Sketches of the Nuremberg Trials by Laura Knight in our pick of five auction highlights
Prisoners in the Dock at Nuremberg Trial No.1 by Dame Laura Knight – £ 12,000 at Woolley & Waliis.
1. Sketch of the Nuremberg trial
In 1946, artist Laura Knight (1877-1970) was commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee to create a painting of the Nuremberg Trials. She spent three months observing events from inside Courtroom 600 and was granted privileged access to the broadcast booth just above the prisoners, where she was able to study the main protagonists among lawyers and defendants. The completed work, featuring 20 high-ranking Nazis in a courtroom against the backdrop of a city in ruins, is on display at the Imperial War Museum.
The picture sale at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on December 7 included two of Knight’s sketches for painting, each measuring 2 feet 6 inches x 22 inches (76 x 56 cm), they were worked in charcoal, chalk color and watercolor. They had remained with the artist until 1963, when they entered a private collection: both will now be included in John Croft’s catalog raisonné.
Due to the subject matter, these are important works, offering in color an eyewitness testimony to an event that is only remembered from a grainy black and white film. Sitting in the image titled Prisoners in the dock at Nuremberg Trial No.1 are Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Wilhelm Keitel with Karl Dönitz in the row behind. To the other title Prisoners in the Dock at Nuremberg Trial No.2 are Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Julius Streicher, Walther Funk, Hjalmar Schacht, Franz von Papen, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Albert Speer, Konstantin von Neurath and Hans Fritzsche.
Determining a commercial value for the two sketches was difficult but, at a time when art relating to WWI and WWII is avidly collected, they seemed reasonable at £ 3000-5000 each. In fact, after heated auctions, they took £ 12,000 and £ 10,000 respectively.
2. Star Wars Poster
Among the unexpected performers of the Prop Store entertainment memorabilia sale in Rickmansworth on December 9 was this single-sheet Star Wars poster. While the artwork ‘Style C’ by British illustrator Tom Chantrell is instantly recognizable, it is featured here on a 2’3 ” x 3’4 ” (70 cm x 1.02 m) poster produced at the time of the film’s release in the subcontinent on July 1, 1978. Rarer than the equivalent posters produced for the American market (Star Wars did not become a phenomenon in India), it was the first of its kind that auctioneers owned offered. It came from the personal collection of Charles Lippincott (1939-2020), the marketer best known for promoting and licensing the first installment of the Star Wars trilogy. Offered in unrestored condition, with some noticeable wear along the fold lines, it was guided at a nominal price of £ 100-150 but cost £ 6,000.
3. Golf medals from the William IV era
Established perhaps as early as 1735, the Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh claims to be the oldest golfing society in the world. Members of Burgess have played at Barnton since 1894 (and Musselburgh from 1874) but during its first century and a half its home was the Bruntsfield Links – one of the earliest known places where golf was played in Scotland.
The sale at Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds included two William IV era medals for competitions held at Bruntsfield Links by the company in 1832 and 1833. Both hallmarked for Edinburgh goldsmith Elder & Co, they were labeled for the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society (the royal was not added until 1929) and were engraved with a crossed golf clubs and thistles badge with the Far and Sure motto. The oval medal bore the inscription “Fall medal played on Bruntsfield Links on October 20, 1832 and won by Mr. EP Junor, while a similar scalloped medal bore the inscription” Presented for competition on Bruntsfield Links at members of the Edinburgh Burgess Golfing Society by Captain Horn. , and won by EP Junor on March 23, 1833. Both guided at £ 300-500 each, they won £ 3300 and £ 2300 respectively.
4. Medieval counterfeiting
This document is a forgery – a medieval forgery. The only 16-line parchment sheet of Latin claims to be a charter regarding the transfer of land in Framsden, Suffolk, by Roger de Mohaut and his wife Isolde, to their heirs. It is dated to the seventh year of the reign of William the Conqueror or 1073.
However, a careful analysis of its execution and contents suggests that it is a forgery, probably made in the early 1300s. The handwriting is a shaky, angular, and at times awkward imitation of the Roman secretary’s hand. English as she stumbles upon many factual details. The creator of this charter had intimate local knowledge, but it was very 13e and 14e rather than the 11e century. It refers to the “Abbey” of Shouldham (here “Scoudham”) to the immediate south of Marham, but the priory of Shouldham was not founded until the 1190s and “Thomas, Bishop of Norwich” as a witness episcopal, although he did not hold the see until 1226. Moreover, if a Roger of Mohaut did indeed own the Framsden estate, he did not have a wife named Isolde and in fact lived at the end from the 13th century.
So what was the purpose of such an elaborate falsification? It seems likely that the document was created to advance the de Mohaut family’s claims to the estate at 14e century. It does not appear to have been a success. The final piece of the puzzle appears in a charter account of June 4, 1335 (now in the Essex Archives), in which Robert de Morlee, 2nd Baron Morley notes that the claims of the Mohaut family at Framsden had been disputed by none other than Queen Isabel, the mother of Edward III.
The counterfeit was among other selections from the Schøyen collection offered by Bloomsbury Auctions in London on December 7. Owned by English antique dealers in the 19th century, it had been acquired by Norwegian businessman and collector Martin Schøyen, as a good example of medieval counterfeiting, from dealer Sam Fogg in December 1989. Estimated between £ 3,000 and £ 5,000 , it sold for £ 11,000.
5. Michael Collins rod
This end 19e Century walking cane with sturdy ebony shank and silver plated handle comes with a provenance letter indicating it was a gift from Irish Revolutionary soldier and politician Michael Collins (1890-1922) to former Patrick Baker Head Bartender at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin. He came down by descent for sale at Castlecomer saleroom Fonsie Mealy in Stillorgan, Dublin on December 7th.
This staff, strong enough to be used as a club, was worn by “The Big Fellow” in his efforts to blend in with the gentlemen who frequented the Gresham during the War of Independence. Collins was engaged in guerrilla warfare against British forces, planning and directing many successful attacks, including the Bloody Sunday assassinations of key British intelligence operatives in November 1920.
According to the letter written by Baker’s granddaughter, the cane was given as a token of gratitude after Baker “failed” to identify Collins to British agents who came to Gresham to find him just before Christmas that year. “When British agents asked my grandfather if he had seen General Collins, he must have kept a cool head. Collins was right in front of him at the bar, right next to the Brits and even asked them to join him for a drink.
A modest item with a powerful story, it generated a lot of interest at its estimate of € 3,000-5,000 before selling for € 15,000 (£ 13,600).