Issue 51, Summer 2017

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin

"When Charlie Thomas brought down the hammer on lot 533 of the Harlech Sale – a 1925 Douglas motorcycle – the room of spectators gave him and the team of auctioneers a standing ovation. It wasn't just because the sale had been an all-day marathon, but because every single lot sold. This accords the auction the rare status of a 'white glove' sale, so-called because tradition dictates that the auctioneer be given a pair of white gloves at its conclusion (rather in the same way a footballer is allowed to take home the match ball for scoring a hat-trick).

The Harlech Sale highlighted what a wonderful spectacle an auction is. Of course, Bonhams has state-of-the-art technology for online bidding – which now accounts for more than 25 per cent of bids – and the bank of specialists engaged in taking telephone instructions grows every year. But auction aficionados will say that being in the room – if you can – is not an old-school affectation: from a privileged seat in the stalls you can take the temperature of a sale, reading the atmosphere, where the next bid will come from and how much it will be.

It's enormous fun. In fact, there are moments in the saleroom that I put on the same level as memorable nights at the theatre. This March, Dalí's portrait of his sister Ana María, which we featured in the previous issue of Bonhams Magazine, came up for auction. The room was bursting, and a cacophony of excited bidding came down the telephones, in every known language. The bidding between the phones began at a lick and continued that way until the painting was knocked down at £1.8 million to the Dalí Foundation, double the estimate. Cheers broke out throughout the room.

Other memorable moments this season have been our Global CEO, Matthew Girling, presiding over a saleroom tussle for a dazzling diamond ring, James Knight bringing down the hammer on a 1966 Ferrari 330GT – a motor that every person in the tent seemed determined to drive home – and Ralph Taylor making a world-record for a sculpture by Saloua Choucair, sold for £275,000 – more than 10 times its estimate. If that's not drama, I don't know what is.

This season our international salerooms are poised to bring you more theatre: a Sidney Nolan painting to be offered in Sydney; the Easter Rising surrender signed by Patrick Pearse; a newly discovered drawing by the Renaissance master Parmigianino, and a Rolls-Royce that once belonged to the Maharana of Udaipur."

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 2

    News

    Sister act

    Joan Collins led a stellar cast at the London party in celebration of 'Jackie Collins – A Life in Chapters', an auction at Bonhams Los Angeles held over two days in May. Melanie Sykes, Shakira Caine and Nicky Haslam were among the celebrities playing Oscar-worthy support roles, alongside the family of the much-missed late novelist. Surrounded by some highlights ...

  2. Page 4

    Platform
    Good reception

    Andrew Graham-Dixon has made more arts documentaries for the BBC than anyone else – and he isn't finished yet. Alastair Smart meets him

    There aren't too many people who can say they've had pizza and a glass of wine at 2am in the Sistine Chapel," says art critic and TV
    presenter Andrew Graham-Dixon. "But I'm pleased to ...

  3. Marc Chagall (Russian/French, 1887-1985) Le Cirque The portfolio, comprising the complete set of 38 lithographs (23 in colours and 15 in black), 1957, on Arches wove paper, in- and hors-texte, with title page and justification, text in French, signed in pencil on the justification, copy number 197 of 250, published by Tériade Editeur, Paris, the full sheets, loose (as issued), the colours very fresh and vibrant, in very good condition, within original paper wrapper with title and cream cloth-covered portfolio with gilt lettering on the spine and matching slipcaseOverall 451 x 343mm.

    Page 8

    Join the circus

    Marc Chagall's art was inspired as much by the crowd-pleasing antics of the acrobats as by the esoteric world of dreams. Lucia Tro Santafe is captivated

    With its clowns, trapezes, sword-swallowers and performing elephants, the circus has inspired artists across the centuries. It's little wonder. From Watteau via Seurat to Picasso and Matisse, the sheer visual spectacle of ...

  4. 'The Rolls from Rajputana' Formerly the property of His Highness the Maharana Sir Fateh Singh Bahadur of Udaipur, G.C.S.I. (1849-1930),1914 Rolls-Royce 40/50hp Silver Ghost Open Tourer  Chassis no. 64 AB

    Page 9

    Road raj

    The first owner of this exquisite Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was
    no run-of-the-mill maharajah. Neil Lyndon investigates

    The original purchaser of the 1914 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis number 64AB, registration number EL 1208, body number 5130, was no mere mortal. In point of fact, Sir Fateh Singh Bahadur – Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India, of the Indian Empire and ...

