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  • 2 Oct 1989—13 Oct 2017

A pair of Italian gilt-bronze-mounted marble busts of blackamoors, Venetian on boulle marquetry pedestals

A pair of Italian gilt-bronze-mounted marble busts of blackamoors, Venetian, 18th century, on gilt-bronze-mounted brass and tortoiseshell inlaid première-and contre-partie boulle marquetry ebony veneered pedestals stamped N. P. Severin, Régence, circa 1715 18th century, The marble busts with nero del Belgo heads, giallo antico veneered cloaks, the lapels in alabastro striato, over rosso antico tunics with pierced gilt-bronze frogging and buttons, with green sashes their feathered turbans with gilt-lead tassels; on pale brown marble socles; one pedestal in première-partie the other in contre-partie boulle marquetry, each with a rectangular brass inlaid ebony veneered top above a guilloche border enclosing flowerheads above a concave frieze with an acanthus spray at each corner above a bearded Bacchic mask and a gilt-bronze stippled band centred by a demi-lune, the front and sides with a boulle marquetry panel with rinceaux and foliage and scrolls within a foliate gilt-bronze border within brass borders, the flared base with a gilt-bronze alternating band of foliage, on a plinth base with a central ogee shaped reserve; one stamped twice N. P. Severin, the other once ; later iron brackets on the reverse, some minor losses to inlay    Busts: one 96cm high, 66cm wide, the other 93cm high, 66cm wide; each pedestal: 131cm high, 52cm wide, one 34.5cm deep, the other 33.5cm deep; 3ft.1½in., 2ft.1½in., 3ft.½in., 2ft.1½in., 4ft..3in., 1ft.8in., 1ft.1in., 1ft.¾in.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2010-07-06
Hammer price
Show price

