CHICAGO – On Saturday, October 29, starting at 10 am Central time, Potter & Potter Auctions will present Salon De Magie -The Klosterman Collection Part III, a 370-lot sale of historically significant magic apparatus, archives, collections and literature. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Apparatus with ties to the world’s most-recognized magicians take the spotlight in the October 29 auction. Chief among them is Harry Houdini’s automatic flowering rosebush, estimated at $25,000-$50,000 and made in New York by R.S. Schlosser around 1924. The lot includes a small earthenware pot, an elaborate metal table and its original traveling trunk.
The magic apparatus was one of several flashy effects used to open the production Houdini created for his final American tour, billed as “three shows in one.” His act included magic, spiritualism exposes and sensational escapes. Potter & Potter experts agree that this particular example has the most elaborate and intricate mechanism they have ever encountered.
The sale lineup also boasts a Robert-Houdin glass column mystery clock, which carries an estimate of $15,000-$25,000. It was manufactured in Paris by Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin around 1850, stands 19-½in tall and is comprised of a 5in-diameter glass dial in a round brass bezel with a single arrow-shaped hand and decorated with black Roman numerals and an inner minute track. The clock is mounted on on a gilt and ormolu riser and rests on an ebonized wooden base with four feet. Introduced in the late 1830s, mystery clocks are fully functioning timepieces with no visible connection between the hands and the works. Created by Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic, they were an instant success and a distinct novelty when they debuted.
Posters featuring early 20th-century legacy acts are another key category in this auction, such as Harry Keller’s Walk In The Woods, estimated at $10,000-$15,000. It was published in Cincinnati & New York by Strobridge Litho around 1900. This half sheet, linen backed color lithograph depicts the magician strolling through the forest with demons peeking out from behind the trees.
Another vintage poster standout is Karl Germain’s Germaine The Wizard, estimated at $10,000-$20,000. This framed and mounted color lithograph, printed in Cleveland by Schmitz-Horning around 1908, features a full-length portrait of Germain conjuring a spirit from the embers of a fire while a witch and a black cat look on. This was one of three posters used as a door in the Salon de Magie. Behind it were concealed shelves that displayed a collection of Germain’s personal props and accessories.
Several extraordinary examples of vintage to modern automata appear in the October 29 sale, including a musical clown magician automaton made in Paris by Leopold Lambert around 1910 and estimated at $8,000-$12,000. This 24in-tall example consists of a clown magician standing behind a table, holding a metal cup in his right hand and a wand in his left. When activated, he raises the cup to reveal one of four objects – a watch, a gem, a die or a compass. The figure raises and lowers his head, shaking it from side to side, sticks out his tongue, and waves the magic wand. These actions are accompanied by a two-tune music box.
Lot #44, a cup and ball magician automaton, has an estimate of $5,000-$10,000. It was manufactured in Los Angeles by Alan Wakeling around 2002. When activated, the magician raises and lowers both arms and nods his head, then covers the table in front of him with a cup held in one hand. Each time he raises the cup, the object under it has changed or vanished. A music box plays Vivaldi’s Spring to accompany the movements. This example is only one of 10 extant.
The antique books on offer are certain to be best sellers, led by Harry Houdini’s The Unmasking Of Robert-Houdin, estimated at $1,500-$2,500. This first edition was published in New York by The Printer’s Publishing Co. in 1908. It is illustrated with plates and reproductions of playbills from Houdini’s collection and also inscribed and signed by Houdini.
This sale comes full circle with another Houdini prize, a photo of the legendary magician as he appeared in the film The Grim Game. Estimated at $2,500-$5,000, the 8 by 10in sepia-tone silver gelatin movie still was taken in Los Angeles in 1919. It shows Houdini astride the wing of a biplane, the pilot looking on behind him. It is inscribed and signed “About 4000 feet in the air / Houdini.”
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