Hermann Historica Spring Auction

MUNIC –  All specialist areas represented by Hermann Historica – antiquities, arms and armor, works of art, hunting antiques, orders and collectibles from all fields of history and military history – reported excellent results. A total of approximately 6,000 collectors’ items came under the hammer at the Spring Auction April 24 – May 6, 2017.

Fine antique and modern firearms

Buyers were interested in the antique firearms for sale. The pistol cases in the Spring Auction boasted quality that are otherwise difficult to obtain on the market. The pièces de résistance included a pair of deluxe cased percussion pistols for two shots, which were forged circa 1850 in the renowned workshop of Anton Vinzent Lebeda (1797 – 1857) in Prague. The barrels of fine rose Damascus steel, the breeches each featuring a chiseled Ottoman horseman on gilt ground, the ornamental, two-tone gold floral inlays on the locks and furniture, and the walnut stocks carved with flowers and inlaid with black horn all accentuated the significance of these superb examples of the gun maker’s craft. The buyer parted with 63,000 euros for these spectacular, incomparable pistols in near mint, probably unshot condition, whose case was their equal in terms of luxury and quality. Meanwhile, a pair of Scottish all-metal pistols by T. Murdoch in Leith and Doune, made circa 1780, were acquired for 9,600 euros. The array of guns included a 1610 matchlock musket from Suhl selling for 8,000 euros, which was embellished with bone inlays, some engraved and blackened, and a chiseled wheellock rifle by Joseph Kuchenreuter, adorned with hunting motifs and manufactured circa 1730 in Regensburg, which was snapped up for 7,200 euros.

Pair of deluxe percussion pistols, Anton Vincent Lebeda, Prague, ca. 1850.

Schwarzlose Mod. 1898 with original, blue-black finish.

Webley Fosbery Model 1903 Large Frame Target in its case.

 

Furthermore, modern arms were also up for auction, with an unusual calibre 7.63 mm firearm standing out in particular: a Schwarzlose Model 1898, with the original, blue-black finish, the magazine stamped with matching numbers. The winning bid was 19,000 euros. There were also encouraging results for a collectors’ item in immaculate condition, an ‘Early Production 6-Shot Fixed Sight Conehammer’, circa 1896, which changed hands for 16,000 euros, increasing its valuation eightfold, and a Webley Fosbery Model 1903 Large Frame Target, well protected in its carrying case and in excellent condition, whose final price was14,500 euros. A five-shot Bittner repeating pistol dated 1896 in 7.7 mm calibre, in good to almost new overall condition, fetched its asking price of 9,500 euros, while, among the modern hunting weapons, a pair of Westley Richards side-by-side shotguns, numbered 19355 and 19356, in 12/70 calibre and including the carrying case, achieved its limit of 15,000 euros.

Antiquities

One of the highlights of the antiquities catalogue was an expressive marble portrait of Emperor Hadrian (who reigned between 117 – 138 A.D.). Crafted during the early years of his reign, the larger-than-life portrait revealed a slight inclination of the head towards the left, as is characteristic of most busts of Hadrian. Equally typical was the arrangement of the magnificent head of hair, with the wavy locks combed forward onto the forehead, the mustache and the slightly curly beard. Even during the run-up to the auction, the spectacular craftsmanship and pristine condition of the bust, together with its documented provenance over many years, attracted a great deal of attention. The impressive marble portrait of the significant emperor, measuring some 54 cm including its pedestal, achieved its minimum bid of 75,000 euros. The auction was evidence that the demand for well preserved early bronze helmets remains as high as ever. Here again, the antiquities section did not disappoint, presenting several veritable rarities. One example was a Late Chalcidian helmet, dating from the fourth century B.C. A highly unconventional local variant, it boasted a bowl composed of two halves that set it apart from others of its type. The marvelous condition of the metal and the fine green patina lent the helmet an imposing elegance that buyers were unable to resist. The sale was completed at 12,500 euros. Equally worthy of note was the winning bid of 5,200 euros for a bronze flat knob helmet from the Urnfield Period in the ninth century B.C.; with its massive knob soldered onto the hemispherical skull, the headgear had been valued at 4,900 euros.

