Exquisite antique pieces grace Australian auction

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 26th February, 2024

Bidders will have to wait until the end of Melbourne-based Christian McCann Auctions Sunday March 3 sale to contend for an important 19th century Italian carved giltwood centre table (lot 400), distinctive for carved gold entwined sea serpents base support.

The table has a $40,000-$60,000 catalogue estimate and is the highlight of an exclusive auction featuring 19th century French and English antiques that will begin at 12pm at 7 Harper Street, Abbotsford.

So keen is the Christian McCann Auctions to show off what it considers to be some of the finest antiques, and objet d’art to be offered on the open market in Australia for some time, that it is holding a special champagne opening from 5pm-8pm on Thursday February 29 before normal 10am-5pm viewings on Friday and Saturday March 1 and 2 and 9.30am-12pm the day of the auction.  

Another intriguing furniture piece is 19th century French kingwood bronze mounted double bed (lot 207) with four panelled veneer and designed by leading Parisian ebeniste Francois Linke (1855-1946).

Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Linke was apprenticed to a master cabinetmaker and worked in Vienna before travelling to Prague, Budapest and Weimar.

In 1877, he settled permanently in Paris which the following year hosted the third great International Exhibition. Eleven years later, Paris again played host to another World Fair, at which Gustav Eiffel became famous for what was to become the city’s most iconic building.

Swept up by the enthusiasm and confidence gripping Paris as host for these major events, Linke determined to create the most ambitious furniture pieces for the city’s next World Fair in 1900.

The items he exhibited were a massive transition from the traditional interpretations of Louis XV and Louis XVI styles of his fellow cabinetmakers to a new form, vital in its immediacy and paying tribute to Rococo influences.

Linke’s World Fair success and technical brilliance resulted in substantial orders from such influential figures such as the kings of Sweden and Belgium, various princes and an American heiress.

As a result, the showrooms moved to more prestigious Paris premises and fulfilled many more important commissions until the outbreak of World War I.  

After the war, Linke undertook the largest furniture commission ever conceived by undertaking to the Ras El Tin Palace in Alexandria for Egypt’s King Fuad, continuing to flourish and remain active well into the 1930s.

An important 18th century English nine-drawer mahogany knee hole desk (lot 225) with floral decorations and superbly detailed gilt bronze handles is another strong attraction, along with a 19th century French gilt and marble top centre of the room table (lot 323).

Bronze sculptures are an important auction feature with an English Royal Worcester figure of Queen Elizabeth II by former company artist Ronald van Ruyckevelt (lot 105) – model two of 25 – of particular note.

A French art deco bronze and ivory figure of a woman in traditional dress reading (lot 122) after French sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier de Belleuse (1824-1887) ‘Liseuse’ should also intrigue collectors. A founding member of the Societe National des Beaux-Arts, Carrier-Belleuse work encompassed many sculptural subjects and materials – his signed bronzes after 1868 changed from Carrier or A. Carrier to Carrier-Belluese.  

Other significant auction bronzes include an outstanding Japanese Meiji period (1868-1912) Tokyo figure of a man watching his pet monkey dance (lot 193) and a 19th century eastern example of a seated deity with deer and sceptre (lot 203).

Fine clocks play an important part in the sale, particularly a 19th century French palatial boulle bracket timepiece (lot 23) featuring the ancient British warrior Queen Boudica or Boadicea who in 60/61AD led a failed uprising against the Roman Empire.

A 19th century English mahogany cased bracket clock with ormolu mounts (lot 135) is another worthy collector timepiece.

Porcelain pieces are exemplified by lot 281 – a pair of 19th century Royal Worcester two handled urns – while a 19th century French pair of bronze ewers with cherubs on Italian pedestals (lot 160) is not to be missed.

Outstanding Meissen porcelain is another attraction including ‘Europa and the Bull’ (lot 129) with Europa seated on the white bull’s back. Greek mythology details how king of the gods Zeus transformed himself into a bull to abduct his fancy at the time, Princess Europa.

Art is another popular section with artists like Pro Hart and his work Town Gathering (lot 216) and Hans Heysen Tending the Livestock (lot 399) bound to appeal.

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