Munich – Approximately 6,300 lots from all specialist areas represented by the auction house – antiquities, arms and armor, works of art, hunting antiques, orders and collectibles from all fields of history and military history – came under the hammer in the 72nd Auction of Hermann Historica oHG in Munich. Included among the lots were three complete collections, which found buyers for almost every item and achieved excellent results; scarcely a single object was left for the post-auction sale and the overall estimates were exceeded by far, with some lots showing a three-fold increase of their starting price.
Fine antique and modern firearms
Once again, the fine antique and modern firearms section reported extremely encouraging results. Two wheellock rifles with rich bone inlays from Cieszyn, both produced circa 1650, certainly appealed to the private and institutional collectors. The delicately engraved inlays of the tschinke, lot number 1034, were embellished with hunting scenes and grotesque masks; valued at 11,000 euros, it sold for 15,000. Meanwhile, lavishly adorned with brass and green colored bone inlays and chiseled brass furniture with floral engravings, the second rifle found a new owner for its reserve of 13,500 euros. Furthermore, an exceptionally fine wheellock puffer for enlisted men of the Saxon Electorate Palace Life Guard, circa 1580/90, was acquired for its asking price of 12,500 euros; the splendidly ornate walnut full stock was embellished with engraved and blackened bone. The true pièces de résistance in this section, a pair of deluxe percussion pistols made circa 1840 by the skillful hands of the renowned gunsmith J. C. A. Brun, were bound to meet with the approval of the international collectors. The exquisitely fine silver inlays engraved with graphic and floral ornaments, gold-inlaid signatures, elaborate tendril decoration chiseled on the percussion locks and arrestingly beautiful, grained half stocks all accentuated the significance of these superb examples of the gun maker’s craft, in untouched condition; with bids opening at 15,000 euros, a connoisseur finally parted with 22,000 euros. Bids had been invited from 9,000 euros for another eminently high grade, unusual pair of pistols, likewise of exceptionally famous manufacture, namely a pair of percussion pistols made by Lebeda of Prague, circa 1850. The price quickly jumped to the winning bid of 12,500 euros.
The modern arms section promised further sensational lots from not one but two complete collections, including the outstanding collection of ‘Parabellum’ pistols put together by the enthusiastic collector and specialist author, Joop van de Kant. Absolutely unique was a salesman case with Parabellum Mauser and three conversion units, as used by Stoeger salesmen in the United States circa 1931; listed at 29,000 euros, the case finally changed hands for a well-deserved 44,000 euros, to a round of appreciative applause. A similar showpiece was a much sought-after Borchardt C93, with a minimum bid of 20,000 euros. The German company Loewe manufactured only 1,100 of a numbered series of the rare self-loading pistol in calibre 7.65 mm Borchardt. Produced circa 1896 and complete with its matching shoulder stock and carrying case, the hammer finally fell at 27,000 euros for this exceptional weapon.
Moreover, exceedingly rare pieces were also available in the collection of Prussian firearms, ranging from the flintlock weapons of the infantry, the cavalry and the light infantry (Jäger) forces from the reign of Frederick the Great, to rare pieces dating from the New Prussian period, right through to the needle-fire era. Among the pieces that are seldom found on the market was a needle-fire carbine dated 1865. In outstanding condition, the unusual test weapon, which was marked “F.v.Dreyse Sömmerda” on the chamber, went for 11,500 euros, dwarfing its limit of 1,800 euros.
For many years, the objects created by the skillful hands of the period armorers and blacksmiths have delighted the international specialist buyers. Thus, again this spring, the interest in the exquisite highlights of the archaic metal artifacts, their matchless beauty superbly crafted and, in some cases, their provenance in prestigious collections fully documented over many years, showed no signs of waning. The early bronze helmets included a veritable rarity, namely an intact Illyrian helmet, dating from the late sixth to the fifth century B.C. Forged in one single piece, the skull was of distinct design with two parallel hammered ridges, the rigid cheek pieces extending downwards and the typically clean lines of the face opening, which was framed by a border of circular punch marks. This impressive object, the original material in impeccable condition, finally sold for 21,000 euros, almost tripling its limit of 8,000 euros. Equally worthy of note was a rare conical bronze helmet, forged in central Europe approximately 500 years earlier during the Late Bronze Age. Valued at 10,000 euros and boasting a characteristic spool-shaped knob, this magnificent example of its type changed hands for 13,500 euros by virtue of its excellent condition.
