Bidders who participated in strong numbers in the saleroom, by phone and online were drawn to Kestenbaum & Company’s November 13th auction of Fine Judaica resulting in a fabulous sale across the board. The extensive 429 lot auction consisted of Printed Books, Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, Ceremonial Objects and Graphic Art and featured Selections from the Collection of the late Dr. Alfred Moldovan. Every section performed strongly, and some extremely high prices were achieved along the way, especially in the area of American Judaica.
The auction got off with a bang when Lot 4, Isaac N. Cardozo’s Discourse Delivered in Charleston, 1827, estimated at $10,000-15,000 brought in $80,000. Intense competitive bidding from multiple sources continued throughout this Americana section leading to a result such as Lot 17, the Constitution of the Rabbinical Literary Association of America, Cincinnati, 1880, estimated at $3,000-5,000 which soared to a hammer price of $70,000. Another most exciting result was the first Hagadah printed in America, New York, 1837, which achieved $100,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $60,000-80,000 (Lot 108).
High prices in the book section of the auction were also attained for Berachiah ben Natronai HaNakdan’s book of fables, Mishlei Shu’alim (Paudua, 1557), which garnered $20,000 against an estimate of $2,000-3,000 (Lot 85) and David Abenatar Melo’s Los CL. Psalmos de David, the excessively rare first Jewish translation into Spanish of the Book of Psalms, Hamburg, 1626, which yielded $25,000 (Lot 218). An exceptionally scarce collection of four printed broadsides, being the first illustrated contemporary accounts of the appearance, rise and ultimate fall of the false messiah, Shabthai Tzvi, Augsburg, 1666 sold at its top estimate of $60,000 (Lot 219).
Also escalating well past estimates was the New York Times issue of May 15, 1948, exclaiming “Zionists Proclaim New State of Israel”, which reached $3,000 against a $300-500 estimate (lot 153) and the May 16, 1948 issue of The Palestine Post heralding “State of Israel is Born” which brought in $6,000 against an estimate of $1,000-1,500 (lot 154).
Headlining the Manuscripts section was a Torah Scroll presented to Czar Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia by the Jewish Community of Penza, Russia, 1904, which realized an above estimate $42,000 (Lot 322) and a magnificent illuminated manuscript on vellum produced to commemorate the appointment of the United Kingdom’s first High Commissioner to Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, London, 1920, which was purchased over its estimate at $44,000 (Lot 321). Another highly sought after item was a Swedish Protective Passport issued by the heroic diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in Hungary, 1944, selling above its high estimate at $11,000 (Lot 282). A lengthy autograph letter written in Jerusalem, 1935 by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman to Chief Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Chai Uziel of Tel Aviv also attracted numerous bidders, ultimately garnering $8,000 (Lot 271).
In the Graphic Art section of the sale, an exciting collection of posters relating to Israel both immediately prior and following the creation of the State (1945-1950) generated tremendous interest with all 25 lots finding buyers. Two particularly strong examples included a Holocaust related poster stating Open the Gates of Eretz-Israel to German Immigrants, Tel Aviv, 1936, which earned $6,000, doubling its high estimate (Lot 326) and a poster designed by Shamir and issued by the Va’ad Leumi in 1947 stating Le’Asireinu, demanding the release of prisoners from the hands of the British, was acquired for $2,600 (Lot 336)
Notable works of art evoking enthusiastic responses included Solomon Alexander Hart’s Meditation on the Book of Ecclesiastes, oil on panel, 1864, which attained $15,000 against an estimate $6,000-9,000 (Lot 348), an unusual image composed in verre églomisé depicting a Tashlich scene, Austrian, 20th century, which earned $8,000 (Lot 356) and a half length engraved portrait of Sephardic Rabbi Joacob Sasportas, circa 1700 which achieved $6,500 (Lot 358).
Among the top performers in the Ceremonial Objects section was a large Bezalel silver Chanukah menorah, circa 1930, which brought in $20,000 against an estimate of $10,000-15,000 (Lot 407). Competitive bidding also yielded a high price of $12,000 for an Italian gold repousse amulet, circa 1900, which had been estimated at $4,000-6,000 (Lot 390). Also noteworthy was a French silver Torah Shield, 1853 which realized $6,500 (Lot 388). A medal of Dona Gracia Menes Nasi, Ferrara, 1558, generated much discussion prior to the auction but was withdrawn from the sale in order to give Kestenbaum & Company further time to undertake necessary research (Lot 420).
Kestenbaum & Company’s forthcoming auction of Fine Judaica including The Moldovan Collection, Part II, will be held in Winter, 2014.
For further information, please contact Jackie Insel at 212-366-1197 or firstname.lastname@example.org