Category Archive 'Sotheby’s'

12 Jan 2018

Battle of Trafalgar–HMS Victory, ‘The Victory Jack’

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At Sotheby’s London, “Of Royal and Noble Descent” Auction, Lot 116:

AN EXCEPTIONALLY LARGE FRAGMENT OF THE UNION FLAG, BELIEVED TO HAVE FLOWN FROM HMS VICTORY AT THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR
comprising eight panels of red, white and blue hand-woven woollen bunting, hand-stitched together to form part of the bottom-right (or top-left) quadrant of the Union flag, hemmed at the bottom (or top), hem turned over enclosing c.460mm of twine, crudely torn at the edges, c.860 x 920 mm, mounted, framed, and glazed (frame size 1125 x 1125mm), c.1801-1805

AN EVOCATIVE AND IMPRESSIVE RELIC OF NELSON AND TRAFALGAR. Nelson’s ships sailed into battle at Trafalgar flying the national flag rather than just their squadron colours, as a result of an order issued by Nelson in the days before the battle: “When in the presence of an Enemy, all the Ships under my command are to bear white Colours [i.e. St George’s Ensign], and a Union Jack is to be suspended from the fore top-gallant stay” (10 October 1805). HMS Victory consequently flew two Union flags and a St George’s Ensign, which were returned to England with the ship and the body of Nelson.

These battle ensigns, unique patriotic mementoes of Nelson’s final and greatest victory, were later woven into the solemn and dignified series of ceremonials that marked his state funeral in January 1806. The body lay in state at the Painted Hall at Greenwich for four days before processing upriver in a funeral barge with a flotilla of naval escorts, disembarking at Whitehall Stairs and resting overnight in the Admiralty. The following day, 9 January, a vast procession followed Nelson’s remains to St Paul’s Cathedral, the site of the funeral. Incorporated into the funeral cortege was a group of 48 seamen and Marines from HMS Victory, who bore with them the ship’s three battle ensigns and were, according to one eyewitness, “repeatedly and almost continually cheered as they passed along”. At the conclusion of the funeral service, with the coffin placed at the heart of the cathedral beneath Wren’s great dome, the sailors were supposed to fold the flags and place them reverently on the coffin. The conclusion of the service, in fact, played out rather differently, as described by the Naval Chronicle (1806): “the Comptroller, Treasurer and Steward of his Lordship’s household then broke their staves, and gave the pieces to Garter, who threw then into the grave, in which all the flags of the Victory, furled up by the sailors were deposited – These brave fellows, however, desirous of retaining some memorials of their great and favourite commander, had torn off a considerable part of the largest flag, of which most of them obtained a portion.” According to one acute observer: “That was Nelson: the rest was so much the Herald’s office.” (See The Nelson Companion, ed. White (1995), pp8-14)

Most of the surviving fragments of the Victory’s flags are much smaller than the current piece. Small fragments of white and blue bunting, no more than 12cm in length, have appeared at auction (e.g. Bonhams, 28 September 2004, lot 117; Sotheby’s, 17 December 2009, lot 9) and other similar fragments are found at the National Maritime Museum and other institutional collections. Only two complete Union jacks that were used as battle ensigns at Trafalgar survive: one from HMS Minotaur (National Maritime Museum), the other from HMS Spartiate (sold at auction by Charles Miller Ltd., 21 October 2009, lot 53, £384,000).

Estimate: 80,000 — 100,000 GBP — 105,376 – 131,720 USD

26 Nov 2013

Tipu Sahib’s Sword

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Maine Antique Digest runs a monthly Letter from London column which describes some of the more interesting items appearing in recent sales.

At Sotheby’s “Art of Imperial India” sale, London, October 9th last, was sold a captured and re-hilted British sword decorated with the bubri symbol of Tipu Sahib, “the Tiger of Mysore,” one of the most formidable enemies of British rule in India, slain finally defending his own fortress at the Siege of Seringapatam in 1799.

Tipu is quoted as saying: “Better to die like a soldier than live a miserable life dependent on the infidels… I would rather live two days as a tiger, than two hundred years as a sheep.”

Interestingly, this sword was not taken at Seringapatnam, as it comes from the estate of Sir Charles Malet, Bart., who had left India a year before the siege. It was probably a trophy of the Third Anglo-Mysore War.

