Christie’s Bi-Annual Centuries of Style Sale

This summer Christie’s London presents the first of its bi-annual Centuries of Style sales, a reflection of the finest examples of silver, European ceramics, portrait miniatures and gold boxes from the early sixteenth century to the twentieth century. The sale on 10 June in London will offer collectors the chance to purchase rare and beautiful treasures from this exciting group of categories, featuring massive sliver candelabras through to jewellery adorned with miniature portraits and including works of royal provenance.

The silver section of the sale presents an exceptionally fine selection from renowned and respected Goldsmiths such as Jean-Baptiste-Claude Odiot and Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, as well as the opportunity to acquire works from an unusually large selection by one of the greatest silversmiths of the 18th century; Paul de Lamerie. Lamerie’s family were Hugenots who had fled to England in 1689. He was apprenticed to the fellow Hugenot goldsmith Pierre Platel in 1703. After gaining his freedom in 1713 his reputation grew; Lamerie was to produce silver and gold to the highest of standards, supplying some of the greatest patrons of the day including Sir Robert Walpole, the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Thanet. The lots offered in the sale demonstrate his skilled and highly decorative work, one such example is an important set of four George II silver candlesticks from the 6th Earl of Mountrath service of 1740 (estimated at £120,000- 180,000), which are adorned with finest cast and chased rocaille ornament of shells, festoons of flowers and scroll-work.

Further highlights include an important and massive pair of French thirteen light candelabra by the Maison Odiot (estimated at £100,000- 150,000). They are to be offered alongside an important and massive three-piece silver centerpiece, also the work of Odiot’s workshop (estimated at £100,000-150,000), which were originally exhibited at the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition. Together the candelabra and centerpiece were purchased in 1886 by François d’Orléans, Prince of Joinville, as a wedding gift to his granddaughter Princess Marie d’Orleans (1865-1909) in honour of her marriage on 20 October 1885 to Prince Valdemar of Denmark (1859-1939), youngest son of King Christian IX of Denmark.

European Ceramics
Leading the European ceramics section of the sale is a magnificent Sèvres dejeuner, complete in its original form (estimated at £100,000 – 150,000), which will appeal to any collector with a taste for cameos, antiquity or Sèvres. Each item of this exquisite service is painted to simulate an antique cameo, a popular subject in the late 18th and early 19th century. The scene depicted on the tray is The Apotheosis of Augustus, the largest surviving cameo from classical antiquity, dating to circa 23 A.D., which is framed by a border delicately painted to imitate a malachite veneer.

The records for the commission of this service reveal its royal provenance; it was a gift from Louis XVIII to his nephew’s new wife, Caroline of Naples and Sicily, in the year that they married and it is likely that this offering was to congratulate the couple on the anticipated arrival of their first child. The nature of this gift forms a striking parallel with the subject of the tray cameo; each Emperor of the dynastic line from Augustus to Caligula was succeeded not by their direct heir, but by a nephew. Thus this gift could be read as an allegory of Louis XVIII’s respect and congratulations for his nephew.

Portrait Miniatures and Gold Boxes
Highlights of the miniatures section of the sale include an important portrait miniature of a young gentleman by Jean-Etienne Liotard, (estimated at £50,000 -70,000), which is included in the artist’s catalogue raisonné. Only thirty-four miniatures and twenty-eight enamels by Liotard are presently known, making this a rare item and must have for collectors of miniatures. In 1746 Liotard introduced the habit of signing and dating his works but the present enamel belongs to his unsigned and undated period, and more precisely to the years around 1736 to 1742, which corresponds to the artist’s travels in Italy and Constantinople. Scholars have not agreed upon Liotard’s sitter, but the technique and a certain physical resemblance have led to the suggestion that Liotard depicts Prince Charles Edward Stuart, The Young Pretender. The artist’s mastery of enamel painting is displayed by the natural-looking, deeply intense colour of the raspberry coat and the convincing modelling of the face, achieved by minimal red hatching, a technique precursory to late 19th century impressionist technique of pointillisme.

Further highlights from this category include a large selection of preparatory sketches by John Smart for portrait miniatures and a rare 17th century Dutch jewelled enamel and gold pomander (estimated at £6,000-8,000). This pear-shaped scent holder unscrews to release six hinged segments, each beautifully decorated on the exterior panels with portraits of a lady and gentleman on enamel with precious stones. The segments slide out to release six compartments for holding scent. A stunning example from the gold box section is an imperial Russian gold presentation snuff-box, set with a portrait miniature by Alois Gustav Rockstuhl (estimated at £20,000- 30,000). An oval miniature on ivory of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, his coat adorned with Russian orders, is set in an old-cut diamond surround on with six large old-cut diamonds either side.