Issue 38, Spring 2014

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin

One of the most intriguing artifacts in the Bonhams salerooms this season is a monumental Assyrian slab made of black basalt. It shows the lower body of King Adad-nerari III (810-783 BC) in profile. In itself this is an extraordinary relic: it commemorates the crushing of the Hittites in Syria – we learn this from the lengthy and slightly boastful cuneiform inscription down the side. It also contains a curse for those who neglect the carving, and blessings for those who nurture it – something that isn't thrown in with every lot sold at Bonhams. But we are also witnessing an exciting rediscovery.

The slab has been identified by Professor Karen Radner of University College, London as the missing lower section of a piece in the British Museum. On page 18 you can see the two fragments reunited.

In a way, the Assyrian stele was the broadsheet newspaper of its time. Skip a few centuries and you find items from The Caren Archive fulfilling the same function by giving their version of events. Drake's return to Plymouth, Paul Revere's description of the Boston Massacre in 1770, and one of the first copies of the Declaration of Independence are among the treasures to be offered at Bonhams New York in March, and it reveals not only how contemporaries reported these events, but demonstrates the insatiable need for news, something that Sir Harold Evans writes about on page 44.

There are works of art in this issue that have an extraordinary history as well. The Steinhardt Collection, for example, was assembled by the US Ambassador, Laurence Steinhardt, who had a miserable sojourn in Moscow in the 1930s and 40s. Distrusted by both Stalin and Roosevelt – quite a rare distinction – Steinhardt sought consolation by immersing himself in the study of Russian icons. Fortunately for him, it was a period when Stalin was selling Russia's treasures to accumulate western currency and he became the last Westerner to build up a truly extraordinary personal collection of Romanov-era icons before the window of opportunity closed. To read more, turn to Vanora Bennett's article about this fascinating period in Soviet history.

Enjoy the issue.

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 1

    Exclusive: René Redzepi's guide to where to eat in Copenhagen

    René Redzepi's Noma, in Copenhagen, has just been voted the world's No.1 restaurant. Every month, 20,000 people try to make a reservation. For those who aren't lucky, René has ideas for where else to eat

    Ah, Copenhagen. Where to start? I walk the streets everyday, I know every nook and every cranny. I've seen ...

  2. Page 10

    My favorite room: Sir Christopher Lee

    Sir Christopher Lee will never forget his first, extraordinary, visit to St Peter's Basilica, Rome

    I have been to St Peter's many times, but the first time was perhaps the most memorable. It was after the fall of Monte Cassino in 1944 and I was probably the first Allied officer since the beginning of the war to have ...

  3. SIR ANTHONY CARO O.M. (1924-2013) Insight, 1976

    Page 18

    Man of steel

    Charles Saumarez Smith considers the influence of Sir Anthony Caro during the golden age of British sculpture

    Anthony Caro – or Tony as he was always known – was, like many of his generation, a reluctant Royal Academician. He came to the institution late and never wholly embraced it.

    It is not generally remembered that Caro trained as a sculptor, against the ...

  4. GIORGIO DE CHIRICO (1888-1978) Ettore e Andromaca 22 1/16 x 15 3/4in. (56 x 40cm)

    Page 22

    Ancient and modern

    Giorgio de Chirico mourned the modern world, says Jonathan Jones, by treating it like a classical ruin

    Two lovers are saying goodbye. The man insists he will soon return, but his wife knows it is a lie. He is doomed to die in battle, to be dragged through the dust behind the victor's chariot. Such is the parting of ...

  5. WAUGH (EVELYN) Scott-King's Modern Europe, Chapman & Hall (3)

    Page 24

    The mad, bad set

    Evelyn Waugh drank his way through his time at Oxford, but he also found the inspiration for his most famous book, Brideshead Revisited. Alexander Waugh writes about Waugh's louche life with the Hypocrite Club

    Evelyn Waugh's years spent as an undergraduate at Oxford in the 1920s have been characterized as a time devoid of academic effort and filled ...

