So many splendid summer sales from which to choose and, as a consequence, a good many wonderful things by necessity held over for future issues.
A is for Antiquities, and this month’s selection includes a very expensive but trouble-making pharaoh before presenting a selection that has a definite animal theme to it—the cast including two dogs, a leopard, and a ram.
Handsome and costly snuffboxes, a playing card container, a rare Apostle spoon, a long-lost Nordic chess piece, and a group of portrait miniatures may be found here, along with a painting by the first recorded Puerto Rican artist, though the bulk of my pick of paintings from the summer sales will have to take their turn in future “Letters.”
Five lots included here form a first selection from the “Masterpieces from a Rothschild Collection” sale, with some of the furniture lots held back to keep company in next month’s “Letter” with more items from the “Exceptional” King Street sale that brought King Tut to auction.
This month’s “Letter” features a costly timepiece from the New Bond Street “Treasures” sale as a trailer for a future horological roundup.
Concerning Cards and Spoons
The two very different items featured here come from a July 3 Sotheby’s sale of mostly English silver and furniture items sent for auction in London from the collections of American collectors Neil and Gina Smith.
Sold for $7500 at Sotheby’s was a 5" high Edwardian silver playing card box, made by Walker & Hall of Birmingham and hallmarked for 1901. The sides are decorated with playing cards depicting English monarchs, and seen in the accompanying illustration are the instantly recognisable figure of Henry VIII as king of diamonds and the less familiar features of the much-loved Philippa of Hainault, who in the 14th century was Queen to King Edward III.
The Edwardian silver playing card container, 1901, sold for $7500.
Their first child was Edward, Prince of Wales, now usually referred to as the Black Prince, and his image is to be found decorating the jack of hearts on one of the other two sides. King George III makes up the set on this little novelty, one whose morocco leather interior is spring loaded and rises to reveal three compartments.
Very different was the other lot from the Smith sale featured here, an extremely rare Henry VII period Apostle spoon that was once part of the collection of Sir Arthur Evans, the archaeologist who uncovered the great Palace of Knossos on Crete.
Bearing the maker’s mark of a lamb that dates it to 1507 and London, it has a gilt terminal cast as St. James the Less and a fig-shaped bowl, the back of which is pricked with the initials “SH” above an emblem that appears to be a + and the letter P and was perhaps intended to be a monogrammatic cross, said the cataloguer.
Previously sold at Sotheby’s in 1935 for what today would be $175 and then at Christie’s in 1943 for $425, it seems to have entered the Cookson collection shortly thereafter. It next stirred the market in a 2000 sale of early silver spoons held by Woolley & Wallis of Salisbury, where the price was pretty much the same.
This time it made $34,590.
The rare Apostle spoon of 1507 that made $34,590 as part of the sale of the Neil and Gina Smith collection at Sotheby’s and an enlarged detail of the apostle’s head.
The Shape of Times to Come...
The most spectacular horological result as far as the summer sales in London are concerned came at Sotheby’s on July 2, when as part of the first of four sales scheduled to disperse an important private collection, George Daniels’ famous “Space Traveller I” pocket watch was sold for $4,547,180.
That is a timepiece of 1982 to which I will return in a future issue, along with other clocks and watches, but as a trailer piece in this month’s “Letter” I have elected to illustrate instead a stunning gold, enamel, and diamond-set verge watch made around 1650 by a Paris-based watchmaker, Jehan Cremsdorff.
Last seen at auction in a Christie’s Geneva sale of 1986, it was part of Sotheby’s “Treasures” sale of July 3, where it was described as a masterful combination of the skills of a watchmaker, goldsmith, jeweller, and enameller. It sold for double estimate at $2,735,730.
José Was the First One in San Juan
Far from the being one of the more expensive pictures sold in London this summer, but one that certainly turned in a better result than suggested and one that has a claim to fame as a work by a man generally acknowledged to be the first Puerto Rican-born painter, is this oil on canvas depicting Saint Germain.
Part of a Bonhams picture sale of July 3, it is the work of the San Juan-born José Campeche y Jordan (1751-1809). The son of a freed slave, Tomás, who was a restorer and painter of religious statues, José was trained by Luis Paret y Alcázar (1746-1799), a Spanish court painter who had been banished to Puerto Rico.
It sold at $149,440.
