Category Archive 'Auction Sales'
15 Apr 2019

If You Happen to Have All the Tea in China…

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How on earth did it survive in that condition all these years?

11 Apr 2019

Gun That Killed Van Gogh? Maybe, Maybe Not, Too

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The 7mm Belgian pinfire revolver that might have shot van Gogh.

Hyperallergic reports on an intriguing opportunity to buy a junk gun that just

    might

have an important historical connection. On the other hand, some drunken clochard might simply have lost it sleeping in the field.

Any shmoe with a spare $25-$100 million dollars can land themselves an original Vincent Van Gogh painting, but this June, only one lucky bidder can go home with a singular piece of art history: the gun that was allegedly used by the eccentric painter to kill himself. As reported by the Associated Press, a 7mm pocket revolver found in a field in the northern French village of Auvers-sur-Oise — where Van Gogh is believed to have shot himself in the chest on July 27, 1890 — will go up for auction in Paris at the Drouot auction center, on June 19.

“The gun offered in this sale was found in this field by a farmer around 1960 and was handed to the current owner’s mother,” said the auction website. “Writer Alain Rohan investigated this case and wrote the book Did we find the suicide weapon? in 2012. Several pieces of evidence show it must be Van Gogh’s suicide gun: it was discovered where Van Gogh shot it; its caliber (7 mm) is the same as the bullet retrieved from the artist’s body as described by the doctor at the time; scientific studies demonstrate that the gun had stayed in the ground since the 1890s and finally, it is a low power gun so it could explain why Van Gogh didn’t instantly die after shooting it.”

The painter died two days later of his apparently self-inflicted injuries — although another recent theory is that Van Gogh did not inflict this wound himself.

“Another theory about Van Gogh’s death appeared in 2011,” says the Drouot website, referencing a controversial biography, Van Gogh: The Life, by authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, which makes several dramatic revisionist claims, based on 10 years of study with more than 20 translators and researchers. “According to [two] American researchers, the artist didn’t kill himself. He would have been the victim of an accident. [Two] young boys were playing with a gun next to him when one of them pressed the trigger by mistake and wounded him. However, even if this assumption is right, the weapon could still be the one that killed Van Gogh. The gun would have been left in the field.”

Either way, the gun was included in a 2016 exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, On the Verge of Insanity: Van Gogh and his Illness, which deals with multiple aspects of the painter’s notoriously troubled mental health, and is expected to fetch €40,000–60,000 (~$45,000–67,000) at auction. It certainly represents a unique offering for obsessive Van Gogh fans, gun collectors, and historical true crime enthusiasts.

08 Apr 2019

Neat, But Expensive

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A tumbler formed from a rubel coin with gilt interior, engraved:

“Der Russe ward bey Zorndorff geschlagen
Ich aber als Beut davongebracht
Aus Rubel bin ich ein Tummel gemacht
Zum Guten Trunck es kanns ein jeder wagen
Der nur Preussens Friederich und seine Taht verehrt
Der sein eigenes heil, des wirthes wohl begehrt.”

“The Russian was beaten at Zorndorff
But I brought it away as booty
I have made a tumbler out of a ruble
With this good drinking vessel everybody can
The great Prussian Friederich and his deed celebrate
And pledge his health, the worthy and admired.”

dated “25 August 1758”. The beakers are an eloquent testimony to a historic encounter during the Seven Years’ War: In the Battle of Zorndorf on 25th August, 1758, the Prussian troops beat the Russian army and succeeded in capturing a part of their war funds. Subsequently, a number of those Rubel [ruble] coins were embossed to little beakers commemorating Prussia’s military victory.

Dimensions: H 3.5 cm, weight 22 g.

Artist or Maker: marks of Johann Friedrich Wagenknecht, circa 1758.

Sold on Saturday for €7000.


Carl Röchling, Friedrich II. in der Schlacht bei Zorndorf 1758, 1911.

30 Mar 2019

Most Expensive Firearm Auction Sale Price of All-Time?

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11 Mar 2019

WWI Aerial Combat Trophy

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Hermann Historica GmbH
March 15, 2019, 1:00 PM CET
Munich, Germany

Lot 1178: First Lieutenant Hermann Kraft – a goblet of honour “Dem Sieger im Luftkampf”

Early silver issue with decorative hammer marks and the engraved dates of his first shootdown “30. Nov. 1915 Macquart b/Lille” underneath a scene of fighting eagles in relief on the obverse. The base ring with inscription “Dem Sieger im Luftkampf” (tr. “To the Victor in Aerial Combat”), the mark of fineness “800” with crescent moon and crown, and four ball feet underneath. The bottom punched with inscription “Chef des Feldflugwesens” (tr. “Chief of Field Aviation”) with Prussian eagle. Height 19.5 cm, weight 382 g. Comes with four photographs of Kraft, two picture postcards, a letter from the 8th Bavarian Reserve Division and a burial ground certificate with a photograph of a visit to the grave. Hermann Kraft (1889 – 1916), in 1915 lieutenant and observer with the Bavarian Field Flying Detachment 5, in 1916 observer of the squadron leader of Fighter Squadron 33, First Lieutenant Oskar Jilling, on 30 July 1916 both were killed in action at Vaux-Verdun. Very rare goblet with engraving of shootdown, in untouched condition, from family possession.

