That ear trumpet’s association with the great novelist Evelyn Waugh resulted in a hammer price of £2200, more than double its low estimate, at Forum Auctions earlier this year.
More objects coming up at auction show how certain names can command a premium for mundane items that nonetheless have a sometimes highly personal link to the former owner.
How much would someone pay for a belt buckle or a dog collar?
That very question will be tested at sales in North Yorkshire and Austria shortly. First up, on October 30 Vienna auction house Dorotheum is offering a show buckle once worn by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with an estimate of €2000-4000. Made of brass applied with silver with floral and ornamental engraving, it comes in a glass display case in the manner of a devotional object.
According to the saleroom: “Oral tradition has it that high-spirited Mozart could be quite hard on his footwear: In spring 1789, Mozart, who was also well known for enjoying fancy clothes, apparently stamped his foot with such force during a concert in Dresden that his shoe buckle burst (see Mozarts Leben und Werke by Alexander Ulibischeff, 2. vol., chapter 23).”
On provenance, Dorotheum adds: “The shoe buckle on offer comes from the estate of Viennese master shoe maker Matthias Knoller, whose customer Mozart once was.”
Byron's long-suffering Boatswain
On November 18 at Tennants of Leyburn, focus shifts to a famous Brit: Lord Byron. More specifically, to his favourite Newfoundland dog, Boatswain, who died in 1808. A wide brass dog collar which once belonged to Boatswain is estimated at £3000-5000.
Inscribed Rt. Honble LORD BYRON, it has a jagged toothed edge. Several of the teeth are missing and - according to accompanying provenance - the damage was done by a bear which Lord Byron kept at Newstead Abbey, and with which Boatswain had many severe encounters.
Boatswain was an unlucky dog, it seems. He died of rabies after being bitten by another dog in Mansfield. The grief-stricken Byron erected a monument at Newstead Abbey and composed the famous Epitaph to a Dog.
If spectacles worn by famous people are more your thing, on November 14 Irish auction house Fonsie Mealy is offering WB Yeats’ glasses in its The Yeats Family Collection - The Final Chapter auction.
The items including paintings, letters and personal memorabilia will be auctioned at the Chatsworth Salerooms in Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
As well as the spectacles, WB Yeats’ inkcase and briefcase are other items available that have the personal touch.
Meanwhile, on November 26, among the items Christie’s is offering in Hong Kong when objects and artworks from the personal collection of Claude Monet (1840-1926) are sold, a pair of spectacles worn by the artist is estimated at $1000-1500.