Rediscovered Meissonnier design returning to France

NEW YORK — Bonhams April 24-25 auction of Fine Furniture, Silver, Decorative Arts and Clocks realized several notable results, particularly for exceptional clocks, silver, fine French furniture and one highly unusual chimney surround. International interest, on the telephones and online, drove the bidding over estimates on both days, and the silver section of the auction was especially well received by attendees.

A remarkable Régence ormolu mounted inlaid kingwood longcase clock quadrupled its pre-sale low estimate to sell for $42,500. The clock, based on a design by Juste- Aurèle Meissonnier, was thought to have been lost - it was even published in Peter Fuhring's 1999 catalog raisonné of Messionier's work as "location unknown."

"We are fortunate to have rediscovered the clock in a Florida estate, and I am extremely pleased it will be going back France where it can be properly celebrated as a splendid example of French Rococo horological design," said Jonathan Snellenburg, Bonhams Director of Fine Watches and Clocks in New York.

The auction's top lot, a fine and rare Charles II ebony quarter repeating timepiece from Thomas Tompion circa 1685, realized $116,500. The extraordinary clock was made as part of a small series of timepieces that do not strike every hour in passing. Rather, they incorporate a mechanism of Tompion's design with which the owner can activate the striking at will. A fine and rare mid-19th century gilt bronze and glass mystery clock from Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin sold for $68,500.

The sale's cover lot generated the most interest in the furniture section of the sale: an Italian Renaissance style carved marble chimney surround that once belonged to railroad tycoon scion Benjamin Thaw. Selling for $56,250, well above its estimate, the unusual fireplace was based on Giuliano da Sangallo's celebrated design for the Palazzo Gondi in Florence. Thaw had the fireplace made to order for his Pittsburgh mansion after the Gondi family declined to sell him the original. Late 18th and early 19th century fine French furniture also performed well, with strong results for gilt bronzes in particular.

The auction's silver section realized strong results overall, particularly for 20th century works by prominent makers. An early 20th century Russian parcel-gilt silver trompe l'oeil table smoking set soared above its pre-sale estimate to realize $27,500. Stamped with a maker's mark "VS" in Cyrilic, the lot was likely made in Moscow by Vasilii Semenov. A cast sterling silver sturgeon-form caviar server from 1959 by Asprey & Co. also performed well, achieving $20,000, more than double its pre-sale high estimate.

"Silver is always of interest to collectors and prized by connoisseurs who value the decorative arts. It is international and timeless," explained Victoria Ayers, Bonhams Senior Specialist in Silver, Porcelain & Decorative Arts.

Bonhams next sale for Fine Furniture, Silver and Decorative Arts will take place in September in New York.


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 valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com