The Roi de Rome Pistols

These superb pistols were made by Jean Le Page, celebrated gunsmith to King Louis XVI, Emperor Napoleon I, and King Louis XVIII. They are adorned with Napoleonic imperial symbolism, including the Emperor’s personal cipher, the capitalised N; the imperial eagle; the thunderbolt; and the bee. Significantly, they are inlaid in gold with the Italian Iron Crown of the Order of the Iron Crown, of which the Roi de Rome was proclaimed a Grand Cross Knight at his birth. Dated January 1814, their genesis coincides with Napoleon’s final meeting with his beloved son (then aged three), which took place on the 24th day of that month. The superlative quality of the pistols, encrusted and inlaid with gold, together with their symbolism and dating, marks them out as an important imperial gift. They were probably commissioned to celebrate L’Aiglon’s third birthday on 20 March 1814, but, due to the invasion of France in the closing days of 1813, are more likely to have become a poignant leaving present from a father to his son. The pistols are of a bespoke third size for a young boy’s hands, and are sold with their original thuya wood presentation case. Centered on the lid of this box is a mother of pearl inlaid roundel engraved with a scene after Jean-Baptiste Regnault of the young Achilles being taught archery by the centaur Chiron, underlining the purpose of the pistols as the young king’s first set of guns. Purchased by the Pickwickean English traveller, collector and respected exhibition organizer William Bullock after Napoleon’s fall, they were subsequently published in London in 1816 with the description manufactured for the King of Rome as part of a group of arms formerly owned by Napoleon in obedience to whose directions they were manufactured (Bullock, 1816, op. cit., p. 28). The pistols were then in the possession of the Anglo-American socialite Cora, Countess of Strafford, before entering the William Keith Neal Collection, the greatest private gun collection ever formed, in the 20th Century; their illustrious Napoleonic provenance was recorded throughout this later history. Napoleon and his son, the Roi de RomeNapoleon greeted the birth of his son with delight. Having emerged victorious from the gruelling War of the Fifth Coalition, in which he had eventually defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram in July 1809, the Emperor determined to secure the future of his dynasty by divorcing the Empress Joséphine, who had failed to provide him with an heir. In 1810 he married the Archduchess Marie Louise, daughter of the Habsburg Emperor Francis II of Austria. After a long and difficult labour, the Empress gave birth to a son, Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, L’Aiglon (The Eaglet, after his father who was known as L’Aigle, The Eagle), on 20 March 1811. Napoleon’s Private Secretary, Baron Claude-François de Méneval, whose memoirs shed a fascinating light on the life of the Emperor, described the scene of the presentation of the newly born: In the effusion of his joy Napoleon bent over the child, seized it in his arms, with a spontaneous movement, carried it to the door of the drawing room in which all the grandees of his Empire were assembled and presenting it to them said, ‘Here is the King of Rome’ Méneval, op. cit., p. 347 One hundred and one cannon shots announced the birth of Napoleon’s son, and the bells of Notre Dame rang out, drawing a huge crowd of Parisians to the gates of the Tuileries. The arrival of the new king garnered a warm reception from wider French society, and the population of Paris commissioned a magnificent silver cradle to celebrate the Christening. Crafted by Pierre Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), the cradle featured a winged figure of Victory supporting a canopy formed from a wreath of silver laurel leaves surmounted by celestial bodies, the central star dominated by a capitalised N. The cradle, which is now in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna (inv. no. XIV 28, Cat. 119), is guarded by an eagle, standing sentinel over the space where the little king would have slept. It is adorned by silver-gilt bees and fictive garlands, and is supported by legs of cornucopiae, filled with the fruits of Napoleonic largesse. In his relationship with his son, Napoleon showed a side of his character hitherto unknown to his subjects, who were familiar only with the image of the great military tactician and rational lawmaker. In the years after his son’s birth, the Emperor would receive L’Aiglon daily into his study at the palace of Compiègne, his principal residence at the time, meetings that are discussed in intimate detail by Méneval, who marveled that: This workroom, which was the scene of the birth of so many skilful maneuvers intended to repel the attacks of our eternal enemies , and so vast and generous schemes of government, was very often also the silent witness of Napoleon’s paternal tenderness. How often have I watched the Emperor there, keeping his son at his side as though he were impatient to initiate him in the art of government. Either seated on his favourite settee near the mantelpiece … occupied in reading some important report; or going to his writing table … to sign a dispatch, each word of which had to be weighed; his son, seated on his knees or pressed against his bosom, never left him. Endowed with a marvelous power of concentration, Napoleon was able at one and the same time to attend to serious matters, and to lend himself to a child’s fancies Méneval, op. cit., p. 358 Following the disastrous Russian Campaign of 1812 and the gradual depletion of French forces in the aftermath of the large set-piece battles of Dresden and Leipzig, Napoleon’s empire was on the brink of collapse by the closing months of 1813, facing an allied army nearly three times the size of its own. Napoleon returned to Paris on 10 November. He would not remain for long. Within three months the Emperor would be forced to mobilise his troops to defend his nation’s natural borders, a far cry from his crushing victories at Marengo (1800) and Austerlitz (1805). On 23 January 1814, the Emperor summoned the officers of the National Guard to the Tuileries and declared, I am going to fight the enemy. I entrust to you what I have dearest – the Empress, my wife, and the King of Rome, my son (Méneval, op. cit., p. 456); Marie Louise was made Regent in his absence. Drawing on Méneval’s accounts of the relationship between the Emperor and his son, the novelist Octave Aubry evoked the scene of Napoleon’s last day in Paris in his 1933 novel, Napoleon II. The King of Rome. L’Aiglon: Napoleon kept the King of Rome in his study the whole afternoon. Alone with him he sorted and arranged his private papers, burning bundles of them. The swift, leaping flames delighted the child. Seated in a corner of the fireplace, his hands hanging at his sides, his bald forehead bowed, the Emperor was lost in thought. The little boy trotted about the room, pulling his wooden horse by the bridle and singing to himself. Then, on the huge map of Lorraine and the Champagne that was spread on the table before him, the Emperor began figuring out the maneuvers by which he could retake Saint-Dizier, cut Blucher off from Schwarzenberg, roll up the Russians and the Prussians and hurl them back beyond the Rhine. Time dragged for the child. Wearying of his solitary game at last, he pulled at his father’s coat-tails. Napoleon turned and looked at him. Forgetting everything, both strategy and danger, he seized the boy, tossed him high above his head, then let him drop suddenly, only to toss him up again…. His ‘little King’ he was never to see again. Aubry, op. cit., pp. 50-51 The date on the Roi de Rome Pistols, Janv 1814 (January 1814) takes on a new significance in the light of these historical events. For months Napoleon had known that France itself would soon be under threat from enemy forces, and he is likely to have understood that his time with his beloved son was potentially slipping away from him. The Roi de Rome Pistols, a magnificent pair of presentation guns of a small bespoke size, clearly made for a young boy’s hands, would have been a fitting and lavish gift for L’Aiglon’s third birthday on 20 March 1814. Following the invasion of France in January of that year, the pistols would have been perceived as being an even more appropriate present from a father who was due to part with his son to fight for the very survival of their fledgling dynasty. In terms of precedent, the gift of guns to the heir to the French throne had a long and distinguished lineage within French culture. Louis XIII (1601-1643), father of the Sun King, had received his first arquebus and bandolier (with cartridges) at the age of three, and, by 1610, when he was aged ten, is recorded as owning no fewer than seven guns (Tarassuk, op. cit., p. 65). Napoleon certainly gifted guns to his son: whilst in exile he sent a group of pistols to the Roi de Rome, which were withheld by the Austrians, never reaching the his cherished L'Aiglon (‘Napoleon’, The Observer, 26 January 1969, pp. 22). That Napoleon commissioned the pistols is underlined by William Bullock’s 1816 description of the small group of arms in his famously well provenanced London exhibition, only two years after the date of their creation: Each article of the fire arms that have been thus imperfectly described, will interest the soldier, the sportsman, and the artisan. And whatever may be the various opinions of the man [Napoleon], in obedience to whose directions they were manufactured, yet looking at them as specimens of taste and ingenuity, they must obtain not only praise but high admiration Bullock, 1816, op. cit., p. 28 January 24th 1814 was the last day that Napoleon could have presented the Roi de Rome Pistols to his son. What may have been intended as a birthday present became a poignant leaving gift. Enclosed within a case adorned with the motif of the young Achilles being taught archery by the centaur Chiron, after a painting of the Education of Achilles by Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829) (1782, musée du Louvre, inv. no. 7382), they were evidently conceived as the boy king’s first pair of pistols. However, these virtuoso guns would have taken on a new significance on the eve of invasion for Napoleon, who is said to have feared nothing more than for his wife and son to be captured by his enemies. Whilst the child could never have used the guns to defend himself personally, Napoleon would have left Paris in the knowledge that he had symbolically armed his son for the battle that was to come. Paris fell to allied forces on 31st March 1814. In the days previous, the city, in the midst of a biting winter, had descended into an uneasy calm. As lines of wounded soldiers processed down the snowy grand boulevards, the fashionable Café Tortoni remained open, serving punch and other delicacies to a depleted group of cultivated Parisians. The Empress Marie Louise and her entourage quietly took the decision to vacate the city, taking the contents of the Imperial Treasury with them. The Treasury included 10,000 francs worth of gold and silver coins, 3,000,000 francs worth of silver plate, and an array of other valuables from snuff-boxes to gold rings, and very possibly the Roi de Rome Pistols. On hearing of the Empress’ departure, the upper classes panicked, packing up their possessions as rapidly as they could, and blocking all roads leading out of the city and away from the advancing allied soldiers. ‘Everybody has lost their heads’, said one observer, whilst Napoleon’s brother Louis is described as being ‘in such a state of panic… and so demented that it is embarrassing’ (quoted by Dwyer, op. cit., pp. 481, 483). The Emperor Napoleon I abdicated on 4th April, accepting a life in exile on the small island of Elba, off the western Mediterranean coast of Italy. The contents of his Imperial Treasury had been loaded onto a fleet of wagons, situated in the main square of the city of Orléans, awaiting orders to be sent to Elba. Reaching Orléans, the forces of the new Bourbon monarch, Louis XVIII, intercepted the caravan and confiscated the lot, transferring the Treasury to Paris, where they divided the spoils amongst royalist supporters, marking the first dispersal of Napoleon’s possessions and those of his family. An Englishman in Paris: William Bullock (circa 1773-1849) and the Roi de Rome Pistols The Paris that greeted William Bullock’s close friend and confident William Jerdan in April 1814 was a city keen to sell its riches to an influx of British visitors, a market from which the French had been deprived ever since Napoleon had instigated his trade embargo against the United Kingdom in 1806. Jerdan wrote of being presented by immense quantities of antique furniture, knick-knacks, curiosities and productions of old masters for virtuoso admirations and purchase in England (quoted in Costello, op. cit., p. 57). Within months, William Bullock, the first British owner of the Roi de Rome Pistols, would arrive in Paris in search of his own curiosities for his celebrated ‘Museum’ at the Egyptian Rooms in London’s Piccadilly. Bullock’s ownership of the Roi de Rome Pistols is significant because he organized the most famous and highly regarded exhibitions of Napoleonic memorabilia in London in the years immediately following Waterloo. The son of owners of travelling waxworks, Bullock has been described as a Pickwickean entrepreneur, showman, naturalist [and] antiquarian (Leask, op. cit., p. 300). He initially settled in Liverpool, where he opened the ‘Liverpool Museum’ of scientific and artistic curiosities in 1795. The success