• Rare Jewels and Objets d'Art:  auction at Christies

    Sale 2390

    Rare Jewels and Objets d'Art: A Superb Collection

    21 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 1216


    Price Realised  


    Designed as a glass and black enamel rectangular cage, the top trimmed with beige agate, the glass walls decorated along the top and bottom with cabochon rubies and gold geometric detail, either end of the cage extending a half moon-shaped feeder compartment set with cabochon sapphires, the compartment grates opening to access the glass feeding dishes, topped by an 18k gold grated lid, with gold handles set with cabochon lapis lazuli terminals, to the beige agate base designed as variously-shaped lapis lazuli, with a central wading pool and two coral branches, the cage housing two green beryl lovebirds, each bezel-set with cabochon ruby eyes, perched on a gold and wooden swing, with cabochon sapphire and coral detail, circa 1935, 12 x 8½ x 8½ ins., with French assay marks
    With maker's marks for Verger Frères for Van Cleef & Arpels

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department

    It seems that in the 1930s, Van Cleef & Arpels was commissioned to create this masterpiece by a Maharajah as an aquarium for his pet tree frog. The "Maison d'Hortense" was outfitted with a tiny gold ladder, which the frog would ascend and descend according to the weather. It is believed that the aquarium was later transformed into its present state as a birdcage, housing two carved emerald lovebirds.

    Special Notice

    Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.

    Pre-Lot Text



    Price, Judith. Masterpieces of French Jewelry. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2006, page 90

    Raulet, Sylvie. Van Cleef & Arpels. Paris: Editions du Regard, 1986, page 297

    For a similar birdcage: Van Cleef & Arpels - Palais Galliéra, Editions Paris-Musée, 1992, catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée Galliéra, Paris, item no. 309 "Cage à Oiseaux, circa 1930, cage en or poli, laque et cristal, lapis, émail façon lapis et rubis cabochon, le fond de la cage est semé de pierres semi-précieuses"


    Timeless Glamour, Fred Leighton, Fall 2007 - Winter 2008, New York, Las Vegas