Highlight literally and metaphorically of the Woolley & Wallis sale on January 8 was a pair of ormolu and hardstone-mounted candelabra, superb in themselves and packed with French royal history.
Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Terence Ryle
They were part of a surtout de table commissioned in 1834 by King Louis-Philippe’s eldest son, the popular and talented Ferdinand Phillipe, Duc d’Orleans, for his apartments in the Palais des Tuileries.
The six original 3ft 8in (1.11m) tall candelabra, designed by Guillaume Deniere and the accompanying pieces of the surtout, principally designed by Aimee-Louis Barye, were delivered to the duke in 1839.
Three years later the duke was killed in a carriage accident and when the revolutionary mob stormed the Tuileries in 1848 his widow moved its treasures to safety in the Louvre.
In 1853, to forestall action by the State to confiscate the material, the family sold it all at a three-day Paris auction and the surtout was broken up.
Items from it appear from time to time.
In 2011, two centrepieces took a premium-inclusive £409,250 at Sotheby’s and in 2015 a single centrepiece made $269,000 (then about £174,000) at Christie’s New York. Two years ago a pair of candelabra identical to the Salisbury ones, featuring figures of female musicians to the finials and bases and with stems decorated with gargoyle masks, eagles and an entwined serpent, made $93,750 (then about £73,000) at Christie’s New York.
W&W put a £20,000-30,000 estimate on its pair, bought in the mid-19th century and thence by descent to the estate of the late Sir John Alexander Campbell-Orde.
A final bid first
The firm’s director Paul Viney, who stepped down as chairman in August after nearly 20 years but still takes some auctions, was on the rostrum as bidding came down to a London dealer and a North American collector – the latter winning the pair at £99,000.
Viney said later: “I‘ve been an auctioneer for nigh-on half a century and I’ve sold numerous lots in the £100,000s and a few in the millions but never for £99,000.
“When I got to about £75,000 the bidding got very cautious and the two remaining players wanted to go up in £1000 increments which I decided to accept.
“So the final bid was a first for me, and for W&W, and who knows maybe wider still? Certainly I’ve never ever heard of a lot selling for £99,000 before.”