The Continental Furniture sale at Sotheby’s Bond Street on December 10 proved something of a struggle, just like the furniture elements offered the following day by their King Street competitors. Only half the 241 lots got away, with demand focussed more than ever on the rarest top quality.
One entry that did get paddles waving was a Louis XVI gilt bronze and bronze chandelier measuring approximately 3ft 33/4in (1m) in length and 2ft 11/2in (65cm) in diameter. On the strength of the similarity of the sphinx head supports on the nozzles and the combination of gilt and gilt-bronze elements to that used on a pair of candelabra of c. 1785 in the Wallace Collection, Sotheby’s attributed their chandelier to François Rémond (maitre 1774), but reckoned it was probably made to an original design by Daguerre. Both the Wallace Collection candelabra and this chandelier are very early examples of the use of the sphinx head motif more commonly found on later, Empire pieces.
There were a number of would-be purchasers keen to secure this piece at Sotheby’s although the final battle was down to two bidders, a Continental dealer in the room who secured it against the telephone, but only after going to £92,000, nearly double the £40,000-60,000 estimate.
While the late Sir Arthur Gilbert was the most voracious purchaser of micromosaics, demand for the most decorative examples of this art has not dried up now that his purchasing power has been removed from the market, as several recent strong results in this field can testify. In fact his enthusiasm for the genre seems to have served to promote it, Sotheby’s specialist Patrick van der Vorst reckons that if anything interest in micromosaics has intensified.
This sale included a good example of the class of micromosaic that is most desirable; an attractive and sizeable 20 x 22in (51 x 58cm) piece, dating to the late 18th century, attributed to the highly regarded Roman craftsman Cesare Guttare and depicting a popular subject for the genre – the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli. It went for a double-estimate £80,000.
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