Christie’s charges a premium to the buyer on the Hammer Price of each lot sold at the following rates: 29.75% of the Hammer Price of each lot up to and including €5,000, plus 23.8% of the Hammer Price between €5,001 and €400,000, plus 14.28% of any amount in excess of €400,001. Buyer’s premium is calculated on the basis of each lot individually.
Erich E. K. Schliemann (1924-1998) was a successful businessman in the oil industry, a passionate collector, a distinguished silver expert and a patron of the arts of his hometown of Hamburg, Germany.
He grew up between the wars in a household where art was of little, if any, importance. His first great interest, already as a young boy, was that of collecting stamps, an interest he would pursue all his life, forming several important collections along the way; his main focus being, of course, Hamburg.
After World War II, in which he was severely injured on the Russian front, he had to turn his attention - while also completing a law degree - towards securing the remains of the badly destroyed family business, Ernst Schliemanns Oelwerke, following his father's unexpected death in 1945. This was achieved by a successful sale to DEA - Deutsche Erdoel AG, where he also took a position in 1951. By his mid-thirties he had been appointed to the Management Board of DEA, then Germany's largest oil company. In 1969, three years after DEA had been bought by Texaco, he assumed the management of Castrol Oil, whose headquarters he moved to Hamburg. He grew Castrol very successfully, to the point where its parent company, Burmah Oil, who's Board he joined in 1974, became Burmah Castrol. In the late 70s, he decided to set up his own business, consulting to various oil companies as well as building up Saekaphen, a service and engineering business to the oil and chemical industries.
During the 1980s, as his active business interests started to wind down he greatly increased his time commitment to his other passion, the arts, and silver in particular. He became the chairman of the Stiftung zur Förderung der Hamburgischen Kunstsammlungen, the foundation which assists the main Hamburg museums in acquiring art for their collections and on whose board he had already served for decades. He was proud of restoring equal support for the previously neglected applied and decorative arts during his chairmanship.
His silver collection started almost by chance: While looking for country furniture for a rented room in 1951 he was captivated by a pair of ornate rococo candlesticks from Braunschweig, which he could not resist buying even though they entirely consumed his paycheck. He purchased his first piece of Hamburg silver shortly thereafter and was instantly enthralled, realizing that works of such outstanding quality, beauty and charm had been made in his hometown hundreds of years previously. Soon, however, he realized that little research existed on the goldsmiths of Hamburg and his collector's desire to accurately attribute and date the objects remained frustrated. Thereupon he initiated and financed a massive research project. After a seemingly endless 30 years of hard work and research, the effort culminated in the publication of the 3 volume work Die Goldschmiede Hamburgs in 1985. This reference work firmly established him as the leading authority on Hamburg silver.
Meanwhile the silver collection grew to encompass hundreds of pieces, taking centre stage among other, smaller collections, of 18th Century Furniture, 18th Century Pewter in silver shapes, Hamburg prints, North German and Baltic Fayance, Shell and Tortoise Shell boxes to name but a few.
During the mid 1980's the art dealership, Erich Schliemann & Cie Kunsthandel was born, an excuse to continue collecting, when there was no more room for objects at family homes in Hamburg and Denmark, or at his office. It was never a profitable venture; many friends or collectors who tried or succeeded in purchasing an object from him recall how unhappy he was when faced with the prospect of parting with one of his beloved pieces.
The silver objects being offered for sale by Christie's on April 4th comprise a combination of important pieces from the private collection as well as the inventory from the dealership which existed from 1983 to till his death in 1998.
While it may seem sad to break up a collection, it is a fact that a collection lives - and dies - with its creator. The following quotation from his book best expresses this 'I am a collector, and only as a collector do I approach the objects of art or any literature about them. Collecting requires, for one, some talent, but then, above all, a joy in ownership.'
In connection with this sale, I have translated into English the preface of Die Goldschmiede Hamburgs. I would encourage everyone that has in interest in this collection or in understanding the collector Erich Schliemann to read it.
Serious, passionate and informed collectors have always been rare but their numbers appear to be declining in an age where brand value and bold statements seem to have gained in importance. I am joined by my mother, sister and two brothers in hoping that the example of Erich Schliemann and his collection may inspire new collectors, who will combine the passionate 'joy in ownership' with the scholarly pursuit of knowledge and research.
New York, January 2007