GRASBRUNN, Germany – The first day of the 82nd Auction at Hermann Historica GmbH in Grasbrunn, near Munich, presented a lineup of artifacts wrought with masterly artistic workmanship, dating from antiquity right through to the modern era. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.
The sale of the 717 lots on May 25 was like taking a journey through history and continents. Titled Art and handcrafts, antiquities, the catalog included virtually every epoch and every region of the world, all testaments to outstanding craftsmanship in a wide variety of materials. Fantastic results were achieved, thanks to the keen participation of the bidders on the telephone and the hitherto unknown, yet extremely active community of online bidders. Last year’s relocation to the new, spacious premises in Grasbrunn proved to be the proverbial stroke of good luck in the otherwise unfortunate COVID-19 situation; the generous space made the presale viewing possible in person and permitted direct attendance in the saleroom. Silver, glass and Asian art objects were particularly sought after, along with paintings and sculptures.
The announcement of an Old Master painting (above) unleashed a veritable bidding frenzy on all channels. Measuring a mere 10 inches in diameter, the enchanting, circular, 17th century work of finest Flemish rustic genre painting inspired such enthusiasm that its new owner could only claim his prize after a seemingly never-ending barrage of bids. Depicting a young farmer’s wife in traditional Flemish dress, holding a cauldron full of embers and set against a genre village scene of a farmhouse, the painting ultimately changed hands for €57,500 ($64,720), eclipsing its estimate of €1,500. A graceful, voluptuous, 17th century Venus of “pudica” type, crowned with a striking diadem and holding myrtle blossoms in her hand, also succeeded in captivating the audience and achieved a gratifying result. Standing 46 centimeters tall and fashioned in the finest Italian Renaissance style, the bronze sculpture was valued at €12,000 but went on to fetch €15,000 ($16,887).
During the 19th century, the Viennese gold and silver smith Hermann Ratzendorfer gained the highest renown for his peerless neo-Renaissance works by combining the most superb materials with exquisite craftsmanship. Winning medals at the World Expositions in Vienna and Paris, his unparalleled handcrafted objects are sure to delight, especially by virtue of their superlative enameling. One of his showpieces is a magnificent fan-shaped ornamental plate, resplendent in partially gilt silver, featuring grotesque figures in colored enamel, their flat perforations filled with lavishly engraved rock crystal. The exceptionally impressive artwork now graces a new collection for €31,250 ($35,181).
Next up, no less fabulous and dating from the same period, was an opulent chess set. The extraordinarily splendid execution of the unusually large figures in partially gilt silver, standing up to 22 centimeters tall, their naturalistic features carved in ivory, suggests that this exceptionally distinguished version of the “game of kings” was originally owned by a prominent household. The pleasing hammer price of €52,500 ($59,091), far surpassing the reserve of €40,000 euros, would indicate that this is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Moving on to a different culture during the same era, lot number 556 announced an almost identical pair of Chinese bat vases. Dating from the Kuang Hsu period (1875–1908) and abundantly painted with auspicious bats in different colors, the large, bellied vases, tapering up toward the neck, did not escape buyers’ notice. Bidding soon outstripped the guide price of €2,000 and the sale was completed for the impressive sum of €30,000 ($33,766).
European porcelain from the Meissen Manufactory is widely acclaimed around the world. Therefore, collectors welcomed the opportunity to purchase the group of 23 Japanese figurines from the “Foreign Nations” series in one lot. Some seated, some standing, all naturalistically portrayed, painted in color and with occasional gilded details, the group presents a vivid study of Japanese culture designed by Friedrich Elias Meyer, court sculptor in Weimar and modeler in Meissen as of 1748. Bids from €25,000 had been invited for the formidable ensemble, which closed at a respectable €32,500 ($36,578). A breathtaking, French Lalique vase in smoked glass, clearly classified as Art Déco, provided the final flourish in the wide range of eras and materials. Made in 1928, signed and in absolutely immaculate condition, having attracted a good deal of interest among dedicated Lalique collectors during the run-up to the auction, the “Phentièvre” model raced past its estimate of €6,000 before the hammer fell at €8,500 ($9,567).
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