Chronology : 1540-1569 1630-1639 1640-1649 1680-1699 1840-1849 1920 2000-2009
1542 Holbein at the Court of Henry VIII
2015 SOLD for £ 960K including premium
In 1536, a lull interrupts this turmoil with the hope that the new queen Jane Seymour brings an heir to the king. Holbein was commissioned to paint a mural for the king's chamber at Whitehall Palace.
Completed in the following year, this work shows the king, his wife and his parents. Henry VIII is very satisfied with the achievement and the artist is salaried, which does not mean that he will have a further access to the king. Many copies of this masterpiece will be made which is a luck because the original was destroyed in a fire in 1698.
The figure of the king is remarkable. In the German style, Holbein has removed the direct attributes of royalty so that Henry is only highlighted by his majestic and authoritarian attitude and by his sumptuous clothing.
On July 8 in London, Sotheby's sells a portrait of the king, oil on panel 93 x 67 cm dated 1542, lot 7 estimated £ 800K. Henry is viewed in mid length. His face has not aged but we know that Holbein was working from drawings and his studies from 1537 were probably still usable. The king is dressed in a great luxury, with a red velvet surcoat and a doublet brocaded in gold and silver.
The artist was skilled. The magnitude of the garment hides the obesity and the physical weakness of the king whose attitude is as arrogant as ever. This image was also copied. The scarcity of the artistic documents of the time does not enable to formally attribute it to Holbein.
The date 1542 is interesting. The fifth consort queen of that reign, Catherine Howard, had just fallen for adultery and her family was threatened with spoliation. This painting is now sold by the Howards, who maybe had owned it from the origin. A prolific portrait painter, Holbein had also worked with the Howards.
The royal portrait may have been commissioned by the old Thomas Howard 3rd Duke of Norfolk, one of the most intriguing courtiers, to facilitate a reconciliation with the king.
1554 Gold Medal for Bloody Mary
2019 SOLD for CHF 800K before fees
I narrated it as follows in 2009.
The sixteenth century was the era of religious wars and the terrible life of Mary Tudor confirms that the real challenge of the fratricidal conflicts was the political domination of Europe.
This daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon had received the best education of her time. She had been promised for marriage to princes of Spain and France but was thrown out of court and declared illegitimate when her mother was repudiated.
The reign of her half-brother Edward VI added to the chaos. Supported by the Spanish Catholics, Mary succeeded in 1553 to Edward while the Protestants opposed her with the anti-queen Jane Grey.
The new Queen was married in 1554 to the future King Philip II of Spain, son of the Emperor Charles V. On this occasion, the newlywed commissioned Jacopo da Trezzo with a medal bearing the portrait of his wife.
Released by the end of that year, it is a superb gold medal 68 mm in diameter weighing more than 150 g. The face is already exhausted by the ordeals of this woman who still believed until her death in 1558, aged 42, that she could become a mother. The reverse shows various symbols of peace and justice at the same time when the religious persecutions were increasing.
Only two pieces are known in gold. The other one is in the British Museum. This scarcity is probably because gold was reserved for presentation to the royals while the upper dignitaries got a similar medal in silver.
1564 Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Steven van der Meulen
2007 SOLD for £ 2.6M including premium by Sotheby's
1632 The Little Prince of Orange
2018 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium
Van Dyck definitively left Antwerp in January 1632. Very cleverly he stopped at the court of The Hague to confirm his expertise by making portraits of the Prince of Orange and of his family. Relationships are close between Stuarts and Oranges. The agents of the King of England are around the corner and commission the artist to make an additional copy of his Orange portraits. The game is won : in April 1632 Van Dyck is triumphantly welcomed in London where he will remain until his death.
The stadhouder's heir is his son Willem who is almost six years old. The young boy is standing full length. He is richly dressed in a long gown in the golden orange color of the princely house of Orange, with lace collar and cuffs. The clothing is princely but the attitude is of any real child, lively and without any trace of childish complacency.
Several versions of this image exist but only two have autograph qualities. The oil on canvas 119 x 105 cm supplied to the stadhouder is kept in the Schloss Musigkau museum in Dessau. The other oil on canvas, 128 x 100 cm, is certainly the portrait of a young Dutch prince listed in the sale of the late King Charles's goods by the Commonwealth in 1652. It is estimated $ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on February 1, lot 42.
The painting that comes at Sotheby's has recently been cleaned, revealing the qualities of an original. Pentimenti have been detected and two almost imperceptible but important details are better than in the Orange version : the curiosity expressed by the boy to an unidentified action out of field and the strength of his dog. From his stay in The Hague, Van Dyck already reserved the best of his art for the King of England.
Prince Willem was to marry in 1641 Princess Mary Henrietta, the eldest daughter of King Charles I. King William III of England was his posthumous son.
Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1641 Royal Children by van Dyck
2018 SOLD for £ 5.9M including premium
When van Dyck began this new mission in 1632, the royal couple had two children, Charles and Mary. James, Elizabeth and Anne will be born later. The artist watches them grow.
