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December 2018 - auctions, news and gleanings

Posted on | By Thornton Kay
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Paris (75), France - PARIS - On 27 November, during its traditional auction dedicated to Art Deco, Artcurial offered a segment (photo top left Artcurial) of the historic Eiffel Tower staircase. Measuring 4.3m high with 25 steps, it was a piece of the monument’s original spiral, dating from 1889, which linked the second and third floors. From a private collection in Canada, it was estimated at € 40,000 - 60,000. In 1983, the installation of a lift between the top two floors of the Eiffel Tower required the disassembly of a staircase which was cut into 24 sections, from 2 to 9 meters in height. One of them was kept on the first floor of the Tower and the other three were given to the Paris Orsay and La Villette museums, and the Museum of Iron History in Nancy. The 20 remaining sections were sold at auction and acquired by collectors worldwide. One is located in the Yoishii Foundation gardens in Yamanashi in Japan, another near the Statue of Liberty in New York and one in Disneyland. Others are located in private collections in particular in Switzerland, Italy or Canada. The section, from a private collection in Canada, sold for a four times estimate €176,150. In 2013, an original section measuring 3.5m high reached €220,000 including fees. In 2016, section n°13 of the stairs exceeded its estimate tenfold, reaching €523,800, the highest ever presented by the auction house.

Built by Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) and his collaborators for the 1889 Universal Exhibition, the Eiffel Tower has become the French capital’s insignia and one of the most famous monuments in the world. Its construction lasted two years, two months and five days from 1887 to 1889, 324 meters high, the «Dame de Fer» dominates Paris. Inaugurated on 31st March 1889, it represents France’s industrial power and French technique. While strongly criticised in the famous Protestation Des Artistes, signed by Guy de Maupassant, Charles Garnier and Alexandre Dumas the younger, published in the newspaper Le Temps on 14th February 1887, it was met with a resounding
popular success with 2 million visitors during the Universal Exhibition. It was the highest monument in the world until the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. [artcurial.com

LONDON - On 20 November Christie's sold the fixtures and fittings from Annabel's nightlcub. Inevitably prices soared way above estimates. Of the architectural-related lots a George VI post-mounted postbox 'Carron Company Stirlingshire' sold for £6,000, a battered and repaired oak strip dance floor late 20thC estimated at £300 sold for £15,000, 10 brass wall lights by Philip Jebb c1963 £11,250 (est £2k), a Shanks multiple stall urinal with glass deflectors (photo top right Christie's) £3,250 (est £200), the modern 'Terrace Bar' in mahogany, brass and marble sold for £33,750 (est £2k). A 'quantity of wine racks and empty bottles' sold below estimate £1,000 (est £2k) 'Some racking labelled ‘Farrow & Jackson Ltd., London’, approximately 2000 sealed empty bottles, incomplete, to be dismantled for removal'.

Annabel's, in the basement of 44 Berkeley Square, was founded in 1963 by Mark Birley and named after Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, his then wife, after Birley's friend John Aspinall wanted somewhere to party after an evening's gambling so Birley turned the basement of Aspinall's casino, the Clermont Club, into a nightclub. The members-only nightclub catered to an exclusive clientele, including the Queen, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Princess Anne, Richard Nixon, Aristotle Onassis and Frank Sinatra. Entertainers who have played there include Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, Bryan Ferry and Lady Gaga. [christies.com

SUSSEX - Summers Place 240 lot 'Evolution' sale on 20th November included a collection of Baltic amber, every piece embedding traces of ancient insects. This collection was reputed to have been formed by Mr N. D. Derbyshire in the late 19th or early 20th century. A photograph of him and his wife was included in the lot, together with a quantity of illustrated notes identifying the insects in each piece of amber which were numbered. The collection of 50 pieces of Baltic amber, each with insect specimens, in a mahogany case 32cms by 21cms, sold for £5,800.

The Baltic region is estimated to have more than 100,000 tons of amber created Eocene forests 44 million years ago, the era before pachyderms evolved. Although not a mineral, the fossilised resin is classified as a gemstone, and was secreted through epithelial cells of the often to protect the tree after storm damage. Due to its sticky nature insects then became trapped in the resin.

