Saved by the German Resistance

23rd September 2020

Antiquities from the collection of a prominent anti-Nazi doctor and author have sold at auction for almost £20,000.

Ferdinand Mainzer was a German-Jewish gynaecologist who turned to collecting and writing about antiquities after a hand injury left him unable to perform surgical operations. As anti-Semitic feeling rose in Germany during the 1930s, he and his wife were aided in their escape to England by Countess Lagi von Ballestrem, a member of the German Resistance movement.

Among the items sold in Salisbury on 22nd September was a 2,500 year old Egyptian bronze sarcophagus mounted with Horus the falcon (lot 8). Just 7 inches wide, it sold for £7,500 to a London dealer. Other key lots included an Attic black figure skyphos from the 6th century BC (lot 1) which, although damaged, fetched almost £1,200, while three other pottery vessels from a similar period (lot 2) reached £1,375.

“These objects are already remarkable survivals, having been produced over two millennia ago,” said Woolley and Wallis’s Antiquities specialist, Will Hobbs. “But the fact that they belonged to this extraordinary man who also managed to escape with his life from one of the 20th century’s most horrifying regimes makes them even more special.”

The eleven lots were acquired by Mainzer during the first decades of the 20th century and have been passed down ever since, most recently entering the collection of the barrister, Evan David Robert Stone QC. Following Stone’s death in 2018 the items were consigned to Woolley and Wallis for sale as part of a large section of antiquities. Elsewhere in the sale a pair of 7th-6th century BC Cypriot bichrome models of horses (lot 23) exceeded expectations to sell for £1,500; these had been acquired by a Lieutenant Colonel while stationed in Cyprus during the 1920s and passed down his family line ever since.

“Provenance is extremely important with this type of object,” explained Hobbs. “It is vital to know the history of these objects to ensure that they have been acquired legally, and so collectors are always reassured to know that they can be traced back for decades if not, in some cases, over a century.”


* All prices quoted include buyer's premium.

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