Origins of Sports
Chronology : 18th century 1760-1769 1850-1859 1870-1879
1765 Portrait of a Champion by Stubbs
2011 SOLD 22.4 M£ including premium
Made around 1765, the oil on canvas for sale by Christie's in London on July 5 is certainly more outstanding. It is estimated £ 20M. This is the portrait of a horse named Gimcrack, who was winning most of the races where he was engaged.
This broad composition, 102 x 196 cm, simple and effective, is divided into two parts. On the left, Gimcrack shows his beautiful profile, surrounded by a coach, a stable boy and a jockey.
A race is held on the horizon, on the right. A horse is far ahead of his three followers. He is also Gimcrack, of course. He is therefore shown twice on that image that had everything to flatter the sponsor of the work, Lord Bolingbroke, owner of the champion.
Stubbs is very accurate in anatomical detail, but still shows horses galloping with their four legs flying above the ground. This feature, which can be excused one century before the studies of Muybridge, applies here only in the background and provides this work with an undeniable poetic dimension.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold £ 22.4 million including premium, Gimcrack has once again won his race.
< 1798 The Social Life of Golf
2015 SOLD for £ 720K including premium
Sport was not the subject of a media report as it is today, and the oldest archives date back to the late eighteenth century. Most members of that time are Scots. The rules and offices are defined, including a secretary who manages the life of the society and a captain who guarantees the quality of the ground.
Henry Callender devotes much of his life to Blackheath where his involvement is so appreciated by his friends that he will receive the exceptional title of Captain General of the club. His portrait was painted by Lemuel Francis Abbott. This oil on canvas 223 x 138 cm that decorated the club up to now is estimated £ 600K for sale by Bonhams in London on December 9, lot 47.
Callender is full length standing in his Blackheath attire with medals and epaulettes. The painting cannot be earlier than the first office held by Callender in 1790 or subsequent to the retirement of Abbott in 1798 although some decorations may have been added after the later date.
The player is equipped with a club and a putter. A putter from the same ancient model is offered in the same sale as lot 48, estimated £ 50K. It also belonged since a long time to the Royal Blackheath Golf Club and the assumption that it is the example illustrated by Abbott is quite plausible.
RESULTS including premium :
painting : £ 720K
putter : £ 62K
1816 The Beast won !
2013 SOLD 1.9 M$ including premium
Goya himself had practiced bullfighting. He had admired Illo, who was with Pedro Romero one of the great reformers of that art. Horrified as we know by wars, Goya could not fail to devote a full set of prints to this deadly game in which the man was not always the winner.
La Tauromaquia is the saga of the corrida de toros, published in 33 prints by Goya in Madrid in 1816, and showing the feats and death of Illo. The aquatints were prepared by drypoint, and two of them are enhanced by a wash.
A complete original set, remarkably homogeneous, is estimated $ 400K, for sale by Christie's in New York on April 9. Images on an oblong sheet 28 x 40 cm are accompanied by a page on the same paper with the handwritten list of titles. The set is assembled in a binding of that time. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
For ancient and modern prints, perfect examples of the most prestigious editions have no price limit. They are works of art in their own right: $ 1.9 million including premium.
1857 The Laws of Base Ball
2016 SOLD for $ 3.26M by SCP
The spirit of competition requires fixed rules that will identify champions who will defend their title in the following season. In England, football has a similar story at the same period.
The activist of the standardization of base ball, which will later become the baseball, is the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club established in 1845 and named after the uniforms of the firefighters who lent to them their playing field.
The Knickerbockers were not the best in sport but they had the merit of endeavoring to impose their rules. They were also one of the two teams that played the first official match in 1846 and the first base ball club to use a distinctive uniform in 1849.
In 1857 in New York, the first congress of the National Association of Base Ball Players establishes the first regulatory body and freezes the rules that will remain virtually unchanged for ever, ending the initiatives of the Knickerbockers.
A set of three manuscripts that were almost unnoticed in an auction in 1999 gives a new vision on the fundamental and even unique role of the Knickerbockers in defining the final baseball laws.
In 1857 the President of the Knickerbockers is Doc Adams who had been a player in the 1846 pioneering game. The three documents are the first autograph draft written by Adams in 1856 (the last page is missing), an iteration annotated by him before the congress and the final laws submitted to Congress and approved.
