The top lot was a magnificent Meissen gold-mounted Royal snuff box made for Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
With an intricately detailed depiction of a Dresden landscape on the inside of the cover, painted after an engraving by Bernardo Bellotto, the box had attracted a pre-sale estimate of £100,000-150,000 ($160,000-240,000).
After a protracted bidding battle on the telephones the hammer finally came down on the staggering price of £860,000 ($1.3m). This is a world record price for a porcelain snuff box at auction, showing just much interest in these pieces has grown. This makes them great alternative investments.
Nette Megens, of Bonhams Ceramics Department, said "We are absolutely thrilled with the results of this sale. It was a fantastic collection that attracted the global interest it deserved - evident by the fantastic prices achieved."
Other remarkable results include a Meissen gold-mounted oval snuff box from the toilet service for Queen Maria Amalia Christina of Naples and Sicily, Princess of Saxony ($125,000), a gold-mounted circular snuff box with a portrait of Maria Josepha, Electress of Saxony and Queen of Poland ($90,000) and an important Ellwangen or Schrezheim gilt-metal-mounted oval snuff box with a portrait of Fürstprobst Anton Ignaz Josef Graf von Fugger ($85,000).
Comprising 80 boxes, the Helmut Joseph Collection gives a comprehensive overview of the history of European ceramics in snuff boxes, with examples from all major factories including Capodimonte, Meissen, Fulda and Sèvres.
These exceptional and exquisite objects were considered the pinnacle of refined 18th-century court culture at its most luxurious, and the collection has been exhibited in the world-renowned institutions of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (1972-2000), alongside the Gilbert Collection in Somerset House (2003-2008) and most recently at the Bowes Museum, Co. Durham. The jewel-like objects are immensely tactile and widely varied in design and style.
The boxes offered at Bonhams came from what was without doubt the greatest collection of snuff boxes in the 20th century, formed by Helmut Joseph. Joseph began collecting boxes following the example of his father, who already had a substantial collection before WWII.
A real connoisseur of early Meissen porcelain, he had a profound and intimate relationship with his subject, and a deep knowledge of the field. Helmut Joseph generously made his collection available to the public; he always showed an interest in sharing information, and indeed supporting the development of knowledge on ceramics, be it by funding museums, or publishing his own collection.
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