Approximately 6,800 collector's items from all specialist areas represented by the auction house antiquities, arms and armour, works of art, hunting antiques, orders and collectibles from all fields of history and military history came under the hammer over the nine days of the 75th Auction of Hermann Historica oHG
. The wide range of high-quality, precious objects from numerous eras and from all over the world included three complete collections. All sections went on to achieve some remarkable final prices, with many of the top objects going to museums and public collections.
Once again, several veritable rarities among the early bronze helmets and archaic swords were enthusiastically received. Among the outstanding examples forged with consummate blacksmith's workmanship was a Chalcidian helmet, probably customised by nomadic horsemen, dating from the 5th century B.C. The characteristic cheek guards and cut-away ear recesses had been removed to adapt the helmet to the habits and tastes of the steppe nomad warriors. The eye openings and nasal bar featured linear ornaments while the sides were perforated with rows of holes. Despite the contemporary modifications, all edges of the skull were preserved in original condition without a single chip. Testimony to an early adaptation of a Greek cultural asset, the extremely interesting helmet opened at 14,000 euros, unleashing an immediate volley of bids that culminated in the sum of 22,000 euros.
Likewise from Greece, yet dating from the fourth to third century B.C., was a painted statue of Fortuna in terracotta. Draped in heavy orange robes and a pale blue cloak, bearing an offering cup and an overflowing cornucopia in her hands, the standing figure of the goddess was exceptionally delicately and expressively sculptured, measuring some 48 centimetres. The intact terracotta, the colouring in pristine condition, now takes pride of place in a new collection for its starting price of 7,000 euros. Moreover, bids had been invited from 12,000 euros for a magnificent and perfectly preserved Kylia idol from the prehistoric period, which changed hands for precisely this amount. Standing just 13 centimetres high, featuring the characteristic shortened arms, bent at an angle, and slightly raised head, the highly stylised female figure was carved in marble during the second half of the third millennium B.C. in Anatolia. The typical pose earned idols of this kind the epithet of "Stargazer".
Works of art
Following tradition, the works of art in this Autumn Auction once again offered an array of precious, superbly wrought wunderkammer objects, like the ornate ivory ewer, as exquisite as it was striking, with its impressive height of 43.5 centimetres, which was carved in Erbach in 1910. The base was embellished with gadrooned decoration and bead and reel ornaments, while the body presented a multi-figured, antique scene in high relief. According to the attached expert report, this incomparable piece was created by the supremely skilful carver Otto Glenz (1863 - 1948), finding a new owner for its limit of 12,000 euros. Next up, a delicate, painstakingly crafted casket made of the same material and measuring 14 x 17 x 9.5 cm, obviously took a bidder's fancy, achieving its asking price of 1,500 euros. Fastened with fittings in fire-gilt brass and boasting a secret, locked compartment on the inside, the graceful bijou dated from the Spanish/Portuguese colonial period in the 17th century. Equally worthy of note was an extremely rare silver screw medal with interchangeable pictures in traditional costume in the style of a dress-up doll, Augsburg circa 1730/40, estimated at 1,400 euros. Its charm proved so beguiling that it ultimately fetched 2,700 euros.
Arms and Armour
Among the elaborately worked, fully documented rarities in the arms and armour catalogue, all in impeccable condition, an early officer's suit of armour was particularly sought after. Forged in 1540 in Nuremberg, one of the German centres of the armourers' craft, the suit of armour was an exceptionally homogenous example, comprising a burgonet of the Hungarian type, forged in one piece and tapering to a point, full arm defences, roped flanges on the breast, back and gorget, as well as articulated gauntlets. Its awe-inspiring beauty certainly caught the eye of the international experts, finally selling for an impressive 30,000 euros, its starting price of 22,000 euros notwithstanding. Due to the characteristic style of its design, the audience also paid homage to a close helmet, forged circa 1570. Mounted on a collar with a turned and roped edge, the skull had been forged in one piece, topped with a tall comb and fitted with a two-piece, pivoted visor. Estimated at 12,000 euros, the splendid helmet in untouched original condition coaxed an enthusiast into investing 17,000 euros.
