From 5 to 15 May, this year's Spring Auction at Hermann Historica oHG
presented the usual wide range of high quality precious objects, with approximately 7,000 collectors' items from all eras and from all over the world.
For many years, the demand for antique helmets among the buyers has remained consistently high. Once again, the fine condition of the early bronze helmets in this auction found great favour with the specialist international bidders, which was reflected in the gratifying results. Its moderate estimate of 18,000 euros notwithstanding, an exceptionally aesthetically pleasing Chalcidian helmet with full-faced tin-plating and the characteristic movable cheek pieces, dating from the early fourth century B.C., went on to fetch 28,000 euros. Another helmet of the same type and dating from the same period changed hands for its starting price of 14,000 euros. Of considerably earlier date, with a fine, dark green patina, a Greek Illyrian helmet forged in impressively solid sheet bronze during the second half of the sixth century B.C. was offered for auction at 9,000 euros and sold for 9,500 euros.
The antiquities section included a variety of unique and exquisitely worked objects, some scientifically documented over many years, which were crafted by gold and silversmiths in ancient times. Among them was an outstanding artefact of Roman military history, a golden ring belonging to a custodian of the armoury, whose provenance in prestigious collections has been fully documented since the late 19th century. Engraved in the bezel of the high-quality ring from the third century A.D. is an extremely rare inscription of the soldier's unit and rank. Snapped up for its starting price of 12,000 euros, this true rarity now takes pride of place in a new collection.
Arms and armour, arts and crafts
According to tradition, the arms and armour catalogue opens with works of art, rare wunderkammer objects and hunting antiques. Highlights of the auction included a richly openworked Irish or Anglo-Saxon decorative fitting of sheet bronze, exquisitely fashioned in the so-called insular style. Attributed to the eleventh century, the fitting is adorned with a depiction of four panthers and eight peacocks surrounded by ornamental laced bands. While it was estimated at 8,000 euros, the hammer fell at 8,400 euros. Bids were invited from 8,000 euros for a German pair of carved, fully sculptured ivory figures, representing Asclepius and Hygieia and dating from the 17th/18th century. The fine baroque pair of statuettes, depicting the god of physicians and his daughter, the patron saint of apothecaries, in antique fashion with their typical attributes, a serpent and a bowl, found a new owner for precisely this sum.
By contrast, two other lots were magnificent examples of the creative force of nature. Particularly imposing, not merely from a natural history perspective, was 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. Moreover, the presentation of the complete and perfectly preserved specimen in a flexible assembly system served to underline the unique character of the object; opening at 7,500 euros, the skeleton fetched 8,000 euros. Of the utmost rarity on account of its size and remarkable weight a formidable thirty kilograms a stony meteorite that came into being approximately 4,700 million years ago was acquired for its limit of 5,000 euros.
Once again, the antique arms and armour had a variety of exceptional collectors' items and veritable rarities to offer. Particularly outstanding was a splendid Maximilian helmet, forged around 1520 and bearing the Nuremberg inspection mark, which had attracted a great deal of interest during the run-up to the auction. The battle-scarred skull is embossed from nape to brow on both sides with the characteristic bands of eight shallow flutes each, the ridges accentuated by intricately engraved lines. Throughout its history, the South German armet, which is fitted with a visor, has always enjoyed the highest esteem: the list of its documented and distinguished provenance, including the Baron de Cosson Collection and the Clements Collection, is remarkable indeed. Unsurprisingly, then, this magnificent piece unleashed an immediate flurry of bids; opening at 25,000 euros, the hammer fell at a gratifying 33,000 euros. More than doubling its listed price of 5,000 euros, a Saxon palace guard halberd, its blade etched on both sides with a cartouche featuring a coat of arms, surmounted by the motto of the Elector Johann Georg I ".S.V.M.C." and the year 1609, found a buyer at 12,000 euros. Slightly more recent yet no less significant, an extremely unusual and elaborately crafted Polish karabela was also offered for auction. Forged at the turn of the 18th century, the double-edged blade is embellished with fine gold and silver inlays, while the brass-mounted grip boasts horn grip panels and is decorated on both sides with ornamental silver inlays. The bidding for this extremely appealing edged weapon opened at 10,000 euros; the final selling price was 12,500 euros.
Asia, Orient and Africa
The quality and diversity of the lots from Africa, the Ottoman Empire, India, Japan and China remained as imposing as ever. Furthermore, this section witnessed one of the great sensations of the 68th auction: the sale of a Tibetan khatvanga or ritual sceptre, with inlays of gold and silver, dating from the 15th century, a significant era in the history of the country. An example of superlative chiselling craftsmanship, the entire surface of the shaft, 43.3. cm from top to bottom, is decorated with spiral inlays of gold and silver. A comparable sceptre has been documented in the collection at the British Museum. As bids for the exceptionally rare artefact from the slopes of the Himalayas quickly jumped from 9,500 euros to the spectacular final selling price of 85,000 euros, the nail-biting tension was palpable in the room, down the telephone wires and on the internet.