Standing out among the very early pieces by virtue of its chased and repousséd lotus petals, and a 15-centimeter line of cuneiform script, was an Achaemenid bronze libation bowl from the middle of the first millennium B.C. The ancient oriental bijou had been presented to the Department of Levantine Languages and Cultures at the University of Heidelberg in the late 1990s; their evaluation indicated that the piece was of Elamite origin. The bowl now adorns a new collection for 6,300 euros. More than doubling its opening price of 2,000 euros, an early Cycladic marble receptacle was much sought after; having survived the passage of the millennia virtually unscathed, the product of the Keros-Syros culture in the middle of the third millennium B.C. now changed hands for 4,600 euros.

Arms and armor, arts and crafts

Following tradition, the arms and armor catalog opened with hunting antiques, works of art and rare wunderkammer objects. Here, once again, the bronze artworks in particular met with the approval of the international, private and institutional collectors. Among them were two exceedingly expressive, 19th century bronze sculptures, both of which were snapped up for their limit of 7,000 euros. The hunting bronze by the French sculptor, Pierre Jules Mêne (1810 – 1879), depicted a mighty stag, under attack from four hounds and keeping them at bay with his antlers. By contrast, his compatriot and contemporary, Antoine-Louis Barye (1795 – 1875) a sculptor of no less merit, chose to explore a mythological theme; he had been elevated to Knight of the Legion of Honor in appreciation of his artistic oeuvre. Thanks to the dramatic power of its presentation, the effigy of ‘Theseus fighting with the Centaur’ is of particular significance among his works. Equally popular were two large war chests: while the one casket, featuring a lavishly chiseled locking mechanism and forged in Austria circa 1700, cost its new owner 6,800 euros, or 300 euros more than its asking price, a North German chest with an imposing false lock on the front, from the first half of the 17th century, finally sold for 5,800 euros, almost tripling its estimate of 2,000 euros. Also for sale was a far daintier, much less weighty and highly decorative chest: a 17th century style poison cabinet in the shape of a book. Complete with partly glazed drawers, labels and vials, the historicism work had been incorporated into two original 18th century, leather covered book bindings, their gilt exterior with ornamental embossing. This bibliophile bijou inspired such enthusiasm that the hammer only fell at 5,600 euros, dwarfing its opening price of 800 euros.

Arms and Armor

A chiseled French deluxe sword circa 1600.

In terms of variety, the range of premium mediaeval and modern edged weapons on offer at this year’s Spring Auction, some of which may be regarded as museum quality, left nothing to be desired. One such distinguished object was an exquisite French deluxe sword dating from 1600, whose elegant appearance was accentuated by the superlative chiseling craftsmanship. While horsemen on a finely punched gold background adorned the finials of the quillons, the swept hilt was chiseled with elaborate gilding and the heavy ball pommel boasted chiseled décor in relief and cartouches with figures in front of an antique backdrop of ruins. The matchless sword changed hands for its reserve of 25,000 euros. From the court of the Prince Electors of Saxony, a rapier for the foot company of the trabant lifeguard cost its new owner exactly the same amount, its limit of 18,000 euros notwithstanding. An almost identical weapon having been documented for the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the edged weapon was well received with its slender, double-edged thrusting blade of hexagonal section and ornamental décor within the slender fuller at the root. Dated 1610, the particular appeal of the 1.2 meter long rapier lay in its knuckle-bow hilt of several bars, the excellently preserved original bluing and openworked guard plate. Furthermore, bids had been invited from 9,000 euros for an outstanding, arsenal maintained sword that also originated from the Dresden armory of the Prince Electors of Saxony, circa 1600. In no time at all, a flurry of bids sent the price soaring to 20,000 euros for the high-grade edged weapon with its sharp point, heavily tapered blade und smith’s mark struck under the crown on the ricasso. Next up, and likewise considered to be museum-quality, was an imposing two-hand sword from the guard of Julius, Duke of Brunswick and Lüneburg that belonged to a group of 150 documented examples; similar weapons may be found in the world’s most prestigious private and institutional collections. Struck with the year 1573 and a smith’s mark, boasting a sturdy, double-edged blade of flattened diamond section, the ricasso depicting a crown surmounting three balusters, the processional sword found a buyer for its asking price of 15,000 euros.

