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Napoleon’s Hat

Napoleon's hatCertain items bring certain leaders immediately to mind: Winston Churchill’s cigar, Margaret Thatcher’s handbag and David Miliband’s banana, for instance.

When it comes to Napoleon, it is difficult to imagine him without one of his trademark black felt bicorn hats sitting on his not particularly elevated head.

French saleroom Osenat, of Fontainebleau, have an established reputation for selling Napoleonic memorabilia and in their November 15-16 auction they are offering an example of that famous hat style owned by Joseph Giraud, veterinary at the Imperial household, which is estimated at 300,000-400,000euros.

Their sale on September 21 this year included the marriage contract between Napoleon and Josephine from March 8, 1796, sold at €350,000 (£291,665).

But the November sale will feature an even grander cache of Napoleonic material with a princely provenance. Prince Louis II of Monaco (1870-1949),  a career soldier whose decision to serve in the French army in the First World War saw him dubbed The Soldier Prince, had a fascination with Napoleon to whom he had a family connection (his mother was the granddaughter of Napoleon’s stepdaughter Stephanie de Beauharnais).  more »

Rare window into the earliest days of motoring

Argent Archer motoring

From Argent Archer’s photo album covering the Bexhill Speed Trials of May 1902

Victorian and Edwardian photographs of cars are understandably rare so a single collection made up of 767 printed images in eight albums, 102 full-glass plate negatives and 62 half-glass plate negatives is remarkable.

They were taken by Argent Archer (1860-1932), who is described by auctioneers Bonhams as “essentially the founding father of automotive photography in the UK”. They are selling this archive in their annual London to Brighton Run Sale on October 31 at the 101 New Bond Street saleroom, with estimates ranging from £800-5000.

The collection features images dating back over a century, from the Scottish Trials of 1905, the Blackpool Motor Races of 1904 and the Gordon-Bennett race and the Phoenix Park Trials of 1903 Ireland to as far back as the Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial of 1900.

Toby Wilson, Bonhams head of automobilia, said: “From his first studio on London’s Lime Street in 1881 Archer built a reputation within the industry as one of the best, and as the automotive industry grew up around him he was able to capture some wonderful images of the best of motoring from that period.”

Banksy spotted in Paris

BLOG Banksy055Banksy’s art is always making headlines in the UK especially when news emerges that one of his famous spray painted murals is about to be sold.

Now, though, the famously anonymous artist has proved that he’s just as popular on the other side of the channel.

Paris auction house Tajan held its first ever sale devoted entirely to Urban Art on October 9 and the highest selling lot of the auction was this Banksy aerosol painting on panel of 2013, Fragile, which came in at €90,000 (£75,000). The 2ft 6in x 22in (66.5 x 56.5cm) work, which had come from a Dutch private collection, came with a Pest Control certificate from March 2013.

Sir Bobby Robson’s Foundation and children’s hospice charity auction on the-saleroom.com

SBRFThe Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) have joined forces to host an online auction of exclusive lots where once in a lifetime sporting experiences take centre stage.

Veteran voluntary fundraiser and organiser Gina Long said: “We are indebted to the generosity of all those who have so kindly supported our special auction where 100% of the money raised goes to the two charities.  Words can’t express just how grateful we are for all the fantastic lots we’ve received. Football fans are spoilt for choice with this auction – from rubbing shoulders with the world’s greatest footballers on the red carpet at the FIFA Ballon d’Or Awards in Zurich, to meeting Harry Redknapp at QPR and Loftus Road directors box tickets – there really are some fabulous once in a life time opportunities to be had. more »

John Lennon guitar expected to make £600k at auction

BLOG Lennon guitar

A guitar given by John Lennon to his cousin is expected to make up to £600,000 when it is offered at auction next month.

The Gretsch 6120 was used and photographed during the Paperback Writer session held at EMI Studio 3, Abbey Road, London, on April 14, 1966, and TracksAuction.com believe it is “perhaps, the most significant of John’s guitars to come onto the market in the last 30 years”.

David Birch was given the instrument when he visited John in Weybridge in November 1967. David recalled that one day they were chatting in the home studio located at the top of Kenwood, the Beatles man’s Surrey mansion where he wrote songs such as I Feel Fine, Ticket to Ride, Norwegian Wood, I Am the Walrus, and much of the Sgt Pepper album. David asked John if he had a guitar that he no longer wanted as he was trying to get a group together with some mates at the time. more »

Noah’s Ark bids go in two by two

BLOG noahs ark

The animals went in two by two, hurrah, hurrah! Then three by three, four by four and so on as the children’s song tells us, name-checking kangaroo, elephant, wasp, ants, bumble bee, hippo, pig and monkey (although he was booted out because of his tricks).