The mother, Henriette, brought to the Stuart court her French elegance with luxurious fabrics. A portrait kept in the Boston Museum shows Mary in 1637. The six-year-old princess wears a long silk dress to which the artist's skill brings a lustrous appearance.
On May 2, 1641 Mary marries a prince of Orange. In the days that followed, van Dyck paints a new portrait similar to the previous one, on which the little girl now wears her wedding ring and the brooch offered by her newlywed.
Making autograph copies is a common practice of van Dyck. By the quality of dress and jewels and the transparency of the embroidery, the 158 x 109 cm autograph oil on canvas for sale by Christie's in London on December 6 is perhaps the original painting of 1641. It is estimated £ 5M, lot 15.
On December 5 in London, Sotheby's sells another example of same size, lot 30 estimated £ 600K. The figure of the child is identical but the ambience background has nearly vanished, and the spectacular coral pink gown worn at the wedding has become a saturated orange, probably to please the new Orange in-laws of the princess. A participation of the studio is possible.
A portrait of the same format and same year shows the Prince of Wales later King Charles II, aged 11, in armor. It was probably since its creation a pendant with Mary's picture in orange and is estimated £ 2M for sale by Sotheby's in the same sale, lot 29.
Please watch the videos shared by the auction houses.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
Christie's (Princess Mary) : SOLD for £ 5.9M
Sotheby's (Prince Charles) : SOLD for £ 2.6M
Sotheby's (Princess Mary) : SOLD for £ 790K
These portraits of an 11 year-old Charles II, when Prince of Wales, and his 9 year-old sister Mary, Princess Royal, were among the last works #VanDyck painted for his royal patron, Charles I. #SothebysMasters https://t.co/cGm7aFEAvb pic.twitter.com/lYbs1RzTEW— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 13, 2018
1693 A Little Clock for Queen Mary
2019 SOLD for £ 1.93M including premium
Aware of the quality of his production, Tompion numbered his instruments, an exceptional practice in his time for a manufactured product. He mixes in a single serialization list the table clocks and the long case clocks. His clocks have a long autonomy. His grande sonnerie pieces offer a repetition of quarters over a long duration.
From 1692 or 1693 Tompion improves the elegance of his design with his Phase Two which includes the cushion dome, the thistle bud handle, the bellflower keyhole and the operation of the mechanism from the front face.
The master seems more interested in standardization than in miniaturization. Nevertheless Number 215 appears as the first of a small series of Phase Two table clocks with a total height of 28 cm including the raised handle. It was sold for £ 170K including premium by Bonhams on December 13, 2011.
Number 222, made especially for Queen Mary II in 1693 and known as the Q Clock, is the smallest clock ever made by Tompion with an ebony case. It is 20 cm high overall with the handle raised. It offers the quarter repetition and an autonomy of eight days.
Re-assembled in 1949 by a collector with its original movement, the Q Clock was sold for £ 440K including premium by Christie's on June 30, 1993. It will be sold by Bonhams in London on June 19, lot 103. The May 20 press release is announcing for this silver mounted royal clock an estimate in excess of £ 2M. A modern replica is joined to the lot.
Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are delighted to announce that one of the most valuable clocks ever to appear at auction, The King William & Queen Mary Royal Tompion, will star in The Clive Collection of Exceptional Clocks in London on 19 June.https://t.co/6ufWtyi4Ax pic.twitter.com/ROoThd69zu— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) May 20, 2019
1847 Bordeaux cover with Mauritius stamps
1993 SOLD 6.2 MCHF including premium by David Feldman
1847 The Post Office in Mauritius
2016 SOLD for € 1.23M including premium
Two denominations are issued : 1 penny and 2 pence. The printing plate is made in intaglio by a local engraver in imitation of the stamps then applicable in Great Britain with the profile of Queen Victoria.
They are extremely rare : the printing was stopped in the following year when the administration decided to put the wording Post Paid instead of Post Office on the left edge. 500 'Post Office' stamps of each value had been edited. A cover that circulated with each of the two stamps was sold for CHF 6.2M including premium by David Feldman in 1993.
The printing plate surfaced in 1912. It is unique in its kind. A single example of each denomination appears on this small piece of copper 81 x 61 mm. Because of this rudimentary configuration, the stamps had to be printed individually.
Considered as an outstanding philatelic treasure, the plate enters around 1930 in the collection of Maurice Burrus but will not appear in his succession. The mystery is lifted in 2013 when the family finds it by chance in the inventory of a further deceased estate : a niece of the collector had kept it in his memory inside a small cover without ever imagining its inestimable value as a witness of the pioneering era of the postage stamp.
The plate is estimated in excess of € 2M for sale on December 1 in Geneva by David Feldman, lot 1. Here is the link to the website of the auction house. The image below is taken from the press kit. Please watch the video shared by David Feldman explaining in details this rediscovery.
1920 The Sovereigns of the British Empire
2012 SOLD 780 K£ including premium
The British Empire extended over all regions of the world. It was logical that Australia, a major producer of gold, minted also these coins as soon as security enabled it. Coins made in Sydney, identified by the letter S, were issued from 1855 to 1926, for a total of 115 variants when separating the years.
