Sotheby’s London sold the extraordinary collection of the late Stanley Seeger (1930-2011), including Orson Welles’ own working copy of the script of Citizen Kane, Al Capone’s cocktail shaker and a claret jug from the Titanic, among many other interesting items. The sale took place on March 6, 2014.
More than 600 collectors raised their hands in the room, while others participated remotely, with almost 1,600 bids executed over the telephone and a quarter of participants choosing to bid online. The sale’s total of $12.2 million was well above pre-sale expectations.
Over the course of two full days, over 2,000 collectors, dealers and art institutions from across the globe participated in a sale which reflected the engaging intelligence, wry sense of humour and sheer ‘joie de vivre’ of Seeger, believed to be one of the greatest collectors of our time.
“It has been enormously gratifying to see the response from collectors around the world to the unique vision of Stanley Seeger,” says Melanie Clore, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, who worked with Stanley Seeger many times over the years. “This sale brought together an unparalleled group of works from virtually all eras and schools. The sale attracted a record number of participants for a sale at Sotheby’s in the UK, with over 500 new bidders and 2000 participants globally.”
Many of the works in the collection had irresistible stories to tell, making them even more desirable to collectors in search of beautiful and whimsical objects that had brushed with history. Among such pieces were:
Orson Welles’ own working copy of the script of Citizen Kane which soared above estimate, sold for £98,500 ($164,229) well over the estimate of £15,000-20,000. Dated 30 April to 9 May 1940, the script, here with the film’s original title “American”, was twice inscribed on the cover “Mr Welles’ working copy”. This extraordinary rarity sheds a fascinating insight into the making of Citizen Kane – widely acknowledged as among the very greatest films ever made. Welles kept few mementoes of his films and only one other of his Citizen Kane scripts is recorded.
Al Capone’s cocktail shaker sold for £50,000 ($83,365), 50 times the pre-sale low estimate. Engraved “To A ‘REGULAR GUY’ From THE BOYS 1932”, the silver shaker was by repute given to Al Capone by some of his associates as a Christmas gift. In its later life, this remodeled communion cup would provide a certain frisson for Stanley J. Seeger’s guests when they were served Bloody Marys from it.
Admiral Lord Nelson’s Bachelor Teapot, 1799 sold for £56,250 ($93,786). Engraved with initial N for Nelson, the teapot was estimated at £8,000-£12,000. (See above photo)
A photograph of the last Tsar of Russia Nicholas II in a Fabergé frame which sold for £67,500 ($104,206) (est. £7,000-£10,000). In this photograph signed “Nicholas” and dated 1916, Nicholas II wears the uniform of a Field Marshal of the British army – a grade to which he was appointed by Edward VII in 1915. By repute, this frame was sent to Rear-Admiral Nicholas Wolkoff, the Imperial Russian naval Attaché in London, as a present for Lord Balfour, First Lord of the Admiralty from 1915-1916, but was never delivered.
A claret jug from the Titanic which sold for £40,000 ($66,692) against an estimate of £2,000-£3,000. The cut glass jug engraved “RMS TITANIC” was presented to Pursuer Reginal Barker and his officers in commemoration of RMS Titanic’s sea trials in April 1912. It was taken off the vessel before her maiden voyage during which the British liner hit an iceberg and sank on 15 April 1912.
Winston Churchill’s armchair sold for £27,500 ($45,980). The mahogany and upholstered later upholstered in white silk damask, with stained rear legs ending in brass cappings and castors, with a label printed Knight, Frank & Rutley England was made circa 1880. Its presale estimate was £3,000-£5,000 ($5,016 – $8,360).
72% of pieces sold over the last two days achieved prices well in excess of their pre-sale estimates, with the top lot – a 16th century Italian relief showing Hercules wrestling with Antaeus – selling for £350,500 (€426,558), ten times its pre-sale low estimate of £30,000.
“Stanley Seeger’s extraordinary eye and keen sense of fun pervades this collection, and so it has been a joy to see so many people come to our rooms to engage in, enjoy – and in many instances take home with them – part of the magical world that was Stanley’s and Christopher’s,” says David Macdonald, who explored and researched each of the 1,000 objects.
Carrie Coolidge is a Pursuitist contributor based in Manhattan. From 2009 to 2011, Carrie served as Co-Editor of Luxist, the luxury lifestyle website at AOL where she ran the Luxist Awards, a program that honored the very best in fine living. From 1996 to 2009, Carrie was a Staff Writer at Forbes magazine, where she covered real estate, personal finance and the insurance industry, among other areas. Carrie is also the author of six books, including "The Business of America is Business". Follow her on Twitter: @carriecoolidge