A Baccarat crystal elephant with gilt bronze ornamentation, crafted in France about 140 years ago and once owned by American industrialist George Westinghouse, is coming up for sale next month through Lund’s Auction and Appraisals.
The elephant stands 65 centimetres tall — just over two feet — and weighs about 36 kilograms (80 pounds). Lund’s sales estimate for the piece is $50,000 to $100,000.
The April 26 auction will be held on LiveAuctioneers.com.
After researching its history, Lund’s owner Peter Boyle believes the piece is based on a similar Baccarat elephant created either for the World’s Fair in Paris in 1878 or shortly after that event, around 1880.
The elephant, which Boyle says would have been a special order, is more than an ornament — it’s a liqueur caddy that holds four decanters. The top section of the elephant’s palanquin or covered litter with its bottles can be lifted out and replaced with a monogrammed Baccarat vase, included in the offering.
The design on the vase features two intertwined “Ws” for Westinghouse and Walker — Westinghouse’s wife was Marguerite Erskine Walker. Boyle said a symbol below represents Erskine Park in Massachusetts, where the couple, who had several homes, had a summer residence.
Boyle believes the elephant was a wedding gift or special present exchanged between George and Marguerite. “The marriage was a renowned love match.”
Elephants can signify a gentle giant, he said — something George Westinghouse was known as. Boyle believes the elephant travelled with the couple to their various homes.
Westinghouse, who died in 1914, was a pioneer in engineering and electricity and held more than 300 patents.
He won the contract to light Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893 using Nikola Tesla’s alternating current system, and developed the revolutionary automatic air brake system for railroads.
The elephant is from Westinghouse’s estate and among several family items in the auction, including a three-piece silver tea set, a marble decorative lamb, a two-level table, and a dozen Tiffany and Co. silver coffee spoons with the monogram of M. Erskine Walker Westinghouse.
Members of the Westinghouse family have lived in Greater Victoria and been involved in charitable causes.
These 1880s elephants are rare, said Boyle.
He’s aware of one displayed in the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, along with a restored elephant that came up for auction several years ago.
Originally, the Lund’s elephant had a dozen cups but these days only five are intact. There are pieces available for restoration. The very tip of its trunk broke off, although it was saved. “It needs a little bit of restoration,” said Boyle.
The elephant also comes with a unique feature — an extra set of larger ears can transform it from Asian to African.