Delayed Chess Move Brings Six-Figure Reward
Carved from walrus ivory, probably in Trondheim (Norway) in the 13th century, the little ivory “Warder” figure is believed to have once formed part of a famous group of chess pieces found almost 200 years ago on Lewis, an island of the Outer Hebrides group off the northwest coast of Scotland that was at the time under Norwegian rule.
The majority of those pieces, which save for a missing knight and four of these so-called “Warders” could have made up four complete chess sets, have long been held in the collections of the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland.
Eighty-two of those famous chess pieces were acquired in 1831 by the British Museum, which paid what today would be little more than $100 for them. Eleven others eventually found a home in the Edinburgh museum.
The “Warder” chess piece from the Isle of Lewis “find,” sold for $927,450 at Sotheby’s.
This “Warder,” however, somehow got into the trade and in 1964 was purchased for £5 by an Edinburgh antiques dealer—recording it in his stockbook as an “Antique Walrus tusk warrior chessman”—and it was one of his descendants who was the Sotheby’s consignor.
It seems it spent much of the intervening period in the dark recesses of a drawer, but on July 2 at Sotheby’s, this fascinating object was offered as part of a sculpture and works of art sale with a wide-ranging estimate of $750,000/1.25 million and found a buyer at $927,450.
These famous chessmen were included by Neil MacGregor, a former director of the British Museum, in his much-admired BBC Radio series and book, A History of the World in 100 Objects. In the book he wrote “...if we want to visualize European society around the year 1200, we could hardly do better than look at how they played chess. No chess pieces offer richer insights than the...Lewis Chessmen.”
These are just the bare facts, but for those who love the game of chess or simply appreciate a fascinating story, may I most strongly recommend that you go to the results pages of the Sotheby’s website, pick out this July 2 sale of “Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art,” and go to lot seven.
There you can read “The Strange Story of the Lewis Hoard,” a very long but wholly fascinating account of this Lewis chess piece by Professor Neil Stratford, a former Keeper of Medieval and Later Antiquities at the British Museum.
Troublesome Pharaoh Not the Only Antiquity in Town
When it comes to antiquities seen at auction in London this summer, one lot accounted for a large proportion of the money that changed hands and virtually all the headlines—many of them unwelcome.
A quartzite sculpture that bore the naturalistic features of Tutankhamen (1), Egypt’s most famous pharaoh, was eventually sold for $5.97 million in the “Exceptional” sale held by Christie’s on July 4—but only in the face of appeals and the threat of legal challenges regarding the circumstances surrounding its removal from Egypt.
1. Tutankhamen, $5.97 million. Christie’s, July 4.
That country’s government, which asked both the British authorities and UNESCO to help prevent its sale and called on Interpol to investigate the sale of this and other pieces, continues to protest and has threatened to pursue the case at law.
A little over 11" high and carved from brown quartzite, the head shows Tutankhamen wearing the crown of his namesake, the god Amen, and may once have been part of a life-size standing or seated figure of the young pharaoh who ruled for only nine years (circa 1333-1323 B.C.) and died just short of his 20th birthday.
Almond-shaped eyes, notably high cheekbones, and a top lip that is thicker than the bottom one are all indications that this is the “boy king” who became the most famous of all Egyptian rulers following Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon’s sensational 1922 discovery of his tomb and its rich array of burial goods.
Christie’s responded to the protests by pointing out that Egypt had never before raised concerns about this much-exhibited and published piece, but it was nevertheless suggested by some, among them Zahi Hawass, an archaeologist and former Egyptian minister with responsibility for antiquities, that it may perhaps have been stolen from the Karnak temple complex in the 1970s.
The London saleroom also detailed the manner in which the head had changed hands in recent times. They noted that it had at one time been owned by Prince Wilhelm von Thurn und Taxis and was later in the well-known Resandro Collection (part of which they sold in 2016), before pointing out that no evidence for its having been acquired illegally had ever been produced.
What will happen next? Time and M.A.D. will tell.
Also on offer in London this summer were
• A Romano-British bronze figure of a “licking dog” (2) that was sold for $172,950 by Christie’s as part of their main antiquities sale on July 3. This was something unearthed in England in August 2017 by metal detectorists, along with a sizeable hoard of other Roman bronze artefacts.
2. Romano-British “licking dog,” $172,950. Christie’s, July 3.
Just over 8" long, it is a rare example of a healing statue in canine form. Dogs are still considered by many to be comforting and beneficial companions for the elderly and infirm, but in past times were also considered to possess other healing properties.
