Tag Archives: Antiques

ioneering industrial designer Roger Tallon (1929-2011) is the subject of an exhibit at Paris' Museum of Decorative Arts. © Courtesy of Musée des Arts Décoratifs Exposition Roger Tallon au Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Extraordinary Prices for French Vintage Designs

Vintage design continues its reign, from classic cars to, apparently, French interior design from the 1950s and 60s. Though disregarded for decades, it is now hailed as classic. The designs are confident in style, lavish in use of materials, and exudes the boundless hope and optimism of the post-World War II era.

To provide some perspective on how much people would pay for these designs, according to Paris auction house Artcurial, they command higher prices at auction than big Scandinavian names of the same era – Finn Juhl or Peder Moos. The most extraordinary case was the 1.29 million euros ($1.45 million) price tag for a “Trapeze” table made of folded metal, designed by Jean Prouve. The table previously sat unnoticed in the canteen of a large student residence near Paris. Designs of Charlotte Perriand, such as her aluminum-and-wood bookshelves, can also achieve stratospheric heights. Art historians said that the appeal of the designs by “French masters” lies in the need to combine flair with the social needs of that era.

The roaring success of these designers and architects is owed to a handful of Paris art collectors and gallery owners, such as Patrick Seguin, Francois Laffanour and Philippe Jousse. Jousse’s personal experience involved finding a Prouve table in Emmaus, a French charity shop, for only 300 francs (around 150 euros ($167) in today’s money). He then began to search for me, even though sales were tough in the first years. “Jean Prouve would be turning in his grave if he could see these prices! He was a very modest man,” says Francoise Jollant-Kneebone, a design historian.

At Paris’ Paul Bert Serpette antiques market, dubbed “the biggest in the world”, vintage items make up more than half of the goods on display. One could not believe that the antique market went from a rough patch to a waiting list in only several years. However, those who cannot get their hands on the originals can always get the reissued pieces.

Many designs are reworked in bright colors and bold graphics, now appearing in restaurants in Paris and across the world, from Moscow to Las Vegas.

From a design historian’s perspective, the search for some sort of “comfort blanket” from decades past tends to happen “because we don’t have any positive ideas about our own era,” explains Jollant-Kneebone. “We must examine our own era to understand whether it has ‘a style’ of its own, for example the period since the millennium,” she says.


Voynich Manuscript Most Mysterious Book

Most Mysterious Book Coming to Stores

It is one of the world’s most mysterious books, a centuries-old manuscript written in an unknown or coded language that no one – not even the best cryptographers – has cracked.

Scholars have spent their lives puzzling over the Voynich Manuscript, whose intriguing mix of elegant writing and drawings of strange plants, unknown planets, and naked women has some believing it holds magical powers. If you’ve even heard of the Voynich though, consider yourself an anomaly.

The weathered book is locked away in a vault at Yale University’s Beinecke Library, emerging only occasionally.

But after a 10-year quest for access, Siloe, a small publishing house nestled deep in northern Spain, has secured the right to clone the document – to the delight of its director.

“Touching the Voynich is an experience,” says Juan Jose Garcia, sitting on the top floor of a book museum in the quaint center of Burgos where Siloe’s office is, a few paved streets away from the city’s famed Gothic cathedral.

“It’s a book that has such an aura of mystery that when you see it for the first time… it fills you with an emotion that is very hard to describe.”

Eternal youth? Da Vinci?

Siloe, which specializes in making facsimiles of old manuscripts, has bought the rights to make 898 exact replicas of the Voynich – so faithful that every stain, hole, sewn-up tear in the parchment will be reproduced.

The company always publishes 898 replicas of each work it clones – a number which is a palindrome, or a figure that reads the same backwards or forwards – after the success of their first facsimile that they made 696 copies of… another palindrome.

The publishing house plans to sell the facsimiles for 7,000 to 8,000 euros ($7,800 to $8,900) apiece once completed – and close to 300 people have already put in pre-orders.

Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke Library, said Yale decided to have facsimiles done because of the many people who want to consult the fragile manuscript.

“We thought that the facsimile would provide the look and feel of the original for those who were interested,” he said.

“It also enables libraries and museums to have a copy for instructional purposes and we will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested.”