For many decades, American collectors have built complete thematic series of their currencies composed of the best possible specimens. In other countries, this approach is still unfrequent. The sale by Baldwin's in three parts of the Bentley collection of British sovereigns shall be used as a reference.
The first sale, on 8 May 2012, included all variants made in London, with the exception of the 1819 sovereign which will be the top lot of the third sale in May 2013.
The second sale, on September 27 in London, is devoted to colonial issues.
The 1920-S sovereign is an exceptional piece. The extreme rarity of this variant is not correlated with the statistics of the plant, but it is likely that almost all coins minted in Sydney in 1920 remained mintmarked from the previous year.
This coin was purchased for Aus $ 580K including premium by its current owner in 2006 in an auction organized by KJC Coins. It is now estimated £ 300K. Both sides are shown on the article shared by Blouin Artinfo.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result is both excellent and very satisfying, because usually the high end of the modern coin market is dominated by U.S. dollars. The Australian sovereign was sold £ 780K, according to a tweet of the auction house.
The £ 780K figure includes the fees.
It has been found in 2014 that the few 1920-S sovereigns struck in 1920 were made on a special order for an NSW politician celebrating his gold wedding anniversary. The sovereign was expensive at that time in terms of gold content and no 1920 sovereign had been required by the officials to the Sydney mint. A 1920-S sovereign novodel made in 1926 after cleaning the reverse die is also known. This story is narrated by Sterling & Currency.
1952 Cartier's Bestiary
2010 SOLD 4.5 M£ including premium
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor especially appreciated for years the works created by Jeanne Toussaint, director of high jewelry at Cartier.
Two jewels that had participated in the fabulous sale of the Windsor jewels in April 1987 at Sotheby's in Geneva come back to the same auction house in London on November 30. Each one is estimated 1 million pounds.
The most ancient, purchased by the Duchess in 1940, is a very elegant flamingo brooch made of ruby, sapphire, emerald, citrine and diamonds. Designed in 1952, the other jewel is an original panther bracelet in onyx and diamonds. Both are illustrated in the article shared by Bloomberg.
The compositions of colored gems promoted by Cartier were not only figurative. Jeanne Toussaint had developed in the 1920s these tutti frutti bracelets that were the most original jewelry of that time.
POST SALE COMMENT
The remarkable panther bracelet, designed to undulate around the wrist, was sold £ 4.5 million including premium, far above its estimate.
The flamingo brooch also got a very good price: £ 1.7 million including premium.
2003-2004 The Soul of a British Officer
2015 SOLD for $ 35M including premium
This aristocrat had previously shared the royal children's passion for horses and polo. The Prince of Wales will much later marry Camilla newly divorced from the Brigadier. The hero attended the wedding without resentment.
Lucian Freud was fond of horses, too, and a longtime friend of Andrew Parker Bowles. He painted his portrait in 2003-2004. During 18 months at a rate of three times a week and four hours per session, the Brigadier came to sit in the artist's studio.
Lucian's process is unique in the history of portrait painting. He rushed to the face of his model to inspect a tiny detail that provoked an equally abrupt return to save it on the canvas. Then he saturated his guest in an endless chatter before being ready to proceed with another detail. Lucian was very witty, which was quite necessary to maintain the patience of his models.
The obsession of the artist was to create lifelike works at the opposite of the dryness of a photograph. His method totally different from Bacon's led also to a strong emotion but Lucian managed to keep the realistic features of his characters. The Brigadier is still admiring today his portrait by Freud, better than life even in the glare of the medals.
The officer is not Sue Tilley. Lucian had not imposed an acrobatic attitude to this dignified sexagenarian who was indeed required to take the same position again at each new session. The result looks like a classic military portrait excepted that it is extraordinary in its psychological rendering.
This oil on canvas 224 x 138 cm is featured in Christie's evening sale in New York on November 10, lot 31B. I invite you to watch the video shared by the auction house, in which this piece is discussed by Brett Gorvy.
2007 Her Majesty's Bullion
2010 SOLD 3.27 M€ before fees
Gold bullion coins generally have a purity of 99.99%.
In 2007, the Royal Canadian Mint announces the launch of a product line to 99.999%. And as now the only way to get noticed is gigantism, they produce a coin with facial value of 1 million Canadian $. A small number of investors will then order similar parts.
The piece measures 53 cm in diameter, 3 cm thick, and weighs 100 kg. Chemists will appreciate this remarkable feat of engineering. The obverse is a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. The reverse shows the emblem of Canada, three maple leaves. Its value to weight is approximately € 3.2 million.
The copy that was owned by an Austrian financial company is for sale by Dorotheum in Vienna on June 25. Exciting fate for this symbol of capitalism: the owner has gone bankrupt!
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot has been sold 3.27 million € before fees. This is the price of its metal value to weight, not surprisingly. The extreme purity of gold has not generated an added value.