of this venture led him to relocate to London, where he had reopened his museum at 22 Piccadilly by 1809. He eventually constructed the extraordinary Egyptian Hall at 170-173 Piccadilly, a purpose built exhibition space designed in the fashionable Regency Egyptianising style. The extent of Bullock’s fame within his lifetime is elucidated by Professor Michael Costeloe, whose exhaustive 2008 account of him notes that: Many thousands of Londoners and visitors from the provinces were to come to know ‘Bullock’s Museum’ in Piccadilly. It became not just the most fashionable place to visit and be seen but also the most popular venue in the metropolis for the range, variety, and originality of the displays. Everybody from the Prince Regent (future George IV), the Queen and several royal Princesses, and visiting European royalty, to Jane Austen, Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Mary Wollenstonecraft, Percy Shelley, Alexander von Humboldt and untold numbers of families who took their children as part of their education passed through the doors of the Egyptian Hall. Costeloe, op. cit., p. 5 Initially, crowds visited the Egyptian Hall to see the natural history displays, which included stuffed animals, some of which were arranged in combat scenarios, such as the remarkable scene of a boa constrictor suffocating a tiger (extant, at the Rossendale Museum). The turning point in Bullock’s career came with the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in June 1815. The Emperor’s magnificent enamelled leather and dark blue painted and giltwood travelling carriage, drawn by six horses, had been captured by the Prussian Major Eugen von Keller on the evening after the battle. Keller claimed that Napoleon himself had jumped from the carriage during the attack, only to flee on horseback into the night. The superbly appointed carriage was filled with an array of luxury objects, from full dining and toilet services, embossed with the Emperor’s arms, to a stash of diamonds and currency. It was driven by Keller to London, where it was purchased by the British Government, which in turn sold it to Bullock. The display of the carriage at the Egyptian Hall in 1816 instantly turned Bullock into a celebrity, and a fascinated public flocked to see it, both in London and on subsequent national tours. In letters to Jerdan, Bullock described his years of owning the carriage: I over-ran England, Ireland and Scotland, levying a willing contribution on upwards of 800,000 of his Majesty’s subjects; for old and young, rich and poor, clergy and laity, all ages, sexes and conditions, flocked to pay their poll tax, and gratify their curiosity by an examination of the spoils of the dead lion. William Bullock, letter to William Jerdan, cited by Costello, op. cit., p. 81 Bullock, the entrepreneur, resolved to travel to Paris to collect further artefacts formerly possessed by the fallen Emperor. He had first travelled to Paris in May 1814, purchasing the most magnificent collection of ancient armour that ever came to this country. It was the King of Bavaria’s (letters dated 24 June and 5 July 1814 in Liverpool Record Office, Ref. 920, DER (13), 1/24/1,2). According to Costeloe, Bullock acquired artworks from the Louvre, writing that he had seen many curiosities and interesting articles presented by the Directors of the Royal Museum of Paris (as quoted in Costeloe, op. cit., p. 60). He was also presented with large quantities of Napoleonic memorabilia by those who had been in service for the deposed Emperor (Costeloe, op. cit., p. 60). It is therefore fully possible that Bullock acquired the Roi de Rome Pistols when in Paris in 1814. However, he only decided to open the ‘Museum Napoleon’ in 1816, clearly to capitalise on the success of the exhibition of the carriage. It is consequently probable that the pistols were bought on his trip to the French capital in January 1816, especially since they are published for the first time by Bullock in that year (op. cit.). On this visit he is recorded as having acquired numerous items, including the Emperor’s Surtout Coat and Travelling Cap, bought from the Keeper of the Imperial Wardrobe, Guste Maitrot, as well as artefacts from Napoleon’s residences, the châteaux of Malmaison and St. Cloud (Costeloe, op. cit., p. 69); it seems probable that the Roi de Rome Pistols came from one of these two palaces. The 1816 catalogue for the ‘Museum Napoleon’ (which features the Roi de Rome Pistols) states that the exhibits were acquired from persons who had immediate connection with the late Ruler of France; their authenticity is therefore placed beyond dispute (op. cit). This is made clear from the descriptions of many of the items, the large case of arms which precedes the Roi de Rome Pistols is recorded as having been presented by Napoleon to Guillaume Brune (1763-1815), one of his most loyal Marshals, and acquired from his widow, who was doubtless in need of funds following the death of her husband (op. cit.). Costeloe emphasises that Bullock was a scrupulous and intelligent buyer (Costeloe, op. cit., p. 57) . His repeated emphasis on the provenance of the objects in his catalogues betrays a clear concern for authenticity, so as not to undermine his profitable venture. Indeed, when, on his 1816 trip to Paris, he took the decision to employ Jean Hornn, the coachman who had driven Napoleon’s carriage, he went to great lengths to verifiy the authenticity of Hornn’s account (Costeloe, op. cit., pp. 69-71). The consequences of potentially being denounced as a fraud would have been disastrous for Bullock, and so he appears not to have taken risks in his acquisitions. Bullock’s decision to sell the carriage and the contents of the ‘Museum Napoleon’ in 1819 can be explained by his thirst for knowledge and his continual ability to innovate so as to appeal to the changing tastes of the public. His exhibitions on Mexico in the 1820’s have been described as playing a highly influential role in presenting and interpreting Mexican natural history and culture to a British audience (Baigent, op. cit.), with Costeloe concluding that Bullock introduced Mexico to the British public (Costeloe, op. cit., p. 5). One interesting, and potentially significant, final point to consider when discussing the Bullock provenance is that his brother, George (circa 1782-1818), was a leading Regency cabinet maker, based in Liverpool. The two collaborated on numerous occasions, including in producing replicas of the statue of Napoleon from the Vendome Column, which was one of the exhibits in the ‘Museum Napoleon’. Significantly, George Bullock produced the furniture for Napoleon’s residence on St. Helena, Longwood House, a commission which he may have gained through his brother’s fame in relation to the deposed Emperor. Cora, Countess of Strafford At Bullock’s sale in 1819 the Roi de Rome Pistols were acquired by an unknown purchaser named ‘Levery’. They were subsequently exhibited by the gunmakers Purdey at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. It was probably around this time that they entered the collection of Cora, Countess of Strafford, as they later appear in a sale at Christie’s on 20 April 1937 under the heading Sold by Order of the Executors of Cora, Countess of Strafford… Said to have been the property of the Emperor Napoleon I. Cora Smith (1879-1932), widow of the soap magnate Samuel J Colgate (1822-1897), married Henry Byng, 4th Earl of Strafford (1831-1899) at Grace Church in New York in December 1898. Tragically, less than a year later, the Earl died in an accident at Potters Bar railway station, when he fell in front of a passing express train and was decapitated. Lady Strafford nonetheless made a considerable and positive impression when she arrived in England, where she remained for the rest of her life. Famed for her convivial dinner parties in which she brought together visiting Americans with leading members of London society, Lady Strafford’s obituary in The Times concluded: With Cora, Lady Strafford has passed an American of great wealth and kindly-shrewd intelligence who succeeded in importing all that is best in American into English social life. She remained a jealously devoted daughter of the United States, swift to resent the slightest slur upon them. Her love of the English country and of the English people had, however, led her in her quiet way to render, perhaps, greater services than ever she realised to the cause of Anglo-American understanding. The Times, 14 October 1932 Having inherited a vast fortune from her first husband, Lady Strafford had the financial means to have acquired the Roi de Rome Pistols in her own right. She married for a third time in 1903, Martyn Thomas Kennard (1859-1920), and commissioned the great society portraitist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) to paint a marvelous portrait of herself which perfectly evokes the gilded Edwardian age (Wrotham Park, Herfordshire). Lady Strafford is the inspiration for the character of Cora, Countess of Grantham in Julian Fellowes’ award winning television miniseries, Downton Abbey. Fellowes also used her husband’s family seat, Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire, for his 2001 Academy Award and BAFTA nominated murder mystery film, Gosford Park. Coincidentally, the scene in Gosford Park, in which Sir William McCordle is stabbed to death whilst deassembling a gun is inspired by Andrew Festing’s portrait of William Keith Neal, from whose collection the Roi de Rome Pistols are being offered. William Keith Neal: A Matchless Provenance The William Keith Neal collection was the greatest private grouping of firearms ever assembled in Europe. Keith Neal had acquired the pistols by May 1946 (family records) from the collection of Hugh Burton-Jones, who had died in 1945. Burton-Jones appears to have been a passionate Francophile, collecting in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Vincennes porcelain from his collection can be found in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu (Watering Can, inv. no. 84.DE.89) and in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Gobelet, inv. no. 1980-12-01), whilst Keith Neal also acquired a pair of Boutet pistols at the same time as the Roi de Rome Pistols. Keith Neal was the leading expert in antique firearms in Britain during his lifetime. By 1938, his reputation was already sufficiently burnished that he was asked to arrange a groundbreaking display of antique sporting weapons for the London British Sporting Exhibition at the Imperial Institute, South Kensington. The stand, which illustrated the history of firearms over three hundred years, was visited by members of the royal family and was the subject of early television transmissions, recorded from Crystal Palace. During the second world war,  the collection was stored while Keith Neal was away, in his Georgian cottage in the garrison town of Warminster.  The house, on a busy road leading up to the School of Infantry, he lent for a period to a serving officer, Lord Andrew Cavendish, the future 11th Duke of Devonshire, and his bride Deborah (‘Debo’). Later asked about the house the Duchess commented Oh we loved it, except for the dust from the tanks. ...There was a locked door down a passage we weren’t allowed to go through; we knew that’s where the guns were (personal conversation with the Keith Neal family). At its height in the 1960s, when the collection was displayed at Bishopstrow House, the Keith Neals’ home outside Warminster, it numbered some 2,000 pieces. When Keith Neal finally retired with his wife to Guernsey, he created a small private museum on the island. Following his passing in 1990, the collection was eventually sold in a series of high profile sales at Christie’s and Bonhams in London. Pieces from the William Keith Neal Collection are now displayed in major international museums and collections. Examples are the superb silver and gold-damascened German 16th-century carbine made for a German princely family, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv.no 1991.150). Also in that museum is a magnificent pair of flintlock pistols of 1800 made by Samuel Brunn (inv no. 1992.3320.1.2). Encrusted with silver mounts, they were almost certainly made for the Prince Regent, later George IV. The earliest dated Scottish long gun (1599), the historic Breadalbane Gun, is now in the National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh (inv. No. H.LH 439). A sublime Rococo English sporting gun by William Simpson of York, formerly at Burton Constable Hall, was acquired for the Royal Armories Museum, Leeds, in 1989, for a world record price at the time (£235,000).  