This year's Spring Auction at Hermann Historica
oHG will take place from 5 to 15 May with the usual wide range of high quality precious objects from all eras and originating from all over the world. Approximately 7,000 lots from all specialist areas represented by the auction house will come under the hammer antiquities, arms and armour, works of art, hunting antiques, orders and collectibles from all fields of history and military history.
The antiquities section includes a variety of unique and exquisitely worked objects, some scientifically documented over many years, which were crafted by gold and silversmiths in ancient times. Particularly impressive is a Roman drinking bowl dating from the second century A.D. Fashioned of solid silver, its handles embellished with volutes and in excellent condition, the appeal of the precious skyphos lies in the fine chiselling and outstanding detail of the depiction, which shows two cupids taking part in a spirited chariot race. This partially gilt, antique treasure is estimated at 40,000 euros.
Wrought of the same material but inlaid with a gold medallion is a late Hellenistic/early Roman footed cup, which is offered for a starting price of 20,000 euros. The upper surface of the medallion is intricately engraved with a fine image of the goddess Demeter-Ceres with long hair, dressed in flowing robes, her left arm entwined around a cornucopia of fruit. Also to come under the hammer is an outstanding artefact of Roman military history, whose provenance in prestigious collections has been fully documented since the late 19th century: the gold ring once belonged to a custodian of the armoury of the XXIInd legion, which was stationed in Mainz in ancient times. With regard to the date of this lot, gold was only generally used for a soldier's ring of this rank from the year 197 onwards; in this case, however, the form of the ring indicates the third century A.D. The starting price of this piece reflects its quality, the extremely rare engraving of unit and rank in the bezel and the documented history of the ring, which is expected to fetch a minimum of 12,000 euros.
Furthermore, the early bronze helmets on offer include several veritable rarities. Among them is an extremely unusual Hellenistic helmet type, a Pilos helmet with its wide brim and offset brow element, dating from the second to the early first century B.C. Standing 22 cm tall and tapering to a point, the skull of the helmet has perforations for the original leather straps; its shape is familiar from various contemporary depictions on coins and reliefs, like the famous Domitius Ahenobarbus relief in Rome. A helmet of this type was last offered for sale in the art trade in 2004. By contrast, the appeal of this example lies not merely in its rarity but in its complete and unmodified state of preservation, which is reflected in the starting price of 35,000 euros. Meanwhile, an aesthetically pleasing Greek Chalcidian helmet with full-faced tin-plating and the characteristic movable cheek pieces, dating from the early fourth century B.C., is estimated at a more moderate 18,000 euros.
Arms and armour, arts and crafts
According to tradition, the arms and armour catalogue opens with hunting antiques, works of art and rare wunderkammer objects. These include a large variety of early caskets of exquisite workmanship, like a Venetian games casket with a chessboard and fine marquetry of bone, horn, mother-of-pearl and pewter in different colours, which can be attributed to the second half of the 15th century. Originating from the Workshop of Embriachi in Florence or Venice, it is to come under the hammer for 8,300 euros. Of museum quality is a rare Gothic chest, covered in punched leather and wrought with exceptional workmanship. Bids are invited from 8,400 euros for the mid-15th century German leather chest, which was designed to hold a missal; it is decorated with ornamental banners amid leafy vines with thorns. Slightly more recent, namely circa 1600, is a miniature casket from the famous Michel Mann workshop in Nuremberg. Entirely covered with characteristic engravings, the rectangular miniature case of fire-gilt brass is offered for auction for 7,900 euros. Also for sale is a beautiful German pair of carved, fully sculptured ivory figures, representing Asclepius and Hygieia and dating from the 17th/18th century. The god of physicians and his daughter, the patron saint of apothecaries, are portrayed in antique fashion with their typical attributes, a serpent and a bowl. The fine baroque pair of statuettes has a listed price of 8,000 euros.
By contrast, two other objects attest to the creative force of nature. Of the utmost rarity on account of its size is a stony meteorite that fell to earth around 4,700 million years ago. Weighing a formidable thirty kilograms, the both metallic and magnetic chondrite may be acquired for 5,000 euros. Particularly imposing, not merely from a natural history perspective, is the skeleton of a bear cub of the Ursus spelaeus species, prevalent in the Siberian Ice Age, circa 30,000 B.C during the Pleistocene era. Mounted in a flexible assembly system, the complete and perfectly preserved skeleton is estimated at 7,500 euros.
