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The Ogden Mills ‘Armoires à Sept Medailles’ (estimate: £1 million – 1.5 million). Photo: Christies Images Ltd 2013.

LONDON.- Christie’s announced full details of The Exceptional Sale which will take place on the evening of 4 July 2013. Since 2008 this unique sale platform has provided collectors with the opportunity to acquire masterpieces of European furniture and decorative arts. The Exceptional Sale brings together a wide variety of objects which are linked by a common attribute: excellence. The sale presents the finest examples of: English, French and German furniture, ormolu-mounted Chinese porcelain, silver, European porcelain, clocks, sculpture, portrait miniatures and objects of vertu. Comprising 48 lots, the sale is expected to realise in excess of £18 million. 

Robert Copley, Deputy Chairman Christie’s UK, International Head of Furniture and Decorative Arts: ‘The Exceptional Sale’ has become a well-established highlight of the auction calendar and once again this year we offer the collector the very best European decorative arts and furniture; from a magnificent coffee-pot made by England’s finest silversmith to furniture made by France’s greatest cabinet maker; from a Maharaja’s dinner-service to a porcelain vase-clock from the Palace of Versailles. The rich and varied works in the ‘The Exceptional Sale’ are united by the common themes of rarity, provenance, craftsmanship and beauty. 

FURNITURE

In 2012 The Exceptional Sale featured the Ogden Mills ‘Armoires à Six Medailles’ which sold for £1,049,250. Building on this success, The Exceptional Sale 2013 will present the Ogden Mills ‘Armoires à Sept Medailles’ (estimate: £1 million – 1.5 million). These extraordinary armoires were acquired circa 1910 by the philanthropist and collector Ogden Mills (1857-1929) for his Parisian residence. They are lavishly decorated with spectacular gilt-bronze mounts that fuse seamlessly with the scrolling foliate pattern of the sumptuous ground of brass and tortoiseshell première and contre-partie marquetry. The Louis XIV armoire in contre partie is attributed to André-Charles Boulle, while the late Louis XV is by Delorme. They are decorated to the doors with trails of medals celebrating the Life of Louis XIV as well as the figures of Aspasia and Socrates. Conceived initially with shelves to house collections of precious medals this series of armoires proved so successful it remained in production in Boulle's workshop throughout the first half of the 18th century and was subsequently continued by Boulle's followers.

Three exceptional pieces by David Roentgen, the most celebrated German cabinet-maker of the late 18th century will be offered. Decorated with enchanting Chinoiserie scenes in Roentgen's trademark marquetry à la mosaique and mounted with jewel-like ormolu mounts a splendid roll-top desk is a superb example of Roentgen's work at the height of his career (estimate: £400,000 – 600,000). Framed by exquisite mounts, the elegant form, inspired by Parisian models of the new Louis XVI style, serves as the perfect vehicle for the display of the splendid marquetry for which Roentgen was rightly celebrated across Europe. Also by Roentgen is a German ormolu-mounted and brass-inlaid mahogany architect’s desk which belonged to the Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia. It is another excellent example of Roentgen’s unrivalled craftsmanship, combining exacting quality of construction with the use of splendid veneers and finely chased gilt-bronze mounts (estimate: £150,000 – 250,000). 

Included in a strong selection of exceptional English furniture from stately homes is the Lord Curzon four-post bed acquired for Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire (estimate: £80,000 – 120,000). Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India between 1899 and 1905 and Foreign Secretary (1919 - 1924), inherited the Kedleston estate in 1916. Passionately interested in architecture and period interiors and renowned for his extravagant taste, Lord Curzon determined to create ‘authentic’ rooms with appropriate antique furniture for the houses he owned or leased. Four-poster bedsteads with sumptuous silk damask bed hangings were among the most treasured and expensive furnishings in an 18th century mansion. 18th century four poster bedsteads were few and far between at the beginning of the 20th century, and there were none at Kedleston; Lord Curzon was compelled to purchase beds as part of the refurbishment. 

