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Amazing Auction Alert: Bonhams "Objects of the Wunderkammer including an Exceptional Private Collection of European Ivories," London

Posted: October 30, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Wow. Via

LONDON.- On Wednesday 2 November, to coincide with Halloween, Bonhams will hold its first sale dedicated to the Wunderkammer, also known as the ’Kunstkammer’ or ‘cabinet of curiosities’, a collection of fine objects created from the rarest and most exquisite materials and designed to induce excitement and wonder in the viewer.

Comprising works of art ranging from ivory figures and reliefs, early and rare bronzes, fine enamels, chalices and caskets, the Wunderkammer brought together objects produced from the most expensive and highly prized materials of the day, including ivory, tortoiseshell, rhino horn, enamel and gilt bronze.

This unique, one-off sale features one hundred and thirty ivory carvings, including a very spooky South German skull (estimate £10,000 – 15,000); an eerie 17th century anatomical model of an eye (estimate £4,000 – 6,000); and a gruesome relief depicting the martyrdom of Saint Erasmus (estimate £10,000 – 15,000). The top lot is a rare collection of forty four mid 18th century ivory intaglios of Roman Emperors, which has attracted a pre-sale estimate of £20,000 – 30,000. ...

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Images of lots, top to bottom:
1) Lot No: 225
An 18th / 19th century North European carved and painted wood skull
possibly from a large crucifixion group, 14cm high

Estimate: £500 - 700, € 580 - 810

2) A rare South German anatomical model of an eye
probably late 17th century
composed of ten individual sections including an iris, pupil, and a section painted with veins, with a turned handle to the reverse and on a turned ivory spiralling stem and foot, together with a small 17th century circular carved wood and painted box which the eye fits into when disassembled, glass lense repaired, the ivory 8.5cm high, the box 8cm diameter (2)

Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000, € 6,900 - 9,200

The exquisite workmanship combined with the use of a rare and prized material in this miniature model of a human eye are typical of the objects that were collected and displayed in the Wunderkammer. Detailed models of eyes, as well as skulls and skeletons that are now associated with the Wunderkammer, were produced from the 17th century onwards and originally conceived as anatomical teaching tools. Ivory carvers such as Stephan Zick (1639-1715) and Johann Martin Teuber were influenced by the anatomical drawings of Andrea Vesalius in the mid 16th century and later George Bartisch who produced a manuscript relating to the eye in 1583. For a similar anatomical model of an eye, see Christies, London, December 4 2008, lot 75.

3) Lot No: 174Y
An 18th century South German ivory skull
carved with an entwined crown of thorns, with a snake above, later mounted on a perspex rectangular plinth, the ivory 10.5cm high

Estimate: £10,000 - 15,000, € 11,000 - 17,000

For a comparable ivory skull see the Robert and Angelique Noortman Collection: Paintings and Works of Art from Chateau De Groote Mot, sold at Sotheby's, Amsterdam, December 17, 2007, lot 557.
A similar skull monogrammed by Josef Konrad Wiser (1693-1760) but lacking the snake was sold at Sotheby's, London, July 9, 2008, lot 92, £37,250.


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