“This sale reflects the person more than any we’ve ever had.”
So Duncan McLean was saying the other day. And since McLean has been in the auction business for 35 years, many of them as president of Toronto-based Waddington’s, that was saying a lot.
The prompt for his superlative is the upcoming auction of close to 400 lots of, well . . . stuff may be the best all-encompassing term here, stuff that previously belonged to William “Billy” Jamieson, the legendary Toronto collector/ethnographer/adventurer/party-giver who died suddenly on his 57th birthday in 2011. As in life, Jamiseon went to the grave trailing a string of vivid, often long-winded descriptions that sought to encapsulate his character, curiosity and love of the curious. “Long-haired, leather-clad, macabre-obsessed, anthropolgical rock star” is a McLean favourite. Another good one is “Ozzy Osbourne meets Indiana Jones,” although Kiss fans probably prefer “Gene Simmons crossed with Indiana Jones.”
All of which is to explain that if you had a hankering for shrunken human heads, tribal masks, two-headed calves, pinned butterflies, Samoan war clubs, implements of torture and much, much else, Billy Jamieson was the guy. And he was the guy for a vast array of clients, including Marilyn Manson, the Royal Ontario Museum and Steven Tyler as well as the National Geographic Society, New York’s Pace Primitive gallery, Sotheby’s, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and several university departments of archeology and anthropology. Perhaps his most famous coup is his 1999 purchase of the collections of the Niagara Falls Museum, established in 1827. Included in the buy was nine Egyptian mummies, one of which was later identified as the remains of Pharaoh Ramses I (now housed in the Luxor Museum in Egypt).
Waddington’s, working closely with Jamieson’s fiancée/business partner, Jessica Phillips, has divided its consignments into two: a live sale, mostly of “decorative arts,” loosely defined, occurring in its Toronto quarters the evening of April 29, and a Web offering, of tribal arts and weapons, running Apr. 28 through May 1.
Value of the combined sale, by pre-sale estimate, is $155,850 to $230,900. The lots with the highest estimates, at $10,000-$15,000 and $8,000-$12,000, respectively, are an early 20th-century electric chair from New York’s Auburn Correctional Facility (although Auburn did host the first death by electric chair, in 1890, this particular chair was not used for executions but for electric shock punishment) and a pair of beaded moccasins that belonged to the famous Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull (1831-1890).
Previews are set for Apr. 26 (11 a.m.-5 p.m. ET), Apr. 27 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) and Apr. 28 (10 a.m.-12 noon).
Here are 11 lots seeking bids:
Chinese leather shoes for bound feet, early 20th century
Taxidermy of two chihuahua puppies, 19th century
Proclamation announcing the knighthood of Isaac Brock (1769-1812)
Commemorative slice of one of the tusks of Jumbo, King of the Elephants, 1885
Ancestral guardian figure, Borneo, early 20th century
Necklace of human teeth, purchased from Fiji Islands chieftain, mid-19th century
Ceremonial cannibal fork, Fiji, 19th century
Early 20th-century electric chair, U.S.A. (used for torture rather than execution)
Anatomical model with removable parts designed by French anatomist/naturalist Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux (1797-1880)
Northern Plains Indian child’s tunic with bullet hole, 19th century
Beaded moccasins worn by Sitting Bull, 19th century
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