Only imperceptibly younger, yet no less awe-inspiring, was an early Etruscan bronze shield from the ninth to the eighth century B.C., which was attributed to the Villanova Culture. Originally from an old English private collection, the shield was forged in bronze with continuous lavish ornamentation arranged around a central boss; the hammer fell at 15,000 euros, more than doubling its estimated price of 7,000 euros. Moreover, the selection of antique edged weapons also attracted a great deal of attention. With the audience paying homage to the fabulous workmanship of a Caucasian, Sarmatian dagger with a ring pommel, forged during the first century A.D., it was no surprise that this symbol of status and power, embellished with gold fittings and semi-precious stones, was snapped up for its reserve of 20,000 euros. A prehistoric antenna sword from the golden age of the Urnfield culture in the tenth century proved to be an exceptionally beautifully preserved example of this very early sword form; the sale was completed at 11,000 euros, its estimate of 8,500 euros notwithstanding.
Next, in all its glory and in remarkable condition, was a Greek bronze kalpis from the fourth century B.C., bearing a votive inscription. According to the engraved, chiseled inscription, the object was a votive offering to the Pythian Apollo following the battle of Kynos in 364 B.C. and boasted stamp marks; a particularly uncommon feature in antique bronze vessels. Bids had been invited from 25,000 euros for this rare kalpis, which now takes pride of place in a new collection for precisely this amount. From a different era and a different culture, the Colombian sculptures made of gold alloy during the ninth to the fifteenth centuries caused a flurry of excitement and lively participation, going on to achieve particularly gratifying final prices. While the ritual vessel from the Zenú culture, carved with a reclining female figure, opened at 3,000 euros and sold for 10,500 euros, the hammer only fell at 13,000 euros, almost seven times the estimate of 2,000 euros, for the singularly beautiful, large sculpture of an alligator.
Bows and crossbows
Even during the run-up to the auction of the unrivaled collection of bows, crossbows and superbly crafted archer’s rings, which was amassed by Karl Zeilinger (1944 – 2014) of Nuremberg, there was no mistaking the enormous international interest it generated among museums and collectors. Without a doubt, the fact that the collection went on to achieve a sales quota of almost one hundred percent, tripling the overall valuation price with increases of up to fifteen times their starting prices for individual lots, may truly be considered a sensational success. Spirited bidding contests broke out for archer’s rings crafted in precious materials, whether as a single object or as a set, like the eight archer’s rings made of light-colored jade, some with chiseled borders of animal motifs, which changed hands for 26,000 euros, dwarfing their starting price of 1,800 euros, or an engraved archer’s ring in pink-colored spinel, carved with an inscription of the Qianlong emperor and a meander pattern, with the same limit, which fetched the remarkable sum of 24,000 euros. Acquired over several decades with enormous zeal and equal expertise, the legacy of bows collected by the specialist and enthusiast – an archer par excellence – also included an example of the legendary Scythian bow. Complete with a fragment of a quiver from the equestrian nomadic settlement areas of Eurasia of the third to fifth centuries B.C. and here offered for auction from 9,000 euros, the bow found a new owner for 14,000 euros.
Arms and Armour
The usual arms and armor section also rolled out a captivating array of elaborately crafted rarities, some of which are known to have been commissioned for aristocratic armories. For example, an extremely rare set of Spanish armor, replete with religious symbols and dating from the early period of the conquistadors, did not escape buyers’ notice. Forged circa 1500, the light suit of armor comprised a helmet, bevor, gorget, arm defenses, backplate and breastplate, the latter bearing the Santiago cross between two multi-branched candelabras and stylized scallop shells. Opening at 8,000 euros, the suit finally sold for 12,000 euros. Next up, with a minimum bid of 10,000 euros, was a German close helmet, produced circa 1600 and particularly striking in the characteristic style of its design. Mounted on a two-lame collar with a turned and roped edge, the skull forged in one piece, topped with a tall comb and fitted with a two-piece, pivoted visor, the helmet changed hands for exactly this amount.
It is extremely rare for shields made of perishable materials like wood, leather and linen to survive the passage of time unscathed; thus, the gratifying state of preservation of lot number 4295 was all the more highly appreciated. Moderately estimated at 12,500 euros, the hand pavise from the Free Imperial City of Schongau in Bavaria was made in the late 15th century; keen bidding raised the starting price to 14,500 euros. The perfectly rectangular body with rounded corners was entirely covered in leather, while the obverse of the pavise was painted with the large imperial eagle of the Holy Roman Empire in dominant black, carrying the red-ground coat of arms of Schongau on its breast. Also appealing was the no less superbly wrought stonebow, produced circa 1600, lavishly adorned with fine floral ornaments etched on all surfaces and inlaid in gold and bone, which now adorns a new collection for its reserve of 13,000 euros. Dating from the same period and likewise with profuse etchings and of noble provenance, the halberd of the Life Guard of Johann Georg, Duke of Saxony, inscribed with his motto and decorated with cartouches featuring a coat of arms, was acquired for its opening bid of 5,000 euros.
