Southern California’s finest estates continue to yield their treasures to Don Presley, whose March 3rd “Once in a Lifetime” auction of antiques, art and collectibles includes an exciting array of genuinely unique items.
The first of the one-of-a-kind entries in the sale is an incredible photorealistic Italian micromosaic artwork depicting the Roman Forum and its surrounding landscape. Composed of thousands of pieces of hand-laid miniature pieces of glass, the circa-1870s artwork was executed in the manner of Vatican master mosaicist Cesare Roccheggiani. Artworks of this type were created for noblemen and wealthy aristocrats visiting Rome during their Grand Tour of Europe. Each commissioned work was painstakingly crafted and reflected the artist’s own impression of the subject, just as though it were a painting. One of four antique micromosaics included in Presley’s sale, it measures 11¾ by 14¼ inches and is estimated at $15,000-$25,000.
The second unquestionably unique item in Presley’s sale is a remarkable mid-19th-century sultan’s photo album containing pictures of his concubine, as well as other people and views of Constantinople.
For several decades the album was the property of the Scottish Rite Museum in Los Angeles. It comes with a signed letter from the person who donated it to the Scottish Rite Temple for its archives. The letter reads: "While on duty with the Navy for 2 1/2 years (1919 to 1921) in Constantinople, an assistant postmaster gave me this album as we were jointly working, photographing mosques and other places of interest in that area. The original photographer is, of course, unknown. Originally the album was probably in the archives of the sultans, as the gold insignia on the cover is the Official Seal of the Sultan…Photos 19 to 40 are priceless, as photographically they are what is known as the "wet plate" process in which the photographer would wet a sheet of glass with collodion, put it in the camera and take the picture as soon as possible thereafter, but the edges of the plate would dry, leaving a reticulation on the outer edges, which are the "fingerprints" of the wet plate process.” The writer goes on to explain that the wet plate process was abandoned after the so-called dry plate process was invented in 1880.
“This photo album has to be seen to be believed,” said Don Presley. “I can’t imagine there is another one like it in the world.” Its presale estimate is $6,000-$10,000.
Another deaccession from the Scottish Rite Museum is a metallic tapestry that was donated to the fraternal organization around 1900. Woven with silver and gold threads, it is decorated with arcane Masonic or possibly Knights Templar symbols including a skull and bones, stonemasonry tools, a handshake, and a pentagram overlaid with a diamond.
“This tapestry is a mystery. We can’t identify some of the symbols. It may have been a burial shroud, as it does not appear that it was ever hung,” said Presley. “We showed it to a museum curator who said he thinks it’s 300 to 400 years old, and to an expert dealer who sells only the highest quality of textiles. He said he has never seen anything like it before and that it is a minimum of 200 years old.” Estimate: $15,000-$25,000.
These three very special items offer a mere taste of what lies in wait on March 3rd at Don Presley’s gallery. The sale also includes fine paintings by listed artists, Chinese ivory carvings, an elaborately carved Chinese brush pot, and an ivory, jade and coral screen. An exceptional pair of late-19th-century Chinese cloisonné elephants, 22½ inches tall, are entered in the sale with a $12,000-$25,000 estimate.
Among the porcelain highlights are an exquisite Sevres center bowl with candelabra, est. $15,000-$25,000; a 19th-century German KPM hand-painted portrait plaque, $6,500-$8,000; and two outstanding Royal Vienna productions – a vase, $9,000-$15,000; and a covered urn, $4,500-$6,000.
An Affortunato Gory (French/Italian, 1895-1925) gilt bronze and ivory Art Deco sculpture carries a $7,000-$9,000 estimate, while a bronze and marble bust is expected to make $7,000-$10,000. A signed Eugene Bernoud gilt bronze and ivory figure of the goddess Athena is estimated at $4,000-$6,000.
Following in the footsteps of other Tiffany & Co. timepieces that have brought outstanding prices at Presley’s, an ornate Tiffany wall clock commissioned by a hotel in St. Louis measures 47 inches long. It is estimated at $15,000-$25,000.
The auction also includes two French Erard harps, $12,000-$20,000 each; a pair of Art Deco club chairs from the RMS Queen Mary, a mother-of-pearl inlaid papier-mache table with two chairs, and a wealth of other high-end antiques and artworks from some of the West Coast’s finest homes and estates.
The auction will commence at 12 noon Pacific Time on Saturday, March 3, 2012. Preview Mon.-Sat. 10-5. The gallery is located at 1319 W. Katella Ave., Orange, CA 92867. All forms of bidding will be available, including live at the gallery, by phone, absentee or live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers.