Published: January 25, 2022
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Clars Auction Gallery
OAKLAND, CALIF. – Tucked inside of Clars Auction Gallery’s January 15-16 estate auction were two Chinese works that boomed over their estimates.
A Chinese huanguali corner leg table, with a single paneled top and “giant’s arms” braces supporting the beaded legs and apron, went for $93,750, over double its high estimate. The table measured 18 inches high and 73 inches long. Thirty-one bids carried it to its final value.
Clars’ Asian art specialist Harry Huang said interest for this work was mainly from China. “Chinese collectors are ferocious when it comes to high-quality examples, and this counts as one,” he said.
The Eighteenth Century table was cut down to coffee table height and would have originally been taller. They were primarily made for painting, calligraphy or writing in a scholar’s studio.
When asked what made it special, Huang said, “It’s primarily the age and the size of the table. It’s roughly Eighteenth Century and it’s very comparable to other pieces sold at other major auction houses. The size, at 77 inches, is pretty much the max for that type of table.”
Huang said the piece of furniture came from a Sacramento consignor who was gifted it by a late aunt. According to the family, it came from a wealthy great aunt who resided in San Francisco and traveled the world. The consignor had inherited it about 20 years ago.
Also surprising was an $87,500 result for a pair of Chinese doucai enameled globular vases measuring 22¼ inches high. Each featured a painted exterior with eight bats and stylized lotus petals surrounded by scrolling lotus and vine patterns. A ruyi-head border ran around the mouth of the vase and to its bottom was the Qianlong six-character mark in underglaze blue.
“A pair is special,” Huang said. “They don’t usually show up on the market as a pair. And the size, they’re over 22 inches tall.”
Also special was the doucai decoration, a style that emphasizes the contrasting colors between the red, yellow and pink enameling over the traditional blue and white underglaze. Huang said he wasn’t convinced by the Qianlong mark to the bottom, saying the consensus was that they were produced in the early Nineteenth Century.
On the imagery, Huang said the combination of the bats and the lotus are symbolic of everlasting fortune. Also incorporated into the mix was the character for longevity.
The pair was consigned from the daughter of a woman who received them as a gift from the family she worked for, who had homes in Long Island, N.Y., and Washington DC. “Just a nice gift from that person to their housekeeper who eventually retired and came back to the Bay Area and passed them along to her daughter,” Huang said. “She took them to a little antiques shop to get them valued. The shop has a working relationship with Clars and they immediately referred them to us.”
The vases were purchased by an American collector.
An oil on canvas painting from Taiwanese artist Yan Hsia (born 1932), “Pedestrian at Soho #2,” sold for $32,500. The 1975 work bears all the hallmarks of a black and white photograph, emblematic of Hsia’s transformative period when he lived in New York and became involved in the Photo-Realist movement. The figure in the work is seen blurred, a theme Hsia explored throughout his time in Manhattan, as if to illustrate the hustle bustle of the city.
All prices reported include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 510-428-0100 or www.clars.com.
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