Top lot at the sale was a fairly large Siberian mammoth skeleton from the Tomsk region which made £115,000. Mammoths survived in many places until 10,000 years ago and on remote islands in the Bering Straits mammoths lived on until around 2,000 years BC. An articulated skeleton of a Moa from before the 15th century, 1.4m high originally from New Zealand, sold for £22,000. The last moa sold at auction in Britain in the 1930s and it is unlikely that one will be offered again, according to the catalogue. Several different kinds of Moa are recognized and this particular example comes from a bird that belongs to the genus Pachyornis. Rather like an Emu in overall shape these creatures dominated the New Zealand landscape until the coming of man around a thousand years ago. The Moas of New Zealand are among the most famous of all extinct creatures. Some moas were over 4m tall.

NORFOLK - Gaze had two sales of interest - the rural and domestic bygones sale and a modern design sale. There were two electric stoves from the 1940s, an apple green and cream enamelled 'Jackson' and a grey and white 'Revo R-8' 5.6kw, both with two hotplates, one rectangular and one circular, an oven, and a fold-down door to a grill. Jackson Electric Stove Co, of Luton, was formed in 1914 making stoves and electric kettles until 1958 when it was bought by Radiation Ltd. Revo Electric Co, of Tipton, made stoves from 1937-56 when it was acquired by Duport, another Tipton company. The Jackson sold for £70 and the Revo for £40. Other bygones included a c1900s white ceramic milk pail transfer-printed 'Pure Milk' with two cows, cracked,12ins dia 10ins high, sold at £480; four iron coal-hole covers c1850s one with 'W Harmer & Son' probably William Henry Harmer recorded as an ironfounder in New Road Rotherhithe, two with 10 point star hatching and one diamond hatched c1880 sold for £80; to trap was a Harry Carne patent hare trap by J Williams & Sons sold for £600; one of the top signs was white on red 'Drink CAMP It's the best!' 40ins by 30ins £320; top tool was a five-tine eel gleave at £70.

In the modern sale a Danish six tier aluminium pendant lamp in the Poulsen style sold for £190, a Danish teak twin bed which could be used either as a double or two singles with floating bedside drawers sold for £440, a 1960s laminated bent ply dining table, circular top with four chairs after Alvar Aalto, 92cm dia 75cm high made £420.

LONDON - Wellers held a closing down sale for Aladdins Cave at which the top lot was a traditional Georgian style white and green marble chimneypiece, greek key frieze, green marble columns, egg and dart architrave etc etc which sold for £2,600 hammer.

SUSSEX - SPAB has published a handy pdf booklet all about Horsham Stone Slate. The booklet is generally supportive of reuse, but less so the trade in reclaimed Horsham stone slates where it states, 'The group broadly agreed that reliance on salvaged stone could undermine any push to find and open new HSS delves. Anecdotally, it was difficult to secure supplies which were known to have been acquired ethically and were of clear provenance. There was a widespread concern that the market for salvage also drove architectural theft and unauthorised work to old buildings, and might encourage unnecessary or unjustified demolitions. Parallel concern was expressed that there were probably buildings of listable quality with HSS roofs that had not yet been identified for designation / protection, and that humbler buildings were still at risk of losing their HSS roofs to supply materials to other buildings. Some of those who had worked with salvaged material indicated that it was often of variable or poor quality and that, where provenance was unclear, it could be used wrongly (e.g. material salvaged from a north slope could be used on a south slope, or vice versa, with implications for the longevity of the repair).' Provenance is key.
The use of Horsham stone slate in historic buildings www.spab.org.uk/advice/conference-reports

SWITZERLAND - Museum Enter, a wonderland of gadgets, was started by collectors Felix Kunz and Peter Regenass in 2003. Devices were added: radio, TV, studio technology and many other objects of communication technology. With the foundation ENTER founded in 2010, the two gave the museum a charitable framework and created the basis for a public museum. In 2011, the premises at Solothurn station was completely rebuilt and expanded. In the more than 30 years of searching and finding single pieces were saved and before the dissolving collections are taken over, which live now in the museum ENTER on. Among other things
Museum ENTER, Zuchwilerstrasse 33, 4500 Solothurn enter.ch/ueber-uns/geschichte/

