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Antiques and Fine Art Auctions Blog

Skinner expert appraisers and auctioneers discuss antiques, fine art, and collectibles. Keep up on market trends and get collecting tips from antiques experts. Discover the stories behind the art and antiques Skinner offers at auction.

Exotic Places and Famous Faces: 19th-Century Photography on Offer to Benefit the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Skinner is delighted to offer a selection of works from the collection of Harvey Shipley Miller, who, with his then partner, J. Randall Plummer, began acquiring photographs in the 1970s just as the market for the medium was beginning to develop. Proceeds from the January 27 auction will benefit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Among the highlights are a fascinating and eclectic group of the 19th-century offerings, including works by Antonio Beato, Auguste Salzmann, Francis Frith, Oscar Rejlander, Julia Margaret Cameron, and David Wilkie Wynfield, among others.

In the mid-19th-century, increased awareness of and accessibility to foreign lands created a burgeoning market for photographs as archaeological documents; evidence of the existence of religiously significant sites; tourist souvenirs and surrogates for travelers; and fodder for fantasies of foreign and exotic locales. The earliest photographers to the region were Westerners who worked under government sponsorship or as entrepreneurs exploiting the expanding commercial market. They overcame considerable technical difficulties caused by the intense heat, dust, and scarcity of clean water, and cumbersome, heavy equipment, to create enduring images of sites of historical and religious significance.


Auguste Salzmann (French, 1824-1872) Jerusalem, Champ du Sang, 1854 (Lot 127, Estimate: $1,500-2,500)

In 1854 amateur archaeologist and photographer Auguste Salzmann made approximately 150 calotypes (paper negatives) of historical monuments in Egypt and Jerusalem for France’s Ministry of Public Interest. His salted paper print of the Champ du Sang in Jerusalem (Lot 127, $1,500-2,500) depicts the site purchased by Judas Iscariot with the money he received for betraying Jesus. In 1856 Salzmann’s photographs were published in the two-volume series Jerusalem—Photographic Studies and Reproductions of the Holy City from the Judaean Period until Today.

Also on offer are two large-scale albumen prints of a Cairo street view and an Egyptian landscape by Francis Frith (Lot 132, $2,500-3,500; Lot 133, $3,000-5,000). Frith traveled to Nubia and Egypt in 1856-1857. He was the first photographer in the region to employ the wet collodion process for making negatives. Views of the region remained relatively unknown until Frith took advantage of the commercial market, selling albumen prints, stereoscopic images, and albums of text and images, including Sinai and Palestine (1859), in addition to mammoth-plate views such as the two on offer which were produced for an elite clientele. Additional views of Egypt are represented in a disassembled album of 28 prints by various photographers, including Antonio Beato (Lot 134, $1,000-2,000).

[1 of 28] Album of 28 prints by various photographers, including Antonio Beato (Lot 134, $1,000-2,000)

19th-century British photography is represented primarily by portraiture and figure studies. Oscar Rejlander studied painting in Rome and came to Britain in the 1840s. Although his initial interest in photography was as an aid to his own painting, by 1855 he had opened a professional studio in order to supply photographic studies to other artists (Lot 138, $800-1,200). Rejlander’s knowledge of painting and other media is evident in his photographs, which exhibit a partiality for sentimental genre scenes, character types, and allegory (Lot 137, $800-1,200).

Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera as a gift in 1863 when she was forty-eight years old. Over the following decade, in a studio converted from a hen house on the grounds of her home in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, she achieved unparalleled success as an artist. Cameron photographed some of the era’s greatest personalities, including Charles Darwin,

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Alfred Lord Tennyson (Lot 141, $2,000-3,000). The Victorian portraits of Cameron’s countryman David Wilkie Wynfield are also represented in the auction (Lot 140, $600-800).

One of three Portraits of Victorian Artists, including William Holman Hunt, William Gale, and an Unidentified Man in Costume, c. 1860s (Lot 140, $600-800)

Other 19th-century photographers in the Shipley Miller collection include Adolphe Braun (attributed to), Désiré Charnay, Frank Jay Haynes (attributed to), Charles Marville, Eadweard Muybridge, Victor Albert Prout, James Robertson, and Robertson and Beato. There is strong material by 20th-century photographers as well! Come see all the fine photographs on offer during our auction preview hours, which are free and open to the public and held in our Boston gallery, on Wednesday, January 25 from 12-5PM, Thursday, January 26 from 12-8PM, and Friday, January 27 (day of auction) from 9-10AM.


