Aristocrat's auction opens with pounds 2.6m sales

THE BIGGEST auction of aristocratic treasures mounted this century got off to a sensational start in Bavaria yesterday.

On the instructions of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis Sotheby's has organised a nine-day sale of furnishings, works of art and wine from her Regensburg castle, Schloss St Emmeram, parts of which date back to the 19th century. The first day's sale made pounds 2.6m, where Sotheby's had estimated around pounds 1.5m.

At the standard, snappy pace of London or New York the morning furniture sale should have taken two and a half hours, and the afternoon works of art sale an hour and a half. In the event they took five hours and three and three-quarter hours respectively. A mass of competing bids on virtually every lot slowed them to a snail's pace with some bids from telephone bidders, others from the 700 or so bidders who turned up in person.

The sale was attended by other princely families hoping to embellish the furnishing of their castles. The Liechtensteins, Wurttembergs and Wittelsbachs were all represented - but they were consistently outbid by the bourgeoisie. Private German and Austrian bidders were the main buyers, though the most expensive lots tended to sell to foreigners.

German bidders wanted 18th and early 19th century ormolu or carved giltwood clocks, Biedermeier furniture - the Germanic equivalent of Regency - and the finely inlaid walnut furniture made in southern Germany in the mid-18th century.

A walnut wardrobe of around 1720 made 80,500 marks ( pounds 32,460), or three times estimate; a pair of Biedermeier mahogany cabinets from Vienna doubled estimate at 55,200 marks ( pounds 22,258) and the last lot in the morning sale, a faithful bronze hound carrying an ormolu clock in its mouth, made in Paris around 1810 and estimated at 5,000- 6,000 marks, sold for 29,900 marks ( pounds 12,000).

However, the top prices of the day were recorded for works of art - a more international taste. A pair of late 16th-century Venetian bronze figures of Apollo and Venus, 34cms high, made 235,750 marks ( pounds 95,060), roughly as expected, while an ivory and coral house altar of around 1680 from Trapani doubled expectations at 230,000 marks ( pounds 92,742).

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