SILVER

Building on the strong results achieved by the silver in The Exceptional Sale 2012, in which the Leinster Dinner-Service achieved a record price for a British dinner service at auction, The Exceptional Sale 2013 will offer the finest examples of both British and European silver. Leading the sale is the Lequesne coffee-pot, the most important coffee-pot ever to come to the market (estimate: £3.5 – 4.5 million). This Rococo masterpiece by Paul de Lamerie (1688–1751) - the greatest silversmith working in Britain in the 18th century - is expected to become the most valuable piece of English silver ever to be sold at auction.

The Maharaja of Patiala’s banqueting service, commissioned by the Maharaja in honour of a tour of India in 1922 by Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, gives an insight into the Maharaja’s lavish lifestyle (estimate: £1 million – 1.5 million). This extensive George V silver-gilt dinner-service comprises over 1,400 pieces. His wealth and status was such that he was the first man in India to own an aircraft, for which the Patiala Aviation Club was founded. He and his wife patronised some of the leading makers in the world, such as Cartier, whom they commissioned to mount the De Beers diamond as the centrepiece of the magnificent ‘Patiala Necklace’. The Maharaja was also an avid and early motorcar enthusiast; indeed legend has it that he would travel in a motorcade of 20 Rolls Royces. However, in 1930 he had a falling out with Rolls Royce who he felt slighted him by refusing to accept an order. Such was his power and influence in India that a campaign by him forced the Viceroy to pressure Rolls Royce to change their decision. 

SCULPTURE

A beautiful, over-lifesize statue by Girolamo Campagna (1549 - 1621), is an exciting recent discovery: it is almost certainly one of the eight figures which the young Veronese sculptor carved between 1582 and 1584 for the funerary monument to Doge Nicolò Da Ponte (1491-1585), formerly in the Venetian church of Santa Maria della Carità (estimate: £600,000 – 1 million). Completed by April 1584, the monument dominated the right nave of the monastic church for over two centuries. In 1807, however, the Carità and its associated buildings were chosen as the site for the new Accademia di Belle Arti, which resulted in the removal of all the monuments, altars and tombs inside the church. It was believed, until now, that all of the statues by Campagna had been lost. Campagna was one of the most significant sculptors to have worked in Venice in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Gifted at working in marble, bronze and stucco, by the last decade of the Cinquecento, he had taken over from Alessandro Vittoria (c. 1525-1608) as the city’s leading sculptor. He continued to receive major commissions from the state, church and private patrons until his death in 1621. 

A magnificent bronze model of an écorché horse relates to ‘The anatomy of a horse in patinated metal above a carved marble quadrilateral plinth’ that was documented in an inventory of 1810 of the workshop of Giuseppe Valadier, the celebrated Roman bronze founder, architect and designer (estimate: £500,000 – 800,000). It is one of four casts known to exist on this scale and is the only one in private hands. Since the Renaissance artists have been fascinated by the structural qualities of human and animal bodies and some, such as Leonardo da Vinci, took part in dissections of the body to aid their study. The first documented écorché models were made in Italy in the 16th century, often in bronze. Later, the celebrated painter of horses, George Stubbs (1724-1806), made a remarkable series of engravings of The Anatomy of the Horse. 

PORCELAIN

A pair of ormolu-mounted Sèvres porcelain vases combine colourful Chinoiserie scenes with faux-lacquer decoration and are also the only known ‘vases fond noir Chinois en or’ surviving in private hands (estimate: £500,000 – 800,000). In the early 1790s, Sèvres produced a selection of table wares and vases with sumptuous decoration in the manner of Asian lacquer. Created by painting different shades of gold and platinum on a black ground, the effect is arguably one of the richest decorations on porcelain ever achieved and technologically one of the most complex. Of the approximately 40 entries in the Sèvres records for vases and other pieces of form decorated using this technique, only 23 are known to have survived, of which nearly all are now in public collections. Only 17 vases have survived and the present pair are the only ‘vases à bandeau’ recorded as decorated in this style. 