Fairytales & Silver: The Hanau Region of Germany


From the monumental Tiffany centerpiece to the towering Polish tureen on stand and striking Russian Kovsh, the January 12 Fine Silver auction features some of the most imposing pieces I have worked with. While I have too many favorites to list, one such piece that caught my eye was the German sleigh-form centerpiece (Lot 206). Though my interest may stem from daydreams of this piece in the center of a holiday table setting, this impressive sleigh highlights some interesting aspects of the Hanau region of silver production as a whole.… Read More

Whimsy, Wit, and Balance: Alexander Calder at the Height of His Career

Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)  Aula Magna  (Lot 438, Estimate $25,000-35,000)

Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Untitled (Standing Mobile, c. 1965) (Estimate: $150,000-250,000)

Alexander Calder was a prolific artist whose career spanned half a century. He is most renowned for his large colorful sculptures made of abstract forms painted in primary colors. Some of these are mobiles, like the huge one hanging in the central court of the National Gallery’s East Building in Washington, DC, and others are “stabiles” (stationary constructions) like Sandy’s Butterfly which you can see in the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.… Read More

Irresistible Unreserved: Skinner offers a new kind of auction in the New Year, with $10 starting bids on all lots

Marquetry Tea Caddy (Lot 1308, Estimate: $200-300)

Marquetry Tea Caddy (Lot 1308, Estimate: $200-300)

Skinner debuts an innovative online auction format with its Irresistible Unreserved auction that will run from January 5 through January 27.

In this auction, every lot will start at the same nominal bid of $10. Alexander Hamilton, the face of the auction and a man who cared greatly about value, would surely approve.

All of the items have been inspected, cataloged and valued by Skinner’s experts and have been judged to meet Skinner’s high standards regarding authenticity and condition.… Read More

Bountiful and Beautiful: Skinner’s January Fine Art Auctions Feature Fresh-to-Market Works

Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) Untitled (Standing Mobile, c. 1965) (Estimate: $150,000-250,000)

BOSTON, MASkinner, Inc. presents an outstanding two-session auction on Friday, January 27 in its Boston gallery.  Fine Prints & Photographs starts at 12PM, followed by  Fine Paintings & Sculpture at 4PM. Previews will be held on Wednesday, January 25, 12 to 5PM; Thursday, January 26, 12 to 8PM; and Friday, January 27, 9 to 10AM.

Robin S. R. Starr, Vice President and Director of American & European Works of Art, notes that in addition to a broad selection of pre-20th-century material, the auction offers an especially robust quantity of modern and contemporary work in all categories.… Read More

An Evening of Russian Culture | January 25 | Boston


Across the Chasm of Foreignness: Art from the Russian and Soviet Empires in the West



Anna Winestein, a historian of Russian visual culture, will speak about the international reception of art and artists from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union in the last 150 years. The lecture will be illustrated with select artworks from Skinner’s January 27 Fine Paintings and Sculpture auction, supplemented with images of artworks in American and European collections.… Read More

Works by 19th-century, Modern, and Contemporary Masters Featured in Fine Photographs Auction, January 27


On Friday, January 27, Skinner will present its winter Prints & Photographs auction in Boston, beginning at 12 pm. The selection of fine photographs on offer features a range of 19th and 20th century works by such masters as Auguste Salzmann, Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Alfred Stieglitz, Irving Penn, Nan Goldin, and others.

Francis Frith (British, 1822-1898) Street View in Cairo, 1858 (Lot 132, Estimate: $2,500-3,500)

Among the highlights is a group of works being sold to benefit the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).… Read More

Classical Vocabulary/Architectural Ornament: The Designs of James Horton Whitehouse

Pair of Elkington & Co. Sterling Silver Ewers, Birmingham, 1869-70 (Lot 178, Estimate: $3,500-4,500)

James Horton Whitehouse was one of Tiffany & Co.’s earliest and most well-respected designers, producing many of the firm’s most important pieces during his 44-year career. Born in Staffordshire, England in 1833, Whitehouse was trained in metalworking in Birmingham, England, home of leading silver manufacturer Elkington & Co.… Read More

Skinner Celebrates the New Year with Two-Day Auction of European Furniture & Decorative Arts, Fine Silver, and Ceramics

BOSTON, MA – Skinner, Inc. presents an outstanding two-day auction of European Furniture & Decorative Arts and Fine Silver & English Ceramics, taking place in Boston. Session I begins on Thursday, January 12 at 4PM with over 350 lots of fine ceramics and silver. Session II opens on Friday, January 13 at 10AM with 376 lots of fine furniture, porcelain, bronze and marble sculpture, glassware, and more.

Iconic names in design and workmanship including Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Faberge, and Wedgwood are prominently represented.… Read More

Holiday Shopping Made Easy | Skinner’s 2016 Gift Guide

Help your host to set an elegant holiday table with this bright blue salad bowl. Thomas Webb & Sons Blue Cameo Glass Salad Bowl and Two Gorham Sterling-mounted Servers, Lot 2234

Skinner’s auctions truly offer something for everyone on your holiday shopping list. With a wide array of unique items at a range of price points, our current Jewelry, Silver, Tribal Art & Interiors online auction, allows you to easily find bespoke items in one place. Our Discovery team has chosen their favorite holiday gift picks.

Kyle Johnson Specialist, Discovery auctions


Kyle’s holiday gift picks for…


The Motorist Tag Heuer Carrera Mens Wristwatch (Lot 1207, Estimate $300-400) Heuer’s representation on the wrists of Formula One racing greats is unparalleled.

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