Published: June 28, 2011
Hot, hotter and hottest: an Eighteenth Century carved bamboo brush pot brought a record $539,500 at Skinner’s June 2‴ Asian arts sale. The 6-inch pot was carved in detail with Immortals in a mountain landscape, with figures and animals, gnarled pines and rocky outcrops.
Inscribed and bearing a dated guichou year, the brush pot rested on a wood stand carved with pines, lingzhi heads and waves. The pot was consigned by an upstate New York woman who inherited it from her grandmother, whose collection was replete with objects bearing Victorian-era paper tags. It sold to a Chinese dealer in the gallery.
Thirty lots later, an Eighteenth Century rhinoceros horn libation cup was offered. Carved with gnarled pine branches, it brought $325,000 from a Chinese dealer. It had come from the collection of a woman planning her daughter’s wedding and uncertain about how to fund it. Looks like a gala celebration is in the works.
The next lot was another Eighteenth Century rhinoceros horn libation cup, this one a 2½-inch example carved with lotus flowers, leaves and reeds, and a crab beneath a leaf. It realized $88,875, while a lacquered bamboo libation cup carved with chi dragons went to $13,025.
Skinner Asian expert James F. Callahan delivered another record-breaking sale, with a total of $6.1 million. The Chinese trade was out in force in the Boston gallery, eager and patient for the 1,600 lots spread across three days. Bidders in the gallery used their cellphones and Skype to communicate with buyers in China and other international points, while their online counterparts were active and telephone bidders drew a full bore of house phones.
Damage had little effect on an Eighteenth Century pair of covered jars, each quatrefoil piece decorated with cartouches with exquisitely enameled landscapes on a blue enameled ground and dog head lugs that brought $292,000. The pair was damaged but all the parts were present. It came from a Rhode Island estate.
A Nineteenth Century album leaf painted with an ink and color image on silk of a nonreligious recluse in a landscape with pine trees and outcroppings was a late addition to the sale and realized $159,975. The work bore eight seals, either of the artist or of successive collectors, and it had been part of the estate of Rhode Island Senator Theodore Francis Green.
An ink with colors on paper scene of boating along a rocky shore by Twentieth Century artist Lu Yanshao with one seal captured interest and went to the Chinese trade for $100,725. The painting was purchased in New York in the early 1980s.
An album of ten leaves, each with an ink on paper image of a rocky landscape with pines, with seals and signed on the last page, was attributed to Twentieth Century artist Xie Zhilu and brought $71,100.
Two paintings on paper signed Ren Yi Bonian, the Nineteenth Century Qing dynasty artist who was also associated with the Shanghai School, sold for $41,475. Both images were drawn finely, one depicting a duck with lilies, and the other a quail with orchids. Both bore seals.
A hanging scroll with a powerful image of a galloping horse in ink and color on paper was inscribed and signed “Beihong,” dated 1943, and sold for $24,885. Beihong was one of the first modern artists to create monumental paintings with monumental Chinese themes and his work is sought after. A Nineteenth Century silk handscroll painting of an autumn landscape with a boating scene was signed “Chen Zhang Ruocheng gong hui” and bore what the catalog notes described as an “apocryphal Qianlong seal.” It was dated “the sixth month of jiaxu year,” inscribed, and realized $23,700. Provenance included the Kaikodo Gallery, New York City.
A fan painting of prunus branches by Wu Changshuo was inscribed, signed and dated 1917, and brought $34,365. The fan came from the collection of paintings and calligraphy of Pah-Yuen Wang, which brought $1.9 million in Skinner’s Asian sale in December 2010. Wang, known as the “Gold King” in early Twentieth Century Shanghai, gathered a formidable collection of Chinese art aimed at preserving national treasures. As a patron of both arts, he was friends with many contemporary artists.
Another fan from the Wang collection was a calligraphy example, also by Wu Changshuo, that was signed “Anji Wu Junqing” and sold for $16,950.
Twelve phones geared up for the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century 7¼-inch covered white gray jade vase in a double-gourd form, with russet marks and carved with small double gourds on leafy branches that they drove to $142,200. A Nineteenth Century white jade plaque incised with an image of scholars in a pavilion on a river and a mountain landscape sold for $106,650. The plaque was inscribed and dated “mid-autumn in guiwei year” and was signed “Minister Liu Yong” and “Liu Kan” and bore seven carved seals.
From an area collection, a translucent white jade bowl carved with cicadas and lotus blossoms, mythical birds and dragons elicited $77,025.
Other jade stars were the celadon white jade carving of a female Immortal with a staff supporting symbolic double gourds and pomegranates on a carved rosewood stand that went to $65,175 and the Nineteenth Century translucent gray white jade wrist rest carved with a recluse in a landscape on a carved wood stand that fetched $29,625. An Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century white jade bracelet inside a delicate reticulated tortoiseshell box carved with butterflies with articulated wings and atop flowering scrolls realized $21,330. Asked which object was the draw, Callahan replied, “Both.” They were equally desirable.
Each category of the sale had a major star. For wood it was an agalloch carving of scholars in a rocky and mountainous landscape on an ivory stand with an inscription that attracted much interest and sold for $106,650.
Ivory of interest included the late Nineteenth Century ivory panel carved in detailed relief with scholars and other figures in pavilions was 11 by 51/8 inches that sold on the phone for $77,025. A large (253/8 inches) carved ivory figure of a goddess holding a spray of prunus blossoms with perching insects and mounted on a rosewood stand carved in the form of a double lotus pedestal realized $50,363.
Textiles were led by an Eighteenth Century Sino-Tibetan Kesi panel woven with the Green Tara amid Buddhist figures and a dragon border that sold for $88,875.
A large (about 19 inches) bronze figure of Buddha seated in the royal ease position and holding an attribute in each hand brought $41,475, and a lapis lazuli and gilt figure of the deity Tara seated in the lalitasana pose was $28,440.
A Sixteenth Century Cinnabar Yunnan ware covered box was 81/8 inches in diameter and carved with a central flower amid foliage; it sold for $65,175.
The highlight of the snuff bottles was a Nineteenth Century famille rose example with a quatrefoil body decorated with peony branches on one side and inscriptions on the reverse. It bore a Qianlong mark, but was missing the stopper, and brought $30,810.
Porcelain of desire included a framed plaque decorated with a scene of a naked woman carried on the back of a ghost. The plaque was inscribed and signed “Zhu Shan Wang Qi” and drew $31,995.
Blue and white porcelain remains of interest: a bowl (3 by 73/8 inches) decorated with an Immortal on a crane in a celestial landscape of mountains and clouds sold for $29,625, while a bulbous blue and white jar with underglaze blue simulating the Fifteenth Century style of “heaping and piling” with stylized lotus scrolls over a band of lappets realized $19,600.
Cloisonné objects stirred interest as a Nineteenth Century pair of 16½-inch foo dogs with gilding and the Qianlong mark on the base, supported on enameled stands with gilded clouds, went to $35,550. A 7¾-inch lapis lazuli carving of a qilin, a mythical animal, on a 2-inch cloisonné stand, both bearing the Qianlong mark, was also $35,550.
While much of the attention was directed at the Chinese lots, a couple of exceptions caught bidders’ eyes. A Nineteenth Century Korean giltwood Amida trio of a central 27-inch Buddha flanked by two smaller Buddhas realized $23,700.
All reported prices include the buyer’s premium.
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