This result has since been beaten by another former Keith Neal piece, the unique Tiger Gun which belonged to Tipu Sultan (1750-99), Ruler of Mysore, which recently sold at Bonhams, London, on 21 April 2015 for £722,500 (aggregate). It is not surprising, therefore, that the exquisite Roi de Rome Pistols would find their way into Keith Neal’s collection. In addition to being connected to one of the most famous figures in European history, they exemplify French Imperial gunmaking at its zenith. However, their petite form and jewel-like quality also give them a more feminine appeal. They were a natural present for Keith Neal’s wife, Jane, to whom he gifted them shortly after their acquisition. Friends and collectors recall that on visits, Jane would ask for the pistols to be brought out of the safe, whereby they caused general delight, and, appropriately mesmerised any children in attendance, as they must have done the young Roi de Rome when, in January 1814, he was handed them by his father, the Emperor Napoleon. Detailed Description and Analysis of the Roi de Rome Pistols The Roi de Rome Pistols exemplify the reputation of the Le Page family as the most outsanding maker of deluxe firearms for the French nobility during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Fliegel, op. cit., p. 172). The physical description below closely follows documentation from the Keith Neal family records written by the Peter Hawkins. The pistols sport swamped blued twist polygroove rifled barrels, each of which are signed in gold Gothic lettering Le Page à Paris / Arq.er de L’Empereur. They are each inlaid with gold decoration around the muzzle, and are adorned with an encrusted gold spear and laurel wreath on the top flat, surmounting a gold-encrusted imperial eagle flanked by conventional foliage and a transverse band at the breech. They are each flat gilt around and opposite the vent, and there is a gold fore-sight, and gilt back-sight on each gun, the latter set into the blued and gilt tangs. The pistols are numbered 1 and 2 respectively, and they each have flat case-hardened locks with incuse border. They are each signed in gold and inlaid with a gold bee and two laurel branches. There are engraved gold-inlaid cocks and steels, gold-lined semi-rainproof pans, and brightly blued steel-springs. The upper jaw of each cock is inlaid in gold with the Iron Crown of the Order of the Iron Crown. The interior of each lock retains its bright blued finish on the springs and screws, and is inscribed with the serial number 1703 and the date janv.1814. The moulded figured walnut half-stocks are finely carved in relief in the Neoclassical style, with the head of a lion at the front of each fore-end, and with an engraved gold-inlaid owl framed by a laurel wreath to the rear of its mane. The butts are inlaid on each side with a pierced and engraved gold panel in the form of a Neoclassical trophy-of-arms, and are inlaid along each spine with a further engraved gold panel. The pistols each have fire-blued gold-inlaid trigger guards, gold-inlaid case-hardened side-plates, and case-hardened trigger plates. The finials are each engraved with the head of Minerva, her helmet with gilt plumes, all above a gold-inlaid Napoleonic N within a gold-inlaid shield-shaped cartouche. Each pistol has an oval carved ebony pommel, with case-hardened gold-inlaid cap engraved with a Medusa head within a foliate frame. The pistols have fire-blued triggers and barrel-bolts, the latter each set within engraved gold escutcheons. A rare survival is the superb original silver-mounted fitted presentation case of thuya wood, which is lined in crimson velvet and contains the full complement of accessories, most of them ivory-mounted, together with a silver mounted tapering cylindrical powder-flask of translucent tortoiseshell. The exterior of the lid of the case is inlaid with ebony and mother-of-pearl, including an oval cartouche engraved with Chiron teaching the young Achilles to shoot. Jean Le Page was the celebrated gunsmith to Louis XVI, the Emperor Napoleon I and Louis XVIII. Trained by his father Pierre Le Page (1709-1783), he was heir to the premier firearms manufactury in France, established in 1717. Le Page was an expert in creating deluxe firearms, a term introduced during the Napoleonic period to describe the ultimate standard in luxury guns, incorporating elaborate wood stocks carved in the Neoclassical style, blued or browned steel, silver inlay and – for the most expensive firearms – gold inlay and encrustation. This approach was pioneered by Nicolas Noël Boutet (d. 1833), who established an extensive manufactury at Versailles specifically with the purpose of creating deluxe arms for the Emperor Napoleon and his court. As Irena Grabowska has outlined, In the field of fine-quality firearms Boutet found his equal in Le Page … [who] was entrusted with the execution of shoulder arms for the Emperor Napoleon I. They were mainly designed for presentation (Blair, op. cit., p. 499). Within Le Page’s oeuvre, the Roi de Rome Pistols compare closely with rifles and pistols from the Napoleonic period, whilst standing out amongst other firearms for their lavish presentation, with ivory accoutrements, and their extensive and specific imperial symbolism. The signature inscriptions on the barrels are very close, being written in the same Gothic script, to those appearing on a double-barrelled flintlock sporting gun formerly owned by Napoleon in the Cleveland Museum of Art (inv. no. 1966.433). The gilding, in particular the gilt-inlay imperial N’s, finds a clear parallel in the sporting gun, made for Napoleon, in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle (inv. no. RCIN 61154). Comparison should also be made with a pair of flintlock pistols from the collection of Colonel Basil Charles Boothby, acquired after the battle of Waterloo, which were sold at Christie’s on 29 October 1986; these similarly exhibit the imperial N. A pair of full size pistols within their original case, likewise centred by a relief of Chiron teaching Achilles to shoot after Regnault, was sold at Drouot, Paris, on 19 October 1983. These pistols, however, were dated 1824 and it is likely that they were inspired by their progenitor, the Roi de Rome Pistols, which would undoubtedly have been a new design for such an important patron. The Roi de Rome Pistols represent a different class of object to the aforementioned, of a bespoke third size for a young boys hands, with exotic ivory, tortoiseshell and thuya wood for their accessories, and, most importantly, their extensive, carefully delineated, symbolism, which confirms their manufacture for the Roi de Rome. According to the musée de l’Armée, records survive of a pair of pistolets produced by Le Page in 1814, which bear the serial number: 1704 (the Roi de Rome Pistols are engraved: 1703). This is significant as it securely dates the Roi de Rome Pistols within Le Page’s oeuvre. It is also worth remarking that the creation of the pistols at such a time of political instability is extraordinary, given the lavish nature of the commission. The Symbolism of the Roi de Rome Pistols The pistols can only have been made for a member of the French imperial family. They are each adorned with the Emperor’s personal cypher, the imperial N - synomymous with Bonaparte - and are each engraved with bees, the symbol most closely associated with Napoleon, which appear prominently on objects personally connected with the Roi de Rome, from Thomire’s cradle in Vienna (discussed above) to the King’s lace bonnet, which is embroided with flying bees throughout (château de Malmaison, inv. No. 1989.MM40-47.8309; Beyeler, op. cit., no. 22). The imperial eagle, which is encrusted in gold on the barrels of the guns, is another of the symbols of the Napoleonic Empire, and is to be expected on arms made bespoke for Napoleon or his immediate family; they feature, for example, on the Cleveland sporting gun. The proliferation of Napoleonic symbolism on the Roi de Rome Pistols marks them out as an important gift to a leading member of the imperial family from the Emperor himself. This is further underlined by the martial iconography, notably the encrusted gold spears, the plate gold trophies, the inlaid gold laureled helmets and the wreaths of laurel and oak. Such an abundance of motifs, connecting the recipient of the pistols to classical military triumph, affirms that the owner was an individual of the highest rank within the Empire, with such iconography being entirely appropriate for the heir to the throne. Most significant of all is the presence of the emblem of the Order of the Iron Crown of Italy: the crown on the top jaws of the cocks, which has distinctive spiked points. This form of coronet is the heraldic device selected by Napoleon to represent the famous Iron Crown of Lombardy, with which he was crowned during his coronation as King of Italy at Milan Cathedral in 1805. The crown was said to include a nail from the True Cross and was used during the coronation of Charlemagne. Napoleon’s use of the crown and his concurrent creation of the Order of the Iron Crown was a deliberate marker of assimilation to Charlemagne, the first true European. The Emperor’s son was immediately declared to be Roi de Rome and a holder of the Grand Cross of the Order upon his birth. The child appears in a engraving by J.L. Benoist, after J. Goubaud, seated in the Thomire cradle, like a little pasha propped up on a pillow, naked but for drapery, on top of an opulent crimson and ermine cloak adored with golden bees. In his hand he clutches a ribbon from which is suspended the emblem of the order, the Iron Crown surmounted by an eagle. The same Iron Crown appears prominently on the stock of the Roi de Rome’s flintlock pistol at the Château de Fontainebleau (inv. no. F-1988.6), which was given by the young King to his beloved companion, Fanny Soufflot (Beyeler, op. cit., p. 146). This, the only other gun associated with the Roi de Rome, was made by De Saint-Étienne circa 1813. Similarly, it features the imperial eagle, the wreath of laurels, the uncrowned imperial N, the thunderbolt and the spear, and is adorned, along the length of the barrel, with a procession of golden bees. The fact that both the pistols and the rifle include the Imperial N, uncrowned, may suggest that, in each case, the N refers to none other than the Roi de Rome himself. Complementing the imperial and martial symbolism, are a group of emblems with a didactic theme. The owl is both a symbol of Athena/ Minerva, significant for the Roi de Rome, as this goddess was one of the Capitoline Triad, the most revered of the Roman gods. She is also goddess of wisdom and war, and consequently stands for the principle of considered force. According to Napoleon’s valet, Louis Constant Wairy, the Emperor’s swords were adorned with the symbol of the owl (op. cit.), whilst hibou (owl) is said to have been one of the nicknames for the young Roi de Rome. The theme of tuition is ultimately emphasized in the engraved mother of pearl roundel on the lid of the presentation case, which shows Chiron teaching the young Achilles archery, underlining the fact that the Roi de Rome Pistols were conceived as a gift to a young boy, for the purposes of learning. The presence of the Medusa head is a typical martial image and refers to the young hero Perseus from Greek mythology, who killed the Gorgon and gave the head to Athena, who attached it to the outside of her shield and therefore appropriated the power to turn her enemies to stone. A Treasured Napoleonic Relic Few objects deserve to be classified as Treasures. The Roi de Rome Pistols, intrinsically precious in being engraved and encrusted in gold; astonishingly virtuoso in their technique, in being formed of blued steel and carved walnut; and unique as Napoleonic relics, in being the last poignant gift from the Emperor to his beloved son; are matchless, both in their import and in their beauty. They represent an unequalled opportunity to connect with the general, the conqueror, the Emperor, and the caring father, through possessing objects which he commissioned for his only legitimate son and heir: the Roi de Rome. RELATED LITERATURE H. Welschinger, Le roi de Rome (1811-1832), Paris, 1897; J. Grand-Carteret, L'Aiglon en images et dans la fiction poétique et dramatique, Paris, 1901; L. C. Wairy, Recollections of the private life of Napoleon, translated by Walter Clark, Akron, 1911, [https://archive.org/details/recollectionsofp01cons accessed 1 June 2015]; O. Aubry, Napoleon II. The King of Rome, 'L'Aiglon', London, 1933, pp. 50-51; A. Castelot, Napoleon's Son, translated by R. Baldick, London, 1960; R. D. Altick, The Shows of London, Cambridge and London, 1978; C. Blair, Pollard's history of firearms, London, 1983, p. 499; L. Tarassuk, 'The Cabinet d'Armes of Louis XIII. Some Firearms and Related Problems' The Metropolitan Museum Journal, 21, 1986, pp. 65-122; L'Aiglon, exh. cat. Musée national de la Légion d'Honneur et des Ordres de Chevalerie, Paris, 1993; S. Fliegel, Arms and armor. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, 1998; N. Leask, Curiosity and the aesthetics of travel-writing, 1770-1840. From an antique land, Oxford, 2002, p. 300; J. Blécon, Le palais du roi de Rome. Napoléon II à Rambouillet, Paris, 2004; E. Baigent, ‘Bullock, William (bap. 1773, d.1849)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2013 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3923, accessed 8 June 2015]; W. H. C. Smith, The Bonapartes. The History of a Dynasty, London and New York, 2005; O. Nouvel-Kammerer (ed.), Symbols of power. Napoleon and the art of the Empire style, 1800-1815, exh. cat. St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Musée des arts décoratifs, Paris, 2007-2008; M. Costeloe, William Bullock. Connoisseur and virtuoso of the Egyptian Hall: Piccadilly to Mexico (1773-1849), Bristol, 2008, pp. 5, 57, 60, 69-71 81; Claude-François Méneval, Working with Napoleon the memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte 1802-1815, his private secretary, translated by R.W. Sherrard, New York, 2011, pp. 347, 456; S. Pyhrr, 'Arms and Armour dealers and Displays in Early Nineteenth Century London', London Park Lane Arms Fair Magazine, London, 2011, pp. 97-114; C. Beyeler and V. Cochet, Enfance impériale : le roi de Rome, fils de Napoléon, exh. cat. château de Fontainebleau, Paris, 2011, p. 146, no. 22; P. G. Dwyer, Citizen Emperor. Napoleon in power, London, 2013, pp. 481, 483; A. Roberts, Napoleon the Great, London, 2014 Each signed: Le Page à Paris / Arq.er de L’Empereur, inscribed: LE PAGE, respectively numbered 1 and 2, inscribed with the serial number: 1703 and dated: Janv. 1814

