A companion work to an August Bohm masterpiece has bought a house record to Gloucestershire firm Wotton Auction Rooms.
Consigned to them for sale by a local Stroud family, as the
Cotswolds firm researched the glass goblet it gradually emerged
that they had a second version of the 19th century Bohemian glass
engravers' massive 23in (58cm) high goblet, now on loan to the
Victoria and Albert Museum, on which in 1840 he engraved a panel
depicting Alexander the Great defeating the Persians that was based
on a 17th century painting in the Louvre.
The goblet at Wotton varied slightly in outline and detail but
was the same size and featured a panel of the same finely engraved
battle scene. It also carried the same French inscription, La
Vertu Surmonte Toute Obstacle, as the V&A's model plus
Bohm's engraved signature Gravirt V A Bohm aus Meistersdorf I
Bohem im Jahre 1845, indicating that it was produced five
The vendor reckoned the vase had been in their family since the
inter-War period. Before consigning it to sale it had stood on a
sideboard and was filled with ping-pong balls.
After photographic comparison to the V&A's version, it was
suggested this was something special. Wotton put the vase on their
website and a small photograph and description in ATG.
"Interest started building," said Wotton's Philip Taubenheim,
and come sale day on March 26 five phone lines had been booked by
Wotton's estimate of £2000-3000 could be seen as cautious but
perhaps not unreasonable given the rather selective approach to
engraved middle European glass in the current market.
Indeed, for a smaller more 'standard' Bohm goblet that guide
might have been par for the course, but this piece, which was
described by one glass specialist as "having everything going for
it", was in a higher league. In a polarised market where the focus
is on rare purchasing opportunities, buyers will push the boat out
for something special.
So it proved. Interest from the room petered out at a few
thousand pounds, but then a prolonged battle ensued between two
telephone contestants, a London dealer and a local dealer. They
took the final price to no less than £64,000 (plus premium) - a
house record - the hammer falling to the London buyer who was
thought to be acting for an institutional third party.
August Bohm (c.1812-90) himself, although he died in poverty,
was thought to be the best exponent of his craft in his day.
The goblet in the V&A was once owned by the 19th century
English glass maker and writer Apsley Pellatt, who pictured it on
the frontispiece of his key 1849 publication Curiosities of
Glass Making and described it and its creator in the following
glowing terms within the text: "A most beautifully engraved vase by
a Bohemian artist is in the possession of the author; the
workmanship is even more elaborate than that of the Portland Vase;
the subject is from Le Brun's painting of the conquest and final
overthrow of the Persians at the battle of Arbela, by Alexander the
Great. For depth of workmanship and artistic execution, as a modern
intaglio engraving, this vase is unrivalled."
Pellatt's fulsome praise wasn't isolated. The goblet was so
rated that plaster casts were taken and kept in Bonhemia to
encourage other engravers.
By Anne Crane