COLOGNE, Germany – Camera history is the focus of Auction Team Breker’s spring sale on Saturday, May 13, which will be led by an example of the Film Palmos camera, estimated at €2,500-€4,000, or $2,725-$4,360. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Built by the Actiengesellschaft Camerawerk Palmos in 1901, this model was the first result of a collaboration between Curt Bentzin and Carl Zeiss. The 6-by-9cm (2.3-by-3.5in) camera boasted a patented rapid-winder action that also transported the film and set the focal-plane shutter. Though ingenious in design, it was not a commercial success. Engineer Otto Barnack, who had worked briefly for Carl Zeiss before his tenure with Ernst Leitz, saw the potential of the combined shutter for the development of his Leica (Leitz Camera) prototypes in 1923. Indeed, Barnack is said to have used a modified Palmos in his photographic research. Today the Palmos is regarded as the forerunner of the 35 mm camera.
Also on the auctioneer’s block is an early and previously unrecorded example of the Leitz torpedo viewfinder, estimated at €4,000-€8,000, or $4,360-$8,720. It combines three unique features and the model designation of ‘Fernrohrsucher,’ which means ‘direct-vision optical viewfinder,’ stamped on its original red card box.
Documenting the dawn of photography is a well-preserved example of the 1839 Le Magasin Pittoresque anthology, which has an estimate of €500-€700, or $545-$760. An elliptical reference to Louis Daguerre’s endeavors in a footnote of the January issue (“Mr. Daguerre has not yet revealed the secret of his invention and therefore there is still nothing to report”) is followed by an illustrated three-page description of the daguerreotype process later that year. From the same period is a paper optical toy, the Myriorama (Greek for ‘ten thousand views’), a sectional panorama of 16 landscape cards by Jean-Pierre Bres in Paris with numerous possible combinations. Its estimate is €400-€600, or $430-$650. Eighty years later, the Kinematofor by Nuremberg toymaker Ernst Plank used the persistence of vision principal to generate moving images powered by a miniature hot-air engine. The Kinematofor in the May 13 sale is estimated at €2,500-€3,500, or $2,725-$3,815.
In addition to cameras and early optical devices, the auction lineup contains instruments of timekeeping and navigation. On offer are an ornate monogrammed silver-gilt sandglass, estimated at €3,000-€5,000, or $3,270-$5,450; and an 18th-century Islamic astrolabe with an estimate of €6,000-€8,000, or $6,540-$8,720.
An ensemble of mechanical music instruments draws together more than a hundred years of craftsmanship from across Europe. At opposite ends of the scale of size and volume are an intricate musical gold pendant decorated with vines and a Bacchus mask, with an estimate of €1,200-€1,800, or $1,300-$1,960; and a majestic interchangeable musical box by Auguste Perrelet et Cie, purportedly a gift from a Spanish nobleman to Queen Victoria in 1882. It carries an estimate of €14,000-€16,000, or $15,260-$16,630.
Leipzig was the capital of the mechanical music industry in Germany during the late 19th century. Representing the city in Breker’s sale are a disc-playing longcase hall clock by the Polyphon Musikwerke, estimated at €12,000-€15,000, or $13,080-$16,350; and the only known example of Paul Ehrlich’s disc-playing mechanical flute, which has an identical estimate.
Completing the auction highlights is a colorful menagerie of Friedrich Heyn carousel animals, including a rabbit estimated at €1,500-€1,800, or $1,635-$1,960; an elephant with an estimate of €6,000-€8,000, or $6,540-$8,720; and a sheep that carries an estimate of €2,000-€3,000, or $2,180-$3,270.
The current rate of exchange is €1 = $1.10.
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