The manuscript is named after antiquarian Wilfrid Voynich who bought it around 1912 from a collection of books belonging to the Jesuits in Italy, and eventually propelled it into the public eye.

Voynich Manuscript Most Mysterious Book

Quality control operator of the Spanish publishing outfit Siloe Luis Miguel works on cloning the illustrated codex hand-written manuscript Voynich in Burgos on August 9, 2016. © CESAR MANSO / AFP

Theories abound about who wrote it and what it means. For a long time, it was believed to be the work of 13th century English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon whose interest in alchemy and magic landed him in jail.

But that theory was discarded when the manuscript was carbon dated and found to have originated between 1404 and 1438.

Others point to a young Leonardo da Vinci, someone who wrote in code to escape the Inquisition, an elaborate joke or even an alien who left the book behind when leaving Earth.

Its content is even more mysterious. The plants drawn have never been identified, the astronomical charts don’t reveal much and neither do the women.

Does the book hold the key to eternal youth? Or is it a mere collection of herbal medicine and recipes?

Scores have tried to decode the Voynich, including top cryptologists such as William Friedman who helped break Japan’s “Purple” cipher during World War II.

But the only person to have made any headway is… Indiana Jones, who in a novel featuring the fictitious archeologist, manages to crack it.

Fiction aside, the Beinecke Library gets thousands of emails every month from people claiming to have decoded it, says Rene Zandbergen, a space engineer who runs a recognized blog on the manuscript, which he has consulted several times.

“More than 90 percent of all the access to their digital library is only for the Voynich Manuscript,” he adds.

The art of cloning

Only slightly bigger than a paperback, the book contains over 200 pages including several large fold-outs.

It will take Siloe around 18 months to make the first facsimiles, in a painstaking process that started in April when a photographer took detailed snaps of the original in Yale.

Workers at Siloe are currently making mock-ups before they finally set about printing out the pages in a way that makes the script and drawings look like the real deal.

The paper they use – made from a paste developed by the company – has been given a special treatment so it feels like the stiff parchment used to write the Voynich. Once printed, the pages are put together and made to look older.

All the imperfections are re-created using special tools in a process kept firmly secret by Garcia, who in his spare time has also tried his hand at cryptology.

“We call it the Voynich Challenge,” he says. “My business partner… says the author of the Voynich could also have been a sadist, as he has us all wrapped up in this mystery.”

Breguet Brings Home No. 2023 Chronograph

Breguet has welcomed another antique timepiece to its own collection. Acquired at the Rétromobile Exhibition auction held on February 6, the Breguet No. 2023 has now found a home at The Breguet Museum. The timepiece happens to be one of the nine car timepieces that the watchmaker had originally sold for Bugatti in 1932.

With a chrome-plated metal case, the 8-day power-reserve chronograph was designed specially for Bugatti, which explains why Breguet chose to use tachymeter scale for its complication. Measuring in at 67mm, the words “Special pour Bugatti” sits proudly on the dial, above the six o’clock window. The timepiece also features the famous blue steel Breguet hands that were designed nearly three centuries ago while an elapsed minutes counter sits in place of the digit six.Breguet-Bugatti-Chronograph-article

The timepiece was meant to sit in the middle of the steering wheel and has an unusual crown that can be found, again at six o’clock. Powered by a mechanical movement (quartz didn’t happen till later in the 20th), the creation is one that adds showcases the diverse range of creations that the Manufacture produced in the inter war years. Sold in its original box, the timepiece helps to enrich the Manufacture’s history and cultural heritage, a desire that Marc A Hayek, President and CEO of Breguet aims to fulfil. No price was announced by the Swatch Group-owned firm for this acquisition.

Sotheby’s to Sell Last Mitford Sister’s Treasures

To say the Mitford sisters were interesting is to say Downtown Abbey is a popular TV show. Coming from a different era, the Mitford clan embodied the best and worst of the real-life Downtown set. They fascinated and repulsed in equal measure back in the 1930s. The belongings of the last surviving sister, Deborah (she of Chatsworth House fame) will be going under hammer at Sotheby’s London in March, 2016.

Deborah Mitford, the dowager duchess of Devonshire and the youngest of the six sisters, died in 2014 aged 94.

