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Auctioneers and Appraisers

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.

Prove It: Why Provenance Matters for Antique Judaica

Russian Gold-washed Silver Temple-form Hanukkah Lamp

Russian Gold-washed Silver Temple-form Hanukkah Lamp, Kiev, 1890s: Auctioned for $189,600.

The vast majority of items that cross the auction block don’t have storied pasts. They were not owned by world-famous personalities; they belonged to individuals just like me and you.

In the antiques world, provenance indicates an attachment to a famous person or to a famous collection.  Almost without exception, auction buyers will pay more for something with good provenance if there is documentation to prove it.

Documentation is not just family lore: a fragment of paper in great aunt Mildred’s hand noting the story she heard when she received the item as a gift doesn’t count. Provenance is actual proof. It is the proverbial photograph of Moses holding the tablets on Mt. Sinai. Anything less is just a good story, and will appear in an auction catalogue as “according to the family,” or more harshly “by repute.”

My Fine Judaica auction in 2009 included a collection of antique Judaica that arrived on the doorstep without any provenance laid out. Then a mention of a 1940s Sotheby’s auction made me wonder… and some deft research brought me to a Boston-area reference library where I found the Parke-Bernet auction catalogue for “The Renowned Collection of Jewish Ritual Silver Belonging to Mrs. Mira Salomon.” I was thrilled to see recognizable silver Torah Crowns, Torah Breast Plates, Hanukkah Lamps and more.

This was great! The items in the Skinner Judaica auction were now documented to 1949.

I was in for a surprise, because this wasn’t all.  Footnotes mentioned two prior publications. I tracked down Apollo Magazine from 1929 in the Fine Arts Reference Room of the Boston Public Library. The other source: Hebraica, Documents d’Art Juif couldn’t be found in any area library, so I used the ultimate tool, Google, and located the one copy available for sale at the time online. I purchased the folio and waited for delivery.

Salomon collection catalogue

Auction Catalogue for the Salomon Collection

Antique Judaica, Salomon collection

Antique Judaica from the Salomon collection, Paris, c. 1930. Look in the lower left of the image for the Hanukkah lamp pictured above.

It was well worth the wait. The images were fabulous, and to see these very same items that I had been admiring and handling daily in situ in pre-war France was stunning.

I wasn’t alone. For prospective bidders, this information was significant.  The silver items were indisputably old. They belonged to Jewish owners in pre-war France, had survived the Holocaust and were offered at Parke-Bernet (Sotheby’s) in New York in 1949. This was all the information bidders needed to drive prices. The items in and of themselves were special, and the provenance accompanying the silver pushed auction interest to staggering levels. The auction was much more than a sale; it was one more step on a long and storied journey for these remarkable objects.

Anna Pottery Snake Jug and Vezzi Teapot Highlight European Furniture and Decorative Arts Auction

BOSTON, Mass. – December 23, 2011 – Skinner, Inc. will host a Boston auction of European Furniture and Decorative Arts in two sessions on Friday, January 7th and Saturday, January 8th in its Boston gallery. The first of four European Furniture and Decorative Arts auctions Skinner will host in 2011, this sale will offer more than 1,000 lots of material.

Approximately 500 lots of American and English pottery and porcelain will be offered, highlighted by nearly 400 lots of assorted Wedgwood wares, offering something for every level of Wedgwood collector.… Read More

Skinner Auctions Wedgwood, Martin Bros. Pottery and Collection of Ceramic Culinary Molds

BOSTON, Mass. – Dec 23, 2009 – – Skinner, Inc. one of the world’s leading auction houses for antiques and fine art will auction Wedgwood, Martin Brothers pottery, and an unusual and beautiful collection of culinary molds in its upcoming auction of European Furniture and Decorative Arts, featuring fine ceramics.  The auction will be held Saturday, January 9th at 10 a.m. in Skinner’s Boston gallery located at 63 Park Plaza.… Read More

Top 15 Book and Movie Picks: Art, Antiques & Auctions

Who has time to read anymore? In the fast-paced auction business, we still manage to snatch a few minutes to curl up with a good book or check out an interesting film. Antiques appraisers, auctioneers and everyone else here at Skinner wanted to share our favorite fiction, nonfiction, and movies from the past year with you. Plus, if you’ve got an antiques lover or art history buff in your life, these art, antiques & auction themed books and movies could make some great last-minute holiday gifts.… Read More

Collecting Make-Dos: The Search for Creatively Repaired Antiques

The New York Times recently ran an article profiling Andrew Baseman, an interior designer in Manhattan who collects make-dos, or antique objects that have been creatively repaired rather than discarded.

Asian Works of Art and Fine Jewelry Auctions Achieve Strong Results

MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – December 13, 2010 – Skinner, Inc. today announced impressive results at its December 2010 auctions of Asian Works of Art and Fine Jewelry, underscoring continued momentum in 2010 and market enthusiasm around Skinner’s unique offerings. Skinner’s Asian Works of Art auction grossed over $5.7 million, while Skinner’s Fine Jewelry auction grossed over $3.1 million. These sales were just the latest in a string of highly successful auctions at Skinner, marking the year as one of the most successful in the company’s history.… Read More

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