highlight was £7,050 paid to secure a small but stunning 1920s oil of a Norfolk farm by Haddiscoe-based Sir John Alfred Arnesby Brown. Possibly painted on the top of a cigar box, it was a study for one of the artist's bravura Royal Academy pictures.

But alongside the fireworks in the fields of recent and contemporary art, traditional pictures proved a damp squib. Time and again even choice little images by Norwich School masters and pupils, or their Victorian followers, limped towards reserve prices, with many failing to sell.

A striking exception was the £15,275 paid for a marvellous moonlit oil panel of Ipswich docks by John Moore of Ipswich - a world record price for a Victorian artist who specialised in East Anglian shipping scenes.

Watercolours by the gentle Victorian Broadland watercolourists and firm friends Charles Harmony Harrison and Stephen John Batchelder retained a good following - with one very untypical Batchelder study, titled Great Yarmouth Front on Whit-Monday 1904, promenading past £3,750. As a study in Edwardian sartorial style it takes some beating.

Another big price was paid for an antique cased bittern by Norwich master taxidermist John Cole of Castle Meadow. It came within a feather of £1,000

But the oldest and oddest item in the sale - a bronze circular disc found at Shotesham, with strange medieval markings suggesting a late 14th century timepiece - failed to fire the imaginations of collectors. It went unsold.

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