Lot 3042 represented a true rarity that did not escape collectors’ notice: a field sign for marshals or commanders in the form of an oversized mace, dating from the golden age of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The head of the unusual military distinction presented six flanges of fire-gilt bronze and a gilt attachment with a Lithuanian knight on horseback, surmounted by a royal crown, while the Polish eagle was cast in relief on the opposite side. It now delights a new owner for its starting price of 20,000 euros. Enthusiasts were also interested in another significant artifact from Polish history, which fetched its estimate of 15,000 euros. Lavishly embellished in sheet brass chased with decorative bosses, the 17th century Hussar cuirass was of heavy construction with a pronounced medial ridge, the lower third sliding on three lames. Made for a Polish Winged Hussar, the extremely rare breastplate featured a crucial defense in withstanding attacks, namely angular flanges on the neck opening and arm holes that were struck outwards.

A Polish Hussar cuirass with a pronounced medial ridge, 17th century.

Other masterpieces from the finest armorers also enjoyed great popularity, in some cases achieving exceptionally gratifying results, like a beautiful German half armor dating from 1540/50, listed at 6,000 euros and selling for the princely sum of 16,000 euros, or a pair of German gauntlets with finely etched décor dating from the same period – hardly was the lot announced at 4,800 euros before the price jumped to 7,600 euros – and finally a French or Italian round shield, circa 1600, etched with continuous figures from Ancient Greece, which was acquired for 4,600 euros, slightly more than its listed price of 4,500 euros.

Asia, Orient and Africa

By the same token, the selection of lots from Africa, the Ottoman Empire, India, Japan and China also captivated the international audience. First up, forged in the late 18th century, an acclaimed Greek silver-mounted and gilt kilij in a solid silver scabbard went for a sensational sum of 48,000 euros – almost tripling its opening price of 17,500 euros. The blade of the magnificent sabre had a gold damascened portrayal of the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus on the obverse and a long Greek inscription along the back. The silver gilt quillons, with its floral engravings, and the riveted walrus horn grips with the gilt strap added the exclusive finishing touches to the inimitable kilij. No less ornate, a silver-mounted shamshir, circa 1780, made with the highest quality workmanship, the quillons and grip straps of gilt silver, the quillons with fine floral decoration in relief and elegant dark horn grips, was also tendered for sale. Listed at 12,000 euros and ultimately fetching 17,000 euros, the auction of the sabre bore renewed testimony to the continued lively interest in superbly wrought edged weapons from the Ottoman Empire and India. One particular highlight was an absolute rarity, such as are seldom found on the market, if at all: an Ottoman bunchuk or tug, dating from the 17th/18th century, the period of the Turkish Wars. Although moderately estimated at 15,000 euros, the amazing rarity of the piece fired bidders’ enthusiasm to such heights that the sale was only completed at 26,000 euros. Tugs of this type were carried as ceremonial insignia. With four baluster-shaped protrusions, the wooden shaft was covered with a dense woven mesh of dyed horsehair, adorned with five braided strands of horsehair and topped with a tombac ball. The number of horsehair braids that the dignitary was permitted to display was defined by his position in the hierarchy. Where a sultan was permitted to carry six braids, or up to nine in case of war, a grand vizier was granted five and a vizier three. The protection and embellishment of human combatants was evidently not the armourer’s only priority, as demonstrated by a rare chamfron from the first half of the 16th century. Originating in East Anatolia or Iran, the front and side panels were entirely covered in engravings; the chamfron was forged in several pieces and bore the chiseled ‘tamga’ of the St. Irene arsenal in Constantinople. Although expected to fetch 15,000 euros, the hammer price of 26,000 euros was a reflection of its exceptional beauty. Manufactured in 1850, the delicate hues of a pair of large Chinese cloisonné vases in Mei Ping form certainly enchanted buyers. Richly decorated with peonies in blue, yellow, white, green, red and pink on a turquoise background, the 64 centimeter tall, bellied vases changed hands for their valued price of 18,000 euros.

Military history and historical objects

Maximilian I of Mexico (1832 – 1867) presentation snuffbox in gold.

