Friday, January 21, 2011

Nice little urner-2000 year old 'electric lamp' sells for £445,000

Nice little-urner: Electric lamp sells for £445,000 after it is revealed to be a 2,000-year-old relic 

Last updated at 1:15 PM on 21st January 2011
An old urn that was converted into a gaudy electric lamp has sold for a staggering £445,000 after it was found to be a 2,000-year-old Roman relic.
The owner of the 19 inch high ornament, retired schoolteacher John Barrett, had a hole drilled in the top and bottom of the marble urn to feed a cable through it.
A light-bulb fitting was then placed on top before a 1970s-style red lampshade was hung on it to complete the ‘monstrosity’.
'Monstrosity': A marble urn used for years as a table lamp has turned out to be a 1st century AD Roman vase and despite having holes drilled in it.
'Monstrosity': A marble urn used for years as a table lamp has turned out to be a 1st century AD Roman vase 
The makeshift lamp was kept in the hallway of his home called Crowe Hall, near Bath, until his death last year.
Auctioneers from Christie’s who were invited to value collectable items from the property identified it as being a Roman marble cinerary urn dating to about the first century .
It was acquired in the 1950s by Mr Barratt’s father, Sir Sydney Barratt, a distinguished scientist who helped create the ‘bouncing bomb’ during World War Two.
Auctioneers put a hugely conservative estimate of £10,000 on the item and were stunned when it sold for £445,250 to a European dealer.
Face value: a detail from the ancient urn which was topped with a red lampshade for years
Face value: a detail from the ancient urn which was topped with a red lampshade for years
Georgiana Aitkin, head of antiquities at Christie’s, said: 'The item came into us in the form of an electric lamp that had a 1970s-style red lampshade on top of it.
'We had a closer examination of it and unscrewed the lamp and took the lid off to look inside.
'Two very small holes had been drilled in the top of the lid and in the bottom so a cable could run up through the middle of it.
'On top of the lid a metal fitting had been fixed in place that secured the light-bulb and on top of that was the lampshade.
'It was a bit of a monstrosity and it was a shame that such an historically important item had been turned into a domestic lamp.
'We removed the fittings and were able to date the urn to about the first century AD.
'The alterations and drill holes didn’t seem to affect the price which was quite enormous and surprised us.
'We couldn’t have predicted that it would do that well.
'The antiquities market is incredibly strong at the moment.
'There has been a seismic shift in the market over the last few years. More and more people are looking at the market as a reliable investment.'
A number of phone bidders pursued the urn before it became a contest between one of them and a European dealer in the room who successfully bid £370,000 for it.
With the auctioneers’ fees. the overall price paid was more than £445,000.
Sir Sydney Barratt, who died in 1975 aged 77, built up his collection of art and antiques after taking on his own father’s passion for collectables.
It was acquired by him for his then home in Summerhill, Staffs, before he installed it at 18th century Crowe Hall near Bath when he moved there in 1961.
After Sir Sydney’s death, his collection was passed down to his son, John Barratt.He died last year and his niece has since sold the property with its 30 acre grounds.
The art collection, making up 383 lots, was sold by Christie's of London for a total of £3.2 million.

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