  5. Page 19

    Wine
    Is it worth it?

    Domaine Romanée-Conti is the world's most expensive wine.Henry Douglas says pay whatever it costs...

    The most expensive example of something is not necessarily the best. But this is the case with Burgundy's Romanée-Conti. Made in tiny amounts of rarely more than 500 cases, most bottles hover in price between £12,500 to £15,000 each, which makes ...

  6. Page 20

    My favourite room
    Jasper Conran

    Jasper Conran finds Trinity College Library a room for the mind to roam

    I love libraries, utterly love them: that sense that the knowledge of the whole world is sitting there beside you in serried ranks.
    I got a taste for these temples to the book as a child. My mother was great friends with Alexander Weymouth, as he was ...

  7. Dmitrii Semenovich Stelletsky (Russian, 1875-1947) 'The Fox Hunt'

    Page 22

    Russian unorthodox

    Looking back to move on, Dmitri Stelletsky mined his country's mediaeval imagery to forge a very modern art. Rosamund Bartlett is dazzled by his achievement

    On the eve of World War I, the most radical members of Russia's avant-garde were seeking stylistic renewal in their native artistic culture. Stravinsky turned to Russian folk song. Poet Velimir Khlebnikov revelled ...

  8. Sidney Nolan (1917-1992) Ned Kelly, 1966

    Page 26

    Outlaw art

    When Australia's most-famous painter looked at himself, a man in an iron helmet looked back. John McDonald explains Sidney Nolan's obsession with the renegade Ned Kelly

    This year is the centenary of the birth of Sir Sidney Robert Nolan OM, AC – 'Sid' to his friends. Nolan (1917-92) was the best-known Australian artist of the 20th century, although opinions ...

  9. IRELAND –  PATRICK PEARSE & THE EASTER RISING The Order of Surrender, typed and signed ("P. H. Pearse") and dated ("29th April 1916/ 3.45 p.m.")

    Page 30

    Post mortem

    The catastrophic Easter Rising had barely begun before it was over. Yet this abortive revolt against Britain, Ronan McGreevy discovers, would lead directly to an independent Ireland.

    On Easter Sunday 2016, one of the largest public events ever staged in Ireland took place in Dublin. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to commemorate the centenary of the ...

  10. Girolamo Francesco Mazzola, called il Parmigianino (Parma 1503-1540 Casal Maggiore) Three studies of a nude female figure unframed

    Page 32

    Drawing master

    Parmigianino lived hard, died young and produced the most astonishing work – including this newly discovered study for a fresco, says David Ekserdjian. Pity they put him in gaol before he could finish ...

    Across the entire Italian Renaissance there are few artists as fascinating as 'il Parmigianino'. Born Francesco Mazzola in 1503, he died in 1540 at the age favoured by ...

  11. Page 48

    Jagger edge

    There is more than one kind of heroism. Consider, for instance, two very different artistic portrayals of bravery during the First World War. The courage of soldiers living and dying in blood and mud is portrayed with Expressionist intensity in Charles Sargeant Jagger's No Man's Land (1919-20), a bronze relief of stiff emaciated bodies, horrifically snagged on barbed ...

  12. Page 60

    Travel
    Melbourne again

    Sydney, watch out, says Bruce Palling. The world's 'most liveable city' is now the creative heart of Australia too

    Sydney and Melbourne have a life-long rivalry: the former is considered a sun-drenched hedonist, the latter a frumpish maiden aunt. It is no coincidence that both Barry Humphries and his suburban alter ego Dame Edna Everage are Melburnians. When I ...

  13. Page 67

    Inside Bonhams
    Lord of the rings

    Many territories now produce exceptional gems. Graeme Thompson tells Lucinda Bredin how Bonhams masters this new landscape

    "It's almost a sixth sense I use when encountering gemstones. They come in such a rich variety of colours, but sight alone doesn't explain it," says Graeme Thompson, Director of Jewellery for Bonhams Asia.

    We're discussing a 10.21-carat Kashmir ...

  14. Lee Ufan B. 1936 , 李禹煥 From Point

    Page 72

    Around the Globe

    Alastair Smart looks at a selection of Bonhams sales around the world

    New York: Airborne investigations

    Victor Franz Hess could never be called your stereotypical scientist, sitting secluded and sun-deprived in his laboratory. In 1911 and 1912, the Austrian physicist made a series of daring ascents (to heights of 17,000 feet) in a hot-air balloon to take measurements of ...

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