Published: June 8, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Hermann Historica
GRASBRUNN, MUNICH, GERMANY – Hermann Historica’s late spring marathon of sales kicked off on May 26 with nearly 600 lots of works of art and antiquities, followed up by more than 300 lots of antique arms and armor on May 27. A representative for the auction house confirmed that many of the top lots were purchased by collectors outside of Germany, with more attention from buyer’s in China than the firm has seen in the past two years. Private collectors continued to be the majority of buyers but both trade and institutional buyers were active in the sale as well.
The top price of $167,700 was realized for a Sixteenth Century BCE Egyptian wooden statuette, which had been in an Italian private collection. Carved from a single block of wood, the shaved head of the figure, as well as the low-waisted skirt with a triangular front fold, were characteristics of a high-ranking official or dignitary. It was in an exceptionally good state of preservation, retaining much of its original surface polychrome decoration and only minor hairline cracks, though some of the toes had been lost.
Bidders were eager to shake their proverbial paddles for an Eastern Han dynasty bronze Chinese money-shaking tree, which dated to 25-220 CE and sold for $59,458. The piece, which stood more than 53 inches on a flaring conical base headed by the figure of a rider on a ram. A thermoluminescence test that had been done in 2000 and which accompanied the lot confirmed its early dating and the tree retained an attractive green patina. According to the catalog note, money-shaking trees are believed to have been made only in Southwest China. In addition to the ram figure on the base, the branches also featured animals and mythical creatures as well as coins, which were meant to be offerings to the gods.
The presale advertising for the auction promoted the theme of animals in art – from animals that were domesticated by men or as emblems for various characteristics – and several pieces in the sale featured animals in one way or another.
Leading this group was a Seventh to Ninth Century Scandinavian Viking carved oak boar’s head that had been excavated from the river Scheldt, near Antwerp in the 1930s. Measuring 4¾ by 9 by 5½ inches, it was presumed to have been part of the figurehead of a Viking longboard. Like the money tree, scientific testing narrowed the date range to between 680 and 870 CE. It had impressive provenance beginning with the collection of Mr and Mrs Gabrielse Middleburg of the Netherlands, who had acquired it in 2008 from Dick Meijer Antiques in Amsterdam. Bidders went on a modern-day boar hunt, chasing it to $39,639.
If a carved boar’s head is rarely seen at auction, Chinese Tang dynasty (618-906 CE) horses are seen with greater frequency and bring high sums when they do. An 18-7/8-inch-tall example in brownish glaze with an unglazed saddle and blanket came with not only a thermoluminescence certificate but provenance to a South German private collection as well as the Viennese collection of Professor Leopold. Bidders pursued it to $36,590.
While some articles represented an animal outright, others incorporated them into the form of piece, such as in the case of a Neolithic Chinese C-shaped jade dragon from the Hongshan culture that dated to circa 3000 BCE. Purportedly rare, the example in the sale relates to a comparable piece in the jade collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing. It had been in a private West German collection and the Singapore collection of an exiled Chinese archaeologist. It sold to its new owner for $28,967.
Other noteworthy results for works with the animal theme can be seen in a pair of circa 1900 German silver falcons that measured about 17 and 18 inches tall, which flew to $25,882. The circular bases for each figure featured applied figures of mice, lizards and frogs. A Sassanian silver dish was embellished with the relief carving of a stylized horse and dated to between the Fourth to Seventh Century; it rode off to a new home for $22,868.
The same Rhineland-Palatinate collection offered a Third Millennium BCE Elamite lapis-lazuli recumbent lion that measured just 2½ inches. Despite its small size, it brought the large price of $16,770.
Edged weapons handily slashed estimates with several examples bringing the top prices in the May 27 antique arms and armor sale, including the top lot of the day, a circa 1610 German rapier with silver damascened and gilt guard that brought $53,351. Signed “Gio Kneg In Solingen,” the piece retained its original grip and measured almost 44½ inches in length. It related to examples in the Wallace Collection in London, as well as the Dreger collection in Berlin.
A circa 1670 Polish hussar’s estoc had a blade of triangular section more than doubled its starting price, selling for $44,205, while a circa 1250 German Gothic medieval sword with blade inlaid with gold read “Dicnlacdiclae” and measured 41 inches long. It slashed its starting price, closing at $27,438.
Bidders attacked the section of armor with vigor and several lots saw fight-to-the death competition, with many battling beyond expectations. The second highest price for the day was $51,827, which was realized for a Milanese gold-inlaid roundel shield, made in Italy circa 1560-70. The circular piece was decorated in relief, with warriors in Classical dress and retained riveted handles of braided rope with red velvet covers.
Of comparable vintage, a circa 1560 South German black and white suit of half-armor for a man-at-arms retained its original buckles and the leather covering was only partly replaced. It brought just over its asking price, selling for $38,108.
Equine trappings remain perennial favorites, if the results of the sale are an indication. A circa 1700 bridle from the arsenal of Frederick Augustus I of Saxony (who was also known as “Augustus the Strong”) doubled expectations and brought $19,816. It was described as “magnificent” and “princely” and survived in good condition with unfaded velvet, with similar example being featured in the equestrian portraits painted by Louis de Silvestre (1675-1760). It had descended in an old Dresden family.
A Nineteenth Century Italian Gothic saddle with lavish bone veneer was done in the style of saddles of the Fifteenth Century, also rode beyond the starting price and it closed at $11,280. It is similar to sales in the Royal Armouries in London, and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house and have been converted from euros based on the exchange rate on the day of the sale.
Hermann Historica’s next sales of works of art and antiquities will take place June 21 with antique arms and armor on June 22.
Hermann Historica is at Bretonischer Ring 3. For additional information, www.hermann-historica.de.
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