Michael Sutty prototype portrait bust of Winston Churchill leads our five auction highlights

Michael Sutty Prototype Portrait Bust of Winston Churchill, $11,875

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – The British porcelain modeler Michael Sutty (1937-2003) is best known for his militaria subjects – including many number of portraits of Winston Churchill in different guises. This portrait bust from around 1980 shows the wartime British prime minister dressed in the ceremonial uniform of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. A similar bust with different facial features formed part of Sutty’s Military and Naval Bust series, which was issued in a limited edition of 250 pieces. These come to market occasionally and make around $200-$400 each when they do.

However, the example pictured here, offered by Lion and Unicorn on the second day of a December 18-20 European Ceramics & Glass Auction, is an earlier prototype. Apparently a one-off, it had an estimate of $2,000-$3,000 and hammered for $9,500 ($11,875 with buyer’s premium).

First Edition of an Important 1764 Abolitionist Book, $11,210

A first edition copy of ‘An Authentic Narrative of some Remarkable and Interesting Particulars in the Life of [John Newton] …’, an influential abolitionist text, which hammered for £7,000 and sold for £8,820 ($11,210) with buyer’s premium at Forum Auctions.
A first edition copy of ‘An Authentic Narrative of some Remarkable and Interesting Particulars in the Life of [John Newton] …’, an influential abolitionist text, which hammered for £7,000 and sold for £8,820 ($11,210) with buyer’s premium at Forum Auctions.

LONDON – Although his name is expunged from the title, the subject of this book of letters on the subject of religion and the slave trade is John Newton (1725-1807). A captain of slave ships, who himself spent some time as a slave in Sierra Leone, he later repented of his deeds and became an evangelical preacher and prominent abolitionist. The letters he wrote to Thomas Haweis (circa 1734-1820), one of the leading figures of the 18th-century evangelical revival, documented his life of ‘wickedness’ in the years before he became a curate at Olney in Buckinghamshire and later rector of St. Mary Woolnoth in the City of London. Newton went on to write the hymn Amazing Grace.

This book of Newton’s letters ran to several editions, but the 1764 copy offered by Forum Auctions in London on December 13 is one of only two known first edition printings. The only other recorded is in the National Library of Scotland. Estimated at £400-£600, it hammered for £7,000 and sold for £8,820 ($11,210) with buyer’s premium.

Barbara Streisand-worn Film Costume Top Hat, $7,800

Barbra Streisand-worn costume top hat from the 1970 film ‘On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,’ which hammered for $6,000 and sold for $7,800 with buyer’s premium at Alex Cooper.
Barbra Streisand-worn costume top hat from the 1970 film ‘On A Clear Day You Can See Forever,’ which hammered for $6,000 and sold for $7,800 with buyer’s premium at Alex Cooper.

TOWSON, Md. – Like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand (b. 1942-) was a force of nature in 20th-century American popular culture, emerging on the scene in the early 1960s with a Grammy-winning debut album, an Academy Award for her first feature film, the 1968 release Funny Girl, and hundreds of millions of records and motion picture tickets sold.

Her 1970 film On A Clear Day You Can See Forever opened to mixed reviews and is largely forgotten today. Directed by Vincente Minnelli (father of Liza and ex-husband to Judy Garland), the plot follows a chain-smoker (Streisand) who goes to a hypnotist to kick her addiction. During the sessions, it’s revealed that Streisand’s character had a previous life as Lady Melinda Winifred Waine Tentrees, a 19th-century illegitimate child who rose to the social elite.

This costume top hat was worn by Streisand in the film and features Paramount Pictures tags identifying it as hers. It had also been screen-matched. The scarcity of Streisand memorabilia in the marketplace sent the lot into orbit, doubling its high estimate to hammer at $6,000 ($7,800 with buyer’s premium). Designed by legendary costumer Cecil Beaton, the tangerine-color top hat with applied decorations and an attached flowing silk scarf was a breakout star for Alex Cooper during its December 16 Art, Furniture, Rugs & Decorative Arts sale.