Moreover, exceptional collectors' items are among the antique arms and armour on offer. One example is an exceptionally splendid Maximilian helmet, stamped with the Nuremberg inspection mark, which was forged around 1520. On both sides, the skull is embossed from nape to brow with the characteristic bands of eight shallow flutes each, the ridges accentuated by intricately engraved lines. Conspicuous blade marks bear witness to the fact that the South German armet, which is fitted with a visor, actually proved its worth in combat. Having formed part of several collections, this object can once again take pride of place for 25,000 euros. An etched armour for the field in German style, dating from circa 1560, attests to the extraordinary workmanship of historicism armourers in plying their trade. The suit of armour is complete in all parts, including the close helmet with pivoted visor, and slides on multiple lames to ensure maximum mobility in the joints. All elements have roped and turned flanges and are opulently decorated with finely etched bands, scrolling leaves and flowers on a blackened ground; bidding opens here at 25,000 euros. Also up for auction from 8,000 euros, is a bullet-proof suit of armour from the armoury of the Duke of Brunswick; dated 1680, the set includes the helmet, breast and back-plate with bullet proof marks.
Equally attractive is the range of edged weapons for sale. Among them is a stunning German two-handed sword from the turn of the sixteenth century. Struck with an illegible mark and with its embossed wooden grip piece covered in stippled leather, the broad double-edged blade will doubtless take pride of place in a new collection for 12,000 euros. Meanwhile, a Viking sword with pattern-welded blade, forged in the ninth to tenth century, has a limit of 8,000 euros and an elaborately crafted silver-inlaid Polish karabela, circa 1700, is estimated at 10,000 euros.
Africa, Orient and Asia
The quality and diversity of the lots from Africa, the Ottoman Empire, India, Japan and China remain as compelling as ever. A gilded Chinese bronze statuette dating from the Qing dynasty in the 18th century combines the noblest provenance, masterly craftsmanship and rich symbolism. Exquisitely worked, the female guardian lion is depicted in the typical pose, sitting on her hind legs, her mouth wide open to reveal bared teeth in a menacing snarl and her left paw subduing a lion cub. Her face framed by the ten flowing curls of her mane, the expression of the lioness, both wild and vigilant, is skilfully worked. Originating from a princely private collection in Germany, in which ownership of the sculpture has been documented since the late 19th century, the highly impressive piece is offered for auction at 35,000 euros. Bids are invited from 7,500 euros for a life-size figure of the Amitabha Buddha from North China, legs folded in the half-Lotus position, probably 14th century. Next up are two exquisite carvings of Guanyin, the Taoist Goddess of Compassion; the ivory figure is estimated at 9,500 euros, with the lacquered wood at 9,000 euros.
The awe-inspiring array of objects from Japan comprises a number of high-quality edged weapons, including a pair of swords, daisho, forged circa 1471, which are open to bids from 10,000 euros, or a katana, dating from circa 1670, for 7,000 euros. Also up for auction are some extremely rare objects from the slopes of the Himalayas. With a starting price of 9,500 euros, a 15th century Tibetan khatvanga or ritual sceptre, with silver and gold inlays, is an example of excellent chiselling craftsmanship. Fashioned two hundred years later, a Nepalese Vaishnava offering cup, carved in precious rhinoceros horn with a depiction of the deity Vishnu in half relief, is open to bids from 8,000 euros. The demand for magnificently crafted weapons from the Orient has remained unabated for many years. Particularly impressive is an exquisitely made Ottoman khanjar, dating from the Turkish Wars, with silver rosettes inlaid in the ebony grip and an elaborately engraved, partially gilt silver scabbard. This formidable piece is expected to fetch a minimum of 16,000 euros. Equally appealing is an 18th century Indian khanjar with a chiselled, gold-inlaid jade handle, offered for sale at 9,500 euros.
Military history and historical objects
The military history and historical objects section presents a collectors' item of considerable historical significance that once belonged to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este (1863 1914). His personal campaign tunic bearing the rank of a Cavalry General, dated circa 1912/14, is to come under the hammer for 12,000 euros. Of the highest quality, tailored in very fine, pike-grey cloth with a scarlet collar, gold-embroidered cuffs and the collar fastening patent invented by the Archduke himself, the tunic was produced by the imperial court purveyor "Josef Szallay" in Vienna. This uniform tunic is an identical copy of that worn by the heir to the throne during his assassination in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914, which is currently in the Museum of Military History in Vienna.
