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August Bohm goblet sells at £64,000 in the Cotswolds

07 April 2008Written by ATG Reporter

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 years later.

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 prospective purchasers.

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

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ATG Reporter

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