Known as “Debo”, she hobnobbed with the Kennedy family (Kathleen Kennedy was married to the previous Duke of Devonshire, brother of her husband, the 11th Duke of Devonshire), was painted by Lucian Freud and once had tea with Adolf Hitler (her sisters Diana and Unity are the proper fascists of the lot).

Sotheby’s auction house is selling more than 450 lots of personal belongings, ranging from her jewelry to her Elvis Presley memorabilia collection. Pictured above is one such novelty, a late Victorian brass inkwell in the form of a lobster.


“This auction paints a vivid picture of Deborah, duchess of Devonshire, featuring mementoes, objects and pictures that tell the story of her remarkable life,” said David MacDonald, Sotheby’s specialist in charge of the sale set for March 2.

The sale is estimated to realize £500,000 to £700,000 ($715,000 to $1 million, 660,000 to 925,000 euros), with individual lots ranging from £10 to £40,000.

The objects she surrounded herself with “were often moving, funny, or both, and usually had marvelous stories attached”, MacDonald said.

“The items in this sale capture the very essence of this endlessly captivating woman.”

The sale includes Regency chairs, Jacob Epstein sketches, a diamond heart-shaped brooch designed by her husband, Shetland pony harnesses, a novelty Presley telephone and a borer machine blade used to excavate the Channel Tunnel.

There are also books inscribed by the Kennedys, Madonna and Henry Kissinger.

On sale is one of only 50 pre-publication copies of Brideshead Revisited from 1944, inscribed by its author Evelyn Waugh, and estimated to fetch at least £15,000.

The dowager duchess’s family said they were keeping precious items bequeathed to them, but were consigning the rest for auction.


A red and black leather novelty jewel case

“Given the kind of person she was, and the rich and varied life she led, there are more belongings than we can together accommodate,” they said.

Deborah was one of the less flamboyant sisters, some of whom were known for their dramatic love lives and extreme political views.

Her passion was Chatsworth House, a 17th-century stately home in the English countryside that the duchess opened to the public.

Her chief hobby was keeping hens. Sotheby’s described her as a “great poultry enthusiast”. The sale also includes a pair of monogrammed travelling boxes for poultry and a chick-shaped powder compact.

Born Deborah Freeman-Mitford in 1920, she and her sisters were the “It Girls” of their day, and fascinated British society in the decade before World War II.

In 1941 she married Andrew Cavendish, who later became the 11th duke of Devonshire.

At 90 she published her memoirs, a record of high society balls and debutantes from a now-vanished age.

Meiyintang Chenghua Chicken Cup

Small Chinese cup sells for $36 million

Meiyintang Chenghua Chicken Cup

A rare Ming-era wine cup broke the world auction record for any Chinese porcelain on Tuesday, selling in Hong Kong for $36.05 million (HK$281 million) to Shanghai tycoon Liu Yiqian, Sotheby’s auction house said.

The tiny white porcelain cup, decorated with a colour painting of a rooster and a hen tending to their chicks, was made during the reign of the Chenghua Emperor between 1465 and 1487.

Nicolas Chow, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, described the cup as the “holy grail” of Chinese art. “There is no more legendary object in the history of Chinese porcelain. This is an object bathed in mythology.”

The chicken cup represents the pinnacle of Ming-era porcelain production. That period in terms of porcelain production was really the peak of material refinement. Emperors of later Chinese dynasties were so enamoured by the design that the chicken cup was copied extensively.

“When you buy a chicken cup… you don’t just buy the object, you’re buying centuries of imperial admiration for these objects,” he said.

Ruby Ground Falangcai Double Lotus Bowl

Chinese bowl sells at Sotheby’s for record $9.5 million

Chinese bowl Sothebys

A rare red “lotus bowl” from the Chinese emperor Kangxi period of 1662-1722 has been sold for an eye-popping $9.5 million at a Hong Kong sale, auction house Sotheby’s said.

The price set a new world record for any Chinese porcelain from the Kangxi period during the Qing dynasty after it was bought by a Hong Kong ceramics dealer for HK$74 million ($9.5 million) Monday.

The ruby-ground “falangcai” bowl decorated with pink, yellow and blue lotuses was originally expected to fetch HK$70 million at the sale, part of Sotheby’s six-day spring sale in Hong Kong.

