20 MAY 1995, Page 50


Dreaming of summer

Alistair McAlpine

Should this summer have an uncharacter- istic but occasional turn of hot and sunny weather, then playing tennis is a splendid way to pass the time. Personally, I never watch the game and I don't play. Yet, I have nothing but praise for both the game and the players because it fulfills an extremely useful function. Almost everyone disappears onto the tennis court leaving me to get on with matters that really give me pleasure.

On June 16, when we should have a pretty fair indication of how the summer is going to turn out, Christie's holds its first ever sale devoted to tennis. I wish now that I had kept the barely used tennis racquets of my youth for they would be likely to fetch up to £500 each. Christie's claim 'tennis has a literature older than golf or cricket and it has long been collected by bibliophiles. Scarcely a thought was once given to old tennis rac- quets.' This I must say comes as no surprise to me. I am without equal in my admiration for London's salerooms, which almost monthly create another item for the fortu- nate collector to collect. And what is more, they time their sales to coincide with these seasonal activities.

For the pessimist who really knows about the British summer, Phillips are offering the ideal lot on May 23 — 18 boxes of gramo- phone records that belonged to the late Roy Plumley of Desert Island Discs fame.

In the 1950s a painting was found aban- doned in an alleyway off Duke Street and recovered by its vendor, the Newman Gallery — its new owner had only wanted the frame. Unclaimed for some years, Messrs. Newman advertised this painting by Alma Tadema as available to any public gallery that would take it as a gift, there were no takers. The painting, The Finding of Moses' had been commissioned from Alma Tadema by Sir John Aird an engineer, who had just completed the construction of the Aswan Dam and the removal of the Crystal Palace to Sydenham. Offered by Christie's on May 25, 'The Finding of Moses' should fetch well over £2 million.

Anyone interested in Moses but without a couple of million to spend on Alma Tade- ma's masterpiece might consider popping into Sotheby's New York salerooms on June 28 and snapping up what are described as `The actual prop tablets held by Moses (Charlton Heston) from Cecil B. de Mille's The Ten Commandments'. They are expect- ed to fetch a modest $50,000. Other items in a sale of Film and Television Memorabilia include a bench used in the film, Forrest Gump, estimate $8,000 and the three piece white dancing suit worn by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, estimate $50,000. The price of the last lot seems a little on the high side for a second-hand three piece suit.

May I recommend Douglas Hayward of Mount Street as a tailor, rather than Sothe- by's. He does three piece suits for £1,200 and you do not have to be as thin as a rake for them to fit. Dougie Hayward has made clothes for all the stars for many years, so it occurs to me that when next Sir Alec Gui- ness or some other famous actor pops in for a fitting, Hayward might just take an old suit in payment for a new suit, and show a hand- some profit.

I have always been taken with the idea of medal collecting. Personally, I prefer medals given to the victors of bicycle races rather than awards for bravery. However, I was impressed by the collection of Kaiser Bill's medals to be sold in Sotheby's in Geneva. An array of medals and orders complete with exuberant bows and barley sugar striped sashes, including the Bulgarian Order for Bravery, possibly the rarest medal in the world for it was awarded only twice, once to Kaiser Wilhelm and once to the Sultan of Turkey. This splendid confection is the sort of award that gives medals a bad name. Also in this sale is a photograph of the Kaiser wearing the uniform of a British Field Mar- shal, it is signed and dated May 20, 1910.

What collector with $3 million will pass up the chance of buying 'the legendary Crown of the Andes'? In other words five pounds of gold and emeralds, the largest being the Atahualpa emerald, a square cut stone 15.80 mm by 16.15 mm named after the last King of the Incas who was betrayed and murdered by Pizzaro, is to be sold in New York in November. This crown was made in 1590 and during its history has survived a revolu- tion, an epidemic and an earthquake attacks by pirates, privateers and thieves. The crown was seldom seen except at Easter when it was placed on the head of the statue of the Virgin Mary and paraded through the streets. Now it will be exhibited in Miami, Los•Angeles, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and half a dozen other places before its sale by Christie's, who over the past year have sold rather a lot of jewels — in fact 16,500 pieces worth £132 million.

For me, despite my indifference towards sporting activities, I would far rather have a pair of single trigger 12 bore shotguns by J. Purdey and Sons, also for sale by Sotheby's on May 23, estimate £24,000. Self-opening sidekick ejectors, engraved and inlaid in gold by Ken Hunt, a genius of his craft. I would never use them, I gave up killing animals a long time ago, I just happen to believe that these guns are objects of immense beauty.