These documents were sold together for $ 3.26M as lot 1 by SCP Auctions with bidding close out on April 23, 2016. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
We are record setters here at SCP #Auctions. Remember when we sold The Laws of Baseball for over $3,000,000? We’d love to help you with your #sports #memorabilia in our Summer Premier Auction. Send in your #consignments before it’s too late. pic.twitter.com/jVT7YCG3vh— SCP Auctions (@SCPAuctions) July 7, 2019
1857 Football was born in Sheffield
2011 SOLD 880 K£ including premium
Particularly dynamic since its creation in 1857, the Sheffield Foot-Ball Club immediately established a working group to standardize the sport. On October 28, 1858, a set of eleven rules was adopted. Sheffield succeeded where other clubs had failed: in 1863 the new Football Association confirmed the game as it was played in Sheffield.
The club sells its archives on July 14 at Sotheby's in London.
The documents contain the official records of the club with the minutes of meetings and the first accounts of games. They include, of course, the oldest handwritten version of the rules of football, but also the only known copy of the first printed edition (1859).
It is an extraordinary set for the knowledge of sports history, so important as an input to social history as a whole. The estimate, £ 800K, seems low.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate was well targeted. Sold £ 880K including premium, the lot has remained around the low estimate.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's.
1872 Les Courses au Bois de Boulogne by Manet
2004 SOLD 26.3 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Manet easily entered into artist circles. He enjoys social life and does not wait for the recognition of the Salons. His themes are unlimited. Before him, Courbet went already complacently up to the scandal. Baudelaire and then Zola recognize the originality of his approach.
On May 5, 2004, Sotheby's sold for $ 26.3M including premium Les Courses au Bois de Boulogne, oil on canvas 73 x 94 cm painted in 1872 by Manet, lot 13, from the collection of one of the most famous owners of racehorses, John Hay Whitney. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
The artist skillfully mixed observation and imitation. It seems that the topography of the Longchamp racecourse was painted on the spot.
Manet had demonstrated a few years earlier in his first bullfighting scenes that a direct participation in the event was not essential, since he could rely on Goya. Here the horses in full gallop all fly with their four legs lifted, as in the Epsom Derby painted by Géricault in 1821, acquired by the Louvre in 1866. The imperturbable position of the jockeys in full race is not realistic : the sporting effort was obviously not appreciated by Manet.
Manet's painting is however very modern. The track and the lawn are aquamarine blue, highlighting the contrasts in a freedom of colors that anticipates expressionism for several decades. The distance of the subjects is marked by an increasing blur, as if it were a photograph focused on the action in progress in the foreground. This artifice provides the whole composition with an effect of depth, different from the solutions sought by his impressionist friends.
1891 Ball and Basket for Indoor Sport
2010 SOLD 4.3 M$ including premium
By design, it is not a rough sport. The idea of the inventor, the Canadian James Naismith, was to occupy without risk of injury the sportsmen in winter, when weather conditions do not allow to play baseball or football.
The elevated position of the baskets gives a specific interest to this sport that does not invite to physical contact. One can argue whether similar sports existed before basketball and inspired Naismit. No matter: the basketball based on his thirteen rules has become one of the most popular sports due to the simplicity of its required equipment.
Naismith had typed these thirteen rules, in two sheets that he modified by hand writing and signed. His family, who had kept this precious document, sells it at Sotheby's in New York on December 10 for the benefit of a Canadian foundation that spreads the ideals of sportsmanship of the inventor. The photo of these pages is shared by Artdaily.
It is clear that this lot is highly important in the history of sport. The auction house devoted a separate catalog to it, and expects $ 2M.
POST SALE COMMENT
The invention of basketball is really a major act of modern history, one of those advances that have impacted the lives and behavior of millions of people. The document was sold for $ 4.3 million including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's :
1892 Faster, Stronger, Higher
2019 SOLD for $ 8.8M including premium
With a remarkable open-mindedness, Coubertin compares the progress of sport in several countries. In England, the country of the fair play, football is a team sport practiced in colleges, including Rugby, and the establishment of official rules allows competitions. In Sweden the mental benefit of gymnastics is officially recognized. In the United States, sport opens the way to the practice of collective recreation. He does not like the use of sport for military training in Germany but recognizes its heroic character.
