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Henri Edmond Becker Comb 1902

Henri Edmond Becker Comb 1902

Henri Edmond Becker 1902

From Robert Zehil Gallery

“Twenty years ago on December 2, 1997, I was visiting the Drouot salerooms in Paris when 1 noticed this superb comb in a display cabinet and coming up for auction the next day. Though it bore Becker’s monogram the auction catalog described it as being anonymous with an estimate of 2,000 francs (about $350).

The next day I showed up and stood by the door as I just wanted to buy it and walk away. When the lot came up it was about to be sold to me at 3,000 francs when a little old lady in the third row rose her hand and wouldn’t let go until I finally bought it for about $5,000. I was about to depart having been given a receipt to retrieve the item when I noticed the old lady get up, slowly put her coat on and walk towards to exit door her face filled with sadness. A hundred thoughts went through my mind: She is Becker’s daughter, or relative or may be she is buying for a museum. Feeling terrible about it I decided to offer it to her as a gift. We do donate to museums. Why not to this poor old lady ?

As she passed by me I interpellated her and told her I was the person who bought the comb. She looked at me with tears in her eyes.
I asked her :
– Are you a relative of the artist?
– No
– Were you bidding on behalf of a museum ?
– No
– But you knew who designed that comb ?
– No
– Then why did you bid it up that high ?
– I wanted it so badly
– Why didn’t you go to the Louvre des Antiquaires (a mall for antiques) ? They have lots of beautiful combs at a tenth of that price.
– You don’t understand. I wanted that one in particular. I thought that by shaving its teeth and drilling it at the top it would make a beautiful pendant.

I nearly strangled her and had I done so every dealer in the world would have approved. The good side to the story is that one more time a dealer managed to save an artwork from total destruction.”

Auctions: Hair Ornaments for Sale

There are some lovely pieces coming up for sale. At Christie’s on 19 March 2015, the Chinese art work in the collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth goes on sale. Five pieces are worth noting. This greenish-white Jade Phoenix-form ornament from the Yuan-Ming Dynasty (1279-1644) might have been based on an earlier Song Dynasty example, which…Continue Reading