An Iberian Private Collection
This passionate and erudite connoisseur, whose eclectic collection features in these two catalogues, spent much of his life studying and acquiring superb works of art. Set in a beautiful garden and overlooking the deep blue sea, the exterior of his house gave little away as to the treasures that lay within. It was a treasure trove filled to the brim with gold boxes, silver, oriental porcelain, furniture and works of art - each item chosen specifically by him for its craftsmanship, material or provenance.
The collector lived for several years in London, where he made many purchases in the sale rooms and from the city's most prestigious dealers. He became known for his exquisite taste, knowledge and expertise, and has been a prominent figure in the art world of the 1960s and 70s.
He was drawn to precious materials, especially gold but also silver, lacquer and hardstones, and all the techniques employed to transform them into beautiful works of art, such as inlay, chasing and engraving. The collection demonstrates the beauty of gold in its various stages of refinement - from raw nuggets and gold leaf clinging to minerals (lots 251-3), to refined bars and ingots (lots 254-5) ready to be transformed into beautifully chased ornaments (lots 256-63) and jewellery (lots 495-7). His collection stands out for its quality and variety spanning many centuries.
There are numerous highlights within the collection, each with unique characteristics. Among the gold boxes, the most exceptional
example is a superb Louis XV enamelled tabatière by Jean Frémin, dated 1759/60, decorated with a parrot and flowersprays painted in coloured enamel within intricately chased reserves (lot 72). A tour-de-force of the finest early engine-turning is a George II snuff-box by Francis Harrache, executed in London in 1757 (lot 116) and possibly the earliest example of this latest Parisian fashion being made in London. The sophisticated geometric patterns of this example are almost modern in appearance, and must have been admired by Henry, Earl of Uxbridge, who owned this box in the early 19th century. One of the finest late 18th century gold boxes is a Louis XVI example executed by Antoine Benard in 1782 (lot 81). Mounted with superb panels of Japanese lacquer, this box evokes the fashion for exotic materials so prized by Queen Marie-Antoinette.
The silver in this collection is interesting for its breadth in terms of date and origin, ranging from the 16th to the 20th Centuries. One of the earliest and most important pieces is a Portuguese silver-gilt dish, executed circa 1530-40 (lot 273). Formerly in the Wernher collection, this salver is a superb example of Portuguese Renaissance silver. Very unusual is the North Indian rose water sprinkler, executed in the 18th century and delicately chased with profuse floral motifs so characteristic of Indian decorative arts from the 17th century onwards (lot 480). The collection also includes fine English silver, and a particularly interesting piece is the William IV silver stag stirrup cup executed by Paul Storr in London in 1834 (lot 539). Paul Storr's firm was one of the most successful in the early 19th century supplying Rundell's, the leading retailers of the day, which included the Prince Regent amongst its clients.
Other highlights can be found among the Chinese ceramics. A unique group of so-called Compagnie des Indes porcelain decorated with French, English and Dutch coats-of-arms, mainly salt cellars, are exquisitely painted and were highly prized (lots 392-414 and 435-455). A large monogrammed and gilt dinner service including various tureens, sauce boats, and large series of plates is another exceptional work in the collection (lot 381).
As well as these groups of gold boxes, silver and Chinese porcelain, each broad and varied collections in their own right, the decoration or mise en scène of 'our' collector's house was realised with French and Portuguese furniture, the latter often in beautiful dark rosewood, creating a dramatic effect (lots 288, 290, 526-31). Among the French furniture, a superb suite of Louis XV fauteuils by Jean Avisse, the celebrated menuisier, dominated the sitting room (lot 553). Elegant and sinuous, as well as imposing, these fauteuils demonstrate the sophisticated style of the greatest Parisian chair-makers; they were displayed and upholstered en suite with a pair of Royal tabourets de pied supplied by Jacob Frères for the Grand Trianon (lot 554). Le goût Français, as interpreted by craftsmen outside France, held particular appeal for this collector - not only in the group of Iberian furniture but also in the form of a George III satinwood and amaranth sideboard or console desserte, attributed to George Simson or Henry Holland, and made in the 'Louis Seize' style (lot 337).
This superb collection, formed over decades by a passionate and visionary collector, is unique for many reasons, but mainly its breadth, diversity and quality. There are collections within the collection, each with an almost encyclopaedic variety. The dispersal of his collection will offer new collectors unique opportunities.
Amjad Rauf - Head of European Collections
BY LOUIS MAILLY (FL. 1723-1739), PARIS, 1723/1724, WITH THE CHARGE AND DISCHARGE MARKS OF CHARLES CORDIER, THE MINIATURE CIRCLE OF MARTIN VAN MEYTENS II (1695-1770)