SALES IN ITALY: The first auctions to take place in Italy this autumn in the midst of these days of gloom have been encouraging. In Rome on October 30, Christie’s (22.5/18.5% buyer’s premium) sold the contents of the residences of a collector, Michele Falzone del Barbarò. All 362 lots sold for around £400,000, far exceeding the auctioneers’ expectations.
The collection was wide-ranging, and catered for all tastes and pockets, from 18th century Lombard furniture to a series of walking sticks. Bids went consistently over estimate, doubtless assisted by the solid provenance.
The surprise top lot of the session was a set of six gilt-bronze, two-light wall appliqués which were chased up to a hefty Li82m (£26,880) more than ten times low estimate, followed some way behind by a north Italian commode of the late 18th century with inlays of stylised flowers and a medallion in the top, which fetched Li40m (£13,115). Of the same period was a Lombard walnut and stained wood bureau, selling for Li34m (£11,150) and a small Lombard table in bois de rose and other woods, decorated with classical motifs. That fetched Li15m (£4920). A pair of carved blackamoor figures standing 4ft 3in (1.32m) high, went under the hammer at Li18m (£5900).
An earlier sale of furniture and Old Master paintings held by Finarte (18/16% buyer’s premium, including VAT) in Rome on October 23 was a more workaday affair of about 580 lots, half of which were sold for a respectable total of about £1m. Totally unexpected was the Li630m (£206,550) paid for a cabinet approximately 8ft 2in (2.5m) high, inlaid with bone and fruitwood and estimated to make a maximum of Li150m. The concensus was that the piece came from Piedmont, probably Turin, and dated from c.1750, but some people thought it might have associations with the workshop of Pietro Piffetti.
Painted furniture is enjoying a sotto voce comeback, as evidenced by the sale of a central Italian chest of drawers of the 18th century, which came with a marble top and painted floral motifs against a sky-blue ground to the sides and front. It fetched Li84m (£27,540), over four times its estimate. Further bidding
tussles broke out over a pair of north European, mid-19th century mahogany side tables with ivory inlay which were pushed up to Li185m (£60,660).
The paintings on offer were mainly of religious scenes, the exception being Croesus put to the stake by Cyrus (who spared him after Croesus thrice called out the name of ‘Solon’, an Athenian sage). Painted by Antonio Molinari, a late 17th century Venetian artist, it sold for Li91m (£29,840).
A Madonna and Child with the infant Baptist by Bernardo Strozzi fetched Li66m (£21,640) and some decorative, 19th century tempera paintings of fish (as though presented in an aquarium) were snapped up at Li85m (£27,870).
£1 = Li3050