NEW YORK CITY – Doyle began the New Year with the auction of the Noel and Harriette Levine collection on January 17. This remarkable collection comprised Asian works of art and important English furniture and decorations from the Levines’ elegant apartment on Park Avenue and their country house in Bedford, N.Y.
With international competitive bidding in the saleroom, on the telephones and via the internet, the auction totaled $1,614,781, with a robust 89 percent sold by lot and by value.
Highlighting the sale was an exceptional Tibetan hammered and cast gilt-bronze figure of Tara that achieved $187,500. Tara is a bodhisattva in Tibetan Buddhism representing virtuous and enlightened activity, the goddess of universal compassion. The bronze depicts Tara seated in dhyanasana atop a cloisonné double lotus base, her hands held in dhyana mudra. Her bare chest is adorned with a turquoise inset tiered necklace, with further armlets, anklets and bracelets. She wears a separately cast and turquoise-inset five-leaf crown, her hair gathered into a tiered top-knot, as celestial scarves billow around her shoulders and arms.
Also attracting international competition was a pair of Chinese export polychrome-decorated clay nodding head figures measuring 21 inches in height. With spirited bidding, the figures soared past their estimate of $40/60,000 to fetch $162,500 – a probable world auction record for a pair of nodding head figures. The first known example of similar figures appears in a European 1777 inventory, where they are described as “china dolls.” They illustrate the incredible fascination that Europeans had for Chinese objects and helped to educate them about Chinese life and society.
Furniture in the Levine collection featured a handsome pair of George II walnut armchairs that sold for $162,500. The armchairs once formed part of a larger suite at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire, England. Wimpole Hall was altered by the Palladian architect Henry Flitcroft, who created a 60-foot-long gallery in the west wing in 1742, for which the suite would have been commissioned.
A George III inlaid mahogany china cabinet went out at $81,250, while a Chinese polychrome painted and parcel-gilt coromandel black lacquer cabinet on a continental giltwood stand sold for $68,750.
Additional highlights of the sale included a George IV mahogany library table by Gillows of Lancaster, circa 1829, at $56,250; a George II giltwood stool in the manner of Thomas Chippendale, circa 1755, selling for $34,375; and a Chinese black lacquer and polychrome decorated long table, Qing dynasty, circa 1800, that fetched $34,375.
Rounding out the sale’s notable lots were a pair of George III cut-glass and gilt-metal seven-light wall lights of important and impressive size in the manner of Parker and Perry, late Eighteenth/early Nineteenth Century, $43,750; and a continental japanned and parcel-gilt tole center table, possibly French, first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, with mother-of-pearl applied to its top, $17,500.
Generous patrons of the arts, Noel and Harriette Levine were longtime donors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, both of which have galleries named in their honor. They donated their extensive and renowned collection of photographs to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, whose photography department bears their name.
Noel Levine served as board member and trustee to a number of cultural and arts organizations, including serving as chairman of the National Trustees of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. Harriette Levine was active in the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies. This nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is dedicated to enhancing the United States’ image abroad through contributions of American art to its embassies around the world.
The Levine collection was assembled by consummate connoisseurs. Mrs Levine was a stylish and sophisticated interior designer, who possessed a discerning eye for quality and had unerring judgment in her choice of the best, whether it be furnishings or jewelry.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
Jewelry from the Noel and Harriette Levine collection offers a dazzling array of creations by such prestigious makers as Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb and Cartier. Jewelry and watches will be offered in sales on February 21 and April 24.
For information, 212-427-4141 or www.doyle.com.