The crown jewels, a biblical "blook," and a lobster weathervane
Curious objects at auction
Lot 1: All That Glitters
If you’ve been binge-watching season two of The Crown to distract yourself from holidays with your family, subzero temps, and the bleak state of the world in general, you may find yourself keenly interested in the bright, shiny things that comprise lot 74 at Sotheby’s “Of Royal and Noble Descent” auction on January 17: a replica set of the British Crown Jewels, circa 1950s. It contains five scepters, five crowns, three swords, and a few other medieval-sounding items like an orb and an anointing spoon. All are tricked out in gilt metal, fake gemstones, and imitation fur. So really what we have here is an elaborate collection of costume jewelry, but it will still cost at least $6,500.
Several such reproductions were made in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, according to the auctioneer, to be “displayed to communities across the Commonwealth,” i.e., to remind them who was in charge.
Lot 2: Eve’s Secret Snake
Oh Eve, that hussy. Here she is again, naked and making merry with snakes. This nifty little item, which goes to auction in Massachusetts on January 20, is a wooden book-shaped box, aka a “blook,” that depicts Eve reaching up to grab the forbidden fruit from a serpent in a tree. Perhaps we can overlook the clumsy carving—man arms, cartoon breasts, and is that a mustache?—and focus instead on its novelty value; as the faux book’s fore-edge slides open, out pops a mechanical snake. For $500, you can do it again and again.
According to Mindell Dubansky, author of Blooks: The Art of Books That Aren’t, the snake box is “one of the most enduring book gags.” Pair it with the story of our fall from grace, and what could be funnier?
Lot 3: Consider the Lobster
Roosters may be the quintessential weathervane animal, but as a private collection of folk art headed to auction in Pennsylvania on January 12 makes clear, it’s not all copper cocks. The sale catalog shows a whale, a lamb, and a leaping stag! But cast your eyes upon this nineteenth-century “swell bodied” lobster weathervane from Maine, and imagine for one blissful, if absurd, moment the patinaed crustacean topping your Coastal Living-inspired beach house.
Alas, lobsters are pricy, and this one, measuring 32 ½” x 51 ½” is estimated to snap up as much as $30,000. Plastic bib not included.
Rebecca Rego Barry is the author of Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places.