AUCTIONS

A 19th-century French condom, decorated with a picture of a nun and three aroused monks, made pounds 3,300 in 1992 at Christie's; next week sees two undecorated versions, estimate at only pounds 50-pounds 80
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If Sir George Baker, physician to the mad George III, had not had the presence of mind to confiscate the king's razors, the reign might have ended sooner. The pair of honed steel cut-throats, with tortoiseshell guards and blades stamped with the royal cypher, remained in Sir George's family and are estimated pounds 800-pounds l,200 the pair in Christie's South Kensington's sale of medical and scientific instruments, Thursday (2pm). A letter of provenance says: "During one of the intervals of insanity which darkened his [the king's] later years, there were apprehensions that he might lay violent hands on himself."

The sale includes a private collection of 20 home medicine chests full of dangerous purgatives and emetics, horrifying reminders of Victorian self-help. Printed companion guides recommended diarrhoea inducers such as "corrosive sublimate", a mercury salt, even for cholera. Imagine the miniature brass beam scales, contained in most chests, swaying by candlelight in the trembling hands of a harassed mother trying to weigh out half a grain of calomel, another dangerous mercury preparation, to silence a bawling child.

Estimates range from pounds 100-pounds 150 for a small 19th-century mahogany box containing bottles and a measure, to pounds 600-pounds 800 for an elaborate plush- lined chest with six octagonal bottles. Most chests have some bottles and stoppers missing, but the quality of workmanship of the box is more important than contents in determining value.

Tucked away in the sale: two 19th-century condoms with blue silk drawstrings, expected to fetch pounds 50-pounds 80, described as "undecorated" - a reference to the early 19th-century French condom decorated with a picture of a nun and three aroused monks that made a record pounds 3,300 at South Ken three years ago. Like this week's pair, it was made from animal intestine, traditional casing of sausages.

Theodolites - telescopic land-surveying instruments on tripod - are plentiful in the sale, having been made obsolete by computerised laser- beam gismos and even surveying by satellite. A German wartime model is est pounds 120-pounds 160 - a birthday gift idea for scientific professionals.

There is a veterinary fleam (for bleeding), a trocar (for making holes in bloated cattle), a pelican (for pulling teeth) and an alidade (straight- edge ruler). Trepanning instruments - such as 18th-century braces for drilling holes in the head, est pounds 200-pounds 300 each - are not such quaint antiquities, for trepanning is practised to this day.

Bonhams Chelsea has an enthusiasts' sale of clocks and watches, Monday (11am). Prices may not be as low as those at watch fairs but hesitant amateurs can ask the auctioneers for condition reports. A "collection of six various 400-day timepieces" is est pounds 40-pounds 60, "nine various clocks" are pounds 40-pounds 60. Longcase clocks are rising in value, but in this sale the less desirable are est as low as pounds 150-pounds 250 for a 6ft 6in late 18th-century specimen with pine case.

Christie's South Kensington on Wednesday (10.30am) has the first dedicated sale of Beswick ware, latest addition to the list of investment deco ceramics.Beswick's Fifties and Sixties figures of Simpkin the cat - one of 95 lots of Beatrix Potter figures - are est pounds l50-pounds 200, or pounds 200- pounds 300 if they have a "printed brown mark". Anything Disney has an even bigger premium. A set of Snow White and the seven dwarfs with printed gilt marks - important, those - is est pounds 1,000-pounds l,500: strictly adults only.

For countrywide auctions and fairs, including a police sale of seven tons of stolen books, see pages 14 and 15

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