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  • 2015-07-08
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An italian pietre dure and pietre tenere white marble inlaid table

Text by Annamaria Giusti Director Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence (1977-2008) The stones Made from a single, seven centimetre thick slab of white marble, this table top is inlaid with hard stones and soft stones, which together have become known in English, without differentiation, as pietre dure.  By cutting into the thickness of the slab to create fields for the inlay, only narrow borders of the white marble are left visible as the settings for the coloured stones.  The white marble slab, possibly antique, is surrounded by a walnut frame. At the centre is a large octagon of the soft stone, alabastro fiorito, an oriental alabaster, which is particularly richly figured.  A rare piece of recycled marble from an ancient Roman site, it is similar to that used for the background of the tomb of Filippo Caetani (1618) in Santa Pudenziana in Rome, which has the same unusual green markings.  A second soft stone with an archaeological provenance is the broccatello di Spagna, used in the lobed shapes that separate the ten Sicilian jasper ovals in the wide border. These are set off against a background of the highly prized, nero antico, that was also used in Imperial Rome. Apart from these, hard stones extensively predominate, both in the large fields, like the ten jasper ovals or the lapis lazuli lobed shapes in the centre, and in the smaller and sometimes tiny geometrical elements. The composition invites careful  examination because the well spaced design is in fact quite densely filled with minute and refined details. The variety of hard stones, their sumptuous colours and the finely judged choices of specific gradations of those colours, is very striking.  The large and small ovals and the hexagons in the wide border and the trapezoidal shapes inside the central frame, are Sicilian jaspers, so red predominates, but the pieces have been matched for similarities in their shading. A yellow Sicilian jasper is used for the banding around each of the ten ovals, where little discs of carnelian complete a ‘necklace’ effect. The same tiny discs punctuate the series of reddish yellow jasper strips in the frame around the central panel. Meanwhile, for the outer border a greenish-yellow Sicilian jasper has been selected, with ovals of red jasper and discs of carnelian. Carnelian has also been used for the palmettes in the corners of the central panel where a wider range of stones is deployed. Chalcedony from Volterra makes a luminous band around the alabaster octagon, and the blueness of the lapislazuli is juxtaposed with green Monreale jasper, polygonal shapes of golden jasper, and triangles of German agate. Multicoloured agate is used for the twelve ovals, (some of which are missing), that lie against the lapis lazuli shapes.  Each of these ovals has a black band around it and is centred with a little green disc, while two rows of five discs, with concentric markings, appear along either side of the octagon. The overall design, which has a sort of simple complexity, has been  perfectly realised as a harmonious and sophisticated polyphony of colours and shapes. In the 1568 edition of Vasari’s Vite[1], he describes a «table that is a rare thing, assembled with oriental alabaster, large pieces of jaspers, bloodstones, carnelians, lapis and agates, with other stones and precious gems that are worth twenty thousand scudi».  His account relates to the table top executed by Bernardino di Porfirio da Leccio for Cosimo I de Medici, on the basis of the design provided in 1560 by Vasari himself. The strikingly beautiful table shown here also has “large pieces” of hard stones, along with a shimmering specimen selection that includes jaspers, agates, carnelians and lapis lazuli, around a central piece of oriental alabaster.  It, too, has  a Florentine provenance, having been the property of the noble Alessandri family. The taste for inlaid stones that developed in Florence in the second half of the sixteenth century subsequently became a prestigious tradition and the importance of this beautiful table lies in the fact that it represents one of the earliest and rarest examples from those years. For its striking kaleidoscopic and geometric design and the ample use of jaspers inset in a white marble slab, our table should be studied in relation, and possibly as a forerunner, to the iconic Florentine table top (albeit solely made of hard stones), which has been traditionally dated around 1570-1585 (fig.1) (Museo degli Argenti, Florence). There are many documentary sources, from Vasari onwards, that refer to table tops made in Florence using a variety of hard stones, though not all were for the Medici court.  In contrast Roman table tops, which began to appear in Florence from the third quarter of the sixteenth century, were inlaid with stone retrieved from the archaeological ruins of Imperial Rome. It is interesting, therefore, that although most of the stones used in this table top are hard stones there are also a few that come from the excavated sites of ancient Rome. Amongst these is the central octagon of ‘fiorito’ alabaster which makes a bold statement, its markings and colour competing for notice with the jaspers that surround it. There is also a rare nero antico used as a background to the abstract ornament in the wide border as well as the cartouches of broccatello di Spagna. The composition is based on geometric forms that are carefully calibrated and well spaced out suggesting an artist with architectural expertise, who chose to avoid the sort of decorative distractions of ornament fashionable in Rome at that time. There is another geometric table, now in the collection of Banca Unicredit, Rome, which has a wooden octagonal top inlaid with Sicilian jaspers between ivory borders and was designed by Vasari for Bindo Altoviti before 1557[2]. This too was made by Bernardino di Porfirio who subsequently made the table for Cosimo I, and a second “small table with gems and rich ornament”, that Vasari tells us was begun in 1568 for Francesco de’ Medici.  It is well known that Francesco, who succeeded his father as Grand Duke in 1574, loved the arts and pietre dure in particular. The little table of 1568, designed for him by Vasari, was followed by others using “very valuable stones” that were mentioned by the Venetian Ambassador, Andrea Gussoni, in 1576, after he saw them in the workshops established by Francesco in the Casino di San Marco. A year earlier, in a dispatch to Alfonso II d’Este, the Ferrarese ambassador commenting on works promoted by the Grand Duke, referred to a white marble table “worth several hundred scudi, and very beautiful to look at, made with pieces of carnelian, bloodstone, lapis, jasper, agate and many other stones, finely assembled, and thought to be a very rare thing, which has taken many months to make and is still not finished”.[3] This could be the same table of white marble and pietre dure, that the Frenchman, Nicolas Audebert, saw being made when he visited the Casino in 1577[4]. White marble and pietre dure are also mentioned by the French ambassador, commenting on the arrival in Istanbul, in 1578, of a table sent as a gift by Francesco I to the court of Sultan Murad III. He describes a “large table of marble... embellished with fine inlay made of agates, jaspers, lapis and other precious oriental stones”.[5] Documents show that those involved in creating such tables worked with the specific aim of emphasising the natural beauty of the stones they used.  The intention is borne out in the table featured here and is the distinctive characteristic of the Florentine inlays made in the time of Francesco I which differ from their  Roman counterparts.  Later, under Ferdinand I, there was a change of direction when the markings of the stones began to be harnessed for pictorial effects in figurative scenes. In the early period, the passion for pietre dure in Florence extended beyond the Grand Duke’s patronage, to other “honourable and industrious Florentines”  and in 1597 Agostino del Riccio dedicated his Istoria delle Pietre to them, after years of study and aged over fifty.[6] Del Riccio was a Dominican from the convent of Santa Maria Novella and he is a direct and authoritative source of knowledge on the different varieties of stones found in the area around Florence.  So we can rely on his observation that “many little tables are being made in the city... and can be found in the beautiful rooms and chambers of gentlemen”. He also tells us that there were few craftsmen able to execute these tables before his time, whilst now the most brilliant of them all was the “insufficiently highly praised Florentine Maestro Giulio”. I have identified this virtuoso of stone inlay as Giulio Balsimelli, who in 1584-85 was working on the altar of the Cappella Niccolini in Santa Croce[7].  He does not feature amongst those craftsmen employed in the workshops founded by Ferdinand I in 1588, probably because he was fully occupied with commissions for his notable Florentine customers.  Del Riccio records that Maestro Giulio worked for Giovanni Antonio Soderini (1526-1596), “the most prominent man in the city” to create small stone tables “of which he had a number”.  Del Riccio’s account is confirmed by a letter that Soderini sent, in 1575, to Francesco I in which he requests some lapis lazuli, promised to him by the Grand Duke and otherwise impossible to find, which was needed to complete a table that “messere Giulio” was working on. [8] Soderini’s table, which is lost (or its whereabouts unknown) could well have been similar to the table here, with a large polygonal piece of lapis lazuli at its centre. The green veining suggests that it comes from France where there are altered beds of lapis lazuli with malachite inclusions[9]. There are similarities also with the generous use of lapislazuli (of the same type and quality) in another wonderful 16th century table, also richly inlaid in hard and soft stones,  that recently appeared on the market. This one features inlays depicting vases of flowers, so would seem to be of a later date than the table here, although it shares the Alessandri family provenance (fig.2). The Alessandri Family Breaking away from the main branch of the Albizi family in 1372, the Alessandri, as they were known from that date, were amongst the most distinguished of Florentine families in the Republican period and under the Medici Grand Dukes, when they became senators. Their main residence was in Borgo degli Albizi (fig.3), where the family palace in typical 14th century bugnato style still stands, but they also owned many farms and villas in the surrounding countryside. During the Napoleonic period and the Restoration, Giovanni degli Alessandri (1765-1828) was director of the Uffizi and president of the Accademia di Belle Arti. At the time this table was made the two brothers Niccolò and Vincenzo degli Alessandri were the heads of the family and their Giornali di ricordi which are still in the Archivio di Stato in Florence show that they were wealthy landowners[10]. Although they are not named by Del Riccio as being amongst those noble Florentines who were enthusiastic collectors of “pietre belle”, these two early and very splendid tables suggest that the family was amongst the most engaged of Florentine patrons of this type of work. [1] G. Vasari, Le Vite, ed. G. Previtali, Novara 1967, VIII, p. 37 [2] Altoviti, died in Rome that year, an exile from his Florentine homeland. It is Vasari who has enabled us to identify Altoviti’s wooden octagonal table : see A. Giusti in Art of the Royal Court. Treasures in pietre dure from the palaces of Europe, New York 2008, cat.no.9, pp.118-119 [3] S.B. Butters, in La grande storia dell’artigianato, III, Florence 2000, p.173 [4] N. Audebert, Voyage d’Italie, ed. critica a cura di A. Olivero, Rome 1983, I, p.260 [5] M. Spallanzani, Una tomba rinascimentale per un alto dignitario di Murad III, in “Rivista di Studi Orientali” LXIX, vols. I-IV, 1987, pp.299 [6] A. del Riccio, Istoria delle pietre, ed. R. Gnoli and A. Sironi, Turin 1996 [7] A. Giusti in Tesori dei Medici, ed. C. Acidini, Florence 1997, pp.116-117 [8] P. Barocchi-G. Gaeta Bertelà, Collezionismo mediceo. Cosimo I, Francesco I e il cardinale Ferdinando, Modena 1993, doc. 113, p.112 [9] The celebrated stone carver Giuseppe Antonio Torricelli, who worked in the Grand Ducal workshops at the time of Cosimo III, notes in his manuscript Trattato delle Pietre Dure e tenere (1714) that as well as the best known Persian lapislazuli there are other sources «From France we have lapislazuli which differs from the Persian, in that it includes a lot of green, because there is copper in the mine, it also polishes up very well”. [10] ASF, Fondo degli Alessandri, Registri nos. 25 (1574-1602) and 81 (1559-1602) Translated by Emma Louise Bassett

