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Monday, November 16, 2009


For anyone who loves the ocean and has dreamed of bathing in a clamshell, Bonhams may have the object of their dreams in its Continental Furniture Sale on 25th November, dominated by massive sculptures and private furniture collections from Greece, Spain and the Middle East..

The clamshell sculpture, lot 100, is an important Italian 19th century patinated bronze and giant tropical Tridacna Gigas shell centrepiece attributed to Lodovico Pogliaghi. It consists of a large natural clamshell supported by three kneeling tritons and is estimated to sell for £20,000-30,000.

Lodovico Pogliaghi was born in 1857 in Milan. He studied painting, sculpture and architecture at the Accademia di Brera under Pietro Magni, Giovanni Strazza and Giuseppe Bertini. Pogliaghi established long term relationships with some of the most important patrons in Northern Italy. Pogliaghi worked on the renovation of the Palazzo Turati in Milan in the 1880s but is probably best known for his 1904-08 depiction of the Virgin Mary's Sorrows and Joys on the monumental bronze doors of the Duomo in Milan. The bronze support on this lot, used as a base for the giant clamshell is a mythological representation belonging to the sea world, particularly loved by Lodovico Pogliaghi. One of his early oil paintings entitled "Naiad and Triton", dated 1879, displays his affinity for the triton subject.

Francois Le Brun, Head of Bonhams Furniture and Works of Art Dept says:  “This sale seems to emphasize size with objects that make bold statements thanks to their sheer scale and artistry. Besides the clam shell and triton sculpture there is also a 19th Century Italian life-size three-ton white marble sculpture of Tarquin and Lucretia, and an American Great Exhibition style Steinway piano. These are all objects that nobody could possibly miss or fail to comment on, real conversation pieces. They would provide pleasure for years given their physical stature and class.”

The three ton, life-size, Italian 19th century white marble group shows Tarquin standing by a throne holding Lucretia's hand, a scroll letter at her feet, a tiger to his right hand side resting on a base fronted by an eagle with spreading wings, the throne with the inscriptions SPQR to the arm supports, the back rail depicting the louve of Rome with Romulus and Remus, decorated all-over with grotesques, scrolling foliage, birds and putti, the back with a flaming urn. The sculpture is 55" wide, 64.5" deep, and 79" high is estimated to sell for £150,000-250,000

The unusual piano in this sale, Lot 153, is an important American late 19th century ormolu and porcelain-mounted, parcel-gilt, rosewood, tulipwood, sycamore, ebony, ebonised and marquetry upright piano by Steinway and Sons, first owned by Henry Halsey (1821-1887), the Suffolk County, New York Sheriff. It is estimated to make £10,000 to £15,000.

The Steinway archives state that this "style three" upright piano was completed and sold on the same day, October 8th 1875 to H.R. Halsey from 22 West 53rd Street New York.

The present lot is typical of the prestigious works made to be exhibited at an International Exhibition, the highly decorative association of painted porcelain plaques with marquetery and carved motifs are typical of Exhibition pieces.

Henry Steinway, founder of the firm Steinway and Sons, established his first small workshop in New York in the early 1850s, in Varick Street. William E. Steinway, second president of the company, exhibited his pianos at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia where he received top honours.

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