Works of art
According to tradition, the arms and armor catalogue also includes works of art, a field of collecting interest that once again held a number of precious wunderkammer objects in store in this Spring Auction. These included a 1677 medal of honor, wrought in iron plated in gold, on behalf of Frederick William, the Great Elector of Brandenburg (1620 – 1688) – an exceedingly beautiful, rare cabinet piece of Prussian history, commemorating the Great Elector and his victories. Under his aegis and personal command, the Swedish army were finally driven out of Swedish Pomerania by the famous ‘Great Sleigh Drive’ in the winter of 1678/79 following successful campaigns lasting several years. Bids had been invited from 8,000 euros for this contemporary and impressive piece, wrought with great workmanship; the hammer subsequently fell at 9,500 euros. An exquisite, late Romanesque metalwork object from France or Italy, the openwork, enameled fitting in fire-gilt bronze featuring a partially sculptured depiction of Samson wrestling with the lion, unleashed a flurry of bids that saw the price soar from 1,200 euros to 6,400 euros in no time at all. Further, created by Matthäus Merian in 1654, a wonderfully preserved edition of the “Topographia of Brunswick and Lüneburg”, still in the original, parchment binding, found a new owner for its limit of 4,500 euros.
Asia, Orient and Africa
The selection of lots from Africa, the Ottoman Empire, India, Japan and China remained as diverse as ever. Moreover, matching an early Nepalese/Tibetan khora from the 15th/16th century, the 18th/19th century presentation scabbard was wrought with magnificent workmanship in fire-gilt bronze and embellished with finely etched tendrils, the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism mounted in high relief on the front and lavishly set with gemstones. While the single-edged blade was characteristically curved and adorned with brass inlaid geometric ornaments, the iron grip still bore remnants of the (originally extensive) gold-inlaid floral decoration. The interesting sword, of both cultural and historical significance, was acquired for its minimum bid of 18,000 euros. Also worthy of attention among the elaborately crafted edged weapons was an Ottoman silver-mounted yataghan with turquoise cabochons set around the edge of the grip strap; it was well received, not merely for its fine quality, but also for the eloquent history of its provenance. Originally a gift to the Duke of Württemberg from the Russian tsar, the sumptuous weapon was passed down through subsequent generations of the House of Württemberg until it was presented to Major Friedrich Waldbott von Bassenheim (1779 – 1830) in recognition of his services. The sale of this inimitable sword was completed at 7,500 euro, its estimated value of 4,000 euros notwithstanding.
Military history and historical objects
The military history and historical objects section revealed a dazzling range of significant and splendid edged weapons, like the sabre that was presented to Generalmajor Georg Freiherr von Krauchenberg (1776 – 1843) by the officer corps of his division to commemorate his 50 years of service. The blued and gilt blade was profusely etched and engraved with fine scrollwork and trophies, the obverse bearing the appliquéd star of the Royal Guelphic Order with Swords in silver, with the crowned coat of arms of the Krauchenberg family on the reverse. No less opulent, the grip was fashioned in elaborately carved ivory, adorned with trophies and floral ornaments, while the officers’ dedication was inscribed on the grip frame. Although this incomparable piece, the unmistakable expression of the greatest respect for an impressive military career spanning five decades, including postings in half of Europe and four serious wounds, had been valued at 25,000 euros, the sabre inspired such enthusiasm among collectors that the sale was only completed for 52,000 euros. Another edged weapon had originally been a gift for Prince Henry of Prussia (1862 – 1929) to mark the occasion of his two-month long visit to the United States in 1902. With two-thirds of its Damascus blade gilt and delicately etched and its fire-gilt brass knuckle-bow hilt in lavish relief, the magnificent sabre was presented to the brother of the German Kaiser by the German Patriotic Relief Association of Philadelphia. Forged in Solingen, coming under the hammer for 22,500 euros, yet ultimately fetching a gratifying 42,000 euros, this sword was embellished with numerous patriotic symbols, like the portrait of George Washington as well as Libertas, the goddess of liberty, on the scabbard, a puma fighting a rattlesnake on the hilt and the American eagle in an aureola engraved on the blade. Furthermore, with the blued, gilt blade etched in the lower third and the lion’s head pommel, the rare French sabre for officers of the Mounted Riflemen was also much sought after; listed at 5,000 euros, it went on to triple its starting price at 15,000 euros.