Furthermore, the range of edged weapons, some known to have formed part of prestigious collections for many years, left nothing to be desired in terms of quality. One example was a knightly hand-and-a-half sword, wrought ca. 1420 in Passau. Stamped with the Passau wolf mark inlaid in brass at the root of the blade, below which a six-pointed star on each side, the extremely rare Gothic battle sword with the disc pommel was acquired for its catalogue price of 15,000 euros. The winning bid of 13,000 euros, 1,000 euros more than its estimate, completed the sale of a mighty Swiss two-hand sword from Bern, circa 1550/60, measuring a formidable 1.78 metres. With such illustrious provenances as the Viktor Monetti Collection and the Karsten Klingbeil Collection, the double-edged, fullered blade, large pear-shaped pommel and blackened iron hilt lent the sword an imposing elegance.
From Russia or Poland, an etched mace was crafted in wrought iron circa 1600. The head was composed of eight openwork flanges, each etched in the shape of a crowned, double-headed eagle. The mace was snapped up for its opening price of 17,500 euros. Also tendered for sale was an exceedingly sumptuous, 19th century, silver-mounted sword ensemble, studded with pearls, almandines and emeralds, belonging to a Hungarian magnate. Consisting of a sabre, sabre hangers, riband buckle, belt and 42 decorative knobs, the opulent set was listed at 12,000 euros and sold for 18,000 euros. Also up for auction with the same reserve, a silver-mounted magnate sabre from the same period found a buyer for 13,000 euros.
Orient and Asia
As in previous years, the artefacts from Asia and the Ottoman Empire proved to be in great demand. Achieving the sensational final result of 170,000 euros that dwarfed its minimum bid of 12,000 euros, the foot of a significant Tibetan monumental Buddha statue from the 17th/18th century emerged as the absolute highlight of the auction. The three-dimensional left foot, made of hammered copper with fire gilding, still bore a decorative band on the bridge of the foot with settings for the stones that had since been lost. Of the utmost rarity, the object measured a majestic 115 centimetres in length and 44 centimetres in height. Among the oriental weapons, the beautifully made, high-grade miquelet-lock pistols captivated bidders. One such specimen was a Caucasian, gold-inlaid pistol, dated 1835, struck with the manufacturer's marks, the miquelet-lock completely covered with floral gold-inlays and boasting engraved, nielloed silver furniture. No sooner was the unusually well preserved showpiece announced at 8,000 euros than an exchange of bids flared, with the price soaring to 25,000 euros.
Polish History Museum, Muri
Excellent results and a highly gratifying sales quota were the hallmarks of the successful sale of the Polish History Museum, formally Muri, during the 75th Auction. Throughout his life, the artist, designer, philosopher and fervent patriot, Zygmunt Stankiewicz (1914 2010) had promoted the interests of his Polish homeland. After fighting against the German invaders in Poland as a young man, he subsequently continued his campaign on French soil. As of 1942, he was permitted to remain in Switzerland, yet invariably maintained close ties to his home country of Poland. Over the following decades, with enormous zeal and no less expertise, he accumulated a collection dedicated to Poland's turbulent history, spanning the Middle Ages right through to contemporary history, for which he specifically founded the Polish History Museum in Castle Muri, near Bern, in 1955. The exhibition included numerous weapons and pieces of armour dating from Poland's eventful history from the 16th to the 19th centuries, incorporating the military history of World Wars I and II, and placing particular emphasis on Poland's campaign of resistance in exile. The 177 lots of this collection, which was offered for sale in its entirety in the 75th auction, comprised a breathtaking parade of exquisite pieces, like a 17th century Hussar cuirass or an Ottoman silver-mounted karabela, set with rubies and emeralds, from the same period. Composed of a helmet skull forged in two pieces, a gorget, two pauldrons, the matching breastplate and backplate, all sliding on the characteristic lames, the armour was lavishly embellished with brass trims and domed rivets. With bids being invited from 28,000 euros, the hammer subsequently fell at 32,000 euros. By contrast, although valued at 8,000 euros, the new owner had to part with 13,000 euros before claiming a sumptuous karabela with ivory grip scales, its blade featuring the gold-inlaid inscription "IOANNES. III. REX POLONIARUM - A. DOMINO VENIT PAX & VICTORIA." on both sides of the root.
