WOODBURY, CONN. — On July 20, Schwenke/Woodbury offered up two sale sessions, each of which was geared to a hot collecting category — Asian art and antiques and Native American items. Each of the sales was “well received and previews were well-attended,” according to Tom Schwenke, owner and auctioneer. “There was a large volume of absentee bids on the Chinese session, and everything did well in the Native American sale. Also, rugs did better than expected,” he said.
These were not sales in which a marquee lot lit up gallery like a neon sign — like the Chinese jade plaque that sold in September 2013 for $392,000 or the rare Georgian marble top carved mahogany serving table from a local estate that in June of this year was knocked down by Schwenke for $41,480. Rather, the Sunday sales provided consistent prices in line with the slower pace of July in Connecticut.
First up was primarily Chinese antiques from a private collection. The trove, on view in a wonderfully arranged setting in the firm’s North Gallery preceding the sale, included Ming dynasty and Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Chinese furniture, Warring States, Han and Tang bronzes, Neolithic pottery, ceramics and porcelain, ancient stone, baskets and woven boxes and architectural woodcarvings, carved doors and other architectural elements.
The top lot and one of the most interesting items in the sale was a large Chinese pottery figure of a soldier or farmer, Sichuan province, Eastern Han dynasty, circa 60 AD. The figure stood 48 inches high and comprised four separate parts — head, torso and two legs, all mounted on a supporting stand. It sold for $7,930 to an absentee bid.
They did not meet their top estimate of $14,000, but a rare pair of Chinese glazed white earthenware consular figures, Tang dynasty, 618–907, 23 inches high, found a new home at $7,200.
The sale’s focus immediately shifted from ancient to modern as the third-highest price was achieved for a rare suite of Chinese Art Deco ironwood and leather seating furniture. Comprising a sofa and two club chairs, the circa 1930 set from Shanghai attracted a lot of activity on the phones before selling at $5,490.
A rare Chinese wood, leather and metal mounted saddle with enameled detail from the Nineteenth Century was, according to Schwenke, “a beautiful piece,” and elicited a winning bid of $5,002.
A rare Chinese silver inlaid bronze hu with cover and handles dating to the early Han dynasty or Warring States (350–200 BC), 12 inches high, 6 inches square, commanded $4,480.
Many lots of furniture crossed the block, most notably a carved namwood daybed, circa 1860, featuring an inset rattan top on an open carved base, which realized $3,660.
Between sessions, festive cupcakes bearing the flags of many nations were brought out and offered to the gallery audience. The occasion? It was Mike Murray’s birthday, a working one, in fact, as he was recording sales with handwritten clerking. Owner of a rare book business, with 20 years in the trade, mostly in Connecticut, Murray “loves to go to auctions,” said his daughter Kathleen.
At 2 pm the action shifted to a specialty auction that featured a Midwestern collection of Native American decorative arts, including beadwork, baskets, pots, rugs, jewelry and other ethnographic material, as well as two New York City collections of sterling silver and a group of estate Oriental carpets.
Bidders’ interest in this sale centered on a Pueblo painted buffalo hide shield, Nineteenth/Twentieth Century, painted in green, red, ochre and black pigments with a horizontal black band midsection, buffalo horns and stepped design with arrow above, lower section with dots on an ochre ground. The shield opened at $1,500, and with two phone bidders in contention, ultimately went to one of the phones for $6,100.
Native American in subject if not in origin, a Nineteenth/Twentieth Century molded body weathervane of an Indian on the hunt with bow and arrow swung to a winning bid of $5,185 after much competing activity among online bidders. Gilded and on an iron display stand, the figure stood 23½ inches high and displayed just the right amount of wear from exposure to the elements.
One of the top lots in the sale was a rare Northwest Coast painted mask, Nineteenth/Twentieth Century, Haida or Tlingit tribe, with large raised brows, defined eyes, nostrils and teeth in original blue, red and black painted surface on display stand, 11 inches high, 8 inches wide. An online bidder snatched it up with a bid of $4,880.
Highlights from the Native American collection also included several beadwork items, including a Sioux girl’s hide dress, Nineteenth/Twentieth Century, yoke beaded with green, dark blue, red, pink, white and metal beads in star, arrow, leaf and geometric designs on a bright blue ground above a muslin band and two lower hide bands ending in fringe, 32½ inches high, 35 inches wide. This went to a gentleman seated in the back of the gallery as it was bid to $4,270.
Many Native American dolls crossed the block, but the response from bidders was more muted for these. As a Crow beaded hide and wool trade cloth doll, Nineteenth/Twentieth Century, with horsehair braids, beaded red wool dress and holding beaded papoose wearing beaded moccasins with a $700/900 estimate was passed, auctioneer Schwenke quipped, “Nobody plays with dolls anymore.”
Along with sterling and .800 silver from two New York City estate consignments, the auction offered more than two dozen estate Oriental rugs. A Heriz example from the Twentieth Century was a standout here, reaching $3,965 against a $700/900 estimate.
All prices given include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.woodburyauction.com or 203-266-0323.