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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Selections from the Peter Tillou Collections for Auction at Christie’s

Over the course of his 50-year career, antiques dealer Peter Tillou has helped to build some of the finest private collections of art and antiques in the U.S. Admired for his deep passion and relentless pursuit of knowledge about the items he sells, Mr. Tillou is a sought-after expert on an array of collecting categories, from coins and antique guns, to fine art, furniture, and decorative objects. On January 28, Christie’s will offer A Cabinet of Curiosities: Selections from the Peter Tillou Collections, a sale of over 225 exceptional items from his vast personal collection.

Table Cabinet
Late 17th century South German Inlaid-Walnut and Parcel-Ebonized Table Cabinet. Estimate: $7,000-10,000. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010

This eclectic mix of Old Master paintings, European furniture, Tribal art, cameo glass, fossils and minerals reflects Mr. Tillou’s long career and ever-expanding universe of collecting interests. With estimates ranging from $250 to $250,000, and all lots under $2,000 offered without reserve, the total sale is expected to achieve in excess of $1.6 million.

Catherine Elkies, Head of Private Collections at Christie’s, comments: “Christie’s is honored to present this wonderfully eclectic selection of items from a truly devoted American collector. Each item in this sale began as a piece that Peter collected for himself, because he saw something wonderful and wanted to study it further, whether it was a magnificent aboriginal painting, a rare George II cabinet, or an intriguing specimen of petrified wood. This is an exciting opportunity for interior designers and collectors to take advantage of Peter’s incredible knack for putting together seemingly disparate items to create a compelling and cohesive collection.”

European Furniture Highlights
Leading the sale is a magnificent offering of European furniture, featuring an important mid-Victorian Burr-Amboyna, Amaranth, Palmwood, Ebonised and Marquetry Center Table (estimate: $70,000-100,000), which was featured in the 1867 International Exhibition in Paris. At the time, The Art Journal proclaimed “there was no work of its class that demanded and deserved greater admiration”. Embellished with an interlaced “AM” monogram on the top, this exquisite table was designed by Owen Jones and finished by the eminent London cabinet-making firm of Jackson and Graham as part of a substantial commission for the wealthy collector Alfred Morrison (1821-1897). Other magnificent examples of inlaid furniture that are believed to be from the same commission are now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Another highlight is a George II Mahogany, Padouk, and Parcel-Gilt Secretaire Cabinet (estimate: $150,000-250,000). With its curving bombé base and intricate carved details, the cabinet is a superb example dating from 1740-1750 that shares details with works produced by Royal cabinet-makers William Hallett and his disciple William Vile.

Additional furniture highlights include a 17th century Spanish polychrome-painted walnut and pine commode (estimate: $30,000-50,000) and a group of fine antique collectors cabinets that open to reveal multiple rows of drawers, perfect for storing and displaying antique medals, coins, flowers, or shells. The lead item of the group is a late 17th century South German Inlaid-Walnut and Parcel-Ebonized Table Cabinet (pictured page one, center; estimate: $7,000-10,000).

Fine Art Highlights
With an appreciation for fine art that is rooted in the classics, Mr. Tillou’s collection includes numerous examples of 17th and 18th century European art, including the delightful Trompe l’oeil with a flame stitched bag by the 18th century French artist Jean Valette-Falgores, called Penot (estimate: $60,000-80,000), and an appealing group of Old Master portraits, led by Portrait of a girl in a red dress holding her dog, attributed to the 17th century Italian artist Carlo Ceresa (estimate:
$70,000-90,000), and a 17th century Anglo-Flemish School painting, Portrait of a gentleman and a lady, full-length, with a monkey and a dog, in an interior. Renewed scholarship has determined that the sitters are Florence Poulett, daughter of John, 1st Lord Poulett and her husband, Thomas Smyth of Long Ashton, Somerset.

Among the many sculptural treasures in Mr. Tillou’s collection are the intricate figures, clubs, masks, and shields that comprise the sale’s selection of tribal art. Leading the group is a Kota Reliquary Guardian Figure from Gabon (estimate: $30,000-50,000), a matched pair of brass figures, one male and one female, from the Yoruba, Ogboni Society in Nigeria (estimate: $25,000-35,000), and a fine Marquesas Island club, ‘u’u’, with eyes and mouth in the form of a ‘tiki’ head on both sides (estimate: $25,000-35,000).

A small selection of 20th century aboriginal paintings reflects Mr. Tillou’s
continuing interest in indigenous cultures and non-Western art forms.
Characterized by vivid colors, geometric patterns, and recurring circular motifs,
the group includes Wenton Rubuntja’s Grandfathers Dreaming (estimate: $4,000-
6,000), which Mr. Tillou purchased direct from the artist, Mary Dixon
Nungurrayi’s Kunyatjarri Dreaming (pictured at right; estimate: $3,000-5,000), and
Big Dave Oldfield Tjupurrula’s Yala, Snake and Dingo Dreaming (estimate: $4,000-
6,000). All were included in a 1993 exhibition of Mr. Tillou’s collection at the
William Benton Museum of Art in Storrs, Connecticut.

Decorative Objects Highlights
The largest section of the sale is a veritable treasure trove of over 100 decorative objects, including pottery, glass, stoneware, candelabras, and rugs. A stunning selection of late 19th century cameo glass in shades of blue, citron, and red features 14 exceptional examples by Thomas Webb & Sons, including several marked “Cameo * Gem”, a signifier of the highest quality (estimates range: $1,800-6,000). Elsewhere, a small group of Chinese pottery figures includes a Pair
of Painted Pottery Figures of Horses from the Northern Qi Dynasty (estimate: $20,000-30,000), and a large Painted Pottery Figure of a Court Lady from the Tang Dynasty (estimate: $20,000-35,000).

Among the most unusual items in the collection is a rare 16th century etched and inlaid German wheel-lock sporting gun with finely detailed scenes of hunters and peasants (estimate: $20,000-25,000), a beautifully-preserved 19th century Himalayan saddle with iron fittings and bronze stirrups (estimate $2,000-3,000), and a charming painted cast-resin figure of a mastiff that stands more than 3 and a half feet tall (estimate: $3,000-5,000).

Natural History
Rounding out the selection of decorative objects is a stunning array of fossils, geodes, amonites and seashells in a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and sizes. Long a favorite of interior designers, these items add interest to any style of décor. Highlights include a large green fish fossil (estimate: $10,000-15,000), a giant amonite measuring over a foot high (estimate: $1,500-2,000), a large Mellon shell and a Horned Yellow Giant Helmet shell ($1,000-1,500), and a beautifully-hued specimen of petrified wood (estimate: $700-900).