ONE-THIRD of the big natural-habitat watercolours by Archibald Thorburn (1860-1935), the celebrated bird illustrator, are at Sotheby's, Wednesday (7pm): a sale forced by two flat tourist seasons at the Thorburn Museum in Liskeard, Cornwall. Prices conform to a strict pecking order. Game birds, which are shot at by the rich and famous, are the most expensive. Top estimate, pounds 40,000-pounds 60,000, is for pheasants in snow, 1905, while a magnificent peacock merits only pounds 35,000-pounds 50,000.
There will be few, if any, bargains, despite some come-on estimates, such as the pounds 18,000-pounds 25,000 for the partridge family that made pounds 31,900 at Sotheby's Gleneagles three years ago. The cheapest Thorburns are birds with disgusting habits, such as offal-eating gulls. But none is on sale: John Southern, who formed the museum's collection over 50 years, traded them in.
You might get a rat for pounds 4,000-pounds 6,000 (cheaper than a dormouse, pounds 7,000-pounds 9,000). Among the most modestly estimated are vignettes of pipits (pounds 6,000-pounds 8,000) or sandpipers (pounds 5,000-pounds 7,000) painted for bird books and favoured by penurious birdwatchers. Even the stags at bay, or lying dead, can expect heavy bidding from European hunters. Rich Italians, Germans and French are renting British shoots, and Sotheby's expects them to boost the market.
Sotheby's and Christie's have arranged big sales of Japanese swords. But fans of Japanese sword fighting, fast becoming a Hollywood cult, may be unable to stump up pounds 100,000-pounds 150,000 at Sotheby's for the Samurai short sword from the late Field Marshal Sir Francis Festing's collection. Cheapest in the sale, Thursday (10.30am), are blades estimated pounds 1,000-pounds 2,000. Sotheby's expects pounds 300,000 and Christie's pounds 250,000-pounds 350,000 for the antique arms, armour and Japanese swords of the late Eugen Nielsen of Oslo - Wednesday (11am). More Japanese art: the Swedlow collection of Inro and Netsuke, Sotheby's Wednesday (10.30am).
Best of the rest: Phillips has a well-filled Deco sale, Tuesday (11am), coinciding with Oriental and European fans, costume, embroideries and lace at Phillips Bayswater. At Christie's South Kensington, a collection of silver mustard pots, some in the low hundreds, Tuesday (10.30am); and on Wednesday (10.30am), European furniture and artworks. Bonhams has modern and contemporary pictures, Thursday (2pm), and vintage fountain pens, Friday (11am). Collectors' cars: Christie's at Cumberland Hotel, London W1, Monday (7pm).
Manchester: Clothing catalogue ladies' outsize and standard sizes, T-shirts, babywear, garden ornaments, Thursday (11am). Auction International, 51a Broughton Lane, Strangeways (061 832 2400).
Burton-on-Trent: Garden goods, fencing panels and gates, furniture and trellises, woodworking tools, commercial vehicles, at Garden Centre, Kingstanding, Needwood, next Saturday (10.30am). Arnold and Son (0283 64657).
Bedford: Camping equipment and caravans, at Calvers, Clapham, next Saturday (12 noon). Wilson Peacock (0234 266366).
Sevenoaks: Furniture, clocks, European and Oriental artworks, Wednesday and Thursday (10am daily). Phillips, 49 London Road (0732 740310).
Southampton: Household goods, posters, prints, contents of a Chinese restaurant, double-glazed windows, office furniture, Wednesday (10.30am). Millbank, Northam (0703 228179).
Monday-Tuesday: Little Chelsea Antiques, Old Town Hall, King's Road, London SW3. Ravenscott Fairs (071-727 5045).
Thursday-Saturday: 13th Annual Brecon Antiques, Castle of Brecon Hotel, Powys. Antiques in Britain Fairs (0273 423355).
Thursday-Sunday: Antiques, National Motorcycle Museum, Solihull. C J Antiques Fairs (0952 595403).
Thursday-Wednesday: British International Antiques 1993, National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham (021 780 4141).
Friday-Sunday: Petworth Antiques, Seaford College, Sussex. Robert Bailey (0277 362662); Dorset Antique Dealers, Canford School, Wimbourne (0202 604306); South Cotswold Antiques, Westonbirt School. Cooper Antiques Fairs (0672 515558).
Countrywide by Antiques Trade Gazette (071-930 4957), Government Auction News (071-734 8291/4, hotline 0891 887700).Reuse content