They are often depicted as a companion of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, while in the Roman pantheon the canine link was with Mars, whose attributes and concerns were not entirely focussed on war. The Celts too believed that dogs had healing powers and could actually aid recovery by licking the wounds of an injured person. Their “licking dog” figures were dedicated to one of their deities—Nodens.
Seven dogs of similar form were in the 1930s excavated from an Iron Age temple of Nodens at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire, not far from where this fine example was unearthed. Christie’s were, however, keen to point out that this example has no rival—either in size or the richness of its decoration.
• Sold for $345,900 at Christie’s was a Roman marble head of a ram (3), catalogued as a work from either the 1st century B.C. or A.D.
3. Roman (or Greek) ram’s head, $345,900. Christie’s, July 3.
Making its fourth auction appearance in 26 years, it was first seen on the block at Sotheby’s New York in 1992, as part of the Norbert Schimmel collection of antiquities, but its third outing came in a Christie’s New York sale of 2005, when it sold for $120,000.
Whether it was originally intended to serve as an architectural embellishment or was part of a larger work is not known, and indeed the Roman attribution itself is uncertain. Though they catalogued it as such, the auctioneers acknowledge the strong possibility that this could instead be a Greek piece of the 4th century B.C.
• A partial Mesopotamian limestone figure of a leopard (4), just a shade over 2" tall, was bid to $267,285 when it came back to auction at King Street this summer.
4. Mesopotamian leopard, $267,285. Christie’s, July 3.
Catalogued as a late Uruk-Jemdet Nasr piece of 3300-2900 B.C., it has a “beauty spot” (the remains of a blue coloured inlay) on its cheek and was affectionately named “Omar” by a former owner—after the actor Omar Sharif.
The animal’s body is shown in profile with its head turned towards the viewer and snarling, while the mottling of the fur is rendered with a series of drilled holes that were once, like that beauty spot, inlaid with the same Egyptian blue pigment. Only one coloured spot now remains.
Once found throughout the region, the Arabian leopard is now a critically endangered species.
This figure was last seen at auction in 2004, when Christie’s offered it as part of “A Peaceable Kingdom: The Leo Mildenberg Collection of Ancient Animals,” but on that occasion it seems to have been left unsold—in the room at least.
• Sold for a considerably higher than expected $204,390 in the recent Christie’s sale was an Egyptian gneiss jar (5) of the early Dynastic period, 3000-2650 B.C. An elegant, almost modern looking piece, it stands just a little over 12" tall.
5. Egyptian gneiss jar, $204,390. Christie’s, July 3.
• Dated to the 2nd century A.D. or thereabouts, a pair of Roman marble figures of Celtic hounds (6), the taller of the pair 29" high, provided the highlight of a Bonhams antiquities sale of July 3, and bidding just edged them over the $1 million mark.
Wearing studded collars, both the dog and the bitch, her right foreleg raised, underwent some restoration in the 18th century following their discovery in the ruins of the Laurentine villa of Antoninus Pius at Torre Paterno, 1795-96.
They were acquired at the time by Thomas Hope (1769-1831) and passed by descent to Lord Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope (1866-1941), whose complex name was somewhat simplified in 1928 when he inherited the title of 8th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne.
6. Roman marble hounds, $1,015,130. Bonhams, July 3.
Originally displayed as a pair in the statue gallery of his London townhouse, they were subsequently moved to the entrance hall of Deepdene House in Surrey.
Thomas Hope, an artist, art historian, and novelist, was one of the most renowned art collectors of his day. At 18 he embarked on his first Grand Tour with large sums of family money at his disposal, and within seven or eight years he had amassed one of the finer collections of Roman sculpture ever formed in Britain.
Each room in his Duchess Street, London, residence was decorated in the style of the countries that he had visited, and they were opened up to serve as a semi-public museum.
These hounds were first seen at auction in 1917 at Christie’s where they were purchased by a forebear of the Bonhams consignor as two lots for a total of 1000 guineas—around $1300 at today’s exchange rates.
• Sold for $1,472,570 at Sotheby’s on July 2 was a Roman marble oscillum (7, 8), a disc that could be suspended in a colonnade or from a tree.
Dating from around the 1st century B.C. and 19" diameter, it is carved on one side with a young satyr standing on tiptoes, holding a lagobolon (a hunter’s stick, especially useful for beating hares, it seems), and wearing a panther skin knotted on his right shoulder and draped over his outstretched left arm. There is also a leaping panther by his side.
