From the 1730s onwards, cabinetmakers in Mainz developed a distinctive form of bureau cabinet, known as a Cantourgen. Around the middle of the century, ébénistes in the city were required by the guild to present such a technically complicated piece of furniture as their masterpiece.
On April 14, an intricately inlaid walnut Cantourgen with gilt bronze mounts surprised the auctioneers at Neumeister (27% buyer’s premium) in Munich by going well over estimate to take the top price.
Through comparisons with other known pieces, the 7ft 6in (2.29m) high bureau was attributed to Ulrich Sedlmayr and was possibly even his masterpiece. The guide of €20,000-30,000 reflected previous market values, but the hammer fell at €100,000 (£86,955), bid by a south German collector.
Another of the highlights came from the same source – a carefully composed Munich private collection. It was a 9in (24cm) high Meissen coffee pot from c.1735. The landscapes and harbour scenes on both sides were probably painted by Johann Georg Heinze and Anselm Bader.
German collectors did their best, but at the close, it was a collector from Shanghai who placed the winning bid of €43,000 (£37,390), double the upper estimate.
One of the high notes at the sale held by Auction Team Breker (21.8% buyer’s premium) in Cologne on April 24 was the result for an Aeolian Vocalion gramophone from the early 1920s.
The standard model had been introduced by the Aeolian Hall Company in London in 1912 and the manufacturers left no doubt that they were convinced of the quality of their product.
In an advertising brochure from 1914 one could read: “How smooth, how wonderfully true are these tones… this marvellous phonograph has but reflected them through intervening time. All the voices of the orchestra this Aeolian-Vocalion sends forth; living, vibrant, with all the beauty undimmed that is graven in the record.”
An extra attraction of the example in Cologne was the decoration of the ornate case, which is in the shape of a Chinese temple, painted with motifs from traditional Chinese legends on three sides.
It came complete with a corresponding stand and was given a starting price of €5600.
International bidders from around the world joined in until the hammer fell at €16,000 (£13,915). The buyer was a Californian institution with Chinese connections.
£1 = €1.15