Quite an item! The bidding is already at €6,200.

20 Feb 2019

Nice Little Monet

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At Christie’s February 27th Sale:

Lot 11
— Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Saule pleureur et bassin aux nymphéas [Weeping willow and pond with water lilies]
stamped with signature ‘Claude Monet’ (Lugt 1819b; lower left)
oil on canvas
78 1/2 x 70 3/4 in. (199 x 180 cm.)
Painted in Giverny in 1916-1919.

Estimate “upon request,” meaning: If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

03 Dec 2018

Found Object

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Atlas Obscura:

During the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago, in what is now Afghanistan, an artisan from the Indus Valley (or Harappan) civilization made a ceramic pot. The four-inch-tall vessel was distinguished by a doe-eyed antelope painted across its flank. We’ll never know who used it, or for what—at least before 2013.
That’s when Karl Martin, a valuer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire, England, purchased the pot at a car boot sale, a kind of English flea market. And why not? He got it and another pot for a total of £4—or, £1 for every thousand years since it had been made.
Of course Martin didn’t know at the time that he was buying an authentic artifact from one of the cradles of civilization. All he knew, he said in a Hansons release, was that he “liked it straight away,” so he gave it a place of honor in his household where he would see it every day. It was in the bathroom, where it held his toothbrush and toothpaste. There it sat for years.

And there it would have stayed, if not for the fact that Martin often encounters antiquities in his line of work. One day, he was helping a Hansons colleague unload some items headed for the block when he spotted some familiar-looking pottery, coated with patterns and animals like those on his toothbrush-holder. He brought his holder to the colleague, James-Seymour Brenchley, Hansons’ Head of Ancient Art, Antiquities & Classical Coins. Brenchley was able to link the pot’s painting style to that of other Indus Valley artifacts. He speculates that the pot had arrived in the United Kingdom via British tourists. Martin decided to put it up for auction at Hansons, where it sold this week for £80—“not a fortune,” Martin admits, but still a 1,900 percent profit, not adjusting for inflation.

RTWT

For £80 minus seller’s fee, I’d have kept it for my toothbrush.

20 Nov 2018

Your Library Needs This

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Christie’s — Sale 17162 — Russian Literary First Editions & Manuscripts: Highlights from the R. Eden Martin Collection, London, 28 November 2018.

Lot 68
DOSTOEVSKY, Fyodor (1821-1881). Brat’ia Karamazovy. [The Brothers Karamazov.] St Petersburg: Brothers Panteleev, 1881 [but December 1880].

Estimate
GBP 22,000 – GBP 30,000

(USD 28,754 – USD 39,210)

The first edition of Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, in a superb contemporary cloth binding – arguably the most attractive surviving copy of ‘the most magnificent novel ever written’ (Freud). Dostoevsky’s lifetime publications were typically issued in sober cloth bindings; this colourful and decorative binding is otherwise unrecorded and may have been commissioned by the publisher for presentation. Karamazov in any contemporary cloth is very rare; RBH and ABPC record only one: a set with only volume 1 bound in cloth (sold, Christie’s, 21 May 2014, lot 56). Kilgour 286.

Four parts in two volumes, octavo (210 x 143mm). With the half-titles and the final blank in vol. 1 (occasional light scattered spotting, mainly to the edges and some margins.) Contemporary decorative green cloth by V. Kiun with his printed label in the first volume; front covers with a large decorative block in gold, black and red incorporating the text ‘Sochineniia Dostoevskago’ [Works of Dostoevsky]; covers with a black foliate border; spines titled in gilt and tooled in gilt and blind; plain endpapers (negligible rubbing); custom brown morocco backed clamshell case. Provenance: ‘I 36’ (penciled press mark).

18 Nov 2018

$65,100 Worth of Steampunk Watch

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I buy things at auction now and then, and I consequently get loads of auction spam mail.

The lead item is sometimes visually intriguing enough that I cannot resist clicking on the link out of mere curiosity.

What, I wondered, was this particular watch being sold by a Swiss Auction House all about?

Ineichen Zürich AG, Zurich, Switzerland

November 17, 2018 Sale, Lot 289: VIANNEY HALTER Antiqua

Description: Case: Rose gold case; Dial: Hours and minutes silver dial, date display, silver-coloured month and year dial, silver weekday display; Movement: Automatic movement, Mov. no.: 8R, Case no. 99.8R.132, Cal. VH198, 43mm, black leather strap with pin buckle.

Sold yesterday for: CHF 52,500 ($52,500) + 24% Buyer Premium = $65,100.

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Why would anybody spend so much money on such a weird watch? GaryG explains.

[A]t first I’d be tempted to characterize the Antiqua as a “patronage” piece: one purchased in recognition of and in support of the great work of one of the most skilled independent watchmakers.

