Auctions | March 13, 2013

Christie’s Presents The Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow

March 2013—New York. Christie’s is pleased to announce the sale of one of the most celebrated American book collections —The Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow. The collection will be sold throughout 2013 in four parts, with an inaugural evening sale of highlights from Schongauer to Chagall on 9 April and The Middle Ages and the Renaissance on 10 April. Highly regarded among their contemporaries, the collection formed by the Vershbows is truly unparalleled, with its unique integration of illuminated manuscripts, books and prints.

Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Arthur Vershbow (1922-2012) graduated from MIT with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and later worked on radar technology at the university during World War II. Arthur and Charlotte (1924-2000) married in 1947 and quickly became avid collectors, making their first donation of a work of art to the Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in 1956 and continuing to donate each year thereafter. Their active involvement in the book world eventually led to Arthur’s election as President of the Boston Athenæum in 1982, a position which he held for over a decade. He also served on the Board of the Museum of Fine Arts from 1982 until his death last year.


Leading the first sale is a complete first edition of Francisco Goya’s La Tauromaquia (estimate: $400,000-600,000). Comprised of thirty-three plates that beautifully depict the imagery and emotion of a Spanish bullfight, La Tauromaquia is the rarest of Goya’s four main intaglio series. The Vershbow copy is one of only three known to have a title-page and the table in manuscript - all by the same calligrapher - with variant titles, the prints in a different order and the printed plate - numbers scratched and altered in pen-and-ink, making it all the more exceptional. Los Caprichos will also be offered on April 9, and the Los Proverbios and The Disasters of War will be included in Part Four of the sale in October.

The Vershbow’s set of Invenzioni Capric di Carceri is the third and rarest issue of the first edition of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Prisons (estimate: $180,000-250,000). His most celebrated work of architectural fantasy, Carceri is comprised of fourteen plates, each depicting cavernous underground spaces with looming architectural forms. Only five other complete sets of this issue have been recorded, the Vershbow’s being distinguished by the artist’s ink dabbing on ten of the plates.

A five hundred year old Book of Hours inscribed by Henry VIII is also among the highlights (estimate: $300,000-400,000). A superbly printed and colored example, this copy bears an illustrious provenance, having once been given as a gift from King Henry VIII to his cousin. The prayer book has been inscribed by the King: “I pray you pray for me your/lovyng cousin Henry R.” While manuscripts and printed books that once belonged to Henry VII I may be found among various American and European libraries, they are extremely rare in private hands.

Max Beckmann’s Berliner Reise of 1922 features ten lithographs that depict the bleakness of life in a large city following World War I (estimate: 80,000-120,000). Complete sets, such as that in the Vershbow Collection, are extremely rare; only six sets have been offered at auction in the last twenty-five years. Berliner Reise is the artist’s second series of large lithographs depicting the subject, following Die Hölle, which was published three years earlier in 1919. Similar in format, both series begin with a self-portrait of Beckmann; the following plates are pairs of images in which one illustrates the decadent and frivolous lives of the bourgeoisie and the other the struggles and lowbrow amusements of the urban poor. Rather than end on a note of despondency, however, the final plate of Berliner Reise leaves the viewer with a powerful image of hope, featuring a second self-portrait, this time in guise of a chimney sweep standing on a roof overlooking the city as the sun rises.


  • Book Of Hours, use of Utrecht, in Dutch illuminated manuscript on vellum

Estimate: $150,000-200,000

  • Wassily Kandinsky, Klänge, the complete set of 56 woodcuts including 12 in colors, 1907-13

Estimate: $30,000-50,000

  • Hartmann Schedel, Das Buch der Croniken und Geschichten Nuremberg: Anton Koberger for Sebald Schreyer and Sebastian Kammermeister, 23rd December 1493

Estimate: $300,000-500,000

  • Odilon Redon, A Edgar Poe, the complete set of six lithographs and the paper folder in bistre, 1882

Estimate: $20,000-30,000


Part One: Highlights from Schongauer to Chagall | April 9, 2013

Part Two: The Middle Ages and the Renaissance | April 10, 2013

Part Three: The Baroque and Rococo Period | June 21, 2013

Part Four: The Neoclassical, Romantic, Symbolist and Modern Periods | October 2013

Please click here for the complete eCatalogue.

About Christie’s

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction and private sales in 2012 that totaled £3.92 billion/$6.27 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's has since conducted the greatest and most celebrated auctions through the centuries providing a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War and Contemporary, Impressionist and Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery. Private sales totaled £631.3 million/$1 billion in 2012, an increase of 26% on the same period last year.

Christie’s has a global presence with 53 offices in 32 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including in London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai, Zürich, and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led in growth markets such as Russia, China, India and the Middle East, with successful sales, exhibitions and initiatives in Moscow, Baku, Beijing, Mumbai, Delhi, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium. Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.

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