As an alternative investment, Audrey Hepburn’s film script sparkles for the jewellery company
GENERALLY speaking, a collector who buys purely for investment is likely to lose by it. However, one instance of investment buying at the end of September seems justifiable. According to the New York Times, Tiffany & Co bought Audrey Hepburn’s copy of the script of Breakfast at Tiffany’s for £632,750 at Christie’s in London, ‘a record for a film script’ (Fig 1). The screenplay, with the actress’s annotations, was expected to sell for up to £90,000.
‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s is such a significant work in cinematic history and we’re proud to have secured this important script for our extensive archives as a way to celebrate Tiffany’s popular-culture legacy,’ said chief brand officer Caroline Naggiar. Instinet analysts estimate that the purchase will add up to about 10 basis points of incremental sales, general and administrative expenses in the third quarter, as well as brand and marketing value. Investment or no, one could not think of a more suitable owner for the script.
This sale brought a second Tiffany’s script out of the woodwork that had been sent to Marilyn Monroe. Her agent turned it down, seeing no future for the film. This one is to be auctioned at Julien’s in Beverly Hills on November 18, estimated to $9,000 (£6,860).
Out of the woodwork leads me to another well-worn expression. ‘Looking for a needle in a haystack’—in the older version, ‘a needle in a bottle of hay’—is first found in Don Quixote and perhaps even coined by Miguel de Cervantes, along with other phrases still current in several languages. The ‘bottle’ comes from the French botte, or bundle, and is so used by the asinine Bottom when demanding food in A Midsummer Night’s Dream —without the needle, of course.
The expression’s meaning, all agree, is to describe a nearimpossible task, but it may not be quite as straightforward as it seems. According to John Shepherd, a Kent antiques dealer, who, with his wife Erna Hiscock, will be showing at Antiques for Everyone at the NEC Birmingham from November 23 to 26, they have found an actual haystack needle, which they will be offering at £290 (Fig 3). It’s a three-section metal rod with a handle at one end and a barb at the other and, Mr Shepherd says, it was used by farmers who needed to check the quality of hay in the middle of stacks when buying winter fodder.
That may well be so, but to pour a little cold water on it (a usage that does not seem to have originated with either Cervantes or Shakespeare), this implement does look much like a straw-bale needle, used to thread twine through bales when building anything with straw. Usually, however, there is a hole for the twine as well as some form of barb. Perhaps it served both purposes.
In either case, should a section unscrew itself, it might indeed be hard to find, but the phrase would not be quite as pointed as if it were a sewing needle.
At £2,750 at the same event, Julian Eade, who specialises in Doulton Lambeth stoneware, has an appealing ‘Borogove’ vase
modelled by Mark V. Marshall in about 1888 (Fig 4). Although Doulton gave it the name of one of the creatures that feature in the poem Jabberwocky from Alice through the Looking Glass, one wonders whether they had not confused their borogoves with their mome raths.
This creature could perhaps be said to be ‘mimsy’, but Humpty Dumpty described the mome raths as ‘a sort of green pig’. He also said that a borogrove was ‘a thin shabbylooking bird with its feathers sticking out all round, something like a live mop’. However, in several other places Lewis Carroll happily gives quite different descriptions.
Abbott and Holder of Museum Street, WC1, has a trove of drawings from the estate of Feliks Topolski, from which an ‘of the moment’ selection forms an exhibition running from tomorrow to December 22. After leaving Poland in 1933, Topolski was at the centre of momentous events. As an Official War Artist, he recorded, among much else, the London Blitz, the Northern Convoys and the Nuremberg Trials.
Postwar, he familiarised himself with worldwide cultural scenes: Andy Warhol (Fig 2), Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Pierre Boulez, Martin Luther King, Tom Hayden and the Civil Rights Movement— Truman and Castro were all caught, on the spot, by his pencil, as were Swinging Sixties London and the United Nations Committees determining such monumental issues as international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. Prices range from £775 to £2,500 (www.abbottandholder.co.uk).
Peter Darach (born 1940) has not had a one-man show since 1983, but is now at Megan Piper’s new space on the first floor of 41, Dover Street, W1, until November 22. His large, figural paintings (Fig 7) combine elements of Japanese Shunga prints, Bosch and children’s drawing to powerful and unsettling effect. (www.meganpiper.co.uk).
Seldom, if ever, unsettling was the late portrait and landscape painter John Ward. Some 10 years ago, he planned an exhibition of recent work at the Maas Gallery, Clifford Street, W1, but died before it could be organised. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, a comemmorative exhibition of pictures spanning most of his life (Fig 5), with work by his friends, is at the gallery to November 24 (www.maasgallery.com).
Until November 24, Marlborough Fine Art, Albemarle Street, W1, offers ‘Carved, Cast, Constructed: British Sculpture 1951–91’, with work by Armitage (Fig 8), Caro, Chadwick, Hepworth, Mellis, Moore, Paolozzi, Pasmore and others (www.marlboroughlondon.com).
And online shows
Old Master dealer Rafael Valls of Duke Street, SW1, is repeating last year’s successful online exhibition of paintings for less than £15,000 (Fig 6). The online catalogue has been live since November 1 and a downloadable pdf will be available at www.rafaelvalls.co.uk
Liss Llewellyn, in association with Peyton Skipwith, offers the Modern British collection of the late Alan M. Fortunoff (1933–2000), a remarkable retailer who made his department store one of the largest companies in New York State. In collecting, he harnessed his business instinct to a good eye, concentrating on Modern British when American Realism was all the rage (www.llfa.uk).
Next week What has been selling
Fig 1: Audrey Hepburn’s original film script for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. £632,750
Fig 2 left: Feliks Topolski’s The Beginning of the Evening. Fig 3 below: Haystack needle. With Hiscock & Shepherd. Fig 4 right: Doulton ‘Borrogove’ vase. With Julian Eade
Fig 5 left: John Ward’s Still Life with Lemon. With Maas Gallery. Fig 6 right: Bellaria by Valentino Ghiglia. With Rafael Valls
Fig 7 above: Kite Flying, by Peter Darach. With Megan Piper. Fig 8 right: Kenneth Armitage’s The Legend of Skadar. With Marlborough Fine Art