Hopes had been high for the auction of the significant collectors’ items from the private collection of Prince Joseph Clemens of Bavaria (1902 – 1990); these expectations were exceeded. The uncontested highlight was a presentation snuffbox, gorgeously wrought in gold, belonging to Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico (1832 -1867). Presented by another ruler, namely Emperor Napoleon III (1808 – 1873) and his wife Empress Eugénie (1826 – 1920), the gift displayed the monogram “N” above the intertwined monogram “E”, above which, the imperial crown with flowing ribbons was set in diamonds and mounted in high relief on the lid. Opening at 15,000 euros, the lot sparked a bidding war that ended with the victorious bidder claiming the prize for 90,000 euros. Thus, the snuffbox crafted by the Paris jeweler and purveyor to the court, Alexandre-Gabriel Lemonnier (1808 – 1884) now takes pride of place in a new collection. Of the same provenance – and no less exclusive – was his personal travel writing set, consisting of pen holder, letter opener and seal. Made of tortoise shell and trimmed with silver-gilt scrollwork, the finials decorated with acanthus ornaments in relief, the seal surface was incised with the imperial crowned monogram “MIM” for Maximilian Imperator Mexiko; a connoisseur pounced on the unique ensemble for 28,000 euros, more than tripling the minimum bid of 8,000 euros.

Moreover, collectors were captivated by the superb workmanship of the gold hunter pocket watch presented by Empress Eugénie to her friend, Empress Charlotte of Mexico (1840 – 1927). Although a minimum bid of 5,000 euros had been set for the pocket watch, enameled in blue with Roman numerals on a white enamel dial, an oval shield depicting the appliquéd, gold, crowned eagle of Napoleon III in relief on the back, it finally found a bidder for 9,000 euros. With the exact same limit, another treasure from this personal jewel case – a seal in the shape of an eagle’s claw, holding a globe between its talons – found a new owner for its asking price. In addition, a bronze seal owned by Kaiser Franz Josef I of Austria, fashioned as a majestic angel bearing a cross in his hands, with the Hungarian royal coat of arms on the seal surface, now graces a new collection for 6,300 euros, its minimum bid of 4,000 euros notwithstanding. A seal handle used by his wife, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, chiseled in agate in the shape of an obelisk and inlaid with a silver heron, was valued at 5,000 euros, yet acquired for 5,800 euros. Her striking personal vanity case, lavishly inlaid with mother-of-pearl scales and bearing the Empress’ intertwined monogram “E”, obviously appealed to buyers and closed at 12,000 euros, quadrupling its estimated value. Bringing up the rear in the procession of imperial seals, as diverse as they were beyond compare, was that belonging to Frederick III, the German Emperor. Polished from a mighty semi-precious stone, with a crowned imperial coat of arms supported by two ‘wild men’ and in a cover, a spate of spirited bidding drove the reserve of 3,000 euros up to the excellent result of 10,000 euros.

General Georg S. Patton jr. – Model 1913 Cavalry Sword.

Equally well received were the more recent objects in the military history and historical objects section. A beguiling lot from the US was the inimitable deluxe cavalry sword presented to General George S. Patton jr. (1885 – 1945), the commander of the Third Army at the Invasion of Normandy, on the occasion of his promotion to four-star general on April 14,  1945. Offered for auction from 12,500 euros, the keen participation of the international bidders led to the remarkable amount of 54,000 euros for the significant edged weapon. The Model 1913 cavalry sword, referred to as the ‘Patton Saber’, with its double-edged, nickel-plated and fullered blade, was designed by the passionate sportsman and Olympian himself. Dedicated to him, the deluxe model boasted a gilt inscription of the owner’s name on both sides, flanked by four general’s stars and framed by a checkered border, a solid silver hilt and ivory grips. An ‘Enigma I’ cipher machine made by Heimsoeth & Rinke of Berlin finally sold for a six-figure sum,115,000 euros, eclipsing its estimate of 18,000 euros. A veritable piece of history and in untouched original condition, collectors were unable to resist the device, complete with three encryption rotors and a fully functional internal mechanism, in its matching wooden carrying case.

Enigma machine

A helmet M 1814/15 of the Chevau-Légers de la Garde Royale, France.

