• Press release
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  • London
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  • For immediate release
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  • 21 June 2021

RELEASE | The Exceptional Sale - London, 8 July 2021

LONDON: Christie’s Classic Week Exceptional Sale on 8 July 2021 will present to collectors unique and treasured works of art, including the finest English and European furniture, sculpture and clocks to porcelain and silver. Focusing on provenance, rarity, design and craftsmanship, The Exceptional Sale offers the best of the best, with an emphasis on the European decorative arts, alongside masterpieces from other categories.

This season the auction will be led by an exquisite drawing of Head of a Bear by Leonardo da Vinci (Lot 20, estimate: £8,000,000-12,000,000, please find the full release here), one of a very small number of sheets by the artist in private hands. The work is a precious example of Leonardo’s scientific interest, sensitivity to the natural world, exceptional gifts of observation, and unmatched mastery as a draughtsman. Isaac Newton’s (1642-1727) handwritten revisions to the Principia, arguably the most important single work in the history of science (Lot 22, estimate: £600,000–900,000, please find the full release here), will also be presented. The works will be on view at Christie’s King Street from 3 to 8 July, as part of Christie’s Classic Week.

Further leading lots of the sale include an extraordinary inkstand, attributed to the Utrecht born silversmith to King Charles I, Christiaen van Vianen, it is exemplary of his sinuous, auricular style, with fine virtuoso chasing culminating in figural cartouches emblematic of the Seven Liberal Arts (Lot 15, estimate: £1,000,000-1,500,000). The Baron de Besenval garniture comprises three pairs of ormolu-mounted Chinese celadon vases, exceptionally reunited for sale, they belonged to the Swiss-born Baron de Besenval (1722-1791), Commander of the Swiss Guards and friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette (offered as consecutive lots 4, 5 & 6 estimated at £300,000-500,000, £250,000-400,000 & £70,000-100,000). Other highlights include an Egyptian granite head of Sekhmet, the most important of Egypt’s leonine deities, dated 1390-1352 B.C. (Lot 30, estimate: £2,000,000-3,000,000),  a wonder of horology, an orrery clock designed by Jacques-Thomas Castel, conseiller-secrétaire to King Louis XV, and sold from the fabled Rothschild collection at Mentmore Towers (Lot 32, estimate: £400,000-600,000); a ‘Gothick’ style library desk made for Guy’s Cliffe house, to a design by Thomas Chippendale (Lot 36, estimate: £250,000-400,000); an extraordinary ‘Japonisme’ corner cabinet by Christofle et Cie. rumoured to have been made for the Marquise de Païva, its pair today in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris  (Lot 10, estimate: £500,000-800,000); a monolithic slice of the Fukang meteorite, known as the most beautiful extra-terrestrial substance known (Lot 28, estimate: £350,000-550,000).

Giles Forster, Christie’s Head of Sale, The Exceptional Sale: “This season’s Exceptional Sale, led by Leonardo da Vinci’s masterful drawing of a Head of a Bear, celebrates the beauty and artistry of remarkable objects, all united by the common themes of rarity, provenance and craftsmanship. The sale tells the history of humanity, from the art of cultures throughout the ages and across the globe, to mankind’s innovation through mechanics and age defying discoveries, which forever shaped the world we know today.”

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, 2017), for a 20th century artwork (Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, 2022) and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019). Christie's is also recognised as a reference for prestigious single owner collections, having auctioned 8 of the 10 most important collections in history.

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including use of hologram technology to tour life-size 3D objects around the world, and the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

Browse, bid, discover, and join us for the best of art and luxury at: or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.