Auction highlights across this year do far – tiaras, the largest pink diamond jewel ever sold, prestigious Ottoman Iznik pottery and iconic paintings.
Starting off the year was the Bonhams Photographs auction at New York in April which featured works by Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Stieglitz, Helmut Newton, Ormond Gigli (the famous Girls in the Windows), and Steve McCurry (the equally famous Sharbat Gula, Afghan Girl, a dye bleach print of which sold for £13,413).
The standout item was Le Chanteur de Mexico by Pierre et Gilles, a unique chromogenic print with handwork, flush-mounted, signed, titled in ink and credit label affixed on the flush-mount verso; in an elaborately hand-painted artist’s frame, measuring 43×34-1/2in (109.2 x 87.6cm), formerly with the Galerie Jerome de Noirmont, Paris. It sold for US$31,325 (£23,907) including premium.
Tiara Fit For a Princess
A 1904 Fabergé aquamarine tiara, whose jewel composition incorporates diamonds, was offered by Christie’s in Geneva and has both rarity value and royal provenance. Commissioned in 1904 by Frederick Francis IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, as a wedding gift for his bride-to-be, Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland, this historic headpiece remained in the same royal family for more than a century.
The tiara is composed of nine graduated pear-shaped aquamarines and a jewel assortment of old, cushion- and rose-cut diamonds. ‘With its forget-me-not flowers tied with ribbon bows pierced by arrows representing cupid, the design signifies affection, attraction and true, eternal love,’ says Max Fawcett, Christie’s jewellery specialist in Geneva. ‘That it was a wedding gift makes it even more romantic and symbolic.’ Estimate for this well-documented piece, offered in the Magnificent Jewels auction was CHF/USD 230,000-340,000.
Pricey in Pink
The largest pink diamond jewel Christie’s auction house has ever put under the hammer sold for CHF 50,375,000 (£38.5 million) on 13 November at the Magnificent Jewels sale in Geneva. The ‘Pink Legacy’ weighs in at just under 19 carats and has set a new world-record price for a pink diamond jewel at around $2.6 million per carat.
Once owned by the Oppenheimer family, the treasured jewel was referred to as ‘one of the world’s greatest diamonds’ by Christie’s and the jewel was described as a ‘fancy vivid’—the highest level of colour intensity. In the sales room, fancy, vivid pink diamonds jewels over 10 carats are virtually unheard of, said the auction house.
An Iconic Image
Celebrated British artist David Hockney set a new auction record for a living artist after his famed Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures) (1972) fetched $90.3 million (£70.5 million) at Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale in New York on 15 November. Measuring seven by 10 feet, the oil painting was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder for considerably more than its pre-sale estimate of $80 million.
One of the 81-year-old artist’s most revered works, the iconic composition was created in just two weeks using poolside photographs alongside images of Hockney’s former lover, Peter Schlesinger. Christie’s called the Hockney ‘one of the greatest masterpieces of the modern era’.
Bagged and Tagged
Sotheby’s April auction of Hermès handbags offered for sale 25 extraordinary examples of the finest craftsmanship from the luxury retailer, led by a stunning 2008 amethyst porosus crocodile Birkin with palladium hardware, clochette, lock, keys, felt protector, leather card, rain cover, dustbag, box and Cities certificate. The sale featured a hand-picked selection of the brand’s iconic Birkin and Kelly bags in a variety of sizes and colours. The handbags were on view in the London gallery in March and April, with the live auction taking place at Sotheby’s New Bond Street on 10 April. The amethyst Birkin fetched £30,000, considerably over estimate, while other highlights included a 2010 Birkin 40 Blue Jean Togo Leather bag estimated at £4,000-£6,000, which sold for £15,000.
One of the most important pieces of Ottoman Iznik pottery remaining in private hands, a rare Iznick charger (c.1480) was sold during Sotheby’s Islamic Week in October for a record-breaking £5.35 million. Originally estimated to fetch up to £500,000, the newly discovered 18-inch shallow dish is considered a lost sibling to four similar and large pieces produced during the reign of Mehmet II ‘the Conqueror’.
After 20 minutes of fierce bidding from nine collectors, the charger established one of the highest prices for an Islamic work of art. Opportunities to acquire early works of Iznik pottery are rare, with no similar items having surfaced for over a generation.
An extremely rare bottle of The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 set a new world record when it was sold at Bonhams Whisky Sale in Edinburgh on 3rd October. The limited-edition 60-year-old bottle and cabinet fetched £848,750.
The previous world record was set in May 2018 when Bonhams auctioneers sold another bottle of The Macallan Valerio Adami 1926 for £814,081. Macallan commissioned two iconic pop artists—Valerio Adami and Peter Blake—to design 24 labels for 24 limited-edition bottles. It is not currently known whether the remaining 11 bottles still exist. One was supposedly destroyed in a 2011 earthquake in Japan, and at least one is believed to have been opened and drunk.
Among an attractive selection of vintage and modern timepieces, the Watches Online auction from Sotheby’s of New York in April sold a rare Patek Philippe Nautilus 5990/1A stainless steel automatic dual time zone chronograph bracelet watch with local and home indicators, circa 2018, for an astonishing US$87,500.
The watch features a black gradated ribbed dial, with a 28-520 automatic movement, a jewel total of 34, a sapphire crystal display back and stainless steel Patek Philippe Nautilus bracelet with folding clasp. Case, dial and movement are signed, and accessories include a Patek Philippe presentation box with outer packaging and a Certificate of Origin.
Patek Philippe introduced the first Nautilus with a chronograph function at Basel in 2006, to such acclaim that in 2014, reference 5990 was introduced to the market, featuring a chronograph and travel time function. Initially selling at $57,300, the sporty, yet elegant watch, with its subtle black gradient dial and spectacular jewel collection, can easily be worn both in a casual or dressy setting.
This feature was originally published in the spring edition of Arts and Collections, which you can also read here.