Also outstanding are the rare helmets of equally distinguished, German provenance, like the unique helmet belonging to Prince Oskar of Prussia (1888 - 1958). After passing his school leaving examination, the fifth child of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 - 1941) pursued a classical military career at the cadet school in Plön; in 1906, he took his officer's exam at the military school in Potsdam and subsequently joined the 1st Foot Guard Regiment. Dating from the early period of Prince Oskar's military career, the body in black patent leather with silver fittings, eagle emblem and applied, enamelled guard star, this helmet is now offered for auction from 9,500 euros. Furthermore, approximately one hundred years older and with a limit of 8,000 euros, is a French 1st Empire Dragoon officer's helmet from the Hanoverian Royal Collection, which still retains its inventory tag from Schloss Marienburg. As regards date, the type of helmet indicates 1810 to 1815; the rich decoration of the copper skull, the gilt-brass crest, the Neo-classical ornaments, Gorgon mask and horsehair crest all lend the helmet a striking appearance.
As a testament to the auction house's diverse range of lots, an object from recent British military history, imposing by virtue of its perfect, fascinating technical design, is being put up for auction this spring. The chromed ejection seat of a Vulcan, a four-engine strategic jet bomber deployed by the Royal Air Force during the 1950s, was produced by the British company, Martin-Baker. Since the foundation of the company in 1934, the aircraft manufacturer has carried out pioneering work in the development of life-saving ejection seat systems and is today still the world leader in this segment. From the first mid-flight test ejection in 1946 until the end of 2013, a total of 7,429 lives have been saved thanks to Martin-Baker ejection seats. Bidding for this Mark 3 series ejection seat will start at 8,000 euros; however, it is not merely the object's expediency and functionality that will fascinate buyers. In combination with the opulent chrome, the extravagant form reveals a fascinating design object with a highly individual appearance, which can be effortlessly integrated as a modern interior design feature.
A number of famous names and unparalleled historical artefacts from their personal property usher in the parade of Russian military objects. Starting at 20,000 euros, collectors may acquire a significant ceremonial Russian sword M 1798, forged around 1810 by the renowned master Hatchatur in Russia for officers of the Russian infantry. As a comparable piece has been documented for the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, this rare sword is of museum quality; gold-inlaid cartouches are chiselled on both sides of the blade, while the obverse is struck with the tsarist cipher "A I" (Alexander I) beneath the tsarist crown. Moreover, an officer's and general's shashka M 1838 that once belonged to Major General Prince Felix Felixovich Sumarokov-Elston (1856 - 1928) - father of Rasputin's assassin Prince Felix Yusupov - is to come under the hammer. Its blade also struck with the tsarist crown and the Russian double-headed eagle to boot, the shashka of documented provenance is offered for sale at 20,000 euros. Next is an exquisitely crafted bijou from the House of Fabergé. A masterpiece of fine jeweller's artistry, the belt buckle in gold and silver with translucent pink enamel on a wavy guilloche background, decorated with freshwater pearls, was produced around 1900 by master Mikhail Perchin and is open to bids from 7,000 euros.
Orders and Insignia
The highlight of the orders section also hails from the Russian tsarist empire. In a truly sensational state of preservation is one of the most beautiful order decorations of the 19th century, an Imperial and Royal Order of the White Eagle dated 1868. The St Petersburg jeweller Julius Eduard Keibel (1825 1882) was the sole supplier authorised to produce the solid gold order with the cross of the White Eagle Order of Poland in translucent red and white enamel, mounted on the black enamelled Russian double-headed eagle. This magnificent piece is expected to fetch a minimum of 35,000 euros. A rare Napoleonic order, a Breast Star of the dignitaries of the Royal Order of the Two Sicilies (Ordre royal des Deux-Siciles) from 1908, is valued at 10,000 euros. Also on offer is a very early cross of the Prussian Pour le Mérite order from the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, (1786 - 1797); this legendary decoration for bravery has a listed price of 18,000 euros.
Fine antique and modern firearms
Once again, the lots in the antique firearms section are a collector's dream come true. The pièces de résistance in the Spring Auction boast a sensational rarity and quality that are otherwise difficult to obtain on the market. These include a pair of flintlock shotguns that once belonged to the first King of Württemberg, Friedrich I, whose superb gunsmith quality and excellent, untouched condition are sure to delight buyers. Bids are invited from 15,000 euros for this unique pair of flintlocks, circa 1810, from the workshop of Christian Körber in Ingelfingen. Of equally high quality is a pair of flintlock pistols of the same provenance and manufacture dating from 1806. Together with the matching case, the pair of pistols has a listed price of 10,000 euros. Their rich bone inlays and engraved fruitwood stocks, Nuremberg mark and chiselled wheel locks all lend an imposing elegance to a pair of Saxon officer's wheellock puffers, circa 1590. These splendid, early examples of the fine art of gunmaking have a starting price of 47,000 euros.