On October 2 Sothebys
will be hosting a third sale in France devoted exclusively to the Wonders of Nature.
Around 100 fossils, skeletons and mineralized panels, from private collections in Europe, the United States and Asia, will delight connoisseurs of curiosities from the prehistoric plant and animal world. These extraordinary items count as veritable works of art no longer the preserve of natural history museums, but increasingly sought-after by private collectors.
Works from the Kashiwagi Museum, Japan
Yasutada Kashiwagi, a doctor in computer science, discovered a passion for fossils and minerals after attending the first Tokyo International Mineral Fair in 1988. He at once began to start a collection, with an especial interest in ammonites. In 1993 he decided to put his collection on show, and created his own museum in Nagao, west of Tokyo. Around thirty lots from this collection, assembled over a 24-year period, will be offered at Sothebys.
One of the most exciting items promises to be a pair of mammoth tusks (Mammuthus primigenius) found in Russia and dating from the Late Pleistocene period. The mammoth, Ice Age symbol par excellence, developed tusks never matched in the animal kingdom both to defend itself against prehistoric man, and to scrape away the snow to find the food it needed. Its tusks took form at birth, and continued to grow until the end of its life. The pair of tusks to be offered by Sothebys are believed to come from an individual mammoth about 50 years old (est. 30,000-50,000 / $37,000-62,000)*.
The alligator is the largest living reptile in North America and has remained unchanged for millions of years: it can virtually be considered a living fossil. An imposing prehistoric alligator skull (Alligator missisipiensis) found in Florida, dating from the early Pleistocene period (1.8 million years old), is the largest and most complete skull of this species ever discovered (est. 30,000-40,000 / $37,000-50,000).
A fossilized Caiman skull (Diplocynodon hallense) from the Eocene Period (45 million years ago), found in the Geiseltal/Merseburg region of Germany, is amazingly well-preserved (est. 18,000-28,000 / $22,000-35,000).
Ammonite highlights include an impressive Placenticeras ammonite (Upper Cretacean, 80 million years old) found in the United States (est. 12,000-18,000 / 15,000-22,000); and a large Eparitites ammonite, Lower Jurassic (190 million years old) from England (est. 9,000-15,000 / 11,000-18,000).
Skeletons & Fossilized Specimens
Highlight of this section is a rare, complete Mammoth skeleton (Mammuthus primigenius) from Siberia. This species was contemporary to Neandertal Man in the Middle Paleolithic, and to Homo sapiens in the Upper Paleolithic, until its extinction 12,000 years ago. This mammoth, the largest land mammal of all time, has two mighty tusks whose splendour encapsulates the hold this mighty creature has always held on man's imagination. As an added bonus, the purchaser will have the chance to baptize this exceptional mammoth skeleton with the name of his or her choice (est. 170,000-250,000 / $211,000-310,000).
Also from Siberia comes a large Woolly Rhinoceros skeleton (Coelodonta antiquitatis) from the Late Pleistocene (Quaternary Period). Its Latin name refers to the cavity tooth from which its main horn emerged, but it is better known as a woolly rhinoceros because of its coat. Numerous prehistoric cave paintings illustrate this powerful creature, which lived during the last two glacial periods and disappeared 10,000 years ago (est. 70,000-100,000 / $87,000-124,000).
The sale also features the fossilized shell of a superb ammonite from the United States (Sphenodiscus lenticularis), Upper Cretacean (70 million years old), with characteristically seductive colouring. The outer layer is composed of the precious gemstone ammolite, and this species is one of the last ammonites to have evolved before their mass extinction at the end of the Cretacean Period (est. 15,000-25,000 / $18,000-31,000).
An exceptionally rare Turtle fossil (Thalassemys) of the Late Jurassic (145 million years old) hails from the lithographic limestone deposits in Southern Germany that have yielded many remarkably preserved fossils. The compressed carapace has a geometric structure typical of turtle shells in general (est. 55,000-80,000 / $68,000-100,000).
A Trionyx Turtle (Eocene) on a limestone plaque originates from the Green River site in the western U.S.A. that is renowned for yielding some of the finest fossils in the world. This fossil has exceptional presence and aesthetic appeal, and was exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris in 2009 (est. 30,000-40,000 / $37,000-50,000).
The selection of prehistoric animals also includes a fine fossilized Rhinoceros skull (Hyracodon nebraskensis), Cenozoic Era (Oligocene Epoch, 33-23 million years ago), again from the United States (est. 6,000-8,000 / $7,000-10,000).
Mineralized/Fossilized Panels & Animal World Curiosities
Modern art lovers will appreciate the large panels of mineralized wood from the finest sites around the world. The one extracted from Arizona constitutes a sumptuous relic of the forests of giant trees that adorned the countryside 220 million years ago. This wood fossil, in tones of white and grey with reddish tints, is one of the most remarkable of these panels ever found (est. 35,000-50,000 / $43,000-62,000).
Another item sure to be in demand is an elegant array of scallops (Gigantopectens restitutensis) from the Miocene Epoch, discovered in a quarry near Lacoste in the Rhone Valley a veritable monument of natural art, composed of nearly 200 individual scallops, that appears to herald the work of contemporary artists (est. 30,000-50,000 / $37,000-62,000).
Some 50 million years ago the climate in south-west Wyoming was comparable to that of Florida today. The region was a paradise for fish, turtles, crocodiles and other aquatic species. The magnificent fossilized Palm-Frond (Sabalites) from the Cenozoic Era (Eocene Epoch, 53-33 million years ago), surrounded by perfectly preserved little fish, is a perfect illustration of the luxuriant vegetation that held sway in the region at the time (est. 60,000-80,000 / $74,000-100,000).
And finally, just the sort of object that any self-respecting Cabinet of Curiosities cannot be without: a very rare egg of the Elephant Bird (Aepyornis maximus) the world's largest bird, thought to have inspired the giant ostrich in Sinbad the Sailor (est. 35,000-45,000 / $43,000-56,000). The species was destroyed by other sailors who used it as food during stop-overs in its Madagascar homeland.
Viewing at Sothebys Paris
76 rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré
75008 Paris France
Friday 28 September 10am-6pm
Saturday 29 September 10am-6pm
Monday 1st October 10am-6pm