Christie’s Exceptional sale on July 7 realised a total of £19.4m. While its surprise performer from a celebrated suite of solid ivory Anglo-Indian furniture hammered at £3.1m, topping the sale was an Egyptian Old Kingdom limestone statue made for Mehernefer and his son, c.2400-2300BC. It sold for its opening ‘guarantor’ bid of £5m. Its provenance dates back to the mid-18th century, when it was first presented to George III as a gift from the British ambassador in Constantinople. The king later gave it to Thomas Worsley (1797-1885) at Hovingham Hall, where it has remained ever since.
A pair of monumental Louis-Philippe white marble and giltwood five-light figural torchères last sold as part of a set of four at the Mentmore Towers sale in 1977 took £720,000, over 12 times the low estimate, while another lot with a Rothschild provenance, a pair of Louis XVI ormolu and marble models of the Borghese vase attributed to father and son Luigi and Giuseppe Valadier trebled hopes at £700,000. The latter had sold only last year for £95,000 at Woolley & Wallis as part of 16 lots from Exbury House, the country estate of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882-1942).
Sotheby’s equivalent group of auctions earlier in the week included a near sell-out 19-lot sale of Master Sculpture from Four Millennia on July 5.
The two best-performing lots, both on the market for the first time in over half a century, were a remarkable early 16th century Netherlandish boxwood prayer nut carved with scenes from the Passion of Christ (£480,000) and a mid-17th century fruitwood carving of Adam and Eve by Leonhard Kern (£730,000 – see Pick of the Week).