Top lot of Skinner’s record-breaking $2.7 million sale of European and Asian furniture and decorative arts was a dark green jade mountain carved intricately with pavilions, granaries, figures, water buffalo and foliage. The Ch’ien Lung period piece brought $182,000 against its estimated $20/30,000 from a London dealer bidding in the room. The piece was consigned by a private Connecticut collector who traded in China and Japan in the 1930s.
Speaking two days before the sale, James Callahan, director of Skinner’s Asian art department, reported an “ominous silence” about the piece, neither a whistle nor a whinny. He said that mutterings against a piece during the preview is generally reassuring. Bidders hopeful of acquiring a particular piece frequently denigrate it to discourage bidding competition.
The sale previews were packed, the catalog was bulging, the gallery itself was jammed with the nearly 2,000 lots on offer, and Skinner staff put in many long hours before it was all over. Even the six emergency medical technicians responding to a medical emergency during the preview took a look around and took a catalog with them. The sale total was $2,733,265, and the buy-in rate was less than 9 percent. After the sale, department director Stuart G. Slavid expressed deep pleasure at the sale results. “It’s a good sign,” he said, adding “there was no category that was weak.”
An elegant pair of Tou Tsai covered jars of the Ch’ien Lung period and from the same consignor as the mountain was estimated at $4/6,000 and fetched $49,350. The jars had a blue underglaze with crisp green enamel and were decorated with the imperial dragon design.
Vases were highly appealing to bidders who drove their final prices to exponential levels. A bottle vase of the Yun Ch’eng period in an elegant blue Chun-type glaze with a long neck above a compact body sold for $31,725 against its estimated $6/8,000.
A Meiji period cloisonne vase was a real surprise when it raced past its estimated $6/800 to a stunning $28,200. The vase had silver mounts over a dark blue ground decorated with a landscape that was covered with flowers and was signed on the base by Hayashi Kodenji.
The next lot was an early Twentieth Century Japanese plique-a-jour vase with silver mounts on a bright sea green ground with a floral design that was estimated at $4/600 and sold for $12,925.
Then there was the Nineteenth Century Chinese vase in red underglaze bearing designs of the Buddhists’ eight precious rdf_Descriptions that was estimated at $3/500. It sold for a hearty $18,213.
A delicately colored Chinese empress dowager type bottle vase of the Kuang Hsu period had a pale turquoise ground with peaches and ling chih and sold for 10 times the estimate at $10,575.
Another surprise was a 9-inch Eighteenth Century Chinese bronze image of the goddess Kuan Yin holding a scroll signed Shih Sou that was estimated at $6/800 and sold for $25,850.
An Eighteenth Century (or earlier) amber colored rhinoceros horn cup with early European metal mounts brought $18,800.
The highlight of the European section of the sale was a gem of a Minton majolica fountain in brilliant blues, greens and yellow that brought $36,425. Stuart Whitehurst of Skinner’s European department first saw it during the taping of the Antiques Roadshow in Hartford, Conn., last summer. It was consigned by a western Massachusetts family and sold to two collectors who will restore it and use it in an atrium.
Nineteenth Century English Wedgwood ceramics brought consistently strong prices. An early 18-inch green Jasper dip covered vase depicting the Apotheosis of Homer brought $6,463 on the telephone. A late bronzed and gilded creamware vase and cover was $1,528, and a very pretty late 14-piece pearlware Nautilus service with pale pink trim and pale yellow shading was nearly triple the estimate at $1,116. A late dark blue Jasper dip Portland vase brought $2,115. Pieces with jazzy designs were of interest, with a three-color Jasper dip strap ware plate going on the telephone for $5,758 and a lemony yellow Jasper dip jug with applied black classical figures also selling on the phone for $1,116.
Wedgwood medallions from the A. Monnie Kanter collection brought good money too. Competition for a late Eighteenth Century black basalt medallion of Benjamin Franklin flickered around the sale room until it went to a dealer for $5,875 against its modest estimate of $6/800.
Another medallion of interest was a circa 1775 solid blue Jasper portrait of Franklin from the Oster collection that fetched $4,700 from a phone bidder. A circa 1775 Black basalt encaustic plaque with an encaustic painted portrait of Socrates fell within estimate at $3,995 from a phone bidder, who also bought a Wedgwood and Bentley solid blue Jasper portrait medallion of George Washington for $3,055. Despite a chip to the back edge, a circa 1788 solid blue Jasper oval medallion of James Wyatt was quadruple the estimate at $4,113 from a phone bidder.
Wedgwood fairyland lustreware also found favor as a circa 1920 bowl in pinks and scarlet sold for $5,288. Other fairyland lustre fell within estimate.
Three modern (1973-1977) black basalt Egyptian plaques drew lively phone and room action and sold for $940, not a lot of money, but more than quadruple the low estimate. A 1976 three-color Jasper dip dice ware Athena vase and cover was also well above estimate when it sold for $1,528.
Seven late Eighteenth Century Leeds creamware pieces with green underglaze carried an estimate of $150/250 and sold to an absentee bidder for $3,290.
London and New York silver dealers competed openly for choice English Georgian silver. Bidding on a set of 18 George III service plates by London silversmith Paul Storr opened above estimate at $17,000 and settled at $31,725 from a New York dealer in the room who was a big buyer of silver and Asian objects. He also took a George III silver sugar basket for $499
Another dealer bought an Irish George III regimental silver stuffing spoon made in Limerick between 1800 and 1820 by William Fitzgerald. Estimated at $2/300, it sold for $3,819.
A very busy dealer in the room bought a handsome set of five graduated George III silver platters made in London in 1768 by Septimus and James Crespell for $21,150.
Twentieth Century silver was represented by a Georg Jensen silver flatware service for 12 in the Acorn pattern. Bidding opened at $5,500 above the estimated $1,5/2,500 and ended at $8,225. A late Nineteenth Tiffany silver flatware service in the Chrysanthemum pattern was above estimate at $17,625.
Dominick & Haff silver made in about 1879 was also of interest, as a tea set brought $2,585 and a mixed metal tea caddy realized $4,406, while an early Twentieth Century pair of convertible rococo revival candelabra was $6,169, five times the high estimate.
Bidding on a very stylish George II giltwood and marble-top console table on an eagle-form base, which came from a Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass., estate, opened above the high estimate at $7,000 and escalated until it ended at $31,725 from a telephone bidder.
A fancy George III rococo giltwood looking glass opened at the low estimate of $3,000 and sold to a phone bidder for $14,100. Another Georgian piece, a late Eighteenth Century chinoiserie and fine bracket clock in red japanning and made in London by James Melvill brought $10,575
A lot of great interest was the ornate Renaissance Revival gilt bronze and Ivorine humidor that sold on the phone for $3,819. The lot that Whitehurst called “as good as they come” was a pair of Bohemian mantel lustres in white cut to clear enamel with portrait busts that went to an absentee bidder for $1,528, triple the low estimate.
Several bidders really wanted a Twentieth Century Chinese famille verte vasiform porcelain lamp base that was estimated at $4/600. They drove the final price to $5,288.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium of 171/2 percent of the first $80,000 of the selling price and 10 percent thereafter.
For information, 978-779-6241 or www.skinnerinc.com.