In some sense its nice when the lot you picked out of an auction turns out to be the top lot. That’s from an observer’s point only, however. Had I been bidding on the sterling silver two-handled presentation bowl with an inscription to Maestro Arturo Toscanini, I wouldn’t have been so excited to see the price climb out of the $4,000-$6,000 estimate range to reach $28,125 (including buyer’s premium).
That’s what the 1921 bowl brought at Doyle in New York today, however. More than 80 lots of property from the Collection of Arturo Toscanini met the hammer after being consigned by the the Estate of his Grandson, Walfredo Toscanini (the Maestro died in 1957).
Auction totals brought just under $200,000 against an estimate of $94,480-149,670.
Born in Parma, Italy, Toscanini was one of the world’s most prominent conductors of the 20th century. During his lifetime, he was music director at Milan’s La Scala, New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, and finally, the first music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Generations of Americans were introduced to classical music through his radio and television broadcasts and numerous recordings.
Whiting Sterling Silver Two-Handled Presentation Bowl Bearing inscription to Maestro Arturo Toscanini, 1921. Height 13 1/2 inches (34.3 cm), width 20 1/2 inches (52.1 cm), approximately 136 ounces. Doyle Auctions.
Offered consecutively, a pair of sterling candelabra sold for $111,600 against an estimate of $60,000-$80,000; followed by a pair of silver bowls that were bid to $134,000 – more than twice the high estimate of $60,000. All four pieces exhibited the impeccable artistry for which antique Tiffany silver is so renowned. Continue Reading »
A highlight of the week of Americana Week sales, Christie’s is honored to announce that the sale of a Sheffield-plated silver wine cooler, given by George Washington to Alexander Hamilton in 1797 (estimate: $400,000-600,000). This four-bottle wine cooler is an exceptionally well documented historical object, symbolizing the famous partnership between Washington and Hamilton in the early days of the republic.
Never before seen by the public, it is being sold by direct descendants of Alexander Hamilton.
“Christie’s is honored to have been entrusted with this piece of American material history—the only three-dimensional object known to connect Washington with Hamilton, his most important collaborator,” says Jeanne Sloane, deputy chairman and head of silver. “We were thrilled to locate Washington’s original letter of presentation dated August 21, 1797, in the Library of Congress.”
The four-bottle wine cooler is one of four commissioned by George Washington in 1789 to be used for entertaining after dinner. Detailed correspondence between Washington and his emissary, Gouvernor Morris, who was tasked with procuring objects to outfit the President’s House, describes the great level of forethought Washington devoted to creating an appropriate style for the new country.
In response to Washington’s admonition to “avoid extravagance,” Morris wrote to Washington in 1790, “I think it of very great importance to fix the Taste of our Country properly, and I think Your Example will go very far in that respect. It is therefore my Wish that every Thing about you should be substantially good and majestically plain; made to endure.”
Embodying this intent to be majestically plain, the elegant wine cooler is simply decorated with lion’s mask and ring handles. The choice of Sheffield-plated silver, a layered combination of silver and copper, instead of solid silver, emphasizes the founding fathers’ preference for austerity.
Washington’s fastidious attention to detail is demonstrated in his letter to Morris where he specifies the design of the cooler, “with an allowance in the depth of it for ice at bottom so as to raise the neck of the decanter above the cooler…The reason why I prefer an aperture for every decanter or bottle to coolers that would contain two and four is that whether full or empty the bottles will always stand upright and never be at variance with each other.”
An inventory written by Washington when his presidential term was through describes the silverware bought by him and by the Federal government. Of the four coolers that he purchased, Washington took two to Mount Vernon, sold one, and he presented the fourth to Hamilton, underscoring the importance to Washington of their 22-year relationship.
The letter that Washington sent to Hamilton with the wine cooler was engraved on the object by Hamilton’s descendants in the mid-19th Century, thereby insuring that its remarkable history would never be lost. The inscription reads, “My dear Sir, Not for any intrinsic value the thing possesses, but as a token of my sincere regard and friendship for you, and as a remembrance of me, I pray you to accept a wine cooler for four bottles. It is one of four which I imported in the early part of my late administration of the Government, two of which were ever used. I pray you to present my best wishes, in which Mrs. Washington joins me to Mrs. Hamilton, and the family, and that you would be persuaded that with every sentiment of the highest regard, I remain your sincere friend, and affectionate humble servant: Geo. Washington.”