The time is also favorable for meetings of thematic clubs in England and France. They will support the development of the Coubertin project. In 1891 he promulgates a motto : citius, fortius, altius (later modified in its sequence). Coubertin is setting the example : on March 20, 1892 he is the referee in the final of the first French rugby championship.
Taking as a pretext the fifth anniversary of a running club, a conference is organized at the Sorbonne on November 25, 1892, with three speakers. Bourdon and Jusserand tell the history of the sport. Coubertin, entrusted for dealing with modern sport, concludes his speech by proposing the reestablishment of the Olympic Games.
In this seminal address, Coubertin's vision is universal. The most developed nations will help the others. It is a matter of practicing sports in common between athletes of all nations with a search for the individual excellence, but not yet of international competition or rewards.
The autograph draft of this Coubertin thesis, largely modified by the author in the preparation phase, is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 18, lot 173.
Very remarkably, despite necessarily different visions of his international interlocutors, it is Coubertin himself who will concretize his concept. A January 1894 autograph document defining the stadium and sports passed at Goldin Auctions on October 29, 2016. In June 1894, Pierre de Coubertin creates the International Olympic Committee.
#AuctionUpdate Moments ago in our #NYC salesroom, the original Olympic Games manifesto soared to $8.8 million, more than 8.5x its $1 million high estimate following a 12-minute bidding battle. The manifesto outlines Pierre de Coubertin's vision for reviving the ancient games. pic.twitter.com/xoR4uAzs2t— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 18, 2019
1896 The English Trophy
2020 SOLD for £ 760K including premium
This competition is symbolized by a trophy which is entrusted to the winning club until the final of the following year. This heavy piece of silverware to be lifted by two large handles goes from club to club. It was stolen in September 1895. Despite a promised reward of £ 10, it was not found. Much later, a counterfeiter will declare without convincing proof that he had stolen it in order to melt it.
A new trophy was therefore needed for 1896. It was made by a Birmingham silversmith as an exact replica of the lost piece of which a cast had been preserved. It is 41 cm high, 51 cm overall with the plinth, and its cover is decorated with a footballer.
A design change is decided in 1910 with the intention of protecting a new model by copyright. The obsolete trophy, which bears the list of winning clubs from 1872 to 1910 spread over several cartouches, is presented to FA President Lord Kinnaird, a champion who had been a member of its council since 1868.
In the direct descent from the Lord, the cup was sold for £ 480K including premium by Christie's on May 19, 2005, lot 100. It is estimated £ 700K for sale by Bonhams in London on September 29, lot 6.
□Up for the Cup□— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) September 8, 2020
We're offering a piece of English football history in our Spectacular Sporting Trophies & Memorabilia auction on September 29 – the oldest surviving FA Cup presented to winning teams between 1896 and 1910 □https://t.co/g2VHODn6ds pic.twitter.com/FVX285eggD
□The oldest surviving FA Cup, presented to the winning teams between 1896-1910, sold at #Bonhams today for £760,000□️— Bonhams (@bonhams1793) September 29, 2020
The trophy charts the transformation of the game from one dominated by public school players to the popular mass participation sport that it became and remains. pic.twitter.com/W3ukAOdbs7
1896 Just like in Olympia
2012 SOLD 540 K£ including premium
Two unprecedented events provide a link with antiquity and exacerbate the Greek patriotism : the discus throw (won by an American) and the marathon running.
Thirteen Greeks and four foreigners have dared to compete in this endurance race. The people and the king welcomed with an extraordinary burst of joy the victory of Spyridon Louis, a humble water carrier from the Athens suburb. This modern Cincinnatus returned to his farm after his feat.
The silver cup, 15 cm high, which was awarded to Spyridon Louis had been kept by his family. It is estimated £ 120K, for sale by Christie's in South Kensington on April 18.
Here is the link to the catalogue.
POST SALE COMMENT
As with any one-of-its-kind piece, the price of this cup was not predictable. It was sold £ 540K including premium. It is an excellent result, announced by Christie's on Twitter as an Olympic (memorabilia) record.