The Exceptional Bernard De Leye Collection - A Royal Gift

L'Orfèvrerie, the art of gold and silversmithing, was the lifelong passion of the collector Bernard De Leye, and a field in which he is considered a leading connoisseur, collector, and art dealer. Accompanied by one of their lavish and comprehensive catalogues, Lempertz held a special auction in Cologne on 15 July of this exceptional collection, assembled with great dedication and connoisseurship, achieving a very impressive result of 5.3 million euro. Antiques of this outstanding abundance, quality and importance have not been offered on the German market for decades.

The auction comprised 266 artworks: objects of vertu, silver, paintings and sculpture, including pieces of the highest museum and historical quality and dazzling beauty – objects commissioned by kings, the court of the Russian tsar, and high-ranking nobles, and created by the most versatile of artists. The elegant French culture of the 18th century was certainly the subject of De Leye’s passion. In addition, the collection also consisted of Gothic and Baroque sculpture from Italy and Flanders as well as artworks from antiquity, Symbolism and Art Nouveau. Highly significant silver objects from the 17th to 19th centuries were however dominant in the collection.

A Belgian collector invested 1.1 million euro in the top lot of the auction: A chased, gilt silver ewer and matching basin, commissioned by Louis XV in 1770 from Jean-Baptiste-François Chéret working in Paris. The set was a gift from the French king to his former mistress Marguerite Catherine Hainault and her later husband the Marquis de Montmelas. The four accompanying drawings by the silversmith were also offered for sale in this lot (lot 181, € 1 million euro).

A further highlight which sold for € 325,000 was a finely worked amber altar, formerly in the Einsiedeln Abbey in Danzig. Worked in 1690 from light, dark and translucent amber as well as ivory and attributed to Christoph Macher, the altar now moves to a Belgian collection (lot 51, € 280,000). A further Belgian collection acquired a silver drinking vessel in the form of a stag, made in Stuttgart in around 1680 by Johann Jakob Wagner, which sold above its estimate for € 262,000 (lot 92, € 200,000).

A small ivory relief depicting the flaying of Marsyas and attributed to François von Bossuit (1635-1692) was pushed from € 160,000 up to the selling price of € 212,000 (lot 74). Of particular interest to buyers amongst the sculptures was a large, 75 cm tall Corpus Christi, attributed to Master Mattheus van Beveren (1630-1960), for which a Belgian collector was determined to pay € 206,000 (lot 87, € 180,000).

Made in Austria in the mid-17th century, a small altar cross of silver and rock crystal was sold to a Swiss collector for € 137,000, considerably more than the € 80,000 estimate (lot 59). An extremely high-quality mid-13th century Limoges bowl featuring royal French coat of arms in gilt bronze and enamel brought € 125,000 (lot 5, € 100,000).

€ 119,000 was the result for a rarity: a portable small organ known as a “bible regal” from the Berlaymont cloister in Brussels and probably made in Nuremberg in the last quarter of the 16th century. An exceptional object, it attracted several bidders who fought to win the piece (lot 34, € 60,000). Further artworks also underwent enormous increases, such as a stag horn and gilt bronze powder horn with a depiction of Lucretia. Made in South Germany in around 1600, it attracted much attention and eventually sold to a Norwegian collector for € 37,500 (lot 28, € 2,000). An oval silver relief with the temptation of Christ, probably made in the north of the Netherlands and attributed to Arent van Bolten also rose far above its estimate to sell for € 42,000 (lot 42, € 10,000).

The Parisian trade granted € 150,000 for the unique Art Nouveau gold cup “Les Vendanges”, worked in Paris in 1893 by Jules-Paul Brateau and decorated with superb enamelling by Paul Grandhomme (lot 245, € 120,000).


Edgar Abs, Press– and Public Relations, Cologne, 16. July 2021.

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