EDINBURGH - Holyrood Architectural Salvage has a simple fire surround made from the enigmatic St Anne's marble. This material can come from several locations including St Anne's in Belgium and the French Pyrenees. The classic St Anne's is a black or grey true marble with white flecks, but in Britain it can also be a polishable black reef limestone with small cavities filled by white calcite which was quarried in Mitchelstown County Cork in Victorian Ireland.
See the fireplace here: holyroodsalvage.com/antiquefireplaces/saint-anne-marble-mantel-1516?
See old British and Irish marbles here - including Mitchelstown www.pinterest.co.uk/tksalvo/old-marbles/

BIRMINGHAM - Get your web page to the top? Dixon Jones of Majestic-12 Ltd has written a blog post about Google's algorithms entitled 'How PageRank Really Works: Understanding Google'. He writes, 'Whilst on holiday this summer, a Mathematics teacher approached me in a restaurant and asked me to explain the PageRank formula on my T-Shirt – which is really the key to understanding Google’s algorithms. It made me think and create the best explanation of PageRank that I can find. Hopefully better than the others I have seen on Youtube.' The only prob? Once team google see this they will tweak their algorithms yet again, as they do this roughly once a day anyway.

GLAMORGAN - The venerable Dennis Theodore of Theodore Sons & Daughters was quoted in the Reclaim magazine November issue. “My own experience in reclamation started when I was 18, helping my parents run caravan parks in South Wales. The first park was built with mainly reused materials such as reclaimed wood, a heating system and large windows from an old library and snooker tables from an adjoining hall. They were rescued from buildings being demolished. When the caravan parks were sold in 1992 we started up our family reclamation business and my wife and sons have all been involved. Chad, our son, assists clients as well as sourcing stock and deliveries. We are open 360 days a year and travel the country to obtain stock. Customers include film companies as Wales is now a major filiming area. We started with Dr. Who about ten years ago and have now supplied another dozen or so. We buy a lot of stock locally including chapels - they used to be demolished but are now cleared for conversion into homes. Exports have indluded sales to Canada and USA - recently an old-fashioned wicker laundry basket to New York, and octagonal radiators to a ballroom in Germany.” theodorereclamation.co.uk
Theodore Sons & Daughters Reclamation and Building Salvage, Princes Way, Bridgend CF31 3AQ, Wales

SHROPSHIRE - Jackfield has the widest level crossing in England. This crossing is on the former Kidderminster to Shrewsbury railway line passing through the Ironbridge Gorge. This section of railway is now closed and the track lifted, but crossing gates remain and are reputed to be the widest in Britain at 38 feet for a single gate. The gates are hung on circular cast iron gate-posts supporting high-braced wooden gates on large strap hinges. The Shropshire Star writes that, 'the timber from the gates is of little structural value, hence the need to replace them, however, there are some really interesting shapes and textures in the wood of the existing gates and we are interested to see what the art and craft community of the Gorge can make of them. It would be nice if pieces of this version of the gates are able to live on as art pieces, benches, tables, turned bowls, etc. Ideally, each person entering the challenge would offer something back to the community, as the gates have been part of the Jackfield community for 150 years, it will be good to see them living on in some new form. If anyone wishes to get involved with the event, or has questions, please contact office@smallwoods.org.uk.

EASTER ISLAND - The eight-foot-tall Moai sculpture at the British Museum is called Hoa Hakananai’a, which translates to 'the stolen hidden friend'. The four-ton statue was taken/stolen from the island in 1868 by Royal Navy captain Richard Powell, and presented as a gift to Queen Victoria. She donated it to the national museum in London in 1869. Now the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island would like their statue returned because they consider it an object of sacred worship, believed to house the spirit or mana of the depicted deity. Easter Island’s Ma’u Henna community, with support from the Chilean government, has offered to swap out the original piece at the British Museum for a replica. They have partnered with Hawaii’s largest museum, the Bishop Museum, to produce the copy, employing modern technology and thousand-year-old Rapa Nui techniques. “Our expert carvers will make a copy in basalt, the original stone used in the Hakananai’a moai, as an offering to Queen Elizabeth in exchange for the original,” Camilo Rapu, president of Ma’u Henua community, told reporters in Santiago. A British Museum spokesperson said the museum is one of the world’s leading lenders and that the Trustees will always consider loan requests.