On the other side is depicted a dancing maenad, or female follower of Dionysius. Raising her head in ecstasy, she holds a wreath in her left hand and wears a chiton and billowing mantle. The borders on both sides of the disc are filled with flowers, fruits, and other foliage.
7. Roman marble oscillum, $1,472,570. Sotheby’s, July 2.
8. Reverse of Roman marble oscillum.
By 1851 this rarity was to be found at the Château de Martinvast in France, having probably been acquired by Baron Arthur de Schickler (1828-1919), one of whose descendants sent it to auction in London.
• Dressed in a fleece bodysuit and draped in a panther’s skin, a plump figure (9), his knees drawn up and raising to his mouth with both hands a kantharos, a form of Greek drinking cup, is Silenus, the older and generally more bibulous companion of Bacchus.
A thick fillet passes over the forehead of this 16" high crouching figure, and there is a large mortise on the back of his head as well as a broad channel running down the spine—which may give some clue (though not here, I fear) as to its original purpose or function.
9. A squatting Silenus, $59,940. Sotheby’s, July 2.
For some three centuries this Silenus figure lived at Wilton House, the Wiltshire home of the Earls of Pembroke, but in the 1960s he came to auction at Christie’s in London and at some point crossed the Atlantic, where he found a home with James Elmo Williams (1913-2015) of Brookings, Oregon.
At Sotheby’s on July 2 the squatting Silenus sold at $59,940.
A First Look at Some of the Rothschild “Masterpieces”
Presenting just 52 lots, all bar one of which sold, “Masterpieces from a Rothschild Collection” was a high profile July 4 auction at Christie’s that raised $29.96 million.
A few items of furniture that sold well and a record-breaking painting by David Teniers will find their way into these pages next month, and this initial five-lot selection from other works of art on offer opens with what proved to be the real surprise in this Rothschild sale.
A brass inclining mechanical minute dial that was estimated at $75,000/100,000 sold instead at $2.27 million!
Almost certainly commissioned for or by Louis XV of France and bearing his arms to the top of the red morocco gilt case, its inclining plate with silvered hour scale signed “Julien Le Roy aux Galleries Du Louvres,” it includes a table of latitudes for 22 cities.
The mechanical minute dial, said the cataloguer, solves the problem that most portable sundials were unable to achieve—an accuracy of better than a quarter of an hour.
Sold for $2.27 million as part of the Sotheby’s sale of items from the Rothschild collections was an early 18th-century brass inclining mechanical minute dial that was almost certainly commissioned for or by Louis XV of France.
“By using a sighting device rather than a gnomon, a geared mechanism can amplify the movements of the alidade [sighting device] so that a pointer can give the minute of the day. A sundial with a high level of accuracy such as this would have often been used to set a clock or watch to local solar time. A clock can keep the time, of course, but not find it; so the use of an accurate sundial is required.”
Julien Le Roy (1686-1759), who had made his first lock when aged just 13, had been appointed Horloger Ordinaire du Roi in 1739.
A Venetian giltwood, gilt bronze, and rock crystal casket that was made around 1600 and estimated at $125,000 or so proved another popular lot and sold instead for $919,810. A little over 15" wide, it is inset overall with rock crystal cabochons and panels, and the hinged lid opens to reveal a later and probably English silk-covered mahogany loose base. The sides are embellished with pairs of spiral rock crystal columns with Corinthian capitals, and the whole construction sits on six giltwood feet.
A Venetian casket made around 1600, sold for $919,810 at Sotheby’s.
Two such caskets, originally owned by Pope Paul V Borghese, later passed into the ownership of William Beckford but in 1823 were included in a Phillips dispersal of contents of Beckford’s home at Fonthill Abbey.
Caskets of this type may have been used as reliquaries or jewel boxes, but some are also said to have been used to house costly baby linen, blessed by the pope before being gifted to leading or influential European Catholic families on the birth of a male heir.
The two caskets were acquired at the Fonthill sale on behalf of the 2nd Earl Grosvenor and remained in his collections until at least 1878. It is unclear when they were acquired by the Rothschild family, but in due course they were separated, the example sold in London this summer having passed down through the family of Baron Gustave de Rothschild.
The other casket eventually ended up in the collection of Baron Guy de Rothschild, but, sold in 1975 at Sotheby’s Monaco, it is now part of the Hanns Schell Collection in Graz, Austria.
