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The final odyssey for Greek treasures January 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Auctions.

That Royalty sells has never been in doubt, but the intensity of interest in pieces that once graced Royal Palaces was indicated by last year’s spectacularly successful auction of the property of Princess Margaret.

On January 24 and 25 more regal-related excitement is expected to be generated when property once belonging to King George I of the Hellenes (1845-1913) is on the block at Christie’s. The sale contains myriad pieces, from household trinkets, accessible to even modest purses, to spectacular items with prices to match.

“The items were in storage in Greece until 1991, when they were brought to the UK, and have now been put up for sale,” says Henry Williams-Bulkeley, of Christie’s. “There are 900 lots, two thirds of which are silver, and there is also jade, Fabergé pieces, furniture and paintings.”

For anyone wishing to furnish their home like a castle, there is plenty to choose from. Lots 179 to 184 are sets of chairs and sofas that once graced the ballroom of the Royal Palace at Athens, with estimates starting at only a few thousand pounds.

At the heart of the sale, however, is the silverware, although George I was not a collector as such. “As a monarch, he bought or was given silver to be used for private dining and banquets, as well as pieces to be displayed in the Palaces,” says Mr Williams-Bulkeley. “Lots 1 to 42 are items made by Robert Garrard, which George acquired on acceding to the throne in 1863.”

Many of these pieces, sets of salt cellars, for example, are estimated at only a few hundred pounds, although their provenance means that they could fetch considerably more. But at the other end of the scale are magnificent showpieces, the most important of which is probably Lot 303, a pair of massive silver pilgrim flasks by Garrard, the crown jeweller, presented to King Christian IX of Denmark as a wedding present. They are inscribed: “From Albert Edward Prince of Wales. Alexandra Princess of Wales. And George King of the Hellenes 26th May 1867.” The first two of these were, of course, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, epitomising the close relationship between European Royal families. These are estimated at £80,000 to £120,000.

Mr Williams-Bulkeley says: “The flasks are an historical revival form. The shape came from Germany in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, as the leather flasks taken on pilgrimages. In the 19th century Garrards and others revived the form and transformed them into display pieces for grand occasions.”

Another highlight of the sale is Lot 506, a pair of Danish soup tureens that also bear regal inscriptions. They have an estimate of £30,000 to £50,000.

These and many other important items are expected to attract intense interest from Greek and Danish buyers, but there is much to excite the more modest collector, too. Lot 335, a Russian silver christening set made up of an egg cup, egg spoon, salt cellar and salt spoon, is expected to fetch between £500 and £700.

Nor should the Fabergé content of the sale be overlooked. Although commonly assumed to be out of reach for all but the deepest pockets, lots 363 onwards all merit examination. Some are expensive, such as Lot 370, a sparrow in the form of a Japanese netsuke. a button-like toggle, at £10,000 to £12,000. However, others have estimates between £1,000 and £1,500. One such piece is Lot 378, a little seal ornament.

A word of caution, however: these estimates are based on the intrinsic value of the pieces, but their regal ownership mean that some are expected to go for at least three times their estimates. After all, how often does one have the chance to buy an item that really was fit for a King?

Related Links > http://www.formerkingofgreece.org and http://www.greekroyalfamily.org/el/index.cfm

Christie’s: 020-7839 9060

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