Published: October 4, 2016
Review and Onsite Photos by Jackie Sideli, Catalog Photos Courtesy Circa Auctions
PAWTUCKET, R.I. — A new auction house opened its doors September 11. Circa Auction Gallery conducted its first sale in its smallish space in an arty section of town. The top lot of the auction was an Egyptian mummy head, which had been brought back from Egypt by a physician in 1875. Just a few internet bids pushed the selling price to $138,000 to a buyer online. It was, according to catalog notes, in a state of superb preservation. It retained virtually all skin surfaces, dentition and hair.
The auction opened with a group of vintage cameras — all found in one collection. A Leica 35 mm SL2 with lens, book, carrying case and boxes, Germany, Twentieth Century, serial #1440943, was offered early in the sale. The Leicaflex sold in just one bid to a buyer online for $540. Another Leica camera from the same collection, a Leica Wetzlar M5 35mm, black and chrome, serial #1353440, went for $1,920.
A Lei Niho Palaoa hair necklace, Hawaii, circa 1800, was described as iconic in the catalog and of superb quality. The ivory beads at the terminals were reported to be an indication of royal ownership. Made of human hair with a hook carved from a sperm whale tooth, the necklace opened at $19,000 with a bid from the internet. With rapid increments, the necklace brought $45,000.
An unusually large Charles Green Shaw biomorphic abstract painting, New York, 1936, which was signed and dated “Shaw,” 1936, on the reverse, was offered early in the auction. With phone, floor and internet bidders competing, the painting opened at $2,000 on the phone and went to $20,400 to the phones.
An antique Singhalese polychrome wood mask from Sri Lanka, Nineteenth Century, was also an early standout. The mask, which depicted the seated Padmapani, flanked by two standing deities, confronting makaras and a dragon head, sold online for $2,040. An Indian figure, circa Seventeenth–Eighteenth Century, Southern Indian, was a wooden sculpture of a three-headed shiva, with its four arms holding attributes, all within an architectural framework. The auctioneer stated as he was beginning to sell the sculpture, “This is a great piece.” Bidders from the internet, the floor and the phone all competed for this shiva, which opened at $425 on the internet and saw lots of action before closing at $4,200. An ancient sandstone sculpture from central India, circa Twelfth Century — a fragmentary pilaster depicting two standing and one seated figures — went to a buyer at the sale for $7,200.
A beautifully reticulated antique Chinese porcelain vase, late Qing dynasty, which was painted in enamel with fine brushwork, opened at $1,500 with an internet bid, and sold quickly to the phone for $1,920. A rare Japanese Edo period wood figure, dating from the Eighteenth Century, was cataloged as a rare depiction of Daigensui Myo-o, said to be a child-eating demon who became enlightened and became one of the wisdom kings. The figure retained good color, had crystal eyes, opened at $850 and sold quickly for $3,300. A seated Indian stone figure of vishnu, South Indian, circa Thirteenth Century, opened at $1,500 and ultimately brought $7,200.
An exceptionally fine Edo period gilt wood standing Buddha sold for $5,400. A rare set of Tibetan surgical instruments from the late Nineteenth Century consisted of 26 steel tools of various shapes and sizes, encased in a Tibetan wooden box with 26 fitted compartments. The lid of the box was covered with cloth and was beautifully painted with various Buddhist emblems and symbols. Catalog notes indicate that “this is an extremely rare collection.” The auctioneer asked for a $1,000 opening bid but got an opening bid of $2,500. The lot brought $3,300 to a customer at the sale. An unbelievably scarce nest of six dinosaur eggs sold for $9,600.
A collection of vintage timepieces was offered, including an 18K Vacheron Constantine mini-folding travel clock, Switzerland, Twentieth Century, with original dials, 15 jewels, that opened at $2,250 and, with two online bids, sold for $3,000. An 18K gold Patek Philippe pocket watch, Twentieth Century, had been manufactured for the Tilden Thurber company in Providence. With 18 jewels, it had a serial number of #91385 and sold for $2,700, just under estimate.
Among ancient artifacts was a Greek marble head of a goddess, Magna Graccia, Third–Second Century BCE. According to the catalog, it is most likely a depiction of Aphrodite. Her left ear is pierced, and the lot opened with an internet bid of $1,600, and sold quickly online for $2,700. A large, ancient red figure skyphos from Apulia in southern Italy, circa Fourth Century BCE, depicts a seated male figure on one side and a seated female on the other side. It brought brought $2,160.
Three ancient Roman fragments, ex Museum of Fine Arts, were circa First–Third Century. Possibly fragments from a sarcophagus, they realized $1,920. A contemporary looking ancient large Greek red-figure owl cup, Italy, Fourth Century, Apulia, surfaced at this sale and brought $1,560. A pair of Renaissance polychrome wood candle-bearing angels, northern Italy, circa 1500, retained much original pigment and gilding. Estimated at $1/2,000, the pair brought $1,020 from a customer at the sale. A huge Italian Renaissance bronze brazier, Italy, circa late Seventeenth Century, was described in the catalog as “a rare survivor” and “massive.” It had excellent, dark patina, and sold in one bid to an internet customer for $1,800.
The offerings at this inaugural sale performed well and the auction was, by all accounts, a success. The auction was quite small, and seemed geared to the internet bidder. The cozy gallery space was full with dealers and collectors. There were, however, some serious glitches with the internet bidding, a few times the auction had to stop to straighten things out. Items offered were in many different categories, ranging from a mummy head to an 18K watch, with much in between. The connecting thread seemed to be quality, age, rarity and condition. Both the principals, Louis W. Grande and Jeffrey Shore, are collectors, and brought that aesthetic to bear on their sale.
This was a strong first sale, with some wonderful things offered and sold. The location in Pawtucket, an old brick rehabbed mill, is easy to find and appealing.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.circaauctiongallery.com or 401-475-8785.
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