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Sotheby's Offers Furniture & Works of Art from the Collections of Lily & Edmond J. Safra
Louis XV lacquer Commode attributed to B.V.R.B. Est. $3/5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Six years after the landmark auction of Property from the Collections of Lily & Edmond J. Safra,* Sotheby’s announces a second sale dedicated to the remarkable Lily and Edmond J. Safra Collections. The four-day auction will be held from 18 to 21 October 2011 in New York, featuring six dedicated sale volumes whose contents represent the pinnacle of their respective collecting categories. From magnificent European furniture and works of art to Russian works of art, silver, bookbindings and 19th century interior paintings, Mr. and Mrs. Safra’s collections offer unparalleled opportunities for connoisseurs worldwide. The full sale, which is estimated in excess of $40 million,** will be on exhibition throughout Sotheby’s York Avenue headquarters beginning 14 October.

“It is a great privilege to offer works from one of the finest collections assembled in the 20th century,” commented Robin Woodhead, Chairman of Sotheby’s International. “Lily and Edmond Safra’s collecting passion was directed towards the most important works of art, where beauty and rarity were the cornerstones. True collectors, they brought together only the best and created magical settings that were as comfortable as they were refined.”

“Bringing together works of art to create beautiful collections has been one of the passions of my life, one that I shared with my husband, Edmond,” said Mrs. Safra. “In the years since his passing, I have focused more of my energy on the work of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. So I feel it is now time to allow others the opportunity to enjoy these treasures, with the hope that they will inspire new collectors as they have inspired me.”

Mario Tavella, Chairman of Sotheby’s Furniture Division, Europe, added, “Whenever I enter one of the houses of Mrs. Edmond Safra around the world, I always am mesmerized by the attention to detail and by the objects that complement the sumptuous furniture. Each category–ivories, books, interior drawings–forms unique and luxurious ‘collections’ within the larger collection, wherein the beauty, condition and preciousness of the materials are simply breathtaking. It is one of those rare cases where the vast quantity of each category matches a sublime quality; where academy and pure chic blend effortlessly.”

“As was the case in Sotheby’s 2005 auction, the October sale will be highlighted by many of the greatest names of French and English furniture makers from the 18th century, including BVRB, Weisweiler, Dubois, Leleu, Boulle, Garnier and Carlin,” noted Alistair Clarke, Worldwide Head of Sotheby’s English & European Furniture department. “The selection on offer is highlighted by an extraordinary group of French 18th-century lacquer furniture that arguably is the most important to appear at auction since the iconic 1882 sale of the Collection of the 12th Duke of Hamilton from Hamilton Palace in Scotland. It is truly remarkable.”

The sale is led by a Louis XVI Ormolu-Mounted Japanese Lacquer Commode with secretaire en suite, attributed to Adam Weisweiler, which was offered in the landmark Hamilton Palace sale (est. $5/7 million). Additional highlights include: a Louis XV lacquer Commode attributed to B.V.R.B., possibly the greatest of all French furniture makers of the Louis XV period (est. $3/5 million); a Louis XV Bureau Plat attributed to Jacques Dubois (est. $700,000/1 million); and a Louis XVI Commode and Louis XVI Secretaire, both by Martin Carlin, one of the top makers of the Louis XVI period (ests. $600,000/1 million and $300/500,000, respectively).

The French 18th-century objects on offer include a group of works attributed to the greatest master of the Louis XIV period, André-Charles Boulle, including a Highly Important Louis XIV Mantel Clock depicting Venus Marinara (est. $700,000/1 million), as well as three pairs of Ormolu Four-Light Candelabra (ests. $200/300,000 for two pairs, $100/150,000 for one pair). The sale also features a collection of four Very Rare Louis XIV Boulle Marquetry Caskets (ests. ranging from $20,000-120,000).