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  • 2015-07-08
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Triptych with scenes from the Life of Christ

This magnificent triptych carved in bone, horn and certosina wood, is one of the largest, if not the largest, surviving example of its kind. Produced by the fabled workshop of Baldassare Ubriachi around the year 1400, it is a showpiece of these artists' original and highly skilled technique at its greatest splendour. The North Italian workshops that specialised in the production of secular and religious objects comprised of small reliefs in cow bone, assembled on wood carcases within intarsia wood borders, have traditionally been referred to under the umbrella term ‘Embriachi’. Recent scholarship has, however, elucidated that this name is the result of a spelling mistake, and the use of a single term for a variety of workshops is in the process of being made obsolete. As Glyn Davies explains in his recent introduction to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection of 'Embriachi' objects (op. cit., pp. 751-3), the term is in fact a bastardisation by late 19th-century scholars of the family name 'Ubriachi' or 'Ymbriachi'. This name or, more precisely, that of 'domino Baldesario de Ubriaghis', appears on the invoice attached to the most celebrated 'Embriachi' production, the altarpiece of circa 1396-1400 in the Certosa di Pavia. As such, the Florentine nobleman Baldassare Ubriachi is considered the founding father of the most significant of the workshops. Archival sources indicate that instead of being its leading sculptor, Baldassare's chief role was to provide the workshop's financial means. Baldassare's workshop is thought to have been active in Venice, and probably in its earlier years in Florence, from the 1370s until after 1416. Objects that correspond stylistically to the documented Pavia altarpiece are therefore attributable to Baldassare Ubriachi's workshop, whereas those with obvious differences in facture are likely to be the work of more obscure artists that worked in the 'original' workshop's milieu. Its unusually large scale and the extraordinary quality of its carving identify the present triptych as an unquestionable product of the workshop of Baldassare Ubriachi. Its basic composition mirrors that of most foldable triptychs produced by Baldassare’s artists: a rectangular wood and bone base is surmounted by a central wood panel with a pointed top section forming a wimperg, flanked by two tapering wings that fold into the central panel. On the insides of each section, intarsia wood frames contain bone relief panels representing single figures or combining to depict scenes from the Life of Christ. As with the majority of triptychs with two or more registers, the central panels at the top are dedicated to the Crucifixion. The three registers below present scenes from the Passion; The Denial of Peter, Christ before Pilate, and The Road to Calvary, as well as events from Christ’s earlier life, such as The Nativity, The Adoration and The Baptism of Christ. The panels at the bottom of each wing are carved with the Virgin and Child and Saints, while a small triangular relief at the top of the Crucifixion panels depicts Christ in Majesty. Traces of polychromy on the backs of the wings suggest that they may have been painted with Angels, similar to smaller triptychs in Baltimore (Walters Art Gallery, inv. no. 71.98) and Florence (Museo del Bargello, inv. no. 5A). Although the Ubriachi workshop and their anonymous counterparts' most prolific output was in secular caskets, foldable triptychs form the largest part of their religious offerings. The majority of surviving examples, however, are of the low-cost single-tier variety, while two-tiered triptychs are significantly rarer. Michele Tomasi (op. cit. 2010, p. 95) lists only three known triptychs with three registers, the most intact being that in the Museo Civico d'Arte Antica in Turin (inv. no. 859). Since Tomasi makes no mention of surviving foldable triptychs with four registers, it may be assumed that the size of the present four-tiered triptych is unparalleled by published examples. The fresh appearance on the market of such a rare and important Ubriachi work is therefore sensational. It would seem that the present triptych is surpassed in height only by the monumental triptych (though not foldable) altarpieces for which Baldassare Ubriachi's workshop is famed. The three prime examples are that in Pavia, one in New York (Metropolitan Museum of Art, inv. no. 17.190.489), and another in Paris (Musée du Louvre, inv. no. MR379), which stands at a staggering 2.76 metres. These altarpieces are dated to the 1390s, when the workshop appears to have reached the height of its productivity and success. Many of the particular characteristics of these major works are shared by the triptych. The foliate decorations framing the wimperg compare closely to those of the Louvre Altarpiece, while the patterns of the intarsia find a parallel in the Pavia Altarpiece, notably the angular ribbon band running horizontally across the base. A rare feature of the triptych is the addition of Gothic tracery and twisted columns to each section of bone panels, which is found in only a handful of Ubriachi works, including the Pavia Altarpiece. The particular appearance of the tracery in the present triptych is, however, almost identical to that in the three-tiered triptych in Turin. It may also be observed that the figural style, as well as the precise composition, of the Crucifixion scene in both triptychs is strikingly similar. Not only is the Turin triptych among those that come closest to the present triptych in size, it is also extremely close in style. Tomasi dates the work in Turin from the end of the 14th to the beginning of the 15th century, and it follows that the present triptych, too, is likely to date to the golden age of Baldassare’s workshop around 1400. As Tomasi has noted (op. cit. 2010, pp. 95f.), it is unlikely that folding triptychs with more than two registers would have been conceived as portable objects. Instead, these larger triptychs appear to have been made to commission for wealthy individuals wishing to furnish a private chapel or prayer room with an impressive altarpiece. The varying arrangements of identical motifs in the relief panels of larger triptychs suggest that patrons were to some extent able to choose the subjects and their order. No cost would have been spared to achieve a high level of detail and emotion in the carvings, as exemplified by those in the present triptych. That large-scale triptychs were the luxurious preserve of the few is corroborated by the scarcity of surviving examples. Its apparently unique size, the high quality of its carving, and the rarity of its type make this triptych an exciting addition to the distinguished oeuvre of Baldassare Ubriachi’s workshop. RELATED LITERATURE M. Tomasi, La Bottega degli Embriachi, cat. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, 2001, pp. 21-25; M. Tomasi, Monumenti d'avorio: I dossali degli Embriachi e i loro committenti, Pisa and Paris, 2010; P. Williamson and G. Davies, Medieval Ivory Carvings. 1200-1550. Part II, cat. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, pp. 750-861

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2015-07-09
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Capriccio with the Loggetta of Sansovino as Portico of an Imaginary

