October 26, 2012

Catalogues of the Collections of J.P. Morgan at Christie’s

London — Christie’s sale of Valuable Manuscripts & Printed Books on 21 November 2012 will feature fine illuminated manuscripts and literary manuscripts by Franz Kafka and Gabriel García Márquez among others. Leading the auction are deluxe catalogues of the collections of one of the most important philanthropists and collectors of the 19th century, J. Pierpont Morgan. Printed books by authors including A.A. Milne, Adam Smith, Jane Austen, and Alexander Pushkin are also featured. All works will be on public view from 17 to 20 November 2012.

J. P. Morgan started collecting as a young businessman and was a notable collector of books, pictures, paintings, clocks and other art objects. These lavish first editions of the catalogues detailing his collections of jewels, works of art, miniatures and watches are hand-coloured and printed on vellum, reflecting the quality and wealth of one of the most recognisable collections in the history of art. The Morgan Collection catalogues were often distributed among heads of states and national museums and copies are seldom offered at auction.
The Catalogue of the Collection of Jewels and Precious Works of Art details one of the most important American gem collections ever assembled; Morgan’s first collection of gems was compiled by Tiffany & Co. and was exhibited at the world’s fair in 1889. The objets d'art illustrated include rings, rosaries and rosary beads, reliquaries, necklaces, pendent jewels, silver and niello medallions, portrait medallions, ivory and enamelled caskets, buttons, seals, chalices, cups, perfume bottles, vases, clocks, a cabinet and a chest of drawers (estimate: £50,000 - 80,000). 

Morgan's passion for buying the finest extant works by the rarest of the early masters is reflected in the superb production of the plates of the Catalogue of the Collection of Miniatures; these highlight the great quality and delicacy of Morgan's miniatures (estimate: £15,000 - 20,000). The third catalogue on offer, Catalogue of the Collection of Watches, is exquisitely decorated with gilt (estimate: £12,000 - 18,000) and is bound in contemporary crushed morocco. The cost of this lavish production was rumoured to have been so large that after Morgan's death his executors cancelled all uncompleted orders. 

Further highlights of this section of the sale include a first edition of the first Winnie the Pooh book, When We Were Very Young, with a letter from the author A.A. Milne presenting the book to the recipient on her wedding day (estimate: £7,000 - 10,000). Milne recalls `when I was very young we gave one of our house masters a wedding present -- an electro-plated tea-tray. Casting one rapid and dazzled glance at it, he said "I thank you from the bottom of my heart; not only for its intrinsic value which must be enormous, but for the feelings which prompted it". What he said when he got it home [...] is not recorded. The tea-tray was not unique [...] the enclosed is, if it is nothing else, for it is the first copy printed. That and "the feelings which prompted it" may give it a value in your eyes'. 

This auction features an extensive selection of manuscripts at a wide range of prices. Highlights include the principal opening to the now lost Seitenstetten Antiphonal (estimate: £70,000 - 100,000): this astounding example of Bohemian illumination comes from a magnificent choirbook made for a Benedictine Monastery circa 1400. A lavishly decorated Parisian Book of Hours containing 46 paintings by some of the finest illuminators of the 16th century is expected to fetch between £250,000 and £350,000, illustrated right. This magnificent manuscript is a perfect demonstration of the flamboyance, luxury and artistic variety at the court of Francis I, the king credited with bringing the Renaissance to France, and was doubtlessly produced for an important member of his entourage - if not for the king himself. 

Also on offer is an illuminated Napoleonic Hebrew prayer scroll (estimate £3,000 - 5,000, illustrated left) and an exquisite example of the most refined, accomplished work of the Venetian illuminator Cristoforo Cortese (estimate: £20,000 - 30,000). 

Autograph Letters & Manuscripts  
Leading a fine selection of autograph letters and manuscripts is a sketchleaf from one of Beethoven’s most radiant works, the string quartet op.59 no.3. This manuscript, dated 1806, is from the beginning of his middle period, when he was already deaf, and his music becomes much denser and more difficult. Frequent cancellations and amendments are clearly visible giving a direct insight into Beethoven’s compositional thought-processes (estimate: £90,000 - 120,000). 

An extremely rare typescript of the short story ‘En este pueblo no hay ladrones’ by Gabriel García Márquez appears to be the first Márquez manuscript to be offered for sale at international auction (estimate: £50,000 - 80,000). The story (known in English as ‘No thieves in this town’) was made into a film in 1965 by the Mexican director Alberto Isaac, a friend of Márquez. This heavily-worked typescript provides a rich insight into the author’s working methods, showing several stages of revision to an initial typescript, with corrections ranging from individual verbal substitutions to cancellations of sentences and whole paragraphs. 

An Important Collection of Russian Books & Manuscripts with Imperial Provenance
On 29 November 2012, on the eve of the 400th year since the foundation of the Romanov dynasty, Christie’s will have the great privilege of offering for sale the largest group of Russian books and manuscripts with noble provenance to come to auction in decades: the collections of Emperors Paul I, Alexander I, Alexander II, Alexander III, Nicholas I, Nicholas II, Empress Elizabeth, and numerous Grand Dukes and Duchesses are all represented. The fate of books from the Russian palaces mirrors that of the palaces themselves: war and revolution took their brutal toll. Material with imperial provenance of the quality and importance represented in this collection is seldom offered for sale, and hardly ever in quantity. It would be virtually impossible to form another of this scope and caliber today. Highlights include The Coronation Album of Alexander III (estimate: £70,000 - 100,000) and a unique album of drawings of the coats-of-arms of members of the court of the future Emperor Paul (1796-1801), son of Catherine the Great (estimate: £150,000 - 200,000). 

Please click here for the ECatalogue.