NEW YORK – When the last dessert course had been served, and the servants finished delivering digestifs and cigars, lucky male guests of centuries past might be invited to view their esteemed host’s cabinet of curiosity.
While it might be a literal single cabinet, the richer and high-ranking the host was, the more likely it was to be a room full of cabinets displaying wondrous objects and oddities from around the world. Marquee items might include religious relics; antiquities; meteorites, shells, tusks, skeletons, semi-precious stones, and other natural history items; automata; tribal artifacts and other ethnographic objects; automata; books; works of art; and taxidermy, some of it clearly dubious. Anything that inspired delight and envy could earn a place in a cabinet of curiosity, but if it was rare, expensive, and advertised the intellect and superiority of its owner, all the better.
On July 13, starting at 7 pm Eastern time, Jasper52 will host a French Cabinet de Curiosite sale, featuring 152 lots of things you didn’t know you wanted until they popped up on your screen. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Leading the highlights is a vibrant 1950 Jean Picart Le Doux silkscreened cotton tapestry. He, along with fellow Frenchmen Jean Lurcat and Marc Saint-Saens, kept the art of the tapestry alive and brought it into the 20th century. This example, blessed with strong reds and golds and estimated at $1,000-$1,200, appears to be an homage to spring.
Scientific instruments have long had a place in cabinets of curiosity, and the terrestrial globe might be the friendliest example from that category. The auction features a 10-inch copper globe made in France in 1830 by the Lapie family of cartographers. It is estimated at $4,500-$5,500.
Also of note is a 1945 modernist desk lamp from the French company Jumo. It is equipped with a Bakelite body and metal frame. Granted, it’s not as jaw-dropping as a narwhal tusk or the illustrations in an antique medical book, but ask yourself: What’s the point of having a cabinet of curiosity if you can’t see anything in it? The desk lamp is estimated at $1,100-$1,500.
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