A. I started by accident. Initially my career choice was in bio-chemistry and molecular bilology. I was working for my PhD and I did a flea market just to get rid of some things in the house and it ended up being very lucrative. I was extremely unhappy working in the field I was going into. It was very demanding and stressful. A week after the flea market I just quit the program and the head of the department was like ‘what are you going to do?’ I said ‘I don’t know- I sold a toaster I bought for $2 for $200. I think I’m just going to get rid of some stuff.’ So I’ve been doing it ever since. I started in art deco accessories, small furniture and bar ware then reinvested. I became known as an art deco dealer and started selling in Dallas. Over time it morphed into jewelry.
The jewelry started with Bakelite because it was of the 30s. It looked nice with the cocktail shakers and things. Over time I realized that you can have more quantity in a smaller space and not break your back, and deco did dry out. Now I am 95 percent jewelry. I do pick up a cocktail shaker occasionally. READ MORE
Every year for the past forty seven years or so, the Altha Theta Sorority from Western Kentucky University hold an antique show and sale at the Knights of Columbus Hall off Lovers Lane in Bowling Green.
This was one of the best attended years in the show’s history. By Saturday morning, many of the vendors had already been forced to restock their booths to replace merchandise sold on Friday.
The booth holders at this show were unusual as antique shows go. Certainly, they were anxious to make a sale. At most shows of a similar nature, some vendors seem loathe to give their time to any but cash customers. A lone journalist is sometimes given short shrift once they discover the nature of the writer’s visit. These people in Bowling Green were quick to discuss their stock in trade with anyone willing to listen, whether or not that person was ready to buy. Even a brief stop to admire an unusual piece earned a browser a talk on Limoges, or cut lead crystal, or the difference between Royal Doulton and Meisen china. A brief stop to admire an unusual piece of cast iron turned into a very informative conversation about how exactly a buggy whip display was arranged.
Also, most shows seem to be heavy in furniture. The Knights of Columbus hall was heavy in “smalls”: Dresden figures, tiny tea services, and many pieces of sterling silver. These stall holders took pride in their silvers. Too many sellers put their sterling pieces out full of tarnish. While it is never a good idea to polish silver with abrasive chemicals such as silver dip, these pieces bore a lovely “Butler’s Polish”, the sort attained with a jeweler’s rouge and fine cloth.
Some of the more unusual pieces there included a working wax cylinder player of the Edison era. It included several cylinders, and the seller was ready to give an exhibition of how the machine worked.
All the way in the back of the hall a booth had a lovely centerpiece of silver. It was necessary to stop and study to figure out that the display was a Mint Julep set, with a large silver basket for mint leaves, a pitcher for water, a bowl and tongs for ice, a decanter for the bourbon, and muddlers to crush the mint and sugar together. With Bowling Green being the southern corner of horse county, and not far from Louisville, home of the Derby, it is doubtful this lovely set had to wait long to find a buyer.
Being in Kentucky, the show wouldn’t be complete without a fine collection of hand work. Of course, there were many fine displays of the quilter’s art. Hand applique work graced many hand quilted pieces. One of the piece de resistence was a large bed cover with St. George and the Dragon embroidered in red. The seller wasn’t sure he wanted to part with the piece, and hoped he could take it home on Sunday.
Prices at the show semmed obscenely low. The exquisite St. George piece had an asking price of well under a hundred dollars. Sterling was for sale at little more than the price on the silver market, rather than charging for the craftsmanship. Since most of the vendors were from Kentucky, rather than driving in long distances, they could afford to keep their prices more reasonable. That is not to say the show w
The admission to the sorority show was another big plus. At only $5 admission, far less than their Nashville counterpart, the small Knights of Columbus hall offered more bang for the buck than any show within a hundred miles.