Pietra Dura Panel Created by the Gobelins Royal Manufactory, $468,500

Pietra dura panel created by the Gobelins Royal Manufactory near Paris, which hammered for €350,000 and sold for €423,500 ($468,500) with buyer’s premium at Tajan.
Pietra dura panel created by the Gobelins Royal Manufactory near Paris, which hammered for €350,000 and sold for €423,500 ($468,500) with buyer’s premium at Tajan.

PARIS – It was in the hope of saving on the huge sums spent procuring works of art from abroad that Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance, began inviting craftsmen to work at the Gobelins royal manufactory on the outskirts of Paris. The project began in 1662 with the consolation of a number of tapestry workshops, but by 1688 had expanded its scope to include practitioners of arts not yet fully mastered in France. Among them were craftsmen headhunted from the ducal workshops in Florence with expertise in hardstone carving.

The projects they undertook included a magnificent table set with four rectangular pietra dura plaques and the crowned royal cypher, the design for which is in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Like many hardstone items from the Louis XIV period, the table itself had seemingly left its royal residence some time before the Revolution and been dismantled to allow the panels to be reused in more fashionable ways.

The 10 by 12.5in (26 by 32cm) pietra dura panel offered as part of the Tajan sale of Furniture & Works of Art on December 19 is thought to be part of the commission. Matching one of four panels pictured in the surviving drawing, it is beautifully worked with jasper, agate, chalcedony, and onyx to create the image of a prowling fox in a landscape. Later mounted in white marble and given a giltwood base in the Regence style, it was offered with an estimate of €50,000-€80,000 but hammered for €350,000 and sold for €423,500 ($468,500) with buyer’s premium. Charged only with providing furnishings for royal residences, the Gobelins manufactory was active for around 40 years until 1715.

19th-century Diving Helmet, $54,000

19th-century diving helmet, possibly by John Date or Siebe Gorman, which hammered for $45,000 and sold for $54,000 with buyer’s premium at Nation’s Attic.
19th-century diving helmet, possibly by John Date or Siebe Gorman, which hammered for $45,000 and sold for $54,000 with buyer’s premium at Nation’s Attic.

WICHITA, Kan. – The world of diving collectibles may seem the ultimate in niche, but it is a category with avid buyers and an extreme scarcity of quality vintage items, making key pieces hotly contested when they come to market.

Nation’s Attic is the leading auction house for vintage diving equipment, and when an elderly widow approached them about liquidating her late husband’s collection, they knew they had something special. This helmet, crafted with meticulous detail, carries no identifying marks, but it had features and fittings that were clearly from the 1860s or 1870s. The skillful soldering of copper and the use of convex glass suggests it was the creation of diving pioneer John Date of Montreal, Canada, or possibly the renowned Siebe Gorman firm in London, United Kingdom.

The late collector had found the helmet in a stash of other vintage diving equipment in North Carolina. He purchased the entire lot decades ago, and the helmet was never shown or shared with the diving community, making its reappearance all the more tantalizing to collectors. When the lot came up for bidding, it immediately jumped above its $10,000-$20,000 estimate and kept climbing until it hammered at $45,000, selling for $54,000 with buyer’s premium to a LiveAuctioneers bidder.

While it is not the world record for a diving helmet – that number currently stands at $63,000 – $54,000 is the new record for an item sold through Nation’s Attic.

Dinosaur skeleton among curiosities slated for Weiss auction, Sept. 29

Full Psittacosaurus dinosaur skeleton, estimated at $15,000-$25,000
 Full Psittacosaurus dinosaur skeleton, estimated at $15,000-$25,000

Full Psittacosaurus dinosaur skeleton, estimated at $15,000-$25,000

LYNBROOK, N.Y. – A full Psittacosaurus dinosaur skeleton, a coveted acetate master recording from Elvis Presley’s early sessions at Sun Records, an archive of material relating to Barbra Streisand and items signed by JFK and the Beatles will all come up for bid in Weiss Auctions’ Iconic and Eclectic auction on Thursday, September 29. The online auction, packed with approximately 500 rare and unusual items, will start at 10 am Eastern time. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.

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