Sunday, 25 March 2012

Prehistoric Creatures Come to Life at Auction

A giant, carnivorous dinosaur will lead Sotheby’s first auction in Paris devoted entirely to natural history, on Oct. 5.

The ferocious creature is an Allosaurus, a Jurassic species with huge jaws and killer teeth that lived around 153 million to 135 million years ago. Giant skeletons of carnivorous dinosaurs rarely come on the market; this will be the first-ever specimen of an Allosaurus to appear at auction (estimate: €800,000).

The 86-lot sale includes an exotic range of legendary beasts, petrified woods, fossilized fauna, translucent crystals and sculpture-like shells. The items come from private collectionsin Europe and the U.S.

Eric Mickeler, a Sotheby’s natural-history consultant, says dinosaur skeletons, fossils and minerals are viewed as “artistic masterpieces or wonders of nature” as they “retrace the saga of evolution.” Of the once “mighty terrestrial and marine mammals,” only whales still survive, he adds. “Interest in prehistoric remains has undergone a striking resurgence in France over the last few years,” Mr. Mickeler notes.

Another rare creature in the sale will be an around 190-million- year-old Plesiosaurus Cryptocleidus, a marine reptile that was an extremely fast predator, preying on fish and squid (estimate: €320,000-€370,000). Mythology has the Loch Ness monster looking like a Plesiosaurus. The giant Aepyornis maximus of Madagascar, known as the elephant bird, has been extinct since the 17th century, hunted down for its rich meat. Its eggs remain as a reminder that these birds ever existed, and their primal form has inspired the work of modern sculptors such as Alberto Giacometti. Two of these eggs are in the sale, with one estimated at €30,000-€40,000; and the other at €20,000-€30,000.

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