This capriccio includes a representation of the famous Loggetta of Sansovino with the bronze gates made by Antonio Gai in 1735-7, which according to Constable establishes a terminus post quem for the execution of the drawing.  Constable and Links also point out, though, that the free handling and the style of the drawing, together with the introduction of some Gothic elements, suggest a considerable later date, possibly after Canaletto's visit to England.  Furthermore, the Loggettais shown with an extension to the attic story which was only constructed in 1750, four years after Canaletto had left Venice for England. Canaletto was probably in Venice on a visit in 1750 and again in 1753, before his final return from England. Despite its references to real buildings, this capriccio is an elaborate imaginary composition: behind the Loggetta is a Gothic tower with pinnacles and large and detailed windows and a small cupola, while to the right a low wall leads, via a gate, to other buildings at a distance.  To the left of the Loggetta, a long building with a ruined pillared portico leads to a glimpse of the lagoon.  In the foreground to the left a fountain with classical elements is strongly lit, contrasting with the rather dark immediate foreground. Another autograph version of the composition, with several differences, was formerly in the Dyce Collection and is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.1  Although similar in design, style and dating, that drawing includes fewer details, and overall appears less elaborate and not so rich in the execution and use of wash: there the Loggetta has no free-standing columns or statues in the niches and the balustrades have also been simplified; the Gothic tower has differently designed pinnacles and windows, and no cupola; the building to the left has a higher central entrance and different fenestration; the figures differ in character and arrangement.  It is interesting to note how Canaletto, in his maturity, succeeded in creating these imaginary compositions almost like stage designs, including and mixing real buildings and other known architectural elements with fantastical ones.  The present sheet demonstrates Canaletto's ability as a draftsman combined with a dramatic use of gray wash and strong variations between light and shadow. 1 W.G. Constable, Canaletto, Oxford, 1962, vol. II, no. 762, reproduced vol. II, pl. 144, fig. 762

  • USAUSA
  • 2012-09-25
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Important Gold Inlaid and Highly Engraved Steel Model 1849 Pocket Revolver, Samuel Colt, Hartford, CT, circa 1849

EXTREMELY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT GOLD-INLAID AND DEEP RELIEF ENGRAVED COLT MODEL 1849 POCKET REVOLVER, Samuel Colt, Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1853, Serial no. 63306, .31 caliber; embellished in the classic pattern of Colt's early Gold-Inlaid revolvers with five animals, a bear, a dog, a leopard, a pheasant and a fox on the frame and barrels lugs, each gold-inlaid animal inhabits a dense surround of deep-relief engraved scrollwork highlighted by two additional gold-inlaid heads of mythical beasts and six animal head scroll finials throughout seven engraved panels, the seven engraved panels enclosed within gold-inlaid borders; the left-side of frame features the gold-inlaid COLTS PATENT within an ornate gold-inlaid scrolling framework; the hammer engraved with a wolf's head, its eyes and its teeth inlaid with gold, gold-inlaid lines outline the rear of the hammer, the upper surface of hammer with hand-checkered spur and deep-relief engraved scrollwork culminating with the head of a mythical serpent all enclosed within a gold-bordered frame; the barrel, nearly entirely engraved, with relief engraved scroll panels on the barrel lugs with two of the gold-inlaid animals at either side, while adorning the top three barrel flats are three extensive flush gold-inlaid scroll meanders within which reside an eagle, a wyphern and a resting dog, and several animal and serpent head finials, these gold-inlaid scroll panels framing the rare gold-inlaid script engraved SAML COLT, two gold bands at muzzle and one at breech, seven gold-inlaid arabesques at muzzle, the forcing cone with two gold bands and very rare gold-inlaid scrollwork, rare deluxe fore-sight, and exceptionally rare engraved muzzle face; very rare hand-engraved cylinder scene with gold-inlaid scrolls (each unique) between each cylinder stop, gold embellishments at each nipple fence, and gold bandings throughout, gold-inlaid COLTS PATENT and 63306, deep-relief engraved and gold-inlaid loading-lever, and engraved wedge; heavily gold-washed grip-straps both extensively engraved with deep relief scrolls overall, all screw-heads engraved with fan patterns matching the fan motif engraved on the back-strap shoulder, and additionally, the exposed bases of screws on frame and barrel engraved with stylized star-bursts, deluxe varnished walnut grip. Overall Length 9 in.; Barrel length 4 in.

  • USAUSA
  • 2012-01-20
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A pair of gilt-bronze-mounted Chinese crackle glaze celadon pot-pourri vases

A pair of gilt-bronze-mounted Chinese crackle glaze celadon pot-pourri vases the mounts Louis XV, mid 18th century, the porcelain 18th century, Each formed from two bowls with crackle glaze of light blue colour, the lid with a finial cast in the form of a stalk, the gilt-bronze pierced rim cast with acanthus below gadroons, centred by flowerheads and foliage, the scrolled handles cast with leaves, supported on a gilt-bronze base cast with rinceaux, flowers and rocailles; one stamped with the Crown 'c' poinçon; restorations to the porcelain, both lids with slightly different crackle glaze (2)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Total height: 40cm., diameter 41cm. (including handles); 1ft. 3¾in., 1ft. 4in.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2011-07-06
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DESC-A very fine blue and white Moonflask Ming Dynasty, Yongle period

DESC-A very fine blue and white Moonflask Ming Dynasty, Yongle period of well potted double-gourd form, the flattened circular body with a domed panel on each side decorated with an elaborate medallion of blades enclosing trefoil motifs alternating with stylised lotus blooms all radiating from a yinyang floral roundel, encircled by a border of zigzag petal motifs within double-line borders, the upper bulb painted with a slender floral scroll of alternating dianthus and chrysanthemum between further double-lines, the ribbed strap-handles with ruyi-shaped terminals enclosing stylised lotus sprays, the circular sides enclosed by parallel lines, all in vivid purplish tones of cobalt-blue with pronounced 'heaped and piled' effect beneath a finely bubbled glossy transparent glaze 32 cm., 12 5/8 in. Provenance: Sotheby's Hong Kong, 29th April 1992, lot 34. Yongle moonflasks of this classic pattern and of equally large size are illustrated in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Topkapi Saray Museum, Istanbul, London, 1986, vol.2, no.616, in colour p.426; in John Ayers, Far Eastern Ceramics in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1980, no.145; one in the Shanghai Museum was included in the exhibition Seika jiki ten, Matsuya Ginza, Tokyo, 1988, cat.no.16; one in the Indianapolis Museum of Art in the exhibition Blue and White: Chinese Porcelain and its Impact on the Western World, University of Chicago, 1985, cat.no.15; and one in the Matsuoka Museum of Art, Tokyo, was included in the Museum's exhibition T_oy_o t_oji meihin zuroku, Tokyo, 1991, cat.no.69. Compare also slightly later moonflasks of this type, of the Xuande period, which are generally smaller in size and vary in details of the design, and sometimes the proportion, two of which are illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red, Shanghai, 2000, vol.1, pls.94 and 95. Quantity: 1

  • HKGHong Kong SAR China
  • 2001-05-01
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AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED CALYX-KRATER

AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED CALYX-KRATER attributed to the Dinos Painter circa 430-420 b.c. The obverse depicting the "Death of Aktaion," with Artemis standing at the far left serenely gazing on the melee unfolding to her right, the goddess clad in a long chiton and a lozenge-patterned head-band, a quiver at her back, holding her strung bow in her lowered left hand and a long torch in her right, in the center on uneven terrain is Aktaion at the moment of his transformation into a stag, the youthful hunter clad in a himation which is pinned in front by a circular brooch, wearing leather boots, a petasos hanging off his shoulders, moving to the right but turning back towards winged Hekate, short stag horns protruding from his forehead, his ears now converted into those of a stag, futilely defending himself with a raised throwing stick (lagobolon) from his three hounds who attack from all sides with the assistance of Hekate, the goddess ornately clad, reaching out towards the youth, the head and fore-paws of a dog (with which she is associated) emerging from the crown of her head, which is framed by short white strokes perhaps evoking the dog's barking, the three identified above by inscriptions, the hunter's two companions, Diokles and another not identified, flee to the right, their arms raised in panic, with Diokles wearing a short, patterned chiton and a pilos helmet, and carrying two spears, the other wearing a short chiton and a mantle, a petasos over his shoulders, and two spears in his hands, a tree growing on a hill between Hekate and Aktaion; the reverse with a standing draped man holding a staff in the center, framed by two draped women, perhaps to be identified as Aktaion's parents, Aristaios and Autonoë, and another member of the Theban royal household; a band of three meanders alternating with crossed squares below, and a band of adorsed angled palmettes below the rim 193/8 in. (49.21 cm) high

  • USAUSA
  • 2000-06-12
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An important and rare meissen white figure of a monkey circa 1732