WALL STREET JOURNAL - The WSJ ran an article recently by Candace Taylor - 'Spending Big Bucks to Make a New House Look Old - Retrofitting large architectural artifacts into a new house can add character, but takes plenty of time and money' - which infers that some of the U.S. salvage trade are selling more to home owners than to the hospitality sector as tastes and demands shift from public to private spaces. 'Wealthy homeowners are spending big to make brand new construction look old. The trend that started with reclaimed wood flooring is now moving to a whole new level, as homeowners integrate huge architectural artifacts—from intact staircases to 20-foot-long wooden bars—into newly built homes. Salvaged from old buildings or junkyards, these items ensure a home’s uniqueness, proponents say, and can boost resale value if done well. But incorporating large artifacts into a 21st century home demands willing and skilled craftsmen, lots of patience—and plenty of money,' Candace writes.. She quotes Joel Zettler, owner of Oley Valley Architectural Antiques in Denver, Pa., who said until five years ago most of his clients were restaurants, hotels and other commercial venues. Now, roughly half of his customers are homeowners snapping up his most popular items—antique wooden bars from old hotels and saloons that usually span 14 to 24 feet and sell for $50,000 to $200,000 (not including shipping and installation). One owner said that reusing salvage is complicated and expensive, “almost like putting the space station together.” See https://www.wsj.com/articles/spending-big-bucks-to-make-a-new-house-look-old-1539873988

CHINA - Amanyangyun, Shanghai: Country Life had an article by John Goodall about a luxury resort built by developer Ma Dadong 700kms from a newly-formed reservoir in Fuzhou province under which in 2002 it was proposed to submerge some old camphor trees and Ming and Qing dynasty buildings. Ma rescued 10,000 of the ancient camphor trees by clipping branches, digging them up, relocating and replanting the 40 ton trunks. He then set about recording and dismantling fifty historic buildings which were reassembled at the new resort to become elements and lodges reusing the salvaged dressed stone, reclaimed bricks and roof tiles, and carved camphorwood roof trusses. Goodall writes, 'They followed a common plan: each entered through a single doorway, decorated with an inscription or aphorism … which opens onto a screened lobby, and an entrance courtyard, closed on the far side by a hall range. Beyond the hall was a second courtyard enclosed with bed chambers and private reception rooms. The sense of progression through these buildings, and the relative importance of each interior, was underlined by a gradually rising floor level, each space raised up a step above the last. Typically, the interiors were lit either from light borrowed from the internal courtyards or through small external windows filled with carved stone screens. Twelve of the rescued buildings have so far been reconstructed. Each stands in its own garden compound designed by Dan Pearson Studio that includes a swimming pool.'
Country Life countrylife.co.uk/architecture/amanyangyun-shanghai-enjoying-history-luxury-187865
The Story of Aman aman.com/resorts/amanyangyun/the-story

LONDON - A day in the life of Jack Ellis, bricklayer, tools and methods, from 1940s Mitcham. Huntley Film Archives youtube.com/watch?v=5xuUqJH3ehM

BERLIN - Marwitz: An old iron and wood sleigh at Historische Bauelemente was described as a 'Royal Sleigh' and dated c1880 (although it looks earlier), was for sale at €2,950 but has now been sold. Apart from it looking the business, underneath the more recent green paintwork a patch was left by the monogram which shows the original colours. Germany was the chemical manufacturer of Europe in the late 19th century, and by 1914 was estimated to supply 90% - and that included paint. Carriages were traditionally painted black, made from wood or coal tars, which were very durable. The same paints were used on ships and buildings. Indeed, Henry Ford's famous assertion that customers could have any colour they wanted provided it was black, came after several years of paint trials and the realisation that black paint was the most durable colour. The paintwork on this sleigh was originally black - which although crazed can still be seen adhering well to the substrate in the area around the monogram.
The craze for less durable white-painted woodwork in middle class houses came in around 1900-1910 when the new German white paints were introduced, supported by painters who were happy to repaint the white every few years, instead of black once in a lifetime.
Historische Bauelemente Bärenklauer Weg 2 / Ritterstraße 16727 Marwitz See historische-bauelemente.com/en/catalogue/detail/koniglicher-schlitten-bj-1880/18879

Summers Place Auctions
T W Gaze

Story Type: Auction Report