Important English furniture in the collection features a group of pieces by George Bullock, including an Important Center Table (est. 200/300,000) and a Fine Set of 18 Dining Chairs (est. $70/100,000). A Highly Important Set of 20 Red-Japanned Dining Chairs, attributed to Giles Grendey, was made for the Spanish export market and brought back to Britain by the illustrious London antiques firm of M. Harris and Sons in 1935 (pictured right, est. $800,000/1.2 million). The set was subsequently sold to Lord and Lady Louis Mountbatten, and photographed in situ in their penthouse apartment in the then-newly-converted Brook House on Park Lane. The Mountbattens seem to have given the chairs as a gift to their son-in-law and daughter, David and Lady Pamela Hicks, and were part of the furnishings of the couple’s country house, Britwell, Oxfordshire.

The Russian works of art on offer feature one of the largest private collections of important Russian porcelains ever to be sold at auction, comprised of over 100 lots of fine and important Russian porcelains, silver, enamels and other objects. The group is highlighted by an Important Pair of Imperial Porcelain Vases, decorated with portraits of Emperor Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna from the late 1830s (est. $1.5/2.5 million).

Additional highlights from the collection include: an unprecedented number of pieces from the four grand services commissioned by Empress Catherine II (1764-1796) for the exclusive use of the Cavaliers of the Russian Orders of St. George, St. Andrew, St. Alexander Nevsky and St. Vladimir at the annual banquets honoring the membership; rare porcelains made in the earliest days of the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory (founded 1744), such as Empress Elizaveta Petrovna’s Own (Sobstvennyi) Service (est. $20/30,000) and the Orlov Service (est. $80/120,000), commissioned by Empress Catherine II; a large group of finely painted military plates; and a large and varied selection of pieces from the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory’s richly-gilded Kremlin Service, commissioned by Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855), as well as the factory’s Raphael Service, the largest and most important service commissioned during the reign of Emperor Alexander III (1881-1894).

Silver in the October sale represents a true connoisseur’s collection; a stunning assemblage of primarily English and French creations from the mid-18th to the early-19th centuries. The Burghley Epergne is a masterpiece of the English Rococo, created for the distinguished collector and patron Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (est. $800,000/1.2 million). The Earl commissioned this vigorous centerpiece in 1755, immediately upon inheriting from his father. This marked one of the first steps in a campaign of patronage that would include Ince and Mayhew for furniture, Angelica Kauffman for paintings, and Capability Brown for landscape. Edward Wakelin–the maker of the epergne–and his partner John Parker supplied the Rare Pair of Early George III Silver Wine Coolers a few years later (est. $500/700,000). Adapted from French designs by Pierre Germain, they allowed John, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire to dazzle as Ambassador to the court of Catherine the Great.

From a slightly-later period are seven pieces from the Westmoreland Toilet Service, the neoclassical dressing-table plate of heiress Sarah Child, who grew up at Robert Adam’s Osterley Park (est. $500/700,000). Sarah Child married the Earl of Westmoreland in a runaway match to Gretna Greene, and her jewel caskets outnumber those in the similar service for the Queen of Sweden. Moving into the Regency Period, Four Magnificent Silver-Gilt Wine Coolers in the form of the Warwick Vase were acquired by Sir Richard Sutton, an avid huntsman and silver collector, from the Royal Goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge and Rundell (est. $500/700,000).

Property from the Collections of Lily & Edmond J. Safra includes a magnificent group of approximately 180 Cosway bindings that represents the largest and finest collection to be sold at auction since Sotheby’s predecessor firm, Anderson Galleries, sold the library of Phoebe A. D. Boyle in 1923. Elaborately-decorated bookbindings have existed from the time the codex format was first developed, and most techniques of decorating bindings were well established by 16th century. In the early-20th century, however, J. H. Stonehouse of the London bookselling firm Sotheran’s came up with a new way of decorating bookbindings, combining intricately gilt-tooled leather with inset miniature paintings on ivory. This style became known as the “Cosway binding,” after the English portrait miniaturist Richard Cosway (1742–1821). Stonehouse designed some 900 of these bindings during the first four decades of the 20th century; the bindings were primarily executed by Rivière & Son, and all of the miniature paintings were done by Miss C. B. Currie, although she was not acknowledged as the artist of these exquisite works until 1911.