Modelled by J. J. Kändler for the Japanese Palace, Dresden, wearing a belt and seated on a tree stump taking a pinch of snuff from the oval box held in his left paw The use of monkeys as pets and trained performers is recorded in Europe as early as the thirteenth century. In the 1759 edition of Essais Historiques sur Paris, Germain-François Poullain de Saint-Foix relates, on pp. 39-40, instances of the method by which tolls were to be paid at the entrance to Paris during the reign of Louis IX: "In a tariff by St. Louis to settle the tolls that were due at the entrance to Paris, in the Petit Châtelet, we read that the merchant transporting a monkey for sale, pays four deniers; if the monkey belongs to a joculator and they play and dance before the toll-collector, then the toll is paid. From this comes the proverb, 'pay in money, the monkey in romps'." There are also numerous examples of performing monkeys appearing as illustrative details in medieval illuminated manuscripts, such as those in the Harleian Collection in the British Library, where they are depicted dressed as a jester, balancing on stilts, playing a lute, with a trained bear or engaged in various other human activities. Interest in monkeys imitating human behavior extended into the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, particularly in France among the aristocracy, where the genre known as singerie is reflected in the decorative motifs of Jean Bérain (1640-1711), the paintings of elegantly dressed monkeys by Claude Audran III (1658-1734) and the wall paintings of Christophe Huet (1700-1759) at Chateau Chantilly. The 1727 book, Fables, by John Gay, features, in Fable XIV, 'The Monkey who has seen the World', an engraving by Gerard Vandergucht, after a drawing by John Wootton (1682-1764), depicting a fashionably attired pigtailed monkey taking snuff. It is not surprising, then, that Kändler might choose to create an anthropormorphic monkey for the porcelain menagerie of Augustus the Strong, possibly modelled from life after examples at court or based on contemporary engravings. Kändler's work report of February 1732, as cited by Wittwer (2004), p. 291, records: 'So hat auch der Modellirer Kenntler...einen großen Affen von besonderer Arth...poussiret' [Modeller Kändler also...modelled...a large monkey of a special kind], which could refer to either the figure taking snuff or equally to the similar figure with grapes or chain.  Among the deliveries of 1731-32 there is one that includes three large white monkeys but there is no clear indication as to which of the models by Kändler either the work report or the delivery records refers.  The 1770 and 1779 inventories list four large white monkeys, "without young, all damaged". On 17th March 1849, the sale of one monkey taking snuff to Teichert in Meissen is recorded; and in 1900, there are only two monkeys remaining in the Royal Collection, one, white, and one, enamelled, both taking snuff. Therefore, of the four monkeys listed in the 1770 and 1779 inventories, at least three were snuff-taking figures, two of which were still in the Royal Collection in 1900. It follows then, that it may reasonably be assumed the present example was sold either in 1849 or at a slightly later date from the Collection of the Japanese Palace, possibly directly to Jacob Astley, 16th Baron Hastings (1797-1859), himself an avid collector of porcelain at the time. In addition to the present example, there are two other monkeys of the same model known: an enamelled figure from the Dr. Fritz Mannheimer collection in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. BK-17494), illustrated by den Blaauwen (2000), p. 402, cat. no. 293; and a white figure in the porcelain collection of the Dresden State Art Collections (inv. no. PE 974), illustrated by Wittwer, op. cit., p. 218, fig. 215 and Albiker (1935), pl. X, no. 26. Sotheby's would like to thank Prof. Dr. Ulrich Pietsch for his kind assistance with the cataloguing and research of this lot.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2013-05-01
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Important burnham-manning family chippendale carved and figured mahogany

Representing a sophisticated regional case form made in Boston, Massachusetts during the eighteenth century, this bombé chest-on-chest is an extremely rare survival. Made of thick boldly figured mahogany and meticulously constructed, it displays a dramatic design heightened by the sculptural modeling of the lower case drawer fronts and carved elements of the upper case, all enhanced by the placement of its Rococo batwing brasses. With its swan's neck pediment, urn and flame finials, fan-carved central drawer flanked by drawers paralleling the shape of the cornice, fluted pilasters, and shaped lower case, this chest-on-chest follows a classic eastern Massachusetts chest-on-chest design although it exhibits a bombé lower case rather than the more commonly found block-front treatment. While its ogee feet, horizontal graining, shaped skirt pendant, and rear foot brackets are typical of Boston work, this chest displays characteristics associated with the craft traditions of the North Shore and was probably commissioned there from a local maker. The maker utilized bombé construction techniques dating to the middle to later period of the development of the bombé form. These include the inner surfaces of the lower case sides that are planed in a continuous curve that parallels the outer case side surfaces with drawer sides of conforming shape. The refinement of design and craftsmanship attest to the extensive craft background, excellent bench skills and thorough knowledge of materials of this chest's maker, who was undoubtedly one of the finest artisans working in the area. Only seven bombé chest-on-chests are known today.1  Four examples relate closely to the currently offered example. One is in the collection of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation while its near mate resides in the collection of the Carnegie Museum of Art once in the celebrated Lansdell K. Christie collection.2  Another example, that descended in the Hooper family of Marblehead, was sold at Skinner Inc. on November 1, 2003.  The last known example was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2009 for the World Record price of $1,762,500.3  It was originally made for the Salem merchant Edward Allen (1735-1803). 1 One made by John Cogswell of Boston in 1782 is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Walter Muir Whitehill, Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century, Boston, 1974, fig. 125. Leigh Keno, Inc. sold a nearly identical example attributed to John Cogswell to a private collector. 2 Barry Greenlaw, New England Furniture at Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, 1974, no. 81. Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., The Lansdell K. Christie Collection of Notable American Furniture, October 21, 1972, lot 63 3 Sotheby’s, New York, January 24, 2009, lot 174.

  • USAUSA
  • 2016-01-22
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A pair of Italian console tables, the tops signed by Lucio De Lucci, bases attributed to Andrea Brustolon, Venetian

A PAIR OF ITALIAN IVORY, STAINED HORN AND PEWTER-INLAID EBONY, ROSEWOOD, WALNUT, FRUITWOOD AND MARQUETRY CONSOLE TABLES, THE TOPS SIGNED BY LUCIO DE LUCCI, THE STAINED BOXWOOD BASES ATTRIBUTED TO ANDREA BRUSTOLON (1662-1732), VENETIAN CIRCA 1686, Each with a rectangular top inlaid with a central c-scroll cartouche depicting colonnaded buildings with balustrades and fruit tree filled urns, with two figures in the foreground and a landscape in the background, the other depicting a harbour scene with a galleon engaged in a sea battle with a building in the foreground within strapwork borders flanked by further cartouches to either side each depicting battle scenes with mounted soldiers centered to the top with a crowned strapwork cartouche later inset with an ivory coat-of-arms for the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, with a further hunting scene below, the reserves inlaid with profusely scrolled foliage and decorated with birds, insects and putti, the front corners depicting  figures in courtly dress, the rear corners depicting exotic figures seated on cushions, each with a banner inscribed LVCIO D' LVCCI FECE, with moulded edge above an elaborately carved pierced frieze, with scrolling acanthus and leaf-wrapped military trophies, the sides with ribbon-bound foliage, above c-and s-scroll supports carved with acanthus leaves, headed by mask-decorated helmets with plume finials and decorated with flowerheads and fruit joined by similarly carved X-form stretchers issuing flowerheads and carved to the centre with entwined serpents, on volute scrolled feet carved with grotesque mask ;one stand bearing an inventory number T.I/1 and T.I in red ink; the frieze supported with later metal brackets Each 90cm. high, 171.5cm. wide, 87cm. deep; 2ft. 11½in., 5ft. 7½in., 2ft. 9¾in.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2011-07-06
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A renaissance gilt-copper quarter striking automaton unicorn table

The three train oval steel movement with verge and balance escapement, brass fusees and lipped barrels, striking on two bells, the ogee moulded plinth repousee and chased with strapwork and flowers and with shutters concealing the winding squares, the naturalistically modelled top inset with four dials for hours strike recording, quarters strike recording, regulation and time, chapter ring replaced and now with two hands, the whole surmounted by a well cast and chased figure of a unicorn with moving eyes connected to the escapement and opening his lower jaw with the hour striking, The unicorn is a legendary animal that throughout the mediaeval and renaissance periods was believed to a real creature originating in India. Portrayed in the form of a horse or horse/goat with a long spiral horn, the unicorn was a strong animal, secretive in nature and extremely difficult to capture. Renowned as a symbol of purity and chastity, it was believed that only a virgin could tame a unicorn. This exquisite clock depicts the unicorn in fine detail and, whilst first appearing to be almost pure horse with a horn, the cloven hooves allude to the goat element of the story. Some of the finest clocks of the late 16th Century were produced in South Germany, centred around Augsburg. This clock, though unsigned and without a town mark, is of fine quality and has an oval base with decoration typical of the area and period. During the last quarter of the 16th Century a fashion developed for novelty clocks incorporating automaton figures of exotic or mythological creatures such as camels, bears, lions, eagles and gryphons. The present clock appears to be the only recorded representation of a unicorn from that period and is a particularly elegant and fine example.

  • GBRUnited Kingdom
  • 2014-07-09
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* Note that the price doesn’t correlate with today’s value, but only relates to the actual end price at the time of the purchase.

Porcelain & Pottery

Items made of porcelain, earthenware, stoneware and faience from every country are found under the category Porcelain & Pottery. Plates, cups, antique vases, tableware, china figurines and Chinese serving dishes are just some of the items that can be found up for auction under this heading.

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