Depicting the Israelites gathering manna from heaven, a parcel-gilt and coloured enamel charger, a little over 18" long and signed and dated 1567 by Leonard Limosin (c. 1505-c.1577), was sold at $298,745.
Israelites gathering manna from heaven decorate a charger signed and dated 1567 by Leonard Limosin that sold at $298,745.
Limosin was the most famous and innovative enameller working in France in the 16th century. Associated with the court of Francois I from at least 1536, he was subsequently patronised by both Francois I and Henri II and by 1545 had become Emailleur pour le roi.
The front of the platter depicts a scene from the book of Exodus in which the Israelites gather the miraculous food that falls from the sky each night and saves them from starvation in the desert. Moses is depicted on the left with Aaron, his arms outstretched, while figures around him kneel in thanks and gather manna into elaborately decorated vessels. The back of the dish features strapwork decoration and a bust of Juno.
A 15" tall German parcel-gilt and silver-mounted nautilus shell cup that sold for $497,170 bears the maker’s mark of Albrecht von Horn of Augsburg and dates in the main part to 1647-51.
A mid-17th-century parcel-gilt and silver-mounted nautilus shell cup by Albrecht von Horn of Augsburg, sold at $497,170.
The stem is formed as a kneeling merman, supporting the shell on one shoulder, and the shell is enclosed by four straps. Those at the sides are formed as winged caryatids, the front strap is a winged satyr holding a basket of fruit, and the back strap is a large grotesque mask framed by wave-like scrolls—probably an 18th-century addition to cover damage to the shell, said Christie’s.
The finial is in the form of a putto riding a scaly dolphin and holding in his right hand an arrow that is probably later.
Von Horn excelled in modelling figures, as the merman stem in this piece demonstrates, and this skill also extended to religious subjects. An example of the latter is the Christ at the Column figure now in the Flagg Collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Horn based his figures on well-established models, notably those of David Heschler and his master, the German sculptor Georg Petel. The merman figure of this piece, said the auctioneers, is reminiscent of Heschler’s Hercules Supporting the Heavenly Sphere cup, now in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Sold at $542,455 was a pair of 26½" high, Louis XV period ormolu-mounted Meissen three-light candelabra of circa 1740 that combine the craftsmanship of Johann Joachim Kändler (1706-1775), creator of many of Meissen’s finest models, and Jacques Caffiéri, who is credited with the mounts into which they were set at a slightly later date, circa 1745-49.
In the cataloguer’s view, they represent a “tour de force” by Caffiéri (1678-1755) and are closely related to the extraordinarily extensive and precious group of bronzes d’ameublement, supplied to Madame Infante, Louise-Elizabeth of France and Duchesse de Parma, for the ducal palace, the Palazzo di Colorno.
Kändler’s porcelain birds are jays, as their plumage of brown, blue, and grey shows—a species that Kändler first modelled for Augustus the Strong’s Japanese Palace in Dresden in 1735.
They were acquired by Baron Gustave de Rothschild (along with a second pair) from the collections of the Borghese family, where they were believed to have been gifts from Louis XV of France.
A mid-17th-century parcel-gilt and silver-mounted nautilus shell cup by Albrecht von Horn of Augsburg, sold at $497,170.
Miniature Likenesses of the Unknown and Famous
Four portrait miniatures illustrated and briefly described here are drawn from a July 4 sale at Sotheby’s that dispersed a second portion of the Pohl-Ströher* collection of portrait miniatures—the first selection from which was sold in December of last year and reported in the March “Letter from London.”
The very first lot to be offered was a work by one of the more famous names in this field, Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619). A watercolour and bodycolour portrait of an unknown gentleman, thought to date from around 1590, it was painted on vellum that has been mounted on a playing card before being set into its carved ivory case. Having made two previous appearances at Sotheby’s, in 1965 and 1982, it was valued at around $11,000 but sold instead for $50,315.
Nicholas Hilliard’s portrait of an unknown gentleman, sold for $50,315.
Another notable success among the earlier works was again a watercolour on vellum portrait of an unknown gentleman, and once more by one of the big names in this field—Samuel Cooper (1609-1672).
In a gilt metal frame and signed with the artist’s “SC” monogram, this too had made two earlier appearances at Sotheby’s, in 1932 and 1986, before being acquired by the collector. At $62,890, it more than doubled the high estimate.