  6. Icon of Deesis with Christ Emmanuel (62, 63, 64) 12 x 31in (total)

    Page 26

    Heaven and hell

    As the Soviets sold off their art treasures, one American ambassador began collecting. It provided solace during a grim posting.Vanora Bennett opens the diplomatic bag

    Art was perhaps the only consolation for Laurence Steinhardt during his difficult posting to Moscow. By profession a successful New York lawyer, Steinhardt was American Ambassador from 1939 to 1941, a political appointee who ...

  7. Page 40

    Platform: Go Weston

    Hilary Weston, former Governor of Ontario and owner of Selfridge's has created a gallery in her Florida retreat. What's more, she asked London's Whitechapel Gallery to curate the shows. She tells Lucinda Bredin why art matters

    For the past three years, The Whitechapel Gallery in London's so-called gritty East End has organized a series of exhibitions ...

  8. REVERE, PAUL. 1735-1818. The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King-Street Boston on March 5th, 1770.... Boston: Engraved, printed and sold by Paul Revere, [but printed by Edes & Gill around March 28, 1770].

    Page 45

    Read all about it

    The Caren Archive is one of the great private collections of newspapers and manuscripts. Bonhams is offering some of its treasures. Harold Evans, the greatest newspaperman of his era, delves through the history of news

    News is never over. Every event has a prolog, a happening, and a sequel, the sediment of history waiting to be stirred again. We have ...

  9. Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) Wet Afternoon Linocut printed in grey, reddish brown, emerald green and cobalt blue, 1929, a good early impression, on buff oriental laid, signed, titled dated and numbered 4/50 in pencil, with margins, 238 x 203mm (9 3/8 x 8in)(B)

    Page 48

    Taking flight

    Three Australian artists discovered a book about linocuts which changed their lives. They took off for England in search of the author. Matthew Sturgis tells their story

    Australia, during the early decades of the 20th century, could feel a long way away. A long way away, that is, from the cultural centers of Britain and Continental Europe. As one English ...

  10. Page 52

    Top drawer

    Architect Giles Newby Vincent is selling the contents of his house. He takes Lucinda Bredin on a tour of the collection

    You might well be familiar with the work of Giles Newby Vincent. For among the many historic houses he has decorated, a Georgian rectory in Oxfordshire is now famous as it features in the television series Downton Abbey as ...

  11. Page 55

    Wine: Vintage year

    Burgundy's 2012 grand crus are commanding high prices, says Jasper Morris. Older vintages on the other hand...

    Burgundy lovers have been thrilled with the recent release of the 2012 vintage: a tiny crop, alas, but some beautiful wines, especially the sought-after reds of the Côte de Nuits. The only snag is the price. Not only has supply been impaired ...

  12. Page 56

    Travel: Brussels spout

    Don't believe its dull reputation. From old masters to flea markets, there is much pleasure to be found in Brussels, says Robert Cottrell

    A word of warning. Brussels has the weather that London is supposed to have, and a day without rain is a rare treat in any season. Advice on what to do in case of sunshine will ...

  13. A monumental Neo-Assyrian black basalt royal stele of Adad-nerari III of Assyria

    Page 70

    Written in stone

    The Assyrians were quick to recognize the power of propaganda. They exploited it with monuments built to last. Gwendolyn Leick looks on in awe

    Foreign delegates waiting for a royal audience with the Assyrian king, Adad-nerari III, found themselves staring at wall after wall of carved reliefs depicting the relentless progress of the mighty Assyrian army. The intention was that ...

  14. Page 72

    Type cast

    Matthew Haley, Head of the Book Department, tells Lucinda Bredin why his career is going according to the script

    One never knows what you are going to find, read – or indeed hear – in the Book Department. Felix Pryor, the manuscript expert, is reading aloud in a sonorous voice, "...there is no doubt about the club whose spirit you represent. I ...