München – From November 5-23, this year's Autumn Auction at Hermann Historica GmbH offered buyers the usual wide range of high quality, precious objects from numerous eras and from every corner of the globe. Almost 7,600 lots from all specialist areas represented by the auction house came under the hammer.
Fine antique and modern firearms
The antique firearms offered many sought after pieces such as a pair of silver-mounted, chiseled and gilt flintlock pistols, produced circa 1745 by the gunsmith Johann Gottfried Kolbe of Suhl. Signed and in untouched condition, the flintlocks and silver mounts of the pistols had been decorated with hunting scenes chiseled in relief and partially gilt, accentuating their uncommonly elegant appearance. The carved walnut stocks and a mascaron with horn inlaid eyes and mouth provided the final flourish. The quality and condition of the pistols raised interest and the pair eventually changed hands for 36,000 euros, three times the catalog price.
No less opulent, a noteworthy, superb Spanish percussion flintlock had probably been commissioned in the middle of the 19th century by a member of the Spanish royal family. The fully sculptured cock in the form of Hercules with the lion was particularly arresting, combined with the rich décor of gold damascening on a repousséd ground, depicting hunter and hounds amidst fine scrolling foliage, and a finely grained walnut stock with intricately chiseled and gold-damascened furniture. Virtually every artisanal technique of the time had been employed to ultimate perfection in embellishing this flintlock, which was acquired for its limit of 20,000 euros.
Furthermore, causing a stir in the modern arms section, a highly esteemed collection proved enormously successful. The promise of the well-known collection of service weapons issued to the armed forces and police all over the world, compiled by Johann Lux with zeal and expertise over 60 years of dedication, had collectors take notice. Containing over 800 lots and documenting examples from the history of weapons development, the special catalog will continue to be regarded as a definitive reference work post-auction. Top results were attained: for example, a pistol 08, Erfurt 1911, with various imperial acceptance marks, used by the State Police in German South-West Africa, was listed at 4,000 euros and closed at 16,000 euros, while 5,200 euros were bid for a second-issue Mauser Model 1878, also known as the 'zig-zag revolver'.
Furthermore, the rarities in the classic firearms section caught many an eye. One showpiece was a much prized Borchardt C93. The self-loading pistol, one of a numbered series of only 1,100 manufactured by Loewe, came complete with its matching walnut shoulder stock, leather pouch and carrying case. Produced in Germany, the calibre 7.65 mm firearm was called at 14,000 euros, yet the final selling price was 18,000 euros. Likewise sought-after was a factory-engraved Colt Model 1849 Pocket, tendered for sale with the matching case. Dating from the production period between 1852 and 1860, the company name and patent data hand-engraved – making it extremely rare – this beautifully preserved, classic Colt revolver in untouched condition opened at 8,500 euros. It was subsequently entered in the books at a gratifying 12,500 euros.
The antiquities section presented a variety of beautifully worked, even unique, objects that were crafted by the highly skilled smiths of yesteryear. The early bronze helmets on offer again included several veritable rarities, such as a splendid Illyrian helmet, embellished with cheek pieces and a neck guard, which had been forged in one piece during the seventh to the early sixth century B.C. Featuring an ornate, continuous border of rivets, its obvious appeal tempted a collector to part with 15,000 euros, although it had been valued at 10,000 euros. However, the artisan metalworkers of antiquity did not confine their skills to military objects, their striving for perfection and ultimate craftsmanship also applied to the processing of precious metals and stones for decorative works. Thus, the jewelry, fashioned with attention to detail, was equally well received, for example two East Celtic spiral bracelets in silver with animal heads, embellished on every surface, dating from the first century B.C., or a pair of heavy gold earrings, also profusely decorated, from Hellenistic Greece and somewhat earlier, from the fourth to the second century B.C. Both lots went on to achieve their estimates – 12,000 euros for the spiral bands set with coral inlays and 10,000 euros for the magnificent earrings, garnished all over with circlets of filigree wire, globules and glass beads.
A significant monument to the metrology and administrative history of late antiquity was also offered for auction: a museum-quality, late Roman measuring cup, or sextarius, its inscription revealing its origins during the years 402 – 408 A.D. As stylized busts, the portraits of no fewer than three Roman emperors, crowned with diadems, embellished the handle of the virtually cylindrical vessel. Gazing over the rim, the emperors Arcadius, Honorius and Theodosius II, the son of Arcadius, appeared to be monitoring the measurement of the contents. In outstanding condition and of extraordinary academic interest, its provenance documented in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire, the cup was acquired for its starting price of 8,000 euros.
Work of Arts
Continuing the theme of metrology, a great deal more recent yet no less sought-after, was a collection of unusual measuring devices with a focus on 19th century brass instruments. The collection had already attracted a great deal of attention during the run-up to the auction. The high expectations were certainly not disappointed: following fierce bidding contests, not one of the approximately 85 objects remained unsold, from microscopes to theodolites through to globes and sextants, with some pieces dwarfing their estimated price. One outstanding precision masterpiece, a particularly elaborate theodolite produced in 1900 by the Peacock workshop in New Zealand, ultimately fetched 5,400 euros, almost eleven times its reserve of 500 euros. Also notable were a pair of miniature globes from 1736, matching terrestrial and celestial globes, covered with hand-colored copper engravings and mounted in brass frames, which were made by Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr of Nuremberg. No sooner were they called at 8,000 euros than an exchange of bids flared, sending the price soaring to 15,000 euros.
With an asking price of 12,000 euros, a significant, mid-17th century baroque tapestry from Flanders held an equally large group of potential buyers spellbound. Sewn with knitted wool and silk, the colors still remarkably vibrant, the Gobelin had hung in Castle Schwerinsburg in Pomerania, which was built in 1720, for many years. Measuring an impressive twelve square meters, it featured a multi-figured scene, with David vanquishing Goliath. The exceedingly decorative wall hanging ultimately sold to a connoisseur for 24,000 euros. Gratifying prices were also reported for rare Kunstkammer objects. These included an artistically turned goblet of rhinoceros horn, made in Germany circa 1700 and standing some 19 centimeters tall, which changed hands for 5,000 euros, its list price of 4,500 euros notwithstanding, and an Early Gothic candle holder, cast in bronze during the first half of the 14th century, for which the hammer fell at 4,600 euros, approximately 1,000 euros above its valued price.
Arms and Armor
The superb suits of armor excelled, both in terms of quality and numbers, even in the Autumn Auction's otherwise lavish selection in the Arms and Armor chapter. Above all, the lots from a Dutch private collection enjoyed enormous popularity. Among them, dating from 1570/80, a composite Milanese armor for the field was etched with delicate trophy decoration. Complete with a matching close helmet, and with numerous parts sliding on lames or embellished with flanges to ensure the best possible protection and comfort of the wearer, the highly ornamental suit of armor quickened the pulses of a great many buyers, not just the experts. It now delights a new owner for 80,000 euros, exactly doubling its original limit. Of the same provenance, and previously documented for the renowned Klingbeil Collection of Berlin, was an uncommonly breathtaking, late 15th century, Gothic full armor for the field in the 'Innsbruck fashion'. The unmistakable simplicity of the armor's design, namely the complete absence of Gothic 'fluting', was regarded as a characteristic feature of the Innsbruck school during this era. Equally decorative and interesting from a specialist perspective, the elegant armor boasted the original visored sallet and a rare, early coat of mail. Open to bids from 60,000 euros, the ensemble now graces a new collection for 72,000 euros. Next in line was another Milanese half armor with a morion, also adorned with elaborate etchings and forged circa 1580/90. The etched city gate on the breastplate was the signature of a prestigious armourer's workshop that received commissions from numerous royal houses in Europe and still enjoys the highest reputation under the name of "Master of the Castle". The quality of the work was comparable with the famous "Pompeo della Chiesa" workshop. Once again, this magnificent armor, with images of antique, mythical figures amidst scrolling bands and trophy decoration on the helmet, a depiction of Mars between finely etched trophies and the imposing city gate on the breastplate, can take pride of place for its starting price of 18,000 euros.
It is extremely rare for objects made of wood and leather to survive the passage of time unscathed, requiring optimal conditions. Therefore the undamaged state of an archer's pavise from Winterthur, made in Switzerland circa 1450, was all the more spectacular. The upright oblong, wooden shield was entirely covered in linen and painted in color on the front to display the arms of the city of Winterthur – two rampant red lions with bend on a white field – and the arms of the League of St. George. The price reflected the rarity and excellent condition of this sensational shield, a similar example of which is documented in the Historical Museum of Bern; a flurry of bids sent it racing past its estimate of 8,000 euros, closing at 19,000 euros. Extremely unusual and so beyond compare that they have not yet been documented, even in reference works, was a pair of courtly, chiseled and gilt stirrups by the celebrated Munich steel-chiseler, Caspar Spät from the mid-17th century. The side arms of both stirrups were lavishly adorned with bunches of fruit and trophy bundles, the tread platforms chiseled en suite, with gold inlays on all surfaces. As a final flourish, the upper strap loops sported semi-circular, chiseled mascarons. The unique deluxe stirrups subsequently coaxed an enthusiast into investing 20,000 euros, thereby achieving the guide price. Once again, the usual wide selection of edged weapons and rare artifacts met with collectors' approval, like a German horseman’s axe, circa 1580. Beautifully crafted and intricately engraved with a richly chiseled base, it was listed in the catalogue at 8,000 euros and duly fetched this sum on the day.
Asia, Orient and Africa
Among international bidders, whether private or institutional, the demand for the elaborate works from the Ottoman Empire remains unabated. In particular, awe-inspiring edged weapons, richly garnished with gemstones and precious metals to accentuate the high status of their bearer, still captivate audiences to this day. Among the magnificent, striking lots, a gold-inlaid axe from Persia, dating from the 17th/18th centuries proved to be a runaway success. Opening at 2,000 euros, the announcement of the weapon – its axe blade made of Damascus steel and the wooden stock embellished with silver fittings – triggered a bidding frenzy across every channel, culminating in the princely sum of 21,000 euros. Equally worthy of note was an Ottoman, silver-mounted shamshir, circa 1800, partially gilt, with rhinoceros horn grip plates and matching scabbard, which was valued at 7,000 euros and changed hands for 7,300 euros, while bids from 12,000 euros were invited for a spectacularly jeweled, silver-mounted presentation sabre from India, bearing the imperial crown and set with innumerable rubies, turquoises, pearls and rhinestones. Produced during the reign of King Edward VII, Emperor of India, at the turn of the 20th century, it was snapped up by an Asian bidder for 16,000 euros. A complete set of Persian armor, chiseled and inlaid in gold, the ensemble comprising a shield, a forearm guard and a helmet from the first half of the 19th century found a new owner for its catalogue price of 15,000 euros.
The no less detailed and exquisitely worked firearms from the Balkans and the Orient have also generated a great deal of interest for some years. In particular, the gold-inlaid and silver-mounted pieces from South East Europe have proved to be perennial bestsellers. One such pair of Caucasian percussion pistols were embellished with lavish gold foliage inlays, while their wooden stocks were covered in shagreen leather and featured beautifully engraved and nielloed silver fittings. The unusual pair of pistols succeeded in chalking up the hammer price of 21,000 euros, far surpassing the reserve of 9,000 euros. A discerning buyer pounced on another deluxe pair of Balkan Turkish pistols, the barrels adorned with gold floral inlays and Kufi inscriptions, the stocks completely covered with filigree beaded band decoration and the iron flintlocks extravagantly engraved with fine scrolling leaves, completing the sale for the asking price of 15,000 euros.
Military history and historical objects
A memento from the personal possessions of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este (1863 – 1914), the brother of the Austrian Kaiser Franz-Joseph I, emerged as the Auction's crowning glory: as proprietor of the Royal Bavarian 2nd Schwere Reiter regiment, he was presented with a deluxe cavalry sword by Prince Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria, which had been expected to fetch 15,000 euros. Featuring a curved Damascus blade with a silver hilt and black horn grip set with diamonds, the sword displayed the Bavarian coat of arms on the obverse and that of Austria on the reverse. A seemingly never-ending barrage of bids erupted immediately on announcement of the historically significant piece, with its documented provenance, until a floor bidder managed to secure the unique sword for the sensational sum of 200,000 euros. Moreover, the auction of another highly unusual lot in the military history and historical objects section was equally spirited. During the sale of one of the rarest helmets on the market, a formidable helmet for the Place Guard during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico from 1864 to 67, the tension in the room, on the telephones and the internet was unmistakable. No more than 40 of these helmets were made, just a small number of which still survive. This undisputed pièce de résistance was therefore able to command its price, with bids being accepted from 25,000 euros. Nonetheless, this figure was eclipsed within seconds as the audience paid homage and the hammer finally fell at 135,000 euros.
