London will present the very best of decorative arts in its sale of Important Furniture, Silver, Ceramics & Clocks on Tuesday 7th July 2009. The sale of 68 lots is expected to raise in excess of £5 million and comprises the finest selections of both English and Continental furniture, in addition to the very best of decorative arts.
Mario Tavella, Deputy Chairman, Sothebys Europe, comments: We are thrilled to be offering for the first time in a single sale the very best of the decorative arts, where each of the pieces stands out for their exceptional design and quality of craftsmanship and many items are of a traceable prestigious provenance.
The highlight of the continental furniture featured in the sale is a very fine and important pair of Italian carved giltwood settees, dating to around 1740-1744 and estimated at £200,000-300,000. These exceptional settees originally come from one of the most important and sumptuous rococo interiors ever conceived in Italy, the Galleria Dorata, in Palazzo Carrega-Cataldi in Genoa so important in fact that the doors from the room where the settees were originally placed are now split between the collections of the Metropolitan Museum and the Louvre. The 18 chairs that once formed part of this suite were sold in the Yves Saint Laurent sale earlier this year. The aquatic theme typified by mermaids, scallopshells and dolphins displayed on this pair of sofas was typical of the Genoese decorative repertoire and the rococo style in general which was intended to rival the French interiors of the time.
A further highlight is two sets of six Italian Pietre Dure and Pietra Paesina panels depicting horses and their riders in 18th-century dress - a popular theme in paintings at this time - in a landscape setting and attributed to G. Zocchi. Each set of six panels, dated to the mid-18th century, is estimated at £150,000-250,000.
A fine and rare Italian Pietre Dure mounted and mother-of-pearl inlaid rosewood and ebonised cabinet to be offered is the companion piece to one that features in the Gilbert Museum collection in London. The cabinet was almost certainly made at the Grand Ducal workshop in Florence in the second half of the 17th century and is estimated at £200,000-300,000. The naturalistic subjects of flowers and birds that form the decoration are typical of the Florentine mosaics created in the Galleria dei Lavori (Grand Ducal workshop), and for over one hundred years after the end of the 17th century the bright colours of the bird plumage and compositions of flowers and fruit became the official signature of mosaics manufactured in Florence, appreciated everywhere and often imitated but rarely of the same material quality and fine execution.
From the fine collection of English furniture one of the most important highlights is a George II mahogany armchair, possibly Irish, circa 1755, after a design by Thomas Chippendale (est. £60,000 - 90,000) which can be associated with a group of chairs of equally elaborate design, including an example at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and another in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (a chair from the suite supplied for Grimsthorpe Castle). Conceived in the 'French' taste of the mid-1750s, the chair bears a striking resemblance to a design published by Thomas Chippendale in his The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director.
A William and Mary walnut and seaweed marquetry cabinet on stand circa 1690 is attributed to the Royal cabinet-maker Gerrit Jensen and estimated at £40,000 -60,000. It is closely related to a cabinet on stand attributed to Jensen in the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth House which shares the same form of scrolling legs and intricate seaweed marquetry. Gerrit Jensen was one of the foremost cabinet-makers of his day who had served the English crown since the reign of Charles II, supplying furniture not only for St. James's Palace but also Hampton Court and Kensington Palace. Jensen also attracted commissions from senior members of the nobility, including the Dukes of Richmond, Devonshire, Hamilton, Montagu and Somerset, collaborating with other leading artists and craftsmen on the decoration of some of the greatest town and country houses in England.
A very fine George II carved giltwood side table circa 1730 will also be offered for sale and is estimated at £250,000-350,000. The table is designed in the Palladian theme principally associated with Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and his protégé the architect William Kent. The marble slab here is supported on four sphinxes of sculptural quality, with an eagle to the front supporting in its beak garlands of oak leaves. The eagle, symbol of power and victory, was one of Jupiter's attributes, an augury of his victory over the Titans, the garlands of oak leaves from a tree sacred to him, and these strong classical symbols were constant themes running through the work of the Palladians. Close comparison with the quality and fluidity of carving can be made with a related marble-top table in the saloon at Houghton Hall, Norfolk.
Two important highlights from the selection of ceramics in the sale are a garniture of five Meissen vases and three covers, and a pair of Sèvres vases. The Meissen porcelain vases, dated to circa 1730-40 and the decoration probably circa 1745, comprise three large ovoid vases and covers and two flared beaker vases, each with chinoiserie scenes within elaborate ombrierte gilt baroque reserves among scattered sprigs and sprays of deutsche Blumen and are estimated at £100,000-150,000. The decoration on these vases represents a late flowering of the early chinoiserie style initiated by J.G.Höroldt. The combination of this decoration with sprays of naturalistic European-style flowers is also found on a pair of yellow-ground vases in the Rijksmuseum.
The pair of Sèvres gilt-bronze-mounted biscuit vases (Vases Cordelier à Ornaments), circa 1788 and estimated at £100,000-150,000, are extremely rare - no other similar type of decoration is recorded in the literature for Sèvres. The plaster model of the Vase Cordelier à ornaments is preserved in the Sèvres museum, and the model is listed in the oldest surviving inventory, begun in 1817. The celebrated Sèvres vases are decorated by Pierre Louis-Philippe Armand and they bear his mark LL Sèvres interlaced with dots at the intersection.
A William IV Silver Chandelier by Robert Garrard, London, dating to 1834-37 and incorporating 18th-century Flemish and Portuguese elements, is an important highlight in the selection of silver to be offered for sale. Estimated at £80,000-120,000, until recently this chandelier hung in a private villa in Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat where it is believed to have been since the villa was built in the late 19th / early 20th century. Also featured is the property of a Private Continental Collection - a pair of George III Silver wine coolers, liners and rims by Paul Storr for Storr & Co, London, dating to 1808 and estimated at £50,000-70,000. These coolers are the earliest-known copies of original 18th-century examples bearing the mark of Paul de Lamerie.
An important bohemian glass goblet and cover engraved by August Böhm and dating to 1845 is estimated at £250,000-350,000. The thick walled octagonal bowl is finely carved with a panel showing a battle scene, after Charles Le Brun. Depicting Alexander the Great defeating the Persians on the Bridge over the River Granicus, it is similar to another goblet and cover by Böhm in the Victoria and Albert Museum, engraved with the same subject and dated 1840. This goblet was considered so highly in his homeland that plaster casts were taken and kept in Bohemia to encourage other engravers.
The highlight of the selection of clocks is an Italian neo-classical mantel clock of giltbronze-mounted white marble, porphyry and granite, attributed Valadier workshop (est. £80,000-120,000). The dynasty of Roman goldsmiths and founders that included Luigi Valadier (1726-1785) and his son Giuseppe (1762-1839) was renowned for being the best bronzier workshop in Rome in the 18th century, and their craftsmanship was sought by popes and princes of the era.