At Sotheby’s | Treasures, Princely Taste

Posted in Art Market by Editor on June 29, 2012

Press release from Sotheby’s:

Treasures, Princely Taste (L12307 )
Sotheby’s, London, 4 July 2012

A gilt-bronze-mounted mahogany table “À l’Antique” designed by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), attributed to Georges Jacob (1739-1814), Louis XVI circa 1785-89 (est. £200,000-300,000). Photo: Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s London will hold its third Treasures, Princely Taste auction on 4th July, 2012 (L12307) . The sale will comprise an outstanding selection of rare and important furniture, silver, objets de vertu and tapestries, many with aristocratic provenance and each displaying the remarkable qualities of princely taste. The centrepieces of the sale are a historic gilt-bronze-mounted table by Jacques-Louis David (est. £200,000-300,000), which appears in a painting by David in the collection of the Louvre Museum, and the Shah of Persia’s golden elephant automaton clock, an 18th-century, British-made technical marvel and a dazzling sight (est. £1-2 million). The sale comprises 42 lots, which are estimated to realise a total in excess of £12 million. Mario Tavella, Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman, Europe, comments: “Each of the masterpieces in this, our third offering of Treasures, Princely Taste, has its own compelling story to tell. In the case of the table designed by Jacques-Louis David, its history is recorded for posterity in a painting in the Louvre which communicates not just its sophisticated craftsmanship, but the extraordinary partnership between one of France’s greatest 18th-century ébénistes and one of the greatest painters of the day. The extraordinary Shah of Persia’s Elephant Automaton, was created specifically to redress the yawning trade balance between Britain and China. All the works we have selected reflect connoisseurs’ continued demand for the very finest pieces at the top-end of the market. Many of these spectacular and meticulously sourced works have aristocratic provenances, and represent the very pinnacle of the decorative arts of their era.”

Sale Highlights

Jacques-Louis David, The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, 1789 (Paris: Louvre)

A gilt-bronze-mounted mahogany table À l’Antique designed by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), attributed to Georges Jacob (1739-1814), Louis XVI circa 1785-89 (est. £200,000-300,000). This exceptional table appears in David’s famous painting Les Licteurs rapportent a Brutus les corps de ses fils of 1789, in the Louvre. David designed and commissiond various pieces of furniture to use in his paintings. These were executed by the prominent Parisian cabinet-maker, Georges Jacob, who crafted the chairs for Marie-Antoinette’s laiterie at Rambouillet. The table can be considered as one of the most important precursors of what would be defined as the Empire style. A brass plaque inside the pedestal tells that the table was left to David’s great
granddaughter by David’s grandson, Jules David Chassagnol.

The Shah of Persia’s Elephant Automaton Clock – George III paste-set ormolu musical automaton clock, ca 1780, signed by Peter Torckler (est. £1-2 million). Photo: Sotheby’s.

The Shah of Persia’s Elephant Automaton Clock – A George III paste-set ormolu musical automaton clock, circa 1780, signed by Peter Torckler (est. £1-2 million). This magnificent automaton clock of a rare and impressive scale stands over one metre tall and was probably acquired by Naser al-Din Shah of Persia (1831–96) in London in the 1890s. The Shah had been mesmerized by similar clocks he saw while visiting Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild at Waddeson Manor in 1889. It typifies the intriguing and inventive objects produced in London by skilled British craftsmen in the second half of the 18th century and would have originally been destined for the Chinese market. Promoted by the East India Company, such objects played a key role in lessening the trade deficit between Britain and China and were articles of tribute in Chinese society, where gifts flowed through the official hierarchy, passing through the system to superiors and eventually, the Emperor. Similarly ornate elephant figures were frequently found throughout the Chinese Imperial Palaces and a large number remain in the Palace Museum, Beijing. The iconography of an elephant supporting a vase on its back forms
the auspicious rebus Daping Jingxian, or Daping Youxian,
representing the message of Peace and Harmony.

Sèvres soft-paste porcelain vases, with gilt-bronze mounts attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), ca 1788-90 (est. £600,000-1,000,000). Photo: Sotheby’s.

A pair of important gilt-bronze-mounted Sèvres soft-paste porcelain vases, almost certainly supplied by the marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, the mounts attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843), circa 1788-1790 (est. £600,000-1,000,000). This magnificent pair of vases is exceptional in both form and decoration. The rare sky-blue colour was developed specifically for Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette by the Royal Manufacture of Sèvres, during the king’s building and decoration of his Rambouillet estate. The design is by celebrated Parisian marchand-mercier Dominique Daguerre, who was the chief supplier to the court of Louis XVI, while the finely cast and chased gilt-bronze mounts can be almost certainly attributed to Pierre-Philippe Thomire, the renowned bronzier who made pieces for Louis XVI’s bedchamber at Compiègne and for Marie-Antoinette’s apartments at Versailles.

George III 12-inch diameter Selenographia, ca 1797 (est. £200,000-300,000). Photo: Sotheby’s.

A George III 12-inch diameter Selenographia, circa 1797 (est. £200,000-300,000). John Russell R.A., who patented this ‘moon globe’ in 1796, was a highly successful society portraitist, Royal Academician and painter to King George III and the Prince of Wales. Russell had a passion for astronomy and was so “stricken by the beauty of the Moon” that he devoted considerable time to observing, mapping and drawing it. This Selenographia apparatus accurately depicts the Moon, while a small globe of the Earth demonstrates the oscillations of the Moon in relation to the planet. The globe was first purchased by George O’Brien Wyndham, the 3rd Earl of Egremont (1751-1837), who also had an interest in science. The Earl’s mistress, ‘Mrs Wyndham’, was also a lady of great scientific repute and for whom much scientific equipment was purchased, so it is possible that it may have been purchased with her in mind. Only a few examples of Selenographia globes are known to have survived, and are currently held in prominent science museums in London, Oxford and Madrid as well as other private collections. (more…)

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