Published: February 22, 2011
Billed as “Curio Auction No. 6,” the January 29 sale at Estates Unlimited attracted a strong contingent of the intellectually curious interested in the rare and ancient objects for sale. The annual event delivers rich and highly interesting pickings that this year ranged from fossils and antiquities to pre-Columbian and tribal, Asian and natural history, European and Native American. There was something for everyone and the house was nearly packed. Bidders in the gallery, on the phone and online represented the United States, Canada, England, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands and China. Some institutional buying was observed, said auctioneer Steven M. Fusco, who runs these popular curio sales about every 18 months.
A saber tooth cat skull from the Miocene period (23′5 million years ago) attracted much attention and sold for $9,875. The animal, of the species Machairodus Giganteus, had China as its habitat and is now extinct but was the largest of his cat family. The skull came from a Massachusetts collection and is headed to England. A late Cretaceous period jaw of a Mosasaurus that measured 24 inches and came from Khouribga, Morocco, realized $1,035 online. A Cretaceous period Oviraptor nest of three eggs from Central Asia was $748 online.
The highlight of the taxidermy examples across the block was a duck-billed platypus that sold for $2,185. Several bidders wanted the rare example and it sold to a Philadelphia collector. It, and a number of other objects sold came from an eclectic Narragansett, R.I., collection.
A pair of First Century Roman bronze door handles with lion head decoration brought $9,875. Of a particularly heavy cast bronze, they came from the Narragansett collection, as did other Roman bronzes that sold.
From the First Century BC, a Roman bronze lamp was made with three nozzles and was rare for its inscription to the god Helios, leading archaeologists to conclude that it was not meant to be used but was interred as a votive lamp. It realized $4,850 from an Internet bidder in England. A large Second Century Roman bronze lamp, the handle of which formed a sinuous horse’s head, sold for $3,738. Another Roman bronze lamp, a First Century example with adorsed dolphins, brought $3,930 from a New York dealer online.
A First Century BC or First Century AD Roman bronze situla with classical faces holding the bail sold for $1,610, and a First Century Roman bronze oil container brought $1,575 from a New Zealand buyer online.
Realizing $1,150 was a bactrian bronze vase made during the First Millennium BC, described accurately in the catalog notes as “very elegant.” Its provenance included the Bernheimer collection.
A Boeotian Hellenistic period terracotta figure of a female wearing a prayer shawl sold for $1,668. The 10½-inch figure had been repaired and had sold at Sotheby’s Amsterdam in 2006.
A Japanese Friendship Doll made in 1927 by Hirata Goyo II sold for $6,038. Such dolls, the 33-inch Torei Ningyo, were Dolls of Gratitude sent from Japan to the United States as part of the Committee on World Friendship Among Children and in reciprocity for the 12,000 blue-eyed dolls sent from the United States to Japan in 1927. Fusco discovered the doll, now the 46th example of the 58 created, at an estate sale in Providence where it had been overlooked by a number of shoppers. He paid $150 for it.
Fetching $1,495 was a 28-inch Japanese Wakizashi in a black lacquered scabbard.
A group of 44 hardstone seals mounted on a steel frame dated variously from the Twelfth to the Nineteenth Century sold for $1,380.
An Eighteenth Century or earlier Persian ceramic ewer in a vibrant turquoise glaze sold for $1,380. A pair of Nineteenth Century Persian miniatures depicting court life brought $1,295, and a period Persian war helmet drew $1,150 from a buyer in Oxford, England.
Made of human bone and carved, a Tibetan necromancer’s apron from the Nineteenth Century or earlier was sold to an area collector in the gallery for $4,600. The apron had been part of the collection of Marilynn B. and James W. Alsdorf of Chicago and had been exhibited at institutions in that city. It was published in A Collecting Odyssey: The Alsdorf Collection of Indian and East Indian Art by Pratapaditya Pal. The successful bidder has been a frequent buyer of the eclectic at Estates Unlimited sales over the years. A large taxidermy lion that she purchased several years ago was seen riding home in the back of her husband’s pickup truck.
A Seventeenth Century Chinese gilt bronze seated deity of the Ming period fetched $3,400. A late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century pair of large (26 inches) gilt bronze Thai monks realized $3,163 and is headed to China.
A Qing dynasty bowl in ruby glaze with a six-character mark brought $2,450. A 17-inch Chinese meiping vase with a five-clawed dragon and flowers on a yellow ground sold for $1,840. A dainty Song dynasty hand mirror, cited in Later Chinese Bronzes by Rose Kerr sold online for $1,035.
Measuring 10 inches, a Twentieth Century Chinese carved green-gray jade figure of a fish had brown marks and sold for $2,875.
A large (28 inches) Vera Cruz ceramic figure of a warrior, circa 600‹00, brought $4,313. The figure, from the Gulf Coast of Mexico, was painted in black and buff with a loin cloth, chest pectorals and a headdress. A Chontal face mask from Guerrero, Mexico, and dating from about 200 BC to 200 AD, was made from a carved and speckled hardstone plank and sold for $1,610. It had been part of the collection of Joseph F. McCrindle.
At 14½ by 9½ inches, a large Chupicuro pottery ceremonial tripod vessel, circa 500″00 BC, went to a phone bidder for $1,380. An 8-inch Chinesca pottery seated figure from West Mexico, dating between the Second Century BC to the Third Century AD was $1,380.
Painted with a geometric design, a large Narino (Colombian) painted amphora, circa 500 to 1000, was $1,380.
An artfully arranged group of nine late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Southeastern Asia tribal spears included some carefully wrought and fancifully decorated examples from Philippines, Indonesia and the Bontoc, Asmat and Ifugao tribes brought $1,150. The group came from the early Twentieth Century collection of Mrs Marcus Darling.
Two Nineteenth Century pieces that crossed the block included a Hawaiian carved koa wood bowl, 6¾ inches in diameter, $2,760, and a figure of the Madonna and Child, $2,300. The figure had .800 silver marks and remains of gilding and depicted the Madonna with a crown and scepter. An Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century wood figure of Christ on the cross brought $1,955. The figure included in its provenance Arnold Coward’s private collection in his Museum Macabre in Honolulu. From the same collection, another Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century example brought $1,840.
Also from Coward’s museum was a Seventeenth Century carved head of Christ that realized $1,610. A carved recumbent figure of Christ after his body was removed from the cross sold for $1,380.
A European lot of interest was an early Seventeenth Century majolica crespina that may have been made at the Patanazzi pottery in Urbino. It sold for $1,093.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium. For information, 401-781-1181 or www.estatesunlimited.com .
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