Carved Noah’s Arks come up at auction fairly regularly and the best ones are in great demand. The 19th century German example sold at Oxfordshire saleroom Mallams recently had a whopping 140 pairs of animals along with Noah’s family. Auctioneer James Pickup said: “I have never seen one with so many animals, or such varied ones. They included species such as grasshoppers and moles as well as the usual elephants and camels.”

The very best of these arks – typically with ‘boat-bottom’ bases – are much sought-after and in August one featuring 82 pairs of animals plus an additional 33 single models in addition to eight figures of Noah and his family took £7200 at Brightwells of Leominster. The Mallams example was a little smaller at 22in (57cm) long, but rose beyond the £1000-1500 estimate to sell to the trade at £4800.

Lifelike Doll sells for £200,000 at Bonhams

BLOG doll recordThere is definitely something a bit unnerving about dolls, as even the most ardent doll fan would probably admit. And the more lifelike they get, the more those eyes seem to be staring at you… ‘Lifelike’ is certainly a description that can apply to the German example sold at Bonhams Knightsbridge for £200,000 on September 24, with the London auctioneers saying it was a world auction record for any doll.

The Kämmer & Reinhardt model 108 bisque (porcelain) head character doll c.1909-12, standing 2ft 1¼in (64cm) tall, previously sold at Sotheby’s Important Dolls and Toys auction in February 1994. Since that sale, no other example has been found according to Bonhams. It is therefore possible that this doll was an experimental mould. more »

Theodore Roosevelt inspired Wemyss pig

BLOG wemyss pigTheodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the US, is well known for inspiring the Teddy Bear toy after a 1902 hunting trip when he baulked at shooting an old bear which had been tied to a tree to make sure he bagged one. Not so many people know that he probably also inspired a pig made by a Scottish pottery.

This Wemyss pig, wearing a top hat and sporting a monocle, was produced by the Fife Pottery which was taken over by Robert Heron in 1837. From 1882, Robert Heron & Son were branding their range of decorated Earthenware as Wemyss ware in honour of the Wemyss family who were patrons, living a little way along the Fife coast. more »

Remembering the Falklands

Fuller being presented with his Military  Medal at Buckingham Palace

Fuller being presented with his Military Medal at Buckingham Palace

With British forces recently involved in lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and soon Syria?) it is sometimes easy to forget the bloody battles that won the Falklands back for Britain after the Argentinian invasion in 1982. Although that conflict was rather shorter than the long slugging matches that dragged on for years after 2001, the fighting was often intense, as a medal group sold for £68,000 on September 18-19, just under top estimate, underlines.

This Military Medal group awarded to Sgt Desmond Fuller, 3rd Battalion Parachute Regt, reflects the fierce battles outside Port Stanley, capital of the Falklands, towards the end of the April to June war in which 255 British personnel were killed.

Sgt Fuller’s heroism took place when his predecessor – another notable Falklands gallantry medal recipient – was killed. Fuller volunteered to take over 4 Platoon of 3rd Bn on Mount Longdon after the platoon commander was badly wounded and the platoon sergeant, Ian McKay, went missing. McKay was subsequently found to have been killed and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his gallantry.

more »

Looting, pillaging and jewellery design

BLOG viking pendantWhile not out looting and pillaging, the Vikings were a rather talented lot, as the recent blockbuster exhibition at the British Museum showed (if you could see past the crowds). A tiny pendant sold at Timeline Auctions in Bloomsbury, central London, on September 4-5 also demonstrates this creative side of the much-maligned Scandinavians.

The 9th or 10th century silver design, which made over three times its top estimate to take £9500, measures just over 2cm tall but has a clear low-relief image of a man grasping two birds by their necks – possibly a reference to Odin and his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who flew all over the world gathering information for the god.

Odin (the main Norse god) was a god of war and death, a sky god and the god of wisdom and poetry, and has been depicted with the two ravens sitting on his shoulders. After their daily journeys they whispered their news in his ear.

The Germanic version of Odin, Woden, gave Wednesday its name.

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