A magnificent Boulle marquetry chessboard attributed to Johannes Mann and Emanuel Eichel realised £445,250 in a recent Sotheby’s auction that achieved £9.5m in sales.
The silver and silver-gilt mounted chessboard, inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory and featuring porcelain, aventurine and mother-of-pearl chessmen, was one of 39 outstanding lots in the “Treasures: Princely Taste” sale held in London on 4th July. The slim catalogue held a superb selection of rare antique marquetry furniture and other decorative arts, most of museum quality and with imperial or aristocratic provenance. They ranged from a set of George III antique dining chairs by Lancashire cabinetmakers Gillows, to a 16th Century flagon of Hispanic or Italian origin. All had a fascinating tale to tell.
The highlight of the sale was a pair of Louis XVI gilt-bronze mounted Sevres vases which realised £1.8m against an upper estimate of £1m. More extravagant was an exquisite golden automaton clock once owned by the Shah of Persia. Featuring a moving elephant, waterfall and other mechanical effects, the British-made masterpiece, signed by Peter Torckler, was sold to an Asian collector for £1.6m.
Another rarity was a small gilt-bronze mounted antique dining table , circa 1785, featured in a painting hanging in the Louvre. Among the antique desks were an early 19th Century secretaire inlaid with fossilised marble, and a Louis XVI amaranth and tulipwood bureau plat. Both were superb examples of antique marquetry furniture.
Ribble Valley residents should remember that hammer prices don’t include buyer’s commission, which can add considerably to the cost. A good antique dealer in Preston will have antique desks of princely quality – which won’t cost a king’s ransom.
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