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  • Press release
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  • New York
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  • For immediate release
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  • 25 April 2018

RELEASE: Christie's announces the "Duke of Portland" Audubon (estimate: $8-12 million) | Tour to LA and London

Proceeds to benefit the Knobloch Family Foundation

 

COPY OF THE WORLD’S MOST VALUABLE ILLUSTRATED BOOK UP FOR AUCTION

ESTIMATED AT $8 TO 12 MILLION- “Duke of Portland” FIRST FOLIO EDITION

TOUR TO LOS ANGELES (April 26-28) AND LONDON (May 19-24)

AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851). The Birds of America; from Original Drawings. London: Published by the Author, 1827-1838. The exceptional Duke of Portland set of Audubon's masterpiece – among the finest copies in private hands of the finest color-plate book ever produced.

Featured above: The Winter Hawk (plate 71).

Estimate: $8,000,000-12,000,000

The sky was serene, the air perfumed, and thousands of melodious notes, from birds unknown to me, urged me to arise and go in pursuit of those beautiful and happy creatures.

-- John James Audubon

New York – On June 14, 2018, collectors will have a rare chance to own one of the most sought-after books of natural history ever created: a full-size, complete first edition of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America (1827-1838).  Christie’s New York will offer in a special sale the exceptional “Duke of Portland” set of these 435 lushly hand-colored engravings (estimate: $8,000,000–12,000,000), among the most superlative copies in private hands of the finest color-plate book ever produced. Prior to the dedicated sale, the book will tour to Christie’s Los Angeles (April 26-28) and to Christie’s London (May 19-24), where it will be presented for public exhibition. Proceeds from this sale will benefit the Knobloch Family Foundation and its mission to preserve plants, animals and natural habitats through the protection and conservation of land and ecosystems, and to support the advancement of methods for valuing shared natural resources.

Audubon’s greatest triumph, The Birds of America, is considered one of the world’s most preeminent natural history documents and visually arresting works of art. Issued in 87 fascicles of five sheets each, the double-elephant-folio edition contains 435 hand-colored prints featuring 1,037 life-size birds, representing 500 species reflecting his determination to depict all the known species found in North America. This luxurious edition is the most spectacular color folio print series ever produced and is acknowledged as the finest work of colored engraving with aquatint in existence. The towering format of this work, a four-volume set of double-elephant folios over 3 feet in height, was dictated by Audubon’s insistence on life-size illustrations—from the flamingo down to the hummingbird—even if the former had to curve its neck in an elegant arabesque (pictured left). His adherence to scale and lifelike depictions was grounded in his profound connection with the natural world which was inseparable from his work.

The set was acquired by William Henry Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, the fourth Duke of Portland (1768-1854), at some point after 1838, and has been maintained in excellent condition, with fresh, vibrant colors. Bibliographers calculate that the entire first edition numbered just 200 completed copies produced over an eleven-year period, of which 161 copies were created for paid subscribers.  At present, only 120 complete sets are known to exist in the world, 107 in institutions and 13 in private hands.

Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. purchased this volume at Christie’s New York in 2012. He has spent a lifetime preserving nature founding the Knobloch Family Foundation to continue that mission. When building his collection, Carl turned for advice to Gudmund Vigtel who for many years was the distinguished Director of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. It is fitting that this remarkable book is now being sold to benefit conservation of the natural environment – a precious resource so dear to both Audubon and Carl.

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 Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

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 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: www.christies.com or by downloading Christie’s apps. The COVID-related re-opening status of our global locations is available here.