Published: June 19, 2007
On May 27, Thomaston Place Auction Galleries’ sale of the Irving Bernstein Collection of ancient pottery and Roman glass attracted aggressive bidding from buyers around the world, including Israel, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Bahamas, Canada and the United States. The collection, consisting of 165 lots, included many pieces that were gifted to Bernstein by his friend, former Israeli Defense Minister General Moshe Dayan, prior to 1970.
Throughout the sale, there was intense bidding activity from the auction house floor, 11 telephones and the Internet. All objects in the collection were sold, and the sale generated revenues that were 50 percent above the high estimate. Many of the highest priced items were the terracotta and Roman glass pieces identified as having come from Dayan. Most of the Dayan pieces also had brief attributions of date and site inscribed on them.
“I’ve always been very interested in antiquities, so I was extremely excited about the results of this sale,” said auctioneer Kaja Veilleux. “As far as I know, this was the largest grouping of this type of antiquities ever sold in New England.”
The best performing lots included a hollow redware male figure with draped clothing from the Tenth Century BC, which sold far above estimate at $7,150, a 50-inch tall terracotta amphora from 300 BC signed “M Dayan” that attained $7,700 and a bulbous base, Roman glass flask with green iridescent finish, circa 200‴00 AD, that doubled its estimate to bring $2,860.
Other highlights included a chalice-form drinking vessel from 1000 BC and marked “M Dayan” that fetched $4,950 and a fragmentary Egyptian marble head with traces of its original faience glazing, which sold for $5,500.
Appraiser and antiquities expert Norman Hurst, owner of Hurst Gallery in Cambridge, Mass., said, “Because many pieces in this diverse collection were acquired by Mr Bernstein directly from the late Moshe Dayan, each one has an impeccable provenance.”
The late Bernstein was the former executive director of the United Jewish Appeal, a multinational Jewish organization committed to raising money for humanitarian needs around the world. He traveled extensively, and he was a trusted advisor to many of Israel’s leaders.
Bernstein’s lifelong passion for the history of the Holy Land is reflected in this collection of ancient glass and pottery, which was obtained through purchases from a state authorized antiquities dealer in Jerusalem or sold/gifted to him by his close friend, General Dayan.
Besides antiquities, there was the auction gallery’s usual selection of fine art, furniture and decorative arts.
Fine art dominated Saturday, with Charles Camoin’s “Port Viewed Through The Window” that fetched $22,000, and two oil on canvas portraits by Samuel F.M. Badger performed well. The first to cross the block was laid on Masonite and featured the four-masted schooner Hattie B. Simpson. It brought $19,800. His portrait of the Marie Palmer realized $13,750. John White Allen Scott’s view of the White Mountains of New Hampshire fetched $16,500.
Furniture was led by an Eighteenth Century secretary/desk, three-part Chippendale mahogany with a bonnet top, which attained $42,900.
Other lots that performed well in the first session included a rare large Nineteenth Century Meissen Chinese Buddha form nodder at $19,800, and a rare Apollo duplex student oil lamp, mid-Nineteenth Century, at $14,300.
Sunday’s highlights included a set of ten Copenhagen plates that realized $11,000 and a platinum three stone lady’s ring, circa 1910, centered by a 2.5-carat Burmese blue sapphire, that fetched $8,800.
All prices reported include the ten percent buyer’s premium. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm