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Original WWI aviation art highlights Bonhams sale

Antique Arms & Armor sale at Bonhams & Butterfields in November
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Lot No: 5352. Charles Edwin Ruttan, a suite of five aviation paintings. Oil on canvas, framed. Airship and Battleship, three studies of seaplanes and one other showing an attack on a German flight. 48 1/2" x 28" (3) and 48 1/2" x 17 1/2" (1). Estimate: $1,500-$2,500.

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Seldom seen examples of original WWI aviation art, a jeweled sword made for an Ottoman prince and a rare 17th-century Dutch cannon come to auction at Bonhams & Butterfields in San Francisco on Nov. 15, 2010. The international auctioneer will present its Antique Arms & Armor sale comprising more than 450 lots - including antique American and European firearms, edged weapons, militaria, artillery and a selection of sporting guns.

A highlight of the auction is the Ron Farrington Collection of Aviation Art which features oils and watercolors on canvas and board depicting WWI dogfights, aircraft and portraits of aviators. Many of the offered lots are works commissioned by the French, German and American governments, rarely seen at auction. One such example is “Downed Fokker,” an oil painted by Henri Farre, a pilot/observer appointed by the French to recreate scenes of air combat during the war. This signed work could bring $5,000/8,000. Dated 1918 is an oil signed by Francois Flameng titled “Devant Mondidier” depicting a French anti-aircraft battery in action (est. $10,000/15,000). In 1920, many of Flameng’s military paintings were donated to the Musee De l’Armee in Paris. Claus Bergen, appointed Marine Painter to Kaiser Wilhelm in 1914, painted the oil “von Richthofen’s Flying Circus” which is expected to bring $8,000/12,000 during the auction.

A featured lot for November’s sale will be a rare and historic canvas fuselage insignia panel from a Spad VII flown by the Lafayette Escadrille displaying the familiar Indian head insignia. The panel was collected by a mechanic who served with the Escadrille and is being offered by his descendents, estimated at $15,000/20,000.

“Not since the November 2000 Flayderman Collection sale have we had such an offering of aviation art, this truly is a rare opportunity for collectors and institutions," said Paul Carella, director of the Antique Arms department at Bonhams & Butterfields.

The auction will open with a suite of early 19th-century gold and silver-damascened Persian armor (est. $5,000/7,000), while collector interest should be strong for a fine and rare Ottoman Court kilij made for a young nobleman with 14k gold fittings and a walrus ivory grip set with diamonds, tourmalines, rubies and turquoise stones (est. $20,000/30,000).

Lot No: 5021. A French Empire grenadier officer's saber, circa 1800-10. Estimate: $1,200-$1,800.

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Also included will be a selection of 18th- and 19th-century French, British and American military swords including Napoleonic era examples, and several rare Confederate swords. Antique firearms include a good selection of English flintlock and percussion pistols by makers such as Wogdon, Barbar, Mortimer and others. American firearms include a good selection of military arms including a Model 1903 Mark I Springfield with the rare Pedersen device and a Revolutionary War era flintlock musket surcharged United States.

Early automatics are well represented and include a number of fine Colts, a rare Luger Model 1900 American Eagle test gun and a Model 1893 Borchardt. Included in the sporting arms section is a fine 20 gauge Woodward over/under sidelock ejector gun.

Unusual offerings include a rare 17th-century Dutch bronze cannon at $30,000/50,000, a Civil War era ship’s gun by Cyrus Alger & Company of Boston (est. $10,000/15,000), an unusual ammunition pouch autographed by Gen. George S. Patton (est. $3,000/5,000) and a variety of early aviation memorabilia including a two-foot high Harmon trophy. The sale closes with a large selection of books and periodicals focusing on World War I aviation as well as big game hunting, marksmanship, gunsmithing and engraving, and various firearm makers.

Previews open in the San Francisco gallery of Bonhams & Butterfields on Friday, Nov. 12, continuing daily Saturday and Sunday until sale day on Monday. The illustrated catalog will be online for review and purchase at

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