Among the other lots of supreme historical interest from all over the world, the military history and historical objects section held a significant collection of Italian military headgear in store, dating from 1848 to 1945. As before, a buyer was found for every single item and appreciable price increases bore renewed testimony to the auction house's phenomenal expertise in overseeing the sale of entire collections. However, the special catalog's most expensive piece did not turn out to be an item of head gear, which also sold extremely well, but the decorative bonnet crest of a Bugatti, the radiator mascot of the Bugatti Royale belonging to Ahmet Zog I of Albania (1895 - 1961). The price quickly jumped from 1,500 euros to 16,000 euros for this bespoke figure in the form of a rising eagle, bearing a Skanderbeg crown between its wings.
Commissioned from the Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg by Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria circa 1810/20, a coffee and tea service with vibrant parrot motifs held collectors in thrall with its beauty. The complete, 16-piece service in hard-paste porcelain was in perfect, unchipped condition and featured a graceful design, the superlative décor skillfully hand-painted and resplendent in gilt. The vivid paintings of the talented porcelain artist were inspired by the depictions of different parrots in the two-volume work "Histoire naturelle des perroquets" by Francois Levaillant (1753 – 1824), with illustrations by Jacques Barraband (circa 1767 – 1809). According to family tradition, aware that the Bavarian King was an enthusiastic ornithologist, Emperor Napoleon I presented the work, which had been published in 1801 and 1805, to Maximilian I Joseph during a meeting in Paris. On his return, the King commissioned the Manufaktur Nymphenburg to produce this service as a gift for a friend of his, a physician and fellow ornithologist, based on this reference work. The magnificent service remained in the family estate of the physician for whom it was made until the 1970s and now claimed its worthy tribute of 32,000 euros, its starting price of 25,000 euros notwithstanding.
Consignments from the personal possessions of Empress Elisabeth of Austria continue to guarantee enormous interest – and consequently gratifying bids. One particular highlight of this year's Autumn Auction was her opulent seal showing the helmeted Pallas Athena in silver, standing on a base of lapis lazuli and bearing Nike, the goddess of victory, in her right hand. Made circa 1889 by Heinrich Jauner, imperial-royal court engraver of Vienna, and modeled on Theophil von Hansen's Pallas Athena Fountain, the seal surface was carved with the monogram "E" below the Empress' crown. Presumably presented to the Empress, whom he revered, by the designer, von Hansen, as a personal gift, the seal was acquired for its opening price of 25,000 euros. By contrast, her silver wardrobe mirror, lavishly ornamented with flowers, rocailles, volutes and acanthus leaves, came under the hammer at 9,500 euros and sold for 18,000 euros.
Once more, eminent personages and unequalled artifacts from their personal property delighted buyers looking for Russian military objects. Among these lots, bids from 7,000 euros had been invited for a 1917 dagger awarded for bravery to officers of the Russian navy, with an appliquéd order of St. George, from the estate of the highly decorated WWI Major General Viktor Petrovich Taranovsky (1864 – 1937). The dagger quadrupled its estimate, ultimately changing hands for 28,000 euros. In addition, opening at 6,000 euros, the sale of a one-of-a-kind, museum-quality, silver St. George's trumpet had created a certain excitement. Dedicated to the celebrated Kubansky Cavalry Regiment of the Cuban Cossack Army to commemorate the capture of Kars in Turkey on 6 November 1877, the instrument went on to achieve a very respectable 21,000 euros.
The 1918 "Al Valore Militare" silver medal for bravery, awarded to none other than Ernest Hemingway, found a new owner for its estimate of 12,000 euros. In spring 1918, Hemingway volunteered for the Red Cross and was deployed as a driver in Italy. He was later seriously wounded during the Austrian foray. He described his wartime experiences in his novel "In Another Country". A significant collection of approximately 92 patriotic badges from Germany and Austria from the same era had a minimum bid of 9,500 euros and was subsequently snapped up for 15,000 euros.
*All prices quoted are net prices and do not include the 25% premium.
In 2019, Hermann Historica will hold live auctions in the months of March, May, October and December, as well as at least three online auctions.
About Hermann Historica
Hermann Historica GmbH, 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 GmbH, 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.