Samuel Cooper’s unknown sitter, sold for $62,890.
The auction’s bestseller, at five times the high estimate, was a portrait in enamels of Peter the Great of Russia, set into the lid of a gold-mounted tortoiseshell box. Signed by the Swedish miniaturist Charles Boit (1662-1727), it had been acquired 35 years ago in a Sotheby’s Geneva sale. It sold in London at $75,470.
Charles Boit’s portrait of Peter the Great was the sale leader at $75,470.
My fourth and final choice is a portrait in enamels of Benjamin Franklin by Jean-Baptiste Weyler (1749-1791). It is one which must date from the latter years of the miniaturist’s life and certainly before Franklin’s return from France to America in 1790. Last sold at auction as part of a 1990 Christie’s Geneva sale of works from the Château de Vaux-sur-Seine in France, this portrait in its giltwood and gesso frame was another work to bring five times the high estimate—this time at $31,450.
*This remarkable, wide-ranging collection was formed by Erika Pohl-Ströher, whose grandparents founded Wella, the international hair care and cosmetics business.
The portrait of Benjamin Franklin by Jean-Baptiste Weyler went to $31,450.
Boxes, Little Boxes, but Not All the Same, Nor Made of Ticky-Tacky...
Featured in a July 3 Christie’s sale of gold boxes were the three snuffboxes illustrated and featured here, each of which is around 3" diameter.
Pictured below left is a French enamelled and 18k gold snuffbox by Gabriel-Raoul Morel (fl. 1797-1832), its cover, sides, and base inset with enamel plaques painted in the manner of the popular Flemish painter David Teniers the Younger.
Gabriel-Raoul Morel’s early 19th-century snuffbox is decorated with panels in the style of David Teniers the Younger. It sold for $141,505.
They depict villagers dancing outside a tavern and gentlemen seated around a barrel whilst smoking clay pipes and others drinking and eating, dancing, playing dice, etc. In yet another scene a mother sits at a table with her child as a small dog begs before her, while elsewhere an alchemist and his assistant use bellows to refresh the embers in a fireplace.
Morel is considered to be one of the more important French gold boxmakers of the first half of the 19th century, said the auctioneers, who also note that Charles Truman’s account of the peerless treasures of this kind in The Gilbert Collection of Gold Boxes (1991) lists six of his boxes.
This box was seen at Sotheby’s in London 46 years ago, but as recently as May 2017 in an Antiquorum, Geneva, sale, and at a time when there was exact parity between the Swiss Franc and the U.S. dollar, it resurfaced to sell for $112,500.
In London this summer the price was $141,505.
Bid to $117,920 in the recent London sale was the Italian gold-mounted, circular hardstone snuffbox of circa 1810 illustrated below center.
The panels on the cover and base feature Classical vases and amphorae in various coloured hardstones, among them green Corsican jasper and other semiprecious stones, on a painted rock crystal sky, all set within lapis lazuli frames. The sides are set with panels of mocha agate mounted within bright-cut gold cagework.
Such decoration featuring Etruscan vases in the antique manner, said the auctioneers, was popularised in the first two decades of the 19th century by Carlo Carlieri (d. 1816), and it is probable that this box dates from his tenure as head designer at the Grand Ducal workshop in Florence that had been established in 1588 by Ferdinando I de’Medici.
There craftsmen used veneers of semiprecious stones selected for their colour, opacity, brilliance, and grain to create elaborate decorative and pictorial effects.
Marked for the early 1780s and bid to $106,915 was the oval enamelled gold snuffbox by Joseph-Etienne Blerzy illustrated below right.
Late 18th-century snuffbox by Joseph-Etienne Blerzy, sold for $106,915.
The cover, sides, and base are set with panels of translucent dark blue enamel with white enamel bead and circle highlights on an engine-turned ground, all within white enamel fillets and raised gold borders and pilasters set with seed pearls and trailing translucent green enamel foliage. The cover is also set with an oval enamel plaque said to depict an astronomer and certainly features what appears to be a celestial globe.
Blerzy, apprenticed in 1750 to Francois-Joachim Aubert and made a master in 1768, was a prolific goldsmith whose work can be found in the Wallace and Gilbert collections as well as in the Louvre in Paris.
A snuffbox decorated with Etruscan vases in the antique manner, a fashion popularized by Carlo Carlieri, sold for $117,920.
Originally published in the September 2019 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2019 Maine Antique Digest