Upon reflection, however, I’m going to classify it as a member of the “investment” category: a watch that, regardless of its prospects for future financial appreciation, can be a foundational element of a carefully curated collection. For me, the Antiqua merits a spot in the watch box of any serious collector of independent watches, and I know that I’m certainly not alone in my view.

The truth is that I fell for the Antiqua when I first saw one more than a dozen years ago; while many of my friends will freely confess that at the time they were at first put off by its looks, I was smitten from the start. It took me a number of years to save up the money and find the right piece, but for me buying an Antiqua was just a matter of time.

I’ll start with one word: steampunk.

The steampunk ethic really appeals to me, and I appreciate Halter’s use of something he calls the Futur Anterieur (roughly, “the future as seen from the past”) as a guiding design principle. Because we cannot truly see the future, at any point in time we envision it through the lens of present-day items and technologies. As seen from the 1860s’ vantage point of Jules Verne, building a submarine or spaceship with heavy, riveted windows would have made perfect sense; and for the occupants of those vessels as imagined by Halter, a matching watch would be just the thing to have.

I think that it’s also fair to say that the Antiqua began the modern design movement in watches. A leading independent watchmaking impresario once told me that he considers the Antiqua “the missing link between traditional and contemporary watchmaking.”

I’m of like mind, and for this reason alone, for me the Antiqua is one of the few most important independent watches ever made.

RTWT

05 Nov 2018

Not Cheap, But Awfully Cool

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At Christie’s, and on-line auction November 8:

In Isaac Newton’s own hand:

In Latin, four full pages and three partial pages of text, on three bifolia, 203 x 155mm, the text on one page partially written in inverse orientation.

Notes on the Turba Philosophorum, one of the most influential of all alchemical texts, a Latin translation of an Arabic anthology of pre-medieval alchemical texts, whose origins may be seen in an attempt to apply Greek alchemy to Islamic science.

Estimate: GBP 80,000 ($100,800) – GBP 100,000 ($130,000).

15 Oct 2018

Sotheby’s Breaks All-Time Wine Price Record With 1945 Romanee-Conti

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Quartzy:

As Europe nursed its wounds right after the Second World War’s end in 1945, top Burgundy producer Romanee-Conti made just 600 bottles of dark red nectar before pulling up its vines for replanting.
Yesterday (Oct. 13), two of those 600 were sold in separate auction bids for a total of just over $1 million at Sothebys in New York. Three more bottles from the 1937 vintage went for a total of $930,000.

All five bottles beat the previous record for most expensive bottle of wine of any size, a $304,375 six-liter bottle of Cheval-Blanc 1947, sold in Geneva in 2010. (The records don’t include bottles auctioned for charity.) The two 1945 bottles also eclipsed the previous record for a standard-sized wine bottle—$233,000 at a Hong Kong auction in 2010.

The highest bid was for the first bottle from 1945, which went for $558,000. That’s 17 times more expensive than Sothebys’ upper estimate of $32,000. A few minutes later, the second bottle of 1945 sold for $496,000. Three magnums of the 1937 were then sold for $310,000 each, having been given an upper estimate of $40,000.

The total collection, from the personal cellar of wine producer Robert Drouhin, sold for $7.3 million. Nine of its 100 bottles went for six-figure sums.

The 1945 vintage is “rare and wonderful,” Serena Sutcliffe, head of Sothebys international wine department, wrote in the lot notes. “The best bottles are so concentrated and exotic, with seemingly everlasting power—a wine at peace with itself.”

RTWT

07 Oct 2018

$1.3M Banksy Artwork Self-Destructs at Auction Upon Sale

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Hyperallergenic:

A Banksy artwork “self-destructed” at a Friday night Sotheby’s auction in London.

“Girl with a Balloon” (2006) was the final lot of the evening sale at Sotheby’s and ended things off with an impressive final price of £953,829 (~$1,251,423), or £1,042,000 with buyer’s premium (~$1,367,104). Maybe people should’ve suspected something was suspicious when the artwork sold for the exact same figure as the artist’s previous auction record in 2008.

Robert Casterline of Casterline Goodman gallery was in attendance and told Hyperallergic what happened next. He explained there was “complete confusion” and an “alarm inside the frame started going off as the gavel went down.”

“[It] sold for over a million dollars and as we sat there…the painting started moving,” he said, and added that the painting’s frame, also made by Banksy, acted as a shredder and started to cut the canvas into strips. “[It was] all out confusion then complete excitement,” he explained.

Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper spoke to Alex Branczik, the auction house’s head of contemporary art for Europe, who seemed as surprised as anyone. “It appears we just got Banksy-ed,” he said immediately after the sale. He is arguably the greatest British street artist, and tonight we saw a little piece of Banksy genius,” he said, adding that he was “not in on the ruse.”

Shaw also reports that there was speculation “that the elusive artist had himself pressed the button that destroyed the work.”

But is the work destroyed? Or is it transformed? Even Branczik isn’t sure. “You could argue that the work is now more valuable,” Branczik said.

RTWT

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