Published: October 14, 2003
When the board of the Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory, N.C., decided to deaccession rdf_Descriptions held in storage, they had no idea one of these objects would create so much excrdf_Descriptionent.
Bidding opened at $28,000 at Brunk Auctions recently for a late Eighteenth Century micromosaic table with top attributed to Giacomo Raffaelli. When the hammer finally fell after heavy telephone and gallery participation the audience cheered as auctioneer Robert Brunk declared the table “sold” for $400,000 — a record price, according to the gallery.
“This object had all the elements which can lead to record prices,” declared Brunk. “It had a clear provenance from the museum, it was fresh to the market and it was an exquisite example of the micromosaic technique.”
Two similar micromosiac tables are in the collection of the Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia; one, attributed to Giacomo Raffaelli, features a chariot driven by stags and is similar in style and design to the one sold at Brunk. Rafaelli’s workshops were in Florence, Milan and Rome. He is well-known for several examples of his work found in England: The famous mosaic floor at Syon House near London and mosaic work in the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, London.
How this example of an Italian artisan’s work arrived in Hickory, N.C., is not known. What is known is that Adolph Levitt, executive of the Doughnut Corporation of America, donated the object to the museum on April 7, 1949. According to acting executive director Andrea Maricich, the table had been placed in storage for most of its stay at the museum. Last year the board decided to deaccession objects that did not fit with their current collections.
Revenues from the micromosiac table and other objects will allow the museum to expand its permanent collection of North Carolina studio glass and regional outsider art. The museum is also noted for its large collection of regional art pottery, which will be making a national tour in 2005.
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