• NEW YORK, New York
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  • January 26, 2010

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  Over the course of his 50-year career, antiques dealer Peter Tillou has helped to build some of the finest private collections of art and antiques in the U.S.  Admired for his deep  passion and relentless pursuit of knowledge about the items he sells, Mr. Tillou is a sought-after expert on an array of collecting  categories, from coins and antique guns, to  fine  art, furniture, and decorative objects.  On January 28, Christie's is honored to offer  A Cabinet of Curiosities: Selections from the Peter Tillou Collections, a sale of over 225 exceptional items from his vast personal collection.  This eclectic mix of Old Master paintings, European  furniture, tribal  art, cameo  glass,  fossils  and  minerals reflects Mr. Tillou's long career and ever-expanding universe of collecting interests. With estimates ranging from $250 to $250,000, and all lots under $2,000 offered without reserve, the total sale is expected to achieve in excess of $1.6 million.

Catherine Elkies, Head of Private Collections at Christie’s, comments:

"Christie’s is honored to present this wonderfully eclectic selection of items from a truly devoted American collector.  Each item in this sale began as a piece that Peter collected for himself, because he saw something wonderful and wanted to study it further, whether it was a magnificent aboriginal painting, a rare George II cabinet, or an intriguing specimen of petrified wood.  This is an exciting opportunity for interior designers and collectors to take advantage of Peter's incredible knack for putting together seemingly disparate items to create a compelling and cohesive collection."

European Furniture Highlights

Leading  the  sale  is  a  magnificent  offering  of  European furniture,  featuring an  important  mid-Victorian  Burr-Amboyna,  Amaranth,  Palmwood,  Ebonised and Marquetry  Center  Table  (pictured  right;  estimate: $70,000-100,000),  which  was  featured  in  the  1867 International Exhibition in  Paris.   At  the  time, The Art Journal proclaimed "there was  no work of  its  class  that demanded  and  deserved  greater  admiration". Embellished with an interlaced "AM" monogram on the top, this exquisite table was designed by Owen Jones and finished by the eminent London cabinet-making firm of Jackson and Graham as part of a substantial commission for the wealthy collector Alfred Morrison (1821-1897).  Other magnificent examples of inlaid furniture that are believed to be from the same commission are now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Another highlight  is a George II Mahogany,  Padouk,  and Parcel-Gilt  Secretaire-Cabinet  (estimate: $150,000-250,000). With its curving bombé base and intricate carved details, the cabinet is a superb example  dating from  1740-1750  that shares details  with  works produced  by Royal  cabinet-makers William Hallett and his disciple William Vile.

Additional furniture highlights include a 17th century Spanish polychrome-painted  walnut and pine commode (estimate: $30,000-50,000)  and a  group  of fine antique  collectors  cabinets  that open to reveal multiple rows of drawers, perfect for storing and displaying antique medals, coins, flowers, or shells.  The lead item  of the  group is a late 17th century South German Inlaid-Walnut  and Parcel-Ebonized Table Cabinet (estimate: $7,000-10,000).

Fine Art Highlights

With  an  appreciation  for  fine  art  that  is  rooted  in  the  classics,  Mr.  Tillou's  collection  includes numerous examples of 17th a nd 18th century European art, including the delightful  Trompe l’oeil with a flame  stitched bag   by the 18   century French artist Jean  Valette-Falgores, called Penot  ( estimate: $60,000-80,000), and an appealing group of Old Master portraits, led by Portrait of a girl  in a  red  dress  holding  her  dog,   attributed  to the  17th century  Italian  artist  Carlo  Ceresa  (estimate: $70,000-90,000), and a 17  century Anglo-Flemish School painting,  Portrait of a gentleman and a lady, full-length, with a monkey and a dog, in an interior .  Renewed scholarship has determined that the sitters are Florence Poulett, daughter of John, 1st Lord Poulett and her husband, Thomas Smyth of Long Ashton, Somerset.

Among the many sculptural treasures in Mr. Tillou's collection are the intricate figures, clubs, masks, and shields that comprise the sale’s selection of  tribal  art.  Leading the group is  a  Kota Reliquary Guardian Figure from Gabon estimate: $30,000-50,000), a matched  pair  of brass figures, one male and one female, from the Yoruba, Ogboni Society in Nigeria (estimate: $25,000-35,000), and a fine Marquesas Island club,  ‘u’u’ , with eyes and mouth in the form of a ‘tiki’ head on both sides (estimate: $25,000-35,000).

A  small  selection  of  20th  century  aboriginal  paintings  reflects  Mr.  Tillou's continuing  interest  in  indigenous  cultures  and  non-Western  art  forms. Characterized by vivid colors, geometric patterns, and recurring circular motifs, the group  includes  Wenton Rubuntja's   Grandfathers Dreaming  (estimate: $4,000-6,000),  which  Mr.  Tillou  purchased  direct  from  the  artist,  Mary  Dixon Nungurrayi's  Kunyatjarri Dreaming  (pictured at right; estimate: $3,000-5,000), and Big Dave Oldfield Tjupurrula’s  Yala, Snake and Dingo Dreaming  (estimate: $4,000-6,000).  All were included in a 1993 exhibition of Mr. Tillou’s collection at the William Benton Museum of Art in Storrs, Connecticut.

Decorative Objects Highlights

The largest section of the sale is a veritable treasure trove of over 100 decorative objects, including pottery,  glass, stoneware,  candelabras, and  rugs.    A stunning selection  of late  19th century  cameo glass in shades of blue, citron, and red features 14 exceptional examples by Thomas Webb & Sons, including several marked “Cameo * Gem”, a signifier of the highest quality (estimates range: $1,800-6,000).  Elsewhere, a small group of Chinese pottery figures includes a Pair of  Painted  Pottery  Figures  of  Horses  from  the  Northern  Qi  Dynasty  (estimate:  $20,000-30,000),  and  a  large  Painted  Pottery  Figure  of  a  Court  Lady  from  the  Tang Dynasty (estimate: $20,000-35,000).

Among the most unusual items in the collection is a rare 16th century etched and inlaid  German wheel-lock  sporting  gun  with  finely  detailed  scenes  of  hunters  and  peasants  (estimate:  $20,000-25,000), a beautifully-preserved 19th century Himalayan saddle with iron fittings and bronze stirrups (estimate $2,000-3,000), and a charming painted cast-resin figure of a mastiff that stands more than 3 and a half feet tall (estimate: $3,000-5,000).

Natural History

Rounding  out  the  selection  of  decorative  objects  is  a stunning array of  fossils,  geodes,  amonites  and seashells in a variety of shapes, textures, colors, and sizes.  Long a favorite of  interior designers, these items  add  interest to any style  of décor.  Highlights include  a large green fish fossil  (estimate:  $10,000-15,000),  a  giant  amonite measuring  over  a  foot  high  (estimate:  $1,500-2,000), a large  Mellon  shell  and  a  Horned  Yellow  Giant  Helmet shell  ($1,000-1,500),  and  a  beautifully-hued  specimen  of petrified wood (estimate: $700-900).


Auction:  A Cabinet of Curiosities: Selections from the Peter Tillou Collections                   January 28, 2010

Viewings : Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries                    January 23-28, 2010

A special extended evening preview of the sale is scheduled for Monday, January 25 from 5 – 8 pm


*Estimates do not include buyer's premium

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Images available on request

Complete e-catalogue for this sale is online at:









About Christies

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had global auction and private sales in 2008 that totalled £2.8 billion/$5.1 billion. For the first half of 2009, art sales totalled £1.2 billion/$1.8 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise, as well as international glamour. Founded in 1766 by James Christie, Christie's conducted the greatest auctions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, and today remains a popular showcase for the unique and the beautiful. Christie’s offers over 450 sales annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $80 million. Christie’s has 53 offices in 30 countries and 10 salerooms around the world including London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Milan, Amsterdam, Dubai and Hong Kong. More recently, Christie’s has led the market with expanded initiatives in emerging and new markets such as Russia, China, India and the Middle East, with successful sales and exhibitions in Beijing, Mumbai and Dubai.

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