Published: September 2, 2003
The big news at Northeast Auctions’ August 20 sale was the China Trade picture by Sunqua of the ship Samuel Russell that sold for $222,500 after a round of bidding that bounced between the floor and the telephones. The finely executed picture, which came from the Vincent Andrus collection and went to a private collector, shows the New York vessel in the Whampoa Anchorage, and, according to the sale catalog, is the largest and most dramatic of Sunqua’s China Trade paintings. It hangs in its original black lacquer China Trade frame.
Another China Trade marine painting by Sunqua of the Baltimore clipper Architect, a tea trade ship, sold in the room for $63,000, while a somewhat dingy Sunqua painting of the Bath, Maine, ship Hannibal brought $42,550. As he sold the picture, auctioneer Ronald Bourgeault commented that it will clean up nicely.
Other good paintings drew strong results. Bidders chased William Bradford’s smoky 1878 “Labrador Coastal Scene” around the room but in the end it went to a telephone buyer for $60,250. A rare China Trade view of Singapore with