Bid ideas: Christmas gifts from auctions

Here are some items which would nestle beautifully under any tree

Lot 254, Fabergé egg

Lot 254, Fabergé egg

 

December auctions traditionally offer ideas for unusual gifts which also have lasting value – and Whyte’s pre-Christmas sale at the Freemasons’ Hall on Molesworth Street in Dublin on Sunday has more than 300 lots to choose from. We pick 10 items which would go nicely under anybody’s tree this Christmas.  

1) With their glowing coloured enamel and intricate gold detailing, Fabergé eggs are among the most fabulous miniature artworks ever created. This one has a blue body with three enamel roundels of the Cross of the Order of Malta, which also features on top of the dome. The egg itself opens to reveal an enamelled portrait of a falcon. It may be just four inches tall but this is the ultimate luxury object. Lot 254, Fabergé egg,  €2,000-€3,000

2) When they come  in their iconic “Greek flag” blue-and-white paper wrappers, first editions of James Joyce’s Ulysses are the Fabergé eggs of the rare book world. The novel was published in 1922 by Sylvia Beach’s Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, which had never published a book before – and never would again. The first edition appeared on handmade paper in an edition of just 1,000 copies; the first printing sold out, and within a year Joyce had become a literary celebrity. Lot 229, first edition of Ulysses, €7,000-€10,000

Lot 229, first edition of Ulysses
Lot 229, first edition of Ulysses

3) The architect and designer Charles Robert Ashbee was one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement and he designed this dainty silver bowl, its extended wirework handle set with a cabochon-cut piece of green chrysoprase. It was made by his Guild of Handicrafts in London in 1907. Porringer-type vessels were used in the past for the consumption of homely foods such as porridge or soup which were partially drunk and partially eaten with a spoon: far too elegant for such a purpose, this one deserves to be the star of any seasonal table setting. Lot 253, Arts and Crafts silver porringer, €2,000-€3,000

Lot 253, Arts and Crafts silver porringer
Lot 253, Arts and Crafts silver porringer

4) Paintings of flowers are always popular at this time of year, perhaps because there are so few blooms out there in the real world. For a splash of seasonal colour it would be hard to beat the richly glowing reds of Gladys MacCabe’s still life Geraniums in a Brass Dish; if that’s too traditional for your taste, Brian Ballard’s Nerines in Jug offers a more contemporary take on the topic in spikier shades of blue and purple. Lot 137, Gladys MacCabe, Geraniums in a Brass Dish, €1,000-€1,500. Lot 153, Brian Ballard, Nerines in Jug, €800-€1,000.

Lot 137, Gladys MacCabe, Geraniums in a Brass Dish
Lot 137, Gladys MacCabe, Geraniums in a Brass Dish

5) To spice up your Christmas in authentic style you need plenty of cinnamon sticks, a fistful of cloves, a splash of star anise  – and freshly grated nutmeg.  This gorgeous George III grater, with its oval shape and bright-cut decoration, is one of the most desirable objects in the sale. It’s in two sections: the upper lid opens to reveal the grater, and the bottom compartment is on a flush hinge. Made in London in 1787, it carries the maker’s mark of Thomas Phipps and Edward Robinson, who produced a stream of high-quality snuff boxes, apple corers, wine labels and other domestic objects from their premises at 40 Gutter Lane. Lot 239, nutmeg grater, €300-€400

Lot 238, silver nutmeg grater
Lot 238, silver nutmeg grater

6) Thanks to their rarity and dreamy perfection, John Luke’s jewel-like visions of rural Northern Ireland are priced beyond the reach of most Irish art collectors – his painting Pax fetched £225,000 at Sotheby’s in September – so these two woodblocks are very affordable indeed. They come from the collection of George and Maura McClelland,  and both are signed in pencil on the lower right-hand margin. Lot 185, John Luke Farmhouse, Ballyaghagan, €600-€800

7) Who doesn’t love a whippet – especially when they do that quizzical thing with their ears? This early 20th-century Imperial Russian silver greyhound appears to be seeking its owner’s approval before dashing into the distance on some doggy errand or other. Just under six centimetres tall, it carries the maker’s mark “IP”, has a weight of three ounces and is totally charming. Lot 256, silver greyhound, €150-€200

Lot 256, Russian silver greyhound
Lot 256, Russian silver greyhound

8) Whether your cocktail of choice is a Green Tea Mojito or a Basil Gimlet, you could wrap your fingers around the glass in some style if you happened to be wearing this showstopper of a ring. It features a massive emerald-cut tourmaline flanked by two triangle-cut diamonds, all set in 18-carat yellow gold. The name of the gemstone is derived from the Sinhalese word “tourmali”, which means “mixed parcel” because they come in so many shades and colours: the dark green of this stone sings of pine forests and  parrot feathers and mysterious underwater caverns. Lot 268, tourmaline and diamond cocktail ring, €800-€1,200

Lot 268, tourmaline and diamond cocktail ring
Lot 268, tourmaline and diamond cocktail ring

9) Speaking of drinks, the Whyte’s sale includes a large selection of fine wines, vintage ports and other seasonal spirits. Star of the show is a 30-year-old Middleton Pure Pot Still Irish whiskey in a presentation case. Signed with the sought-after name of master distiller William Maxwell Crockett, this 70cl bottle was laid down in 1969. Just two barrels survived, and 30 years of maturation produced a yield of 400 bottles, so it’s one serious whiskey. For some flirtatious pink festive charm, on the other hand, a couple of magnums of Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence 2017 should fit the bill. The rosé comes from the beautiful Rhone valley vineyard which is still owned jointly by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. “Great sophistication, with rich caramel and strawberry fruit and spice,” say the experts.  “Drink now.”  We don’t need to be told twice. Lot 285 Middleton 30-year-old whiskey, €2,000-€3,000. Lots 326-328, Chateau Miraval rosé €100-€120

Lot 285, Middleton 30-year-old whiskey
Lot 285, Middleton 30-year-old whiskey

10) There is so much funky and affordable wall art in this sale that it’s hard to choose just one piece. Screenprint of Kate Mosse anyone? Or a set of Micheal Healy’s watercolour drawings of Dubliners? A signed Francis Bacon exhibition poster, perhaps? We’ve gone for Micheal Farrell’s lithograph Cafe Triste, maybe because it isn’t particularly seasonal, but would, in its simple white frame, add lustre to even the bleakest mid-winter wall. Lot 19, Micheal Farrell, Cafe Triste, €200-€300.

Whyte’s, 38 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2. Christmas Auction 2018, Sunday, December 9th, Freemasons’ Hall, 17 Molesworth Street, 2pm. See whytes.ie