Issue 37, Winter 2013

Editor's Letter

As I walked through Bonhams new headquarters in New Bond Street, the first thing I noticed was not just the space – the salerooms are huge – it was the light that floods into the building through vast expanses of glass. It gives a feeling of spaciousness and pleasing order while still projecting the sense of drama so essential to an auction house that thrives on excitement.

On the previous page, the Chairman, Robert Brooks, has written about how he wanted to create the most technologically advanced saleroom to date. The new Bonhams is certainly that, but it is also a building that London itself can be proud of. In our special section to celebrate its unveiling, Hugh Pearman interviews Alex Lifschutz, the architect. He discovers the challenges of constructing a building on the footprint of Bonhams' existing site that stretches an entire block from Blenheim Street to Haunch of Venison yard while opening out on New Bond Street itself. To give you a flavour of what is in store when you visit, award-winning photographer, Timothy Soar, has taken the first pictures of the new salerooms.

The new HQ will be the scene of another turning point in the history of this house. Unicef selected Bonhams to auction part of the collection of Dr Gustav Rau, the philanthropist. The sale is led by Fragonard's masterful portrait of the 5th Duc d'Harcourt, which is "widely regarded as his supreme achievement", according to Andrew McKenzie, Head of Old Master Paintings. On page 36, McKenzie writes about Fragonard's exuberant technique, while Professor Robert Tombs describes the context in which the work was painted: the final decades of the glorious court at Versailles.

The Rau Unicef sale in December is one of the many major sales this season: Fine Jewellery features the collection of the bestselling novelist, Barbara Taylor Bradford, while the Motor Car Sale – with its spectacular vehicles – will show off the capaciousness of the new salerooms to the full.

Welcome to the new Bonhams.

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 16

    Saleroom of the century

    The architect behind Bonhams' cutting-edge headquarters gives Hugh Pearman a guided tour

    Alex Lifschutz bowls up on his Brompton bike, smiling broadly. The award-winning architect has come to show me his transformation of Bonhams New Bond Street headquarters, which is in its final frenzy of construction the day we meet. He does not disappoint: this is a very clever project ...

  2. Page 22

    Bid for glory

    Matthew Sturgis looks back at how the auction world evolved from Babylonian 'marriage sales', the innovations of the Dutch and the cut-throat world of the coffee houses of Covent Garden

    The opening of Bonhams' handsome new saleroom in New Bond Street marks an exciting phase in the history of the auction house. It is a reminder, too, of how far ...

  3. The iconic lead statuette of the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 film of the same name

    Page 26

    Bird in the hand

    Sam Spade, private detective, falls in with three unscrupulous adventurers who have been scouring the globe for a certain Maltese falcon. They need look no further: the bird is being sold by Bonhams. David Thomson investigates

    The dying man was clutching a brown-paper parcel, held together by thin rope: "It was an ellipsoid somewhat larger than an American football." It ...

  4. Jean Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732-1806) Portrait of François-Henri, 5th duc d'Harcourt, half-length and looking over his shoulder to his left

    Page 32

    Grande finale

    Fragonard's portrait of the 5th Duc d'Harcourt sums up an age when appearance was everything. Robert Tombs describes the performances, masquerades and theatrics at play in the court of Louis XV

    If you did not live through the years before 1789," sighed Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, aristocrat, bishop, libertine and politician, "you cannot know the real pleasure of ...

  5. Page 36

    Bogie's boy

    Stephen Bogart talks to Zachary Faganson about his father's style

    The jewel-encrusted statue that is both the namesake and focus of the 1941 film-noir masterpiece The Maltese Falcon is a McGuffin, "in the Hitchcockian sense of the word," says Stephen Bogart over the telephone from his home in Naples, Florida.

    It's the reason Sam Spade, played by Stephen ...

  6. A magnificent diamond single-stone ring, by David Morris

    Page 38

    Portrait of a marriage

    The first gift was a gold ring... and then the jewels kept coming. One of the world's bestselling novelists, Barbara Taylor Bradford, tells Lucinda Bredin about her jewellery collection – and the man who bestows them upon her

    We were in Capri," says Barbara Taylor Bradford, who is sitting in the dining room of her New York apartment looking at ...

  7. German School, circa 1480 The Crucifixion

    Page 43

    Sorrow and the pity

    Images of the Crucifixion hit a nerve in 14th and 15th-century Europe. Martin Gayford explores the effect of these unusually intense paintings

    In 1413, an English woman named Margery Kempe set out from Yarmouth for the Holy Land. She travelled via Constance and Venice and finally reached Jerusalem. While she was there, she was granted a 'showing'. "It was granted ...

  8. A rare pair of Bohemian blue and amber part-stained goblets and covers, circa 1850-70

    Page 46

    Glass from the past

    They were colourful and extravagant. And that was just the glasses. John Sandon finds out about the Bohemian lifestyle

    During the 1830s something happened to glass in Europe. It suddenly became colourful, and it also got much bigger. The country-house class had been used to colourless glass. Suddenly here was a new kind of ornament – glass from Bohemia that was ...

  9. Childe Hassam (American, 1859-1935) East Gloucester, End of the Trolley Line 26 1/4 x 21 1/4in

    Page 50

    Maine man

    Childe Hassam embraced France and Impressionism, but it is his American paintings that show his true roots, says Kathleen Burnside

    Confident in personality, robust in appearance and exceptionally vigorous in artistic output during his long lifetime, Childe Hassam (1859-1935) was perhaps the most highly successful exponent of American Impressionist painting in America. During his career he was lauded for his ...

  10. Page 60

    Fast and loose

    David Murray liked a stiff drink and a speedy car. He was also the engine behind Scotland's first racing team. Richard Williams tracks its history from a mews to Le Mans

    David Murray was the life and soul of any party, not necessarily the sort of figure springing to mind when the words 'Edinburgh accountant' are uttered. No pillar ...

  11. Chateau Latour 1944 (4)

    Page 63

    Gentlemen's relish

    Nicholas Faith describes how members' clubs have shaped drinking habits

    Members of London clubs have always been traditionalists. They might be prepared to try Rioja or Chianti at home, but once they step into their regular haunts they still tend to stick to historic favourites: sherry, port, claret, champagne and cognac. Of course habits varied.

    Members of the 'professional' clubs ...

  12. A fine Cheyenne shield and covers

    Page 64

    Shield of dreams

    The Cheyenne tribe needed all the help it could get. Outnumbered and outgunned by the US army, it put its faith in armour imbued with spiritual powers, explains Max Carocci

    The Cheyenne, one of the tribes of the Great Plains, roamed from North Dakota to Mexico. But increasing encroachment of European settlers forced its warriors to go to war. By ...

  13. Page 65

    Rock the Kasbah

    Marrakech has colour, heat and a feeling that anything is possible, says Vanessa Branson

    I first passed through Marrakech more than 30 years ago, but I only really got to know it in the mid-1990s, when my brother Richard was based here on his venture to circumnavigate the world in a balloon. What made that so memorable was a combination ...

  14. Page 79

    My favourite room
    Stirling Moss

    Sir Stirling Moss,one of Britain's most famous racing drivers, on how he conquered the exhilarating Nürburgring

    My favourite track is Germany's Nürburgring. I'm talking about the traditional old North Circuit – the Nordschleife they called it – not the boring piece they added in the 1980s, which is still used for modern racing. The old Nürburgring Nordschleife was ...

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