Auction  February 11, 2019  Rebecca Rego Barry

Odd Lots: 10 Love-Themed Items Headed to Auction

This month, auction houses have a plethora of romantic items available for those looking for something unique for that special someone. 

Cupid and Venus
Courtesy Sotheby's

Cupid & Venus
Of course we’re going to start this love-themed list with Cupid. Here we have an imposing (81” by 68” in its frame) nineteenth-century ‘French School’ oil on canvas of the winged boy-god of love, Cupid, about to stab the sleeping nudie Venus. Lush and dramatic, the painting nevertheless calls to question two things: why is Cupid armed with a sickle and not with his customary arrow? And why does he seem ready to attack his mother, aka the goddess of love? Someone call Oedipus!  

French School, 19th Century, Cupid and Venus
Estimate £10,000/15,000 ($13,000/19,500)
Sotheby’s London, Erotic: Passion & Desire Online, February 12, 2019

Ladies Mother of Pearl Wristwatch, Carrera y Carrera
Courtesy Sotheby's

Watch Out
From afar this ladies wristwatch might appear tame, but closer inspection reveals a ring of amorous couples circling its mother of pearl face. Made by the Spanish jewelry company Carrera y Carrera, this diamond-studded timepiece is certainly pretty, but probably isn’t safe for work.

Ladies Mother of Pearl Wristwatch, Carrera y Carrera
Estimate £2,600/3,000 ($3,400/3,000)
Sotheby’s London, Erotic: Passion & Desire Online, February 12, 2019

Breadbox of erotic photographs
Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries

Breadbox o’ Erotica
If one were hoping to keep the children away from a secret stash of erotica, a breadbox might not be the best hiding spot. This antique breadbox, however, is brimming with explicit imagery—about 980 vintage images depicting “a range of steamy same sex and heterosexual activity … female frontal nudes … and scenes of ‘menages-a-trois,’” according to the auction house. It was originally owned by Richard Merkin, author of Velvet Eden and a prominent illustrator at the New Yorker magazine.

Metal Breadbox Containing Approximately 980 American and European Risqué and Erotic Photographs
Estimate $3,000/4,500
Swann Auction Galleries New York, Photographs Art & Visual Culture, February 21, 2019

Lover's Clock Plate
Courtesy Phillips

Time Enough for Love
This glazed ceramic plate was made by the New York-based artist Allison Katz, whose paintings, plates, and posters sometimes feature clocks—and roosters, but we’re not going there. It depicts two recumbent lovers enjoying a moment while a bunch of clocks symbolically weigh on them.

Lover’s Clock Plate
Estimate $1,200/1,800
Phillips New York, Handle with Care Online Auction, February 13, 2019

Pair of Wooden Doors Painted with Erotic Scenes
Courtesy Sotheby's

Behind Closed Doors
Perfects the perfect décor for a boudoir, this pair of twentieth-century wooden doors, made in India, contains thirty-two individual square panels, each depicting in red and gold paint an erotic encounter, as the auction catalogue so gently puts it. Can we just call it the Kama Sutra for Dummies?

Pair of Wooden Doors Painted with Erotic Scenes
Estimate £4,000/6,000 ($5,200/7,800)
Sotheby’s London, Erotic: Passion & Desire Online, February 12, 2019

Fine Binding Oxford “Complete Spenser” 1916 with Split Fore-Edge Erotic Painting
Courtesy ​​​​​​​Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Fondle the Fore-Edge
On the subtler end of things, take this copy of The Poetical Works of Edmund Spenser: beautiful leather binding, marbled endpapers, and gilt-decorated spine. Lovely! But it holds a sexy secret, too: gently pull back the volume’s fore edge to expose two lovers au natural. And if Spenser doesn’t do it for you, there’s an edition of Longfellow with more graphic imagery available.

Fine Binding Oxford “Complete Spenser” 1916 with Split Fore-Edge Erotic Painting
Estimate $800/1,200
Thomaston Place Auction Galleries, Winter Auction, March 1, 2019

Raquel Welch on the Cross
Courtesy Sotheby's

Man Cave Seeks Cavewoman
In this signed archival pigment print by Terry O’Neill, Hollywood icon Raquel Welch, clad in a fur bikini, hangs from a cross. The sensual photo, shot in 1966 to promote the film, One Million Years B.C., was felt to be too shocking at the time; my, how times have changed! Apparently Khloe Kardashian has a black-and-white copy of this in her home; she called it “a dope piece of feminist art,” and added, “I'll probably get a lot of shit for having this because people will say it's sacrilegious, but it's my house, so f*ck off, LOL.”

Terry O’Neill, Raquel Welch on the Cross, Los Angeles, 1966
Estimate £10,000/15,000 ($13,000/19,500)
Sotheby’s London, Erotic: Passion & Desire Online, February 12, 2019

Pennsylvania Chippendale Blanket Chest
Courtesy ​​​​​​​Cowan’s Auctions

Hope Chest
If you’re more of a traditional romantic, perhaps this understated eighteenth-century Chippendale blanket chest with its bleeding heart inlaid escutcheon is more your style. Crafted of cherry in Pennsylvania, it might just make an ideal ‘hope chest’ for your intended. Fill it with lingerie, all the better. (A later, walnut version is also going to auction.)    

Pennsylvania Chippendale Blanket Chest
Estimate $1,000/1,500
Cowan’s Auctions, Fine and Decorative Art, Including Americana: Premier Auction, February 23, 2019

 Austrian, Vienna, Early 20th Century, Lamp with a Kissing Couple
Courtesy Sotheby's

Kissing Lamp
Made in Vienna, this early twentieth-century painted bronze lamp has an Art Nouveau vibe, with its leafy fronds and swirling dome-shaped top. Passion positively exudes from the kissing couple it portrays. Fitted with a bulb and a cord, the lamp is useful as well as beautiful, and it stands 13 ¼.”

Austrian, Vienna, Early 20th Century, Lamp with a Kissing Couple
Estimate £2,000/3,000 ($2,600/3,900)
Sotheby’s London, Erotic: Passion & Desire Online, February 12, 2019

Robert Indiana “Greenpeace Love” Silkscreen, Signed
Courtesy Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Love a Tree Hugger
A classic Robert Indiana LOVE silkscreen would be at home just about anywhere. This one, in green and measuring 31 ½” by  29 ½,” was made with Greenpeace, the international environmental organization, in mind, so if you love a nature lover, bingo! Indiana, who died last year, was one of the world’s most famous Pop artists. Says MoMA, which originally commissioned the image for a Christmas card in 1965: “Few Pop images are more widely recognized than Indiana's LOVE.”

Robert Indiana “Greenpeace Love” Silkscreen, Signed
Estimate $2,500/3,500
Palm Beach Modern Auctions, Modern Art & Design, February 23, 2019

About the Author

Rebecca Rego Barry

Rebecca Rego Barry is the author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places and the editor of Fine Books & Collections magazine.

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