Buyers were also delighted with the truly exceptional pieces among the rare helmets of German provenance. Featuring a gilt lion in high relief and bearskin crest, it would be difficult to conceive a more worthy testimony to the dignity and status of the military than the imposing M 1832 helmet for officers of the Bavarian Cuirassiers. As this style was only worn for ten years during the reign of Ludwig I, this piece was an absolute rarity, thereby justifying the final price of 19,000 euros, despite its minimum bid of 12,500 euros. Furthermore, a prestigious Prussian M 1843 helmet, with a silver-plated, intricately engraved, crowned parade eagle, did not disappoint; with an asking price of 5,000 euros, one enthusiast was prepared to pay 6,300 euros.
Precious materials and exquisite workmanship distinguish the objects from the personal possessions of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845 – 1886), which continued to enjoy great popularity. Thus, the King’s personal seal on offer here was suitably refined: a figurative representation of the saint he so revered, Joan of Arc, in armor with sword and shield, her hands folded in prayer, the figure crafted in gilt bronze with a carved ivory head. Standing 11.5 centimeters tall, the seal surface featuring a reversed “L” beneath the Bavarian royal crown, the bijou will now delight a new owner after selling for 8,500 euros, 2,000 euros above its listed price. The princely sum of 17,500 euros was paid for a magnificent conductor’s baton, a Christmas present from Kaiser Wilhelm II to the long-standing General Music Director of the Berlin Court Opera, Richard Strauss, one of the significant composers of the late 19th and 20th centuries. With an openwork laurel garland twining around the ebony baton, the silver tip crowned with a golden-stringed lyre, embellished with eight inset rubies, the symbolic gift of imperial honor, dating from 1912, had originally been valued at 4,000 euros.
Certain famous names and unparalleled historical artifacts from their workshops succeeded in delighting buyers interested in Russian military objects. Among them was one of the highlights of the auction, a nonpareil pair of silver-mounted flintlock pistols, made by the supremely skillful Ivan Permiak, one of the most renowned gunsmiths of his time. For 70,000 euros, prospective buyers were offered the opportunity to purchase the singularly detailed pair of deluxe flintlock pistols, made in St. Petersburg in 1770, which finally changed hands for 80,000 euros. Gun-making masterpieces from Ivan Permiak’s workshop are known for their superb execution, bearing multiple signatures, as in this case, with partially gilt, chased silver furniture and intricately engraved floral and trophy decoration. Established in St. Petersburg since 1740, his customers included the Russian court and Tsarina Catherine the Great. Also on offer was an exceptionally rare edged weapon made by another purveyor to the tsarist court, Schaaf and Sons of St. Petersburg. Etched on both sides, the sabre M 1827 for officers of the Russian cavalry was forged circa 1800 and featured a strikingly grooved, single-edged blade. Embellished with an etched depiction of a mounted hussar with the inscription “Vt Hussar”, the gold-inlaid inscription “For the Turkish campaign 1877-1878” and the Cyrillic owner’s monogram “Ja.G”, surmounted by a noble’s coronet on the obverse, the rare weapon achieved a winning bid of 21,000 euros, its limit of 20,000 euros notwithstanding.
Orders and Insignia
Stealing the show in the orders section were a number of outstanding decorations from Russia, including the group of Orders of St. Vladimir belonging to an officer in the Hanseatic Legion. Up for sale was the large cross of the order in 4th class until 1816, worked in gold, its cross arms enameled in black and translucent red, as well as the eight-rayed breast star of the 1st class of the same order, with both medals attracting their share of admiration. Thus, the distinguished decorations from the time of the Napoleonic and Wars of Liberation each found a buyer for their estimates of 20,000 euros and 15,000 euros respectively. With a reserve of 5,000 euros, the beautiful early issue of the breast star to the Order of Alexander Nevsky, produced by Eduard, with the obverse medallion enameled in translucent red, white and green, fetched 8,500 euros. Once again, it became apparent that the demand for the Prussian decoration for military achievements, the legendary Pour le Mérite order, was as high as ever. The order cross was offered for sale from the complete estate of the orders and documents awarded to a divisional general during World War I, Generalmajor Wilhelm von Groddeck (1861 – 1937). This version, produced by Wagner and Friedländer of Berlin, was awarded in 1918; selling for its asking price of 17,000 euros, it is sure to grace even the most prestigious collection on account of its historical significance and flawless condition. Inviting bids from 3,000 euros for an order badge that had not been documented hitherto in specialist phaleristic literature, the badge of honor for a court lady of Empress Carlota of Mexico (1840 – 1927), gracefully wrought in gold with blue enameled blossoms and laurel branches, was acquired for the excellent sum of 7,600 euros.
Once again this year, Hermann Historica is attending the ISMU international collectors’ fair in Ulm, Germany, from 27-29 May 2016. Our experts look forward to welcoming you at our exhibition stand.
*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 armors, 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 Armor” 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 2016