William Beckford’s ‘sacred peach’ vases in rare ‘clair-de-lune’ porcelain and sculpted in relief with a sacred peach, are mounted with superbly modelled and beautifully chased mounts that can be attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis (d.1774), one of the most significant bronziers of the second half of the 18th century (estimate: £400,000 – 600,000). These sumptuously mounted vases in the late rococo style of circa 1760 represent a reaction to the fanciful asymmetry of early rococo, the Goût Pitoresque of the 1730s and 1740s. The vases, which are part of a very small group of similar vases, display the sacred peach, often used in Chinese art to symbolize immortality. 

CLOCKS

Clocks in The Exceptional Sale include a Chinese paste-gem set ormolu and white marble ‘double gourd’ clock with swinging dial from the Guangzhou workshops, dating to the Qianlong period late 18th century, which is one of only three recorded examples (estimate: £400,000 – 600,000). Both of the other two examples have been sold by Christie’s. The clock displays powerful symbolism: the double-gourd design is a potent symbol of fertility and good fortune; the inverted bat (pien-fu) signifies ‘blessings have arrived’; the character medallion a sign of ‘Longevity’; the Phoenix heads (feng or fenghuang) an emblem of the Empress and one of the four Guardians of the Universe. 

Further highlights include a musical table clock by James Cox (1723 - 1800), created in circa 1766, which was previously in the collection of King Farouk I (estimate: £450,000 – 650,000). Cox operated as a jeweller and goldsmith from his London premises at Shoe Lane, off Fleet Street. The principal component parts of the present clock appear throughout his oeuvre. Cox’s clock cases and necessaires comprise characteristic elements: boldly cast Rococo mounts, a variety of animals including lizards, elephants and lions to the feet and vase finials combined throughout with ‘caged’ specimen panels of polished agate. Christie’s has a long association with Cox, having sold his clocks from as early as 1772. 

PORTRAIT MINIATURES & OBJECTS OF VERTU

An enamel plaque by Henry Bone, R.A. (1755 – 1834), the ‘Prince of Enamellers’, depicting Bacchus and Ariadne, is the artist’s largest and greatest work (estimate: £80,000 – 120,000). Henry Bone’s success as an enamellist was cemented when he was officially appointed Enamel Painter to the Prince of Wales, later Prince Regent, and to George III. Bacchus and Ariadne was purchased by George Bowles, an enthusiastic collector of Bone’s work, from the artist for 2,200 guineas in 1811. George Bowles and the Prince of Wales shared the same taste for Bone’s work and they both owned copies of his enamel after Cantarini’s Holy Family with an Angel. The vast gilt-wood frame accompanying the ‘Bacchus and Ariadne’, elaborately carved with anthemion and scroll motifs and lion’s masks within wreaths, is reminiscent of the Carlton House taste that the Prince of Wales enjoyed. 

A Saxon enamelled gold and hardstone snuff-box by Johann-Christian Neuber (1736-1808) is one of a small group of Neuber’s snuff-boxes in which the beauty and rarity of the stone is given greater emphasis than the gold-work (estimate: £250,000 – 350,000). Lapis-lazuli, which had to be imported from Afghanistan, was one of the only hardstones Neuber used that was not found in Saxony. Its unique, intense colour and composition could not be reproduced by any other stone. This box, with its beautifully coloured hardstone medallions set within intricate gold and hardstone borders, highlights Neuber’s extraordinary skill and imagination which made his objects so sought after at the Saxon Court and beyond. 

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A Saxon enamelled gold and hardstone snuff-box by Johann-Christian Neuber (1736-1808). Estimate: £250,000 – 350,000. Photo: Christies Images Ltd 2013.