A gilded Chinese bronze statuette dating from the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century combined the noblest provenance, masterly craftsmanship and rich symbolism. 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. Originating from a princely private collection in Germany, in which ownership of the sculpture had been documented since the late 19th century, the highly impressive piece sold for its starting price of 35,000 euros. Also from China, a painted silk handscroll entitled, "The life of nine wise men", signed Qiu Ying and Wen Zhengming of the Ming Dynasty, also attracted buyers' attention. With a limit of 12,000 euros, the detailed, polychrome painting on silk with delicate scenes depicting figures, architecture and landscapes, measuring 790 x 33 centimetres unrolled, changed hands for 17,000 euros. A small Chinese sculpture of a sitting duck in yellow and white jade managed to dwarf its estimate of 600 euros by selling for an astounding 16,000 euros, an almost twenty-sevenfold increase.
The impressive array of objects from Japan comprised a number of high-quality edged weapons, including a pair of swords, daisho, forged circa 1471, which were open to bids from 10,000 euros and went on to fetch 12,000 euros. Bids were invited from 6,000 euros for an intriguing shamshir from the Ottoman Empire, lavishly inscribed, inlaid with gold and dated 1713; the final hammer price was 11,000 euros. Originating from the Indian subcontinent, a richly embellished, complete set of armour for a rider and his mount also came up for auction and sold for its estimated price of 12,000 euros. The set of components from the 17th and 19th century comprised a skull forged of blued steel and decorated with medallions and tendrils, a fine Northern Indian mail and lamellae shirt, a lance, a tulwar and a horse armour.
Military history and historical objects
Mementos of European royal houses are invariably in great demand at every auction of Hermann Historica. With fantastic winning bids for selected items from the personal property of members of the ruling families, this Spring Auction was no exception. Opening at 1,500 euros, spirited bidding for aKing Ludwig cheroot holder, a masterpiece of Meerschaum carving with the crowned cipher "L" surrounded by an angel and cherubs with a garland of roses, and an amber mouthpiece, resulted in the sensational final price of 38,000 euros. A delicate golden watch fob seal belonging to the Bavarian King (1845 1886) almost quadrupled its estimate of 3,500 euros, now taking pride of place in a new collection for 12,000 euros. Also offered for auction, from the House of Prussia, was an object from the early military career of the fifth child of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, (1859 - 1941), namely his officer's helmet from the 1st Foot Guard Regiment. After passing his school leaving examination, Prince Oskar of Prussia (1888 - 1958) 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. His unique helmet its body of black patent leather with silver fittings, eagle emblem and guard star inspired such enthusiasm among collectors that the sale was completed for 27,000 euros, almost tripling the limit of 9,500 euros.
Two photograph albums belonging to the navy pilot and "Freikorps" fighter Franz Meyer proffered a cornucopia of unparalleled documentary photographs. The highly decorated pilot recorded his deployment over the course of World War I in a total of 580 pictures, thereby presenting posterity with an abundance of illustrative material of the era, with particular insight into the contemporary world of aviation. Although these outstanding photograph albums were valued at 6,000 euros, they were so well received that the hammer did not fall until 11,500 euros.
Interest in Russian military objects associated with the tsarist court continued unabated in the military history and historical objects section. Among them, the M 1838 officer's and general's shashka that once belonged to Major General Prince Felix Felixovich Sumarokov-Elston (1856 - 1928), father of Rasputin's assassin Prince Felix Yusupov, its blade decorated with the tsarist crown and the Russian double-headed eagle, fetched 32,000 euros, its listed price of 20,000 euros notwithstanding. Also starting at 20,000 euros was a significant ceremonial Russian sword M 1798, forged around 1810 by the renowned master Hatchatur in Russia for officers of the Russian infantry. Such was the rarity, quality and historical significance of the gold-inlaid sword that it did not escape the buyers' notice; for the hammer price of 25,000 euros, it now adorns a new collection. Equally gratifying was the final result of 13,500 euros for an Imperial Russian M 1800 Uhlan officer czapka. The extremely rare, early helmet with its black leather body and gilt bullion band had been estimated at a mere 1,000 euros.
Orders and Insignia
The highlight of the orders section also came from the Russian tsarist empire. Specialist buyers and collectors had been eagerly awaiting the sale of an Imperial and Royal Order of the White Eagle in truly impeccable condition and dated 1868, which was offered for auction from 35,000 euros. 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. The magnificent order decoration, probably one of the most beautiful of the 19th century, was acquired for the princely sum of 62,000 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, valued at 10,000 euros, changed hands for 14,000 euros. Finally, the hammer fell at 22,000 euros for 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 had an asking price of 18,000 euros.
Fine antique and modern firearms
A number of famous names and unparalleled historical artefacts from their personal property introduced the line-up of antique firearms. Firstly, not merely of royal provenance but of premium quality to boot, was a pair of flintlock shotguns from the personal hunting cabinet of the first King of Württemberg, Friedrich I, one of the pièces de résistance in this catalogue. The superb gunsmith quality and excellent, untouched condition of the passionate hunter's unique flintlocks, originating from the workshop of Christian Körber in Ingelfingen circa 1810, certainly appealed to enthusiasts. A collector's dream come true and valued at 15,000 euros, the pair found a new owner for 16,500 euros. They were followed by a pair of flintlock pistols of equally high quality, of the same provenance and manufacture dating from 1806, listed at 10,000 euros but selling for 10,500 euros.
All prices are net prices and are to be understood plus 23 percent surcharge. Unsold objects can still be purchased.