Bloomberg News

Billionaire Safra Cockatoos, Commodes Star in $46 Million Sale

October 21, 2011

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- An 18th century French commode and a 17th century German ivory cup from the collection of billionaire banker Edmond J. Safra and his wife Lily helped raise $45.9 million at Sotheby’s New York this week.

The auction was expected to bring more than $40 million.

The top lot of the four-day marathon, “Property from the Collections of Lily and Edmond J. Safra,” was a Louis XVI-era ormolu-mounted Japanese lacquer commode with secretaire that fetched $6.9 million, barely missing the top estimate of $7 million.

Another ebonized ormolu-mounted Japanese commode from the reign of Louis XV sold for $3.4 million, within the presale estimate range of $3 million to $5 million.

This was the second round of sales from the Safras’ homes in the U.S., Switzerland and France. The first took place in 2005 and totaled $48.9 million.

Born in Beirut, Edmond J. Safra founded Republic New York Corp. and Safra Republic Holdings SA. In 1999, he sold his holdings in both companies to London-based HSBC for $10 billion. He supported educational, cultural, religious and medical causes around the world. He died in a fire in Monaco in 1999.

Items that combined exquisite craftsmanship with appealing provenance and conservative estimates did well.

Ivory Cup

A delicate, elongated ivory cup made in South Germany in the first half of the 17th century surged past its top estimate of $150,000 to fetch $614,500. The prices include buyer’s commission; the estimates do not.

A pair of Victorian gilt-bronze tables by Holland & Sons, which belonged to Prince of Wales Albert Edward, the future King Edward VI, sold for $1.1 million, seven times above the low estimate of $150,000.

A group of 12 neoclassical bronze busts, including Roman emperors Caligula, Julius Caesar and Augustus, brought $398,500, almost five times its top estimate of $80,000.

Buyers also competed for colorful 18th century bird figures made of porcelain. Magpies and cockatoos flew past their estimates. A pair of golden orioles fetched $314,500, more than three times its top estimate of $100,000. A duo of green parakeets went for $386,500 against the presale estimate of $120,000 to $180,000.

Big-ticket paintings were less successful. A canvas by James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot, “Sur la Tamise (Return from Henley),” depicting an attractive woman stepping off a boat, failed to sell. It was estimated to bring $1.5 million to $2.5 million.

Another large painting by the 19th-century Frenchman, “The Princesse de Broglie,” with a $500,000 to $700,000 estimate, also went unsold.

--Editors: Zinta Lundborg, Lili Rosboch.

To contact the reporter of this story: Katya Kazakina in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

The Good Business Issue
blog comments powered by Disqus