Today’s auction at Sotheby’s in London of European ceramics, silver, and objects of vertu showed me, as usual, front and center. As I sat by the telephone waiting for my auction representative at Sotheby’s to call, I considered what traits you must necessarily possess to build a valuable collection and asset.
First, you must be constant in your task. Whether you like it or not, you cannot let an auction go by, for that may be the very auction in which the best deal of your life could appear. It happens all the time, especially to those who are assiduous, like I am.
Second, you must always be in pain. Ardent collectors know exactly what I mean. To build a valuable collection means extending yourself and popping up in the red at regular intervals. In other words, no pain no gain.
Third, you must be regular in your auction view, general research, and overall education in your field. You cannot say you’re a collector if the last thing you purchased was five years ago in a flea market.
Fourth, you must want to astonish the rubes. One of the main reasons for collecting is to awe people who do not have your taste, sophistication, talent for skullduggery, and strategy. They need to see what you have done, and you need to be magnanimous in showing your brilliant work, after all, you have been assiduous, efficient, and determined, and your friends and neighbors should be given the opportunity to say so.
Now, having said all this, I welcome a new object in my family… this 17th Century silver dish. Now think for a second at how much water has gone under the bridge since 1659, when Johann Hofner of Nuremberg fashioned this bold and in-your-face composition.
For one thing, this period of European history found every King and Elector in constant war and thus in unending financial distress. What do you do when you need to pay the restive troops before they sack your palace? Why of course, melt every silver object you can see, and melt them quickly, since the money is overdue.
The melting of 17th Century European silver was erratic but thorough. Very few pieces of worth got through this periodic culling of valuable silver and gold objects. What you’re looking at in this plate is one very lucky example of something that survived.
Now the last thing I need at this precise moment in my life is another valuable thing. In the next few weeks, nearly 50 lots of astonishing European artifacts of all kinds are arriving from London, just in time for Christmas. If I were a lazy man, a slothful man, a man inclined to self-satisfaction, or any other derelict collector, I would say “Ho ho ho” and declare that enough is enough, at least for now.
However, I am of the obsessive genre who goes just a little further, whether money is readily available or not, and whether I “feel” like going through the aggravation (for there is always aggravation in acquisition).
To achieve the best, to achieve the impossible dream, one must push one’s self, like it or not. And that is why I was sitting at my end of the telephone line to London just a few hours ago, in the dark, in the cold, for Londinium is 5 hours earlier than Cambridge, and this was a morning auction (from my standpoint).
But it was all worth it. And so, a piece of rare 17th Century silver, dazzling, blinding, brilliant workmanship, finds a good home and a respite for its own constant travels, for you may be sure this stunning object has been atraveling throughout its long, lucky life. It has, for now, arrived at a comfortable locale, and that is enough for today.
A German parcel-gilt embossed silver dish, Johann Hofner, Nuremberg, 1659-60; the undulating border chased with flowerheads around a further central example between leaf scrolls, underside later engraved L.J.K.; 17.5cm, 6 3/4 in diameter; 115gr, 3oz 14dwt.
There are now three volumes of “Treasures from The Lant Collection”. Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Founder
About the author
Now 70, a bonafide septuagenarian, Harvard educated Dr. Lant looks upon his much favored life with happiness and joyful acclimation. Author of nearly 60 books and well over 1,000 articles, this is a man who knows how to tell a story and tell it well. To see his complete oeuvre, go to www.drjeffreylant.com.
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