Among the objects from French military history, a likeness of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) stood out once again. Sculpted by the artist Jules Edmond Masson (1871 – 1932) of Paris, with a total height of 55 cm, the large, signed, bronze statue portrayed Emperor Napoleon I on horseback and was an officer’s gift, dedicated to Arnold Keller, chief of staff of the Swiss army, (1841 – 1934). Despite being valued at 3,000 euros, the figure fetched 16,000 euros. Also worthy of note, the fine gala livery for a high official and chamberlain of the House of Bourbon, with extremely elaborate, gilt thread embroidery on black cloth, changed hands for its starting price of 3,500 euros, while a particularly rare and imposing helmet M 1814/15 of the Chevau-Légers de la Garde Royale, a guard that was disbanded approximately 18 months after its founding, was listed at 5,000 euros and ultimately found a new owner for 9,000 euros.

The auction also comprised a number of singular artifacts from Russian military history, like an extremely rare and beautifully preserved heavy cavalry sword M 1826 for officers of the Russian cuirassiers, reverently known as the ‘Golden Weapon’ and originally awarded for exceptional bravery, which was auctioned for its limit of 18,000 euros. A dagger for officers of the Russian navy also sold for its catalogue price of 16,000 euros and a helmet for officers of the Tsar’s Garde à Cheval in the style worn in 1910, for which bids were welcome from 1,900 euros, prompted an outpouring of bids until the hammer fell at 8,000 euros. Dated 1788, a Russian officer’s flintlock pistol from Tula, embellished with lightly cut rocaille ornaments and fire-gilt, chiseled brass furniture, now adorns a new collection for 5,200 euros, slightly more than its asking price.

Orders and Insignia

Prince Alfons of Bavaria –Knightly House Order of St. George,.1880.

The approximately 320 lots in this section included complete orders estates and groups with a number of unparalleled pieces. An extensive collection originating from a noble house, namely the estate of Prince Alfons of Bavaria (1862 – 1933) and his son, Prince Joseph Clemens, was put up for auction. This included rarities like the orders insignia for Grand Priors of the House Order of St. George as a complete order set, which was awarded to Prince Alfons of Bavaria on 24 April 1880 – on reaching the age of majority – by the Grand Master of the Order and head of the Royal House of Wittelsbach, HRH King Ludwig II. These illustrious and unique pieces achieved a hammer price of 30,000 euros. The Grand Cross order set with swords of the Bavarian Military Order of Merit was awarded in 1915 and finely worked in gold and enamel by the Hemmerle brothers of Munich went for 22,000 euros. No less rare, as only very few diamond decorations are documented in private ownership, was an Order of the Golden Fleece with Diamonds, Spanish lineage, from the same ruling house. Open to bids from 8,000 euros, it coaxed an enthusiast into investing 19,000 euros.

All prices are net prices and are to be understood plus 23 percent surcharge.

About Hermann Historica

Hermann Historica oHG, Munich, is one of the world’s leading auction houses in the special areas: antique arms and armours, hunting collectibles, antiquities, orders as well as objects from history and military history. Founded as early as almost 50 years ago by Count Erich Klenau von Klenova, Baron von Janowitz in Nuremberg as an auction house for coins, from the very beginning also orders and decorations as well as objects of military history were put up to auction. In the early seventies the range of the auctions was broadened by the category of “antique arms and armor”. The wide range was soon accepted by international collectors and museums. In 1982 the present owners renamed the auction house Hermann Historica oHG, and at least two auctions are conducted annually which address more than 40,000 clients worldwide. Particularly sensational are the numerous objects from the possessions of noble houses, notably those of the German and Austrian imperial family, which continue to attract international attention, the auctions dispersing complete collections such as the sale of the hunting treasures of Castle Fuschl in Salzburg, as well as the much-noticed sale of the unique collection Karsten Klingbeil of ”Arms and Armour” and the “Collection of Antique Greek and Roman Arms” of Axel Guttmann, the liquidation of the Nümbrecht Museum of Historical Technology, the worldwide biggest auctions of “Children’s Dreams on Wheels”, the pedal cars of the Centre of Extraordinary Museums in Munich. www.hermann-historica.com

All Pictures: Copyright Hermann Historica oHG 2017

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