Bonhams walks on moon as Illuminating Space auction reaches the stars

5 Dec 2012, Illuminating Space: Images from a Private Virginian Collection
Illuminating Space: Images from a Private Virginian Collection

Bonhams walks on moon as Illuminating Space auction reaches the stars

5 Dec 2012, Illuminating Space: Images from a Private Virginian Collection

New York—Bonhams buzzed as enthusiastic bidders competed for pieces offered in the Illuminating Space: Images from a Private Virginian Collection auction. Sustained and palpable interest in the significant and often rare and unique telescopes, lunar and planetary globes, photographs, manuscripts, documents and prints from the past three centuries culminated in sales totaling $1,327,025.

A giant 218-panel mosaic of NASA Lunar Orbiter IV photos of the near side of the Moon provided, when covered, a fortunate buyer the opportunity to "walk" on the Moon's surface for $98,500. Constructed by Kodak for the US Information Agency in 1967, the 34 x 24' compilation created what is probably the largest vintage photograph of the Moon in existence. Only two mosaics were produced. One was exhibited in a gymnasium in Prague during the 1967 August International Astronomical Union meeting; the auctioned version is the second copy as the Prague mosaic, despite many searches, has been deemed lost.

Additional star lots included a Selenographia globe by British painter and portraitist John Russell that bidders drove to $242,500. His accurately drawn and engraved Moon globe rests on a brass stand; graduated scales and rack and pinion adjustments account for the Moon's "wobbling" motion, and a small globe represents the Earth's parallax.

French mathematicians Pierre Henri Puiseux and Maurice Loewy found their muse in the Moon, taking photographs that remained unrivaled until those by NASA's Lunar Orbiter in the 1960s. Their four large-format photogravures of the quadrants of the Moon embrace the realms of both art and science, enticing bids to $55,000—over four times the low estimate. They are significantly larger than the plates in their Atlas photographique de la lune (Paris, 1896-1910), and were probably created specifically for the 1900 Paris Exposition.

Mystery and a touch of whimsy intrigued bidders in the Great Moon Hoax, 1836, selling for $2,125. A pair of lithographs illustrated the imaginary musings of life on the Moon as claimed by noted British astronomer Sir John Herschel and reported by New York Sun writer Richard E. Locke. Fantasies were fueled by illustrations of flora and fauna bat-men, Moon maidens and bison and other fanciful life forms. Locke proposed an expedition to the Moon aboard a hydrogen balloon-supported ship.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and appraisal services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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