A celebrated portrait from 1887 of Yom Tov Lipman Heller, the “Tosfos Yom Tov” brought in ten times its pre-sale estimate at Kestenbaum & Company’s Fine Judaica auction which took place on March 12th 2014. Featured on the auction catalogue cover, this large, striking and beautifully framed oil on canvas commanded much attention. Estimated at $12,000-18,000, there was spirited bidding through the high estimate, thereafter, two determined bidders battled it out until the painting ultimately crossed the auction block at $120,000.
The back cover of the auction catalogue featured another fascinating lot--a contemporary miniature Torah Scroll, which drew significant attention and indeed was written up in many media outlets. Purported to be the smallest written at a fraction under 2 inches high, it was housed in an eye-catching, elaborate custom silver ark. This one-of-a-kind piece of Judaica realized $140,000.
A further lot which evoked an enthusiastic response and yielded a surprising result was within a particularly strong section of American Judaica. The first Jewish prayer-book in German published in America, New York, 1856, was estimated at $8,000-10,000 and after competitive bidding, reached $50,000. Another rare lot of Americana in the auction related to the first graduating rabbinical class of Hebrew Union College, the program of the infamous “Treif Banquet”, 1883, which fetched $5,750.
Additional strong sellers in the book section included Jacob Landau’s Sepher Agur, Rimini, 1525-26, which garnered $17,000, Moses Chaim Luzzatto’s influential work of ethics: Mesilath Yesharim, Amsterdam, 1740, which was bought for $10,000 and an official State of Israel printing of the Declaration of Independence from May 14th, 1948, signed by its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, which achieved $15,000.
Standouts among the many manuscripts offered for sale included an important collection of historical letters and documents from the archives of Chief Rabbi Shmuel Salant pertaining to the issue of cultivating the Land of Israel during the Sabbatical Year, which earned $28,000; a most poetic two-page autograph letter written in 1927 by Chief Rabbi Kook encouraging Jewish unity by way of Zionist settlement which earned $9,000; an unusual Yiddish manuscript detailing the art of preparation and distillation of fine liquors, c. 1800, which yielded $5,250 and Myer Joel Wigoder’s autographed Yiddish memoir of his life in Dublin, Ireland in the early 20th century, which fetched $5,000. Further noteworthy lots included a richly illustrated Marriage Contract issued in Singapore, 1918, which hammered at $7,200 and a large vellum illuminated sheet depicting the journey of the Queen of Sheba to meet King Solomon in Jerusalem, Ethiopia, mid-20th century, which sold for $2,100.
Notable in the Graphic Arts section was Arthur Szyk’s Gloire A La Folie Des Braves, in pen and ink on paper, London, 1939, which realized $7,400 and a framed Haganah recruitment poster encouraging World War I veterans to join the cause, Tel Aviv, c. 1940 which garnered $2,600.
Among the Ceremonial Objects offered, a Bezalel silver megillah case attained $6,000, a Bezalel decorated artillery shell-case vase achieved $5,500; a Panama-related English silver tankard, 1909, fetched $5,250; an Australian-related English silver Torah Shield garnered $4,500 and a stately American wooden Synagogue lectern, 20th century, was purchased for $3,600.
Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica: Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art will be held in June, 2014.
For further information, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org