Military history and historical objects
Once again, the military history section held significant collectors' items from Europe's royal and imperial houses in store. There was never any doubt that objects from the personal possessions of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837 - 1898), fashioned in sumptuous materials with consummate workmanship, would continue to enjoy great popularity. Nevertheless, this autumn's winning bids far surpassed expectations, which were already high. Fierce bidding wars were sparked by rare garments from her exclusive wardrobe, like the skirt of a ball gown ensemble in cream silk, the brocade train intricately embroidered with sprays of roses in silver and white, some with mother-of-pearl, circa 1880. The avalanche of bids only petered out at 85,000 euros, eclipsing the estimate of 7,500 euros. Although listed at 3,000 euros, the same sensational sum was paid for a Paris creation, a black, three-layered tulle cape trimmed with velvet ribbons, worn by Elisabeth during the period of mourning after the suicide of her son. Meanwhile, bids from 7,500 euros were welcome for the slender waisted bodice and sleeves of a black silk moiré gown from the same era, circa 1897/98, embroidered with sequins and seed pearls with a tulle band at the collar, in exceptionally fine condition, which now graces a new collection for 30,000 euros. Ultimately fetching 22,000 euros, her personal dolphin seal from Achilleion in Corfu, depicting three gilt dolphins holding a red marble ball aloft, more than tripled its guide price of 6,500 euros.
No less outstanding and equally sought-after in this section was a meticulously documented artefact from the estate of the last German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 - 1941), who purchased Achilleion in 1907. Presented by the Prussian Officers' Corps to mark the 20th anniversary of his accession to the throne in 1908, the marshal's baton is identical to other batons of the time except that it is not set with precious stones. As long ago as the 1920s, the matchless piece of Prussian history found its way into a private collection following the sale of assets that were administered by the imperial House Ministry. Opening at 35,000 euros, the splendid baton, wrought in gold, silver, enamel and velvet, adorned with the Kaiser's appliquéd monogram "WR II", the Prussian crown and inscriptions of the occasion and the benefactors, finally found a buyer for 60,000 euros.
In addition, connoisseurs were extremely interested in the unique lots forming part of a small collection of mementos from the personal possessions of Pope John XXIII (1881 - 1963). Acquired and maintained by a biographer of the highly esteemed pope, who was canonised in 2014, a number of superlative objects were now offered for auction. These included his camauro in fine red cloth, trimmed in ermine, which was valued at 2,000 euros but eventually sold for 3,400 euros. Furthermore, despite starting with the same reserve, the hammer only fell at 17,000 euros for his gold ring of thorns with a depiction of the head of Christ and an openworked, chased web of thorned branches set with tiny, polished rubies. A complete and exceptionally rare set of gold medals from the episcopacy of John XXIII, the series of the "Medaglie annuali" Anno I to Anno V, attracted the highest bid in this collection; changing hands for 22,000 euros, the set only just fell short of doubling its estimate of 12,500 euros.
Opening at 4,500 euros, the larger-than-life portrait bust of World War I's most successful fighter pilot, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (1892 1918) now delights a new owner for the highly satisfactory final price of 25,000 euros. With a total height of 36 centimetres, the striking bronze head was mounted on a flat pedestal and had acquired a dark reddish-brown patina all over. Moreover, the military history and historical objects catalogue unveiled a plethora of other testaments to extraordinary military careers. From France, a sabre for officers of the chasseurs à cheval de la Garde impériale was also tendered for sale: elaborately finished, blued, etched and gilt with a crowned Napoleonic eagle, floral tendrils and trophies, featuring a Minerva's head in relief on the crosspiece and a lion's head as the terminal of the pommel. The prodigiously decorative edged weapon fetched 9,000 euros, exactly doubling its limit of 4,500 euros. Next up, and no less eminent, was the coat for a brigadier general, period of the First Restoration, 1814. Tailored in fine blue cloth, the collar and cuffs richly decorated with golden oak leaves in braided embroidery, the inside of the collar lined with black velvet and the gilt buttons all still in place, the rare general's uniform closed at 14,500 euros, more than tripling its asking price of 3,500 euros.
Special catalogue of military headgear up to 1918
With this special catalogue also proving to be a resounding success, Hermann Historica was able to demonstrate its acknowledged expertise in auctioning complete collections. Barely a single lot remained unsold, with the catalogue prices being exceeded by far in many cases. The international, private and institutional collectors did not intend to miss this golden opportunity of acquiring veritable rarities; after all, the splendour and status of the military seldom find such direct expression than in the historical headgear worn by soldiers. Their purpose was to protect the wearer, both from the elements and enemy action, his stature should appear particularly imposing and his rank in the military hierarchy clearly evident. With a focus on Austrian and German helmets, two exceptional collections that had been amassed with enormous dedication over many years had been merged in the special catalogue and were now offered for auction. They included remarkable treasures, such as a helmet made for the k.u.k First Arcieren Life Guards of 1905. Its silver skull adorned with fire-gilt fittings and topped with an impressive white horsehair plume, the magnificent helmet attained the glorious final sum of 34,000 euros, its limit of 14,000 euros notwithstanding. For a minimum bid of 7,500 euros, aficionados of military history were hoping to secure a Bavarian model 1852 helmet for officers of the Archers Life Guard, no less rare and also crowned with a white horsehair plume; however, the actual hammer price on the day was 9,000 euros.
