ITALY: MORE than 440 lots of silver and Russian works of art were offered at Christie’s (24-18.5% buyer’s premium, excluding VAT) sale in Rome on June 12, of which slightly less than half sold.
Amongst the English silver was a George IV silver ten-light candelabrum, made in London in 1825 and bearing the maker’s mark of Robert Garrard II. Three figures and a mythological creature were shown around a central column of acanthus leaves supporting the lights. Standing 2ft 7in (72cm) high, and weighing about 643oz (20,000g), it sold for €20,000 (£13,840). The day’s bargain came in the form of a silver centrepiece from London, probably dating from 1830 and bearing the maker’s mark of Paul Storr, which made €11,000 (£7610).
The triangular base was surmounted by three herms supporting a chased and decorated basket, the whole standing 14in (38cm) high. There was more English silver in the form of a pair of George IV and William IV silver soup tureens, which sold for €14,000 (£9670), made in London in 1829 and 1833 and with the marks of Richard Sibley and of J. Cradock and J. Cradock & William Reid respectively for the handles. They were similarly decorated with acanthus leaves and fruit and leaf spray finials to the covers and weighed 264oz (8210g).
A couple of weeks later Finarte-Semenzato (20% buyer’s premium, including VAT) had furniture, paintings, works of art and rugs to offer on June 23, a total of 300 lots of which 121 found new homes.
An extraordinary 18th century carved and gilt four-poster bed (pictured left) proved to be one of the most popular
attractions, selling for €36,000 (£24,910). Measuring 8ft 10in x 7ft 2in x 6ft 2in (2.7 x 2.2 x 1.88m), the low-slung bed was made in Lucca and boasted extravagant acanthus leaves up the posts and sprouting under the canopy. A pair of walnut chests of drawers, also 18th century, with marquetry in various woods and bronze-gilt decoration, fetched €66,500 (£46,020), the highest price of the day. The bombé form of each was topped by a dark-green marble top.
A pair of late-18th century Piedmontese oval mirrors caused a flurry of interest in the room. Painted ivory and sage-green, the mirrors bore a central three-light appliqué decorated with flowers, ribbons and scrolls. They measured 4ft 9in x 2ft 5in (1.45m x 72cm) and were bid to double the estimate to go under the hammer at €38,000 (£26,300).
The following four lots, a series of four pairs of openwork carved wooden jardinières in various forms, all sold at the same price: €30,000 (£20,760) each. Also late-18th century in date, these highly decorative pieces were carved to imitate canework and were painted ivory and sage green and applied with trophies. One pair was rounded in form, two pairs were rectangular and the last comprised a pair of gueridons with carved lions’ paws supporting a vase.
Finarte-Semenzato printed another door-stopper catalogue with over 580 lots for their Venetian sale of furniture, works of art and paintings on July 11-12. However, an abnormally hot July, the Biennale attracting even greater numbers of tourists than there are usually, and the urge to head for the hills or the beach assuredly put some potential buyers off from this run-of-the-mill auction, and consequently less than half the lots sold.
Nevertheless, some high prices were notched up for the finest pieces, especially in the case of a couple of Old Masters: €170,000 (£117,650) secured a view of the Ponte delle Guglie and the Canale di Cannaregio by Francesco Albotto, an early-18th century Venetian artist who was for some years a pupil of Michele Marieschi. Dated to around the late 1740s, the oil on canvas measured 3ft 4in x 2ft (1.01m x 61cm). The second lot in question was a pair of oils on copper showing the Adoration of the Magi and the Adoration of the Shepherds by Prospero Fontana, active in Bologna between 1512 and 1527. Sold for €175,000 (£121,100), and each measuring 8 x 19in (24 x 52cm), the well-preserved pictures showed the influence of Giorgio Vasari, whom the artist knew, and of the Flemish school of landscapes.
The following lot, an oil on canvas of Samuel anointing David by Mattia Preti (better known as the Cavalier Calabrese), was a previously unknown work by the artist and a significant addition to his corpus but sold for a disappointing €60,000 (£41,520). The work
was here dated to 1635-1640, when the artist was in Rome and clearly under the influence of Caravaggio, but the painting also displays his awareness of contemporary Neapolitan painting.
Turning to the furniture, one of the most satisfying results was the €100,000 (£69,200) bid for a pair of cassoni in carved walnut. These late-16th century pieces were bid high over estimate, a combination of rarity, fine workmanship and noble provenance (they were made for the Piccolimini family) working its magic.
More frivolous in style was a small Venetian 18th century ivory-painted commode, decorated with flowers and leaves, measuring 3ft 10in x 2ft 7in x 22in (1.17m x 82cm x 59cm), which went under the hammer at €150,000 (£103,800). A late-17th century pair of consoles from Piedmont also attracted attention, realising €125,000 (£88,500). Of painted and gilt wood, the tops were decorated with chinoiseries on a dark ground supported by legs in the form of female caryatids on lions’ paw socles. The quality of the painted and carved work suggests a royal commission for the Savoyard household, perhaps for one of the provincial palaces.