The auctioneer said the bowl broke a previous Qing Kangxi porcelain record in 2006, when a blue and white “Dragon” vase was sold for HK$22.52 million.

red Chinese bowl

Chinese Bowl

$3 tag sale find sells at Sotheby’s for $2.23 million

Chinese Bowl

A $3 tag sale buy has turned into a massive windfall for the lucky bargain hunter: the Chinese bowl sold for $2.23 million at an auction at Sotheby’s on Tuesday.

The small pottery bowl, finely crafted with an ivory glaze, turned out to be a thousand year old “Ding” bowl, dating from the Song dynasty, which ruled China from 960 to 1279. The only other similar bowl from the period known to exist has been on display at the British Museum for more than 60 years.

After picking it up for a few dollars down the road in 2007, the buyer displayed it the living room. More recently, they became curious about its value and brought it to experts for an appraisal. Sotheby’s had estimated the bowl would sell for between $200,000 and $300,000.

But four bidders battled over the rare find, and it ultimately sold to renowned London art dealer Giuseppe Eshenazi for $2.225 million.

Imperial Chinese bowl

Imperial Chinese bowl fetches $27 million

Imperial Chinese bowl

An extremely rare Chinese porcelain bowl fetched nearly $27 million in Hong Kong on Wednesday, smashing pre-sale estimates by about three times.

The price sets a new record for a piece of ceramic from the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), according to Sotheby’s.

“The piece is possibly the greatest masterpiece of Song ceramic that we have ever offered in Hong Kong,” Sotheby’s Asia deputy chairman Nicolas Chow said.
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Chinese vase sells for record-breaking $85M

A 18th-century Chinese vase discovered during a routine clear-out of a bungalow in northwest London has sold at auction for a record £53m (85 million dollars).

The 16-inch Qianlong porcelain vase is understood to have been bought by a private buyer from China in the sale Thursday at a small London auction house.

The item has made the brother and sister who inherited the vase following its discovery in their parents’ north London suburban home instant multi-millionaires.
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Rare jade elephants to go under hammer‎

A pair of jade elephants that sat on either side of a Chinese emperor’s throne are set to sell for millions of pounds after being unearthed in Dorset.

The important pale green pieces made for Emperor Qianlong in the 18th century have been sitting in Crichel House in Moor Crichel (UK) for the last 60 years.

Measuring 7.5 inches long and 6.5 inches high, the Asian elephants have tusks and were made by China’s finest craftsmen.
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Chinese collectors push prices to new levels

Prices for antiques in China have risen sharply over the past five years and now galleries all over the world over are waiting for the nation’s cashed-up collectors to spread the wealth overseas.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Netherlands’ Tefaf Maastricht, New York gallery director James Hennessy said that internationally things were looking up in the antique market, but all eyes were on China.

“Business is better than last year,” Hennessy told the Bloomberg news agency.

“The market for Chinese art expands with the Chinese economy. There are thousands of collectors in mainland China who are seeking out works in the West.
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Kenzo Auctions Contents of Paris House

Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada will auction off some of the art that inspired his East-meets-West style, as he trades his plush Paris mansion for smaller digs on the Seine River.

The announcement came a month after the late Yves Saint-Laurent’s art collection was put up for auction by his partner Pierre Berge, a 373.5-million-euro bonanza that caused friction with China over a pair of looted bronze relics.

From Hopi Kachina dolls to bronze Buddhas, more than 1,000 pieces collected over the past two decades will be on the block at the June 16-17 sale organized by Aguttes auction house.

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Rare 19Th century Baccarat Champagne Glasses

This is a call to all champagne lovers! Rarest 19Th century Baccarat Champagne Glasses are up for sale.

These are the extraordinarily rare pristine set of 12 Baccarat champagne glasses made in a pattern designed for the Imperial Russian court; slight variation on the Tsar pattern for the Russian Royal family’s exclusive use.

What makes these glasses so precious is that they are now only seen in museums and private collections. These have been authenticated by very experienced crystal specialists in both France and Italy but as Baccarat only started signing in 1934, there are no markings on the glasses.

However, it is said that only Baccarat made this size and design. The amazing glasses are 12 inches and the saucer that holds them is 4″ plus in diameter.
If you have the money, you would be delighted to know that you will have to spend 1400 euros ($2,000) for each Baccarat champagne glass. They can be purchased at malleries.com.

Now all you need to do is choose the right bubbly…