Orders and Insignia
There were also a number of dazzling lots from European royal courts among the orders and insignia. An extensive, remarkable collection originating from a noble house, namely the estate of Prince Alfons of Bavaria (1862 1933) and his son, Prince Joseph Clemens (1902 1990) was put up for auction. A veritable phaleristic sensation and arresting piece of Bavarian history, the collection offered the opportunity to purchase nonpareils like the gold collar of the Knightly House Order of St. Hubert. The highly distinguished order decoration was adorned with scenes from St. Hubert's life in coloured enamel and an attached order cross. Established in 1444, the Knightly House Order of St. Hubert was one of Europe's most prestigious orders, reserved for the aristocracy or public figures of outstanding merit with close connections to the royal family. On his coming of age on 24 January 1880, Prince Alfons of Bavaria was admitted to the first and highest order of the Kingdom of Bavaria by his uncle, King Ludwig II. The unrivalled lot attracted enormous attention among specialist buyers, even more so in view of the accompanying letter, handwritten by King Ludwig II; spirited bidding soon sent the price jumping from 45,000 euros to 69,000 euros. The parade continued with the sash bijou and breast star of the Knightly House Order of St. Hubert, no less rare and confirmed as the same history and provenance. Although offers of at least 17,000 euros had been welcome, this singular set with sash and presentation case, likewise wrought in gold and enamel, and studded with diamonds, now adorns a new collection for 21,000 euros.
For a minimum bid of 18,000 euros, lot number 5121 represented a true rarity that is seldom, if ever, found on the market; its obvious appeal saw the sale completed at 22,000 euros. Awarded in 1917 to Oberst Theodor Ritter von Herrmann, who was born in 1869, the Military Order of Max Joseph was tendered for sale with the award certificate and especially remarkable a patent of nobility. The gold Knight's Cross had been made more than one hundred years previously and awarded to the Russian Lieutenant-General Nikolai Ivanovitch Seliavine of the Infantry (1774 - 1833) in 1814; it was returned in 1840 for safekeeping until it was awarded once again. A breast star of the Order of St. George with the blue enamel ribbon of the Order of the Garter, circa 1860, from the personal possessions of the last king of Hanover, King George V (1819 1878) had been valued at 25,000 euros. This double decoration, which would grace any museum collection and was of indubitable historical significance for the British royal family, did not escape buyers' notice, ultimately changing hands for 36,000 euros.
Fine antique and modern firearms
First-class antique firearms have retained their lasting value at the highest level in recent years. However, this autumn's auction registered significant appreciation over and above this scale. A flurry of excitement saw the price rocket from 12,000 euros to 27,000 euros for a heavy German combined matchlock and wheellock rifle from 1580. The rare combination weapon boasted engraved wheel covers and cocks, along with a stock of ebonised wood and inlays of engraved and blackened bone. Collectors took a fancy to a fabulous, extremely fine wheellock puffer, probably produced in Augsburg circa 1580, which had been listed at 20,000 euros and was duly acquired for 22,000 euros. Embellished with engraved and blackened bone, the profuse decoration of the walnut full stock was exceptionally enchanting, with dainty flower tendrils, acanthus leaf borders and braided décor. Dated 1662, a particularly splendid Bohemian deluxe wheellock rifle, probably from Cheb, had taken pride of place in the collection belonging to the princes of Salm-Reifferscheidt for many years. Lavishly furnished with magnificent hunting scenes, mascarons and acanthus ornaments, whether intricately carved on the walnut stock or engraved on the lock and butt, this inimitable piece had been expected to fetch 15,000 euros. Unmistakably meeting with buyers' approval, it closed at 24,000 euros.
Moreover, a cased pair of deluxe gilt percussion pistols from the workshop of the son-in-law of the celebrated Henri Le Page, Le Page Moutier, had attracted a great deal of interest during the run-up to the auction. Unsurprisingly, then, the hammer did not fall until 23,000 euros, despite the guide price of 12,000 euros. Including all accessories, their ebony stocks deeply carved with scrolling leaves and the gilt iron furniture with floral engraving, the striking pistols had been made circa 1850 in the gunsmith's workshop in Paris.
All prices are net prices and are to be understood plus 23 percent surcharge.