The Lille antique dealer’s collection of ivory, wood, stone, leather and bronze objects looks like a library of materials. His family is now parting with them.
Southern Germany, late 17th century, attributed to Johann Michael Maucher and his studio (1645-1701), carved altarpiece in blackened wood and ivory surmounted by a crucifix, decorated with animals, saints and symbolic figures, 115 x 69 cm (45.28 x 27.17 in).
"Georges Davioud always had a smile on his face,” recalls Laurence Fligny, the auction’s expert. “With his tilted head, he’d walk at a brisk, sprightly pace. He enjoyed taking me into his collector’s den. We’d stroll across Old Lille to an ordinary-looking building with his antique shop on the ground floor, climb up the narrow staircase and enter a place cut off from the outside world, bathed in soft light streaming through stained-glass windows, packed to the rafters with objects and sculptures. Then, in quiet communion tinged with complicity, we’d set about examining ivory plaques, kisses of peace, altarpiece groups, Romanesque sculptures of Christ and bronze plaques." A coach-builder’s son, Davioud was self-taught and knowledgeable. His uncle, a doctor in theology and an erudite scholar of medieval philosophical thought, introduced him to religious art. Six years after Davioud’s death, his heirs are putting his collection up for auction: 180 objects long kept out of sight, starting with this astonishing altarpiece in blackened wood and ivory commissioned for private devotion. In excellent condition, it still has all its bas-reliefs and features Christ’s Passion as well as symbolic and allegorical figures, most with cynegetic themes. It is attributed to Johann Michael Maucher, known for making rifle butts, plates and ewers decorated with hunting scenes. The auction also includes a prophet in sculpted oak by Jan I Borman of Brabant (late 15th century, €3,000/4,000), a 19th-century Neapolitan Nativity scene in carved polychrome wood (€5,000/7,000), a beautiful set of leather European cases, an enamel medallion with an emperor’s head painted in grisaille (Limoges, mid-16th century, €3,000/4,000) and an odd Allegory of Time in ivory carved with a nude, winged man holding a sickle and carrying a shrouded skeleton armed with an arrow on his back (16th century, €8,000/10,000).