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Collectors Anticipate Doheny Auction

January 31, 1988|ZAN DUBIN

The first and only auction of artworks from the multimillion-dollar Estelle Doheny Collection--composed mostly of rare books and manuscripts dating from medieval times--will take place this week in Camarillo.

A collection of Currier & Ives prints that Christie's auction house is calling "the finest and most extensive . . . to appear on the market in three decades," and paintings from the Barbizon School will highlight the upcoming sale, which will follow by two days an auction of rare books and manuscripts featuring those relating to California history.

Christie's will auction off the Currier & Ives prints and Barbizon School paintings Wednesday and Thursday, along with other paintings, sculpture, furniture, tapestries, porcelains, paperweights, parasols, lace, fans and other decorative objects.

On Monday and Tuesday, Christie's will place on the block a collection of books and manuscripts with an emphasis on Western Americana, such as a letter written by John Augustus Sutter of California Gold Rush fame.

Both sets of auctions will take place in situ at the St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, to which Estelle Doheny, who died in 1958, donated her collection in 1940.

These auctions are the third in a series of seven sales of the Estelle Doheny Collection, placed on the block by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles to raise funds to train priests. The first two sales, held in New York last October and in London last December, realized a total of $24 million for books and manuscripts only, in auctions that were called by dealers the most important of their type in several years.

Hillary Holland, who runs Christie's Los Angeles office, said from the seminary in a telephone interview that sales from this week's two auctions are expected to total between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

That makes them perhaps less significant monetarily than the previous auctions of Doheny's collection, Holland conceded, but she said that this week's sales "are very important in that they are the only ones in which non-book materials, equally renowned as her (Doheny's) books, will be offered. And in terms of quality, breadth and variety and rarity, they will be of equal importance."

Artworks expected to fetch top prices this week include "Soleil Couchant a Barbizon" (1914) by Etienne Pierre Theodore Rousseau, Holland said. The oil painting on panel depicting a glowing sunset over the French countryside is "conservatively" estimated to go for $60,000, she said.

Among the Currier & Ives prints, "Landscape, Fruit and Flowers" (1862), an ebullient hand-colored lithograph, is expected to fetch up to $35,000, Holland said. Christie's has received the greatest number of inquiries about Doheny's collection of Currier & Ives works, she noted.

Other artworks expected to draw top prices include a pair of late 16th-Century tapestries from Brussels, estimated at $20,000 to $30,000 each, and "Apollo and Peace," two nearly 8-feet-tall late 19th-Century Italian lime wood figures, which Christie's officials think will fetch prices "dramatically" higher than their total pre-auction estimate of $6,000-$8,000, Holland said.

Top price at this week's book and manuscript sale, which Christie's is calling "the most important book auction held in California for many years," is expected to go to a fragment of a Gutenberg Bible, the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, estimated at $50,000-$75,000, said Stephen Massey, director and senior vice president of Christie's in New York.

The letter from Sutter, an account of the events immediately following the discovery of gold in 1848, is expected to go for at least $10,000, he said. It will be auctioned with other Western Americana, such as a rare Gold Rush map estimated to fetch $25,000 to $30,000, and Americana materials, including a letter in which Mark Twain describes the writing of Huckleberry Finn, estimated to bring in $6,000-$8,000.

The collection of Western books and manuscripts is primary among the reasons that prompted Christie's to hold the upcoming auctions in Camarillo, Holland explained, as was name recognition for Estelle Doheny.

Artworks to be auctioned will be on view daily through Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Books and manuscripts may be viewed today, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The collection of paperweights will be exhibited Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Auctions of artworks will be held Wednesday and Thursday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Books and manuscripts will be auctioned Monday and Tuesday at the same time.

The remaining works in the Estelle Doheny Collection will be sold at auctions in October, 1988, and February and May, 1989. Further information: (213) 275-5534.

SEE THE LIGHT: Illuminated manuscripts showing the development of thought in Judaism and cultural, artistic and intellectual exchanges between Christians and Jews throughout 1,000 years are on exhibit at the Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum.

"A Visual Testimony: Judaica From the Vatican Library" includes 57 manuscripts from the Vatican Library in Rome dating from the 8th to the 18th centuries.

"The Arena of Jerusalem," an exhibit of 16 prints by Israeli Ivan Schwebel juxtaposing biblical events and scenes of modern Jerusalem, runs concurrently at the Skirball Museum.

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