Notable lots that share the spotlight in our July 30, 2021 issue start with a feminist work by Juana Inés de la Cruz that broke ground at Swann Auction Galleries’ Focus on Women Sale when it sold for more than 13-times its high estimate. At Clars, a Chinese gilt-silver mechanical celestial sphere sold for a firm five figures. Meanwhile, a “charming as heck” painting by American artist Gaines Ruger Donoho raised the paddles at Clarke Auction Gallery as a 15.80 carat ring made by Louis Comfort Tiffany starred at Michaan’s Auctions. Beautiful carvings and spectacular lighting round out this week’s offerings.
NEW YORK CITY – Just 178 lots made up Swann Auction Galleries’ July 15 Focus on Women sale, led by Juana Inés de la Cruz’s (1648-1695) Fama, y Obras Posthumas del Fenix de Mexico, Decima Musa, Poetisa Americana, which sold for $81,250 above a $6,000 high estimate. The quarto represented the first edition of the third part of the poet’s works, published in Madrid by Manuel Ruiz de Murga in 1700. Published five years after de la Cruz passed away, the auction house noted that the first 142 unnumbered pages in the work consist of “laudatory verse and letters in praise of de la Cruz’s work and life by contemporary admirers and colleagues, male and female. The subsequent pages are de la Cruz’s arguments “in defense of a woman’s right to study secular and religious texts,” a heroic undertaking in the Seventeenth Century. For information, www.swanngalleries.com or 212-254-4710.
OAKLAND, CALIF. – A Chinese gilt-silver mechanical celestial sphere from a European collection sold for $50,000 at Clars Auction Gallery on July 18. Constructed from two openwork concentric spheres, each featuring swirling clouds and inlaid with various materials, including glass, opal, jade and other hardstones, the sphere featured constellation names engraved on small conjoined circular plaques. The globe tilted along its axis, encircled by a vertically placed meridian ring engraved with lines to mark degrees, and an equatorial ring similarly marked, all connected to a horizontal ring applied with characters representing the “Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches” interspersed with “trigrams,” above two pairs of dragons confronted on flaming pearls, all attached to a pillar borne on the back of a dragon-tortoise having a tail that acts as a switch, and surrounded by four upright dragons, with enameled highlights. The sphere was supported on a domed circular base patterned with swirling waves, with wood stand enclosing an additional music box mechanism, 22½ inches high by 17½ inches in diameter. For information, www.clars.com or 510-428-0100.
WINDSOR, CONN. – Contemporary art, outdoor furniture and decorative arts were on tap at Nadeau’s Auction Gallery on July 17 as more than 550 lots crossed the block. Notable was a pair of bronze outdoor leopards standing 35 inches high. A bidder on the prowl for distinctive outdoor sculpture paid $5,100 for them. For information, 860-246-2444 or www.nadeausauction.com.
MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. – The Benefit Shop’s leader on July 14 was cataloged as a Chinese hand carved wooden vessel only 3-3/8 inches high. After 49 bids, it sold for $6,400. The libation cup form featured carved characters to the body, which exhibited some losses around the rim and base. The finish appeared quite old and buyers responded with enthusiasm, taking it well beyond the $150 high estimate. For information, www.thebenefitshop.org or 914-864-0707.
DETROIT, MICH. – A monumental French bronze garden fountain cast by Parisian foundry J.J. Ducel sold for $19,050 at DuMouchelles’ July 15 Statuaries, Icons, Silver, Crystal sale. The figure depicts a maiden with a large cornucopia over her shoulder – it had come from a garden in Grosse Point Shores, Mich. Ducel was among the top producers of cast iron statuary in Nineteenth Century France. His firm exhibited at major exhibitions, including the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle. Though the firm focused primarily in cast iron, it offered bronze works as a premium product and Ducel works can be seen on the streets of Paris even today. The firm’s 1830-40 catalog is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For information, www.dumoart.com or 313-963-6255.
ALAMEDA, CALIF. – A ring made by Louis Comfort Tiffany for his father’s business, Tiffany & Co, sold for $19,050 at Michaan’s Auctions’ July 17 sale. The 18K gold ring featured an elongated oval-cut imperial topaz weighing approximately 15.80 carats. It was accented by four emerald-cut emeralds and dated to 1915. For information, 510-740-0220 or www.michaans.com.
GLEN COVE, N.Y. – American designer John Vesey, known for his works in stainless steel, reinvented the classic French bureau plat desk in a 1960s example that sold at Roland NY on July 17 for $15,990. The Louis XVI-style desk featured stainless steel surfaces, a leather inset top and gilt acanthus swag trim and bronze mounts ending with bronze sabots. In terms of value, the desks are among Vesey’s most coveted works, consistently selling near the top of the designer’s body of work. For information, www.rolandantiques.com or 212-260-2000.
LARCHMONT, N.Y. – “Long Island Farmhouse,” an oil on canvas by American artist Gaines Ruger Donoho (1857-1916) brought $39,000 at Clarke Auction Gallery’s July 18 sale. The work was dated 1911 and measured 24 by 36 inches. After formal training in both New York and Paris, Donoho returned to the United States, eventually settling in East Hampton, N.Y., where he enjoyed the bucolic views and country life. His style shifted to domestic scenes, including flower gardens and the abodes around him. Among his peers were Childe Hassam, William Merritt Chase and Walter Shirlaw. For information, www.clarkeny.com or 914-833-8336.
HARRISBURG, PENN. – “It was a really fun set of auctions – even if incredibly labor intensive,” said Melanie Hartman of Cordier Auctions & Appraisals of the firm’s two-day Summer Spectacular sale on July 16-17. “Everything was cataloged on location, so the whole staff got to take road trips for a few days.” A kitschy midcentury floor lamp with black, white and gold shades, 61½ inches high, brought $390. For information, 717-731-8662 or www.cordierauction.com.