The sword sold for $157,695 (98,500 GBP). Lot 249.

28 Mar 2013

$3 Yard Sale Bowl Sells for $2,220,000 at Sotheby’s

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DING BOWL, NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY

Kovel’s reports:

The big network news story last week was the $2.22 million bowl sold by Sotheby’s in London [sic: the sale was in New York] on March 19, 2013. A New York couple had bought the bowl in 2007 for $3. Here are the facts culled from many news stories: The bowl is 5 inches in diameter. It was made during the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127). Only one other like it is known and that one is in the British Museum. The expensive bowl is white and has a molded leaf decoration outside and an etched flower design inside. The sellers displayed the bowl either on their mantel or a table until recently, when they noticed the high prices being paid for Chinese ceramics. So they had the bowl appraised and Sotheby’s listed it for sale at $200,000 to $300,000. When the owners were informed the bowl sold for millions, they emailed back “WOW!!!” The buyer, one of four serious bidders, is considered by many to be the world’s foremost dealer in Oriental art. He says he is sure he will be able to sell the bowl.

Sotheby’s Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art sale, New York, March 19, lot 94:


PROPERTY FROM A NEW YORK STATE FAMILY COLLECTION
A RARE AND IMPORTANT ‘DING’ BOWL
NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY
Estimate: 200,000 – 300,000 USD
LOT SOLD. 2,225,000 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium)
the finely potted body of slightly rounded and steep flared form rising from a short spreading foot to an upright rim, deftly carved to the interior with scrolling leafy lotus sprays, the exterior carved and molded with three rows of overlapping upright leaves, applied overall with an even ivory-colored glaze with characteristic teardrops at the base, the rim of the bowl and the footrim left unglazed showing the fine compact body beneath
Diameter 5 3/8 in., 13.4 cm

Sotheby’s blog did a nice write-up.

The British Museum tells us that these ceramics were “produced at the Ding kilns in Hebei province, northern China, whose white porcelains were considered one of the ‘five great wares’ of the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279 AD).”


DING BOWL, NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY

11 Jul 2012

Jane Austen’s Ring Sold At London Auction

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A turquoise and gold ring once belonging to Jane Austen sold yesterday at Sotheby’s in London for 152,450 pounds ($236,000) more than five times its pre-sale estimate.

Sotheby’s Sale L12404, Lot 59.

The Telegraph reported:

The ring, which featured a large oval turquoise gemstone, was sold alongside a handwritten letter by her sister-in-law Eleanor Austen bequeathing the rare jewel to her niece Caroline.

The note, dated 1863, confirms the item belonged to the 19th-century British author.

“My dear Caroline,” Eleanor wrote. “The enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!”

The rare piece is the latest in a series of the writer’s pieces to be sold at auction.

Last year, a handwritten draft of an unpublished Jane Austen book was sold for just over £1 million. It was said to be the earliest surviving manuscript of the author’s work.

The sale of Miss Austen’s jewellery at more than five times its estimate yesterday appeared to demonstrate that fascination with the Pride and Prejudice writer has yet to wane.

After a tense battle between eight bidders, the item was eventually sold at £152,450 to an anonymous private collector over the phone.

“Jane Austen’s simple and modest ring is a wonderfully intimate and evocative possession,” said Dr Gabriel Heaton, a manuscript specialist at Sotheby’s auction house.

10 Jun 2009

Berwick, Pennsylvania Society Finds Rare Book, Promptly Sells It

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The local historical society atBerwick, Pennsylvania, a borough of 10,000 people in largely rural Columbia County, was inventorying its collection of Early America almanacs and discovered it possessed a rare 1733 first annual edition of Benjamin Franklin‘s Poor Richard’s Almanack.

The almanac, bound with several others, proved authentic, and was sold yesterday at Sotheby’s, bringing $556,500, the second largest price ever paid at auction for an American book. The record holder remains George Washington’s copy of the Federalist Papers also sold by Sotheby’s in 1990 for $1.4 million.

Whatever will the historical society do with so much money?

Some news agency‘s account.

I know myself of a county courthouse in Pennsylvania where original documents signed by Benjamin Franklin in his capacity as secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are still sitting unrecognized in the county clerk’s office. I could have pointed out their value, but I kind of like the idea of their being in the same place they’ve always been.


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