an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Metropolitan Museum Goes on Shopping Spree at Sotheby’s Steinhardt Judaica Sale

The Met's new $857,000 crown Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

New Acquisition: The Metropolitan Museum’s $857,000 crown
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

The Metropolitan didn’t only (partially) acquire the Mishneh Torah from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt collection of Judaica today. It later scooped up two lots from Sotheby’s auction of the Steinhardt trove (as reported in the auction house’s post-sale press release):

—Large (13″ diameter) Italian parcel-gilt silver Torah crown, Venice, c. 1740-50, $857,000 (with buyer’s premium); presale estimate: $300,000-500,000 (without premium)

—Pair of Russian parcel-gilt silver Torah finials, Georgia, c. 1896, $43,750; estimate: $20,000-30,000

New York’s Jewish Museum also got into the act, buying one of the items featured in this CultureGrrl Video—a north German bronze lion-form aquamanile, late 12th century, with Hebrew inscription (probably added around the 16th century). It sold to the museum for $377,000 (presale estimate: $200,000-400,000).

(apologies for reflections on the head) Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Hebrew inscription on body of the lion, commemorating its acquisition and donation by a Jewish owner (apologies for reflections on lion’s head)
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

In all, the sale brought $8.51 million, not counting the Mishneh Torah, which was jointly purchased, prior to the auction, by the Met and the Israel Museum. It went for for an undisclosed price that Sotheby’s said was “significantly in excess” of the previous $2.9-million record for Judaica at auction.

The total for two-session, day-long Steinhardt sale was a record for any Judaica auction, Sotheby’s said. The sale was a healthy 92.6% sold by lot; 84.9% by dollar.

A major failure was the 18th-century German silver Sabbath and festival hanging lamp from Frankfurt (also featured in my CultureGrrl Video), which was bought in at $700,000 against a presale estimate of $800,000-$1.2 million.

For identification of other museum buyers at the sale, go here. For the top-10 price list, go here. If the Met eventually issues a press release about its Steinhardt acquisitions, I’ll update here with a link.

an ArtsJournal blog