Representative of the collection is a magnificent Cosway binding by Riviere & Sons for Concerning the True Portraiture of Mary Queen of Scots by Joshua James Foster, whose front cover is inset with 13 very fine miniature portraits on ivory depicting Mary Stuart and François II, almost certainly painted by Miss C. B. Currie (est. $40/60,000). A near twin of this binding, on another copy of the same work, was included in the Phoebe A. D. Boyle sale.

The October sale presents a remarkable collection of over 100 interior paintings, the majority of which were finished in the 19th century by British, European and Russian artists. The remarkable scope and diversity of the collection, which ranks among the most significant of its kind, allows a fascinating view into the daily life of the 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries, and the public exhibition of these works will offer a rare opportunity to see such an assembly. Many of the compositions either record the personal spaces and interior decorations important to the artist, or document the great estates of wealthy patrons and sumptuous palaces of royalty.

Among the many highlights of the Collections is Benjamin Walter Spiers’s “Armour, prints, pictures, pipes, china, (all crack’d), Old rickety tables, and chairs broken back’d” (est. $100/150,000). Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883, the work’s title derives from William Makepeace Thackeray’s poem “The Cane-Bottom’d Chair,” and the work depicts a well-appointed room overflowing with prints, drawings, leather-bound books, painted porcelain, musical instruments, arms and armor, and other everyday and esoteric objects. Many of these items appear in several of the artist’s works, which suggest they were part of his personal collection.

The auction also will feature an important group of watercolors by Mary Ellen Best (1809-1891). Victorian women artists often painted intricately-detailed interiors and views of domestic life, yet Best’s are known for their precise detail and autobiographical insight. Most active in the 1830s, by 1860 Best pasted her favorite works into albums, many of which were later disassembled, which makes the present collection all the more remarkable. Most of Best’s interiors were from houses around her native York while others captured trips abroad. The Collections are complemented by fellow British artist Joseph Nash (1808-1878), who recorded the architecture and design of England’s great estates.

The October auction will include approximately 150 lots of European ceramics, covering a wide range of wares from the 17th through the 20th centuries and featuring several extensive dinner services, Dutch Delft vases and jardinières, and a pair of Louis XV flower arrangements mounted in porcelain cachepots from the mid-18th century (est.$80/120,000).

The highlight of this selection, however, is a large group of 18th-century Meissen porcelain figures of birds. Meissen bird figures were originally made at the request of Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, who owned the porcelain factory at Meissen. Augustus’s aim was to build a menagerie of birds and animals for display in one of his pleasure palaces, employing the skills of the factory’s talented modeler, Johann Joachim Kändler. The birds include brightly-colored figures of cockatoos and parrots, large figures of swans, jays and sparrowhawks, and smaller birds such as blue tits and waxwings. A pair of swans mounted in Louis XV ormolu as candelabra bear an estimate of $250/350,000.

The collection also boasts a large group of extremely fine and rare ‘tour de force’ turned ivory carvings, undoubtedly the finest such group to come to auction in recent decades. Remarkably, for a private collection assembled in the 20th century, the present group is comparable to the great princely kunstkammer collections assembled hundreds of years earlier, such as those in the Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden, at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, and in the Medici collections at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence.

Made primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, these exquisite, virtuoso objects epitomize a great princely European tradition. The turner’s lathe captured the imagination of the aristocracy from the late Renaissance onward, and these remarkable manipulations in ivory, which frequently took on fantastic, abstract shapes, were essential to any kunstkammer collection. In the 17th century, the turning of such ivories became a favorite pastime of princes–including Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando de’ Medici and Rudolph II of Prague–who would employ master turners as their teachers.

Among this impressive group are a number of 17th and early-18th century works of the highest quality, including a 17th Century Ivory Tower surmounted by a pierced sphere, an Early-17th Century German Cup with a spiraling finial, and a Magnificent 17th Century Turned Ivory Covered Cup, the lid in the form of a crowned spiral staircase that is one of the finest examples of its kind.

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