Jonathan Horwich, Modern & Contemporary Art Specialist
Known in the Art business as a ‘sleeper’ this 19 cm high, charming, and unique marble carving sold for 150 times its low estimate at Mellors and Kirk’s auction last month.
Very temptingly priced at a ‘come and buy me ‘estimate of £40-60 and intriguingly catalogued as ‘Modern British School’, this sculpture of a fawn grooming was finally hammered down at £6,000.
The Fawn is often depicted as a mythical creature and this piece certainly bears the hallmarks of early 20th century British carving. The attribution to Modern British School, although somewhat broad, is I believe, largely accurate as the piece could be attributed to the ill-fated and short-lived artist, Henri Gaudier Brzeska, (1891-1915), who although 100% French, somehow became an honorary ‘Brit’ and an integral part of the early dawn of the Modern British Art Movement at the beginning of the 20th century. He exhibited alongside greats such as Walter Sickert and Augustus John and is now very highly regarded as a sculptor and original work by him rarely if ever appears at auction. If this piece is by Gaudier then it’s a particularly good buy for someone as it could be worth 10-15 times the purchase price.
Another possibility is the sculptor and first husband of Barbara Hepworth, John Skeaping (1901-1980). If by him then it is still worth more (but not hugely more – value may increase by 2 or 3 times). I do not think it is by any of the big guns of Modern British sculpture such as Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth, at least neither of them sculpted fawns. However it is an intriguing, good quality and well carved piece and so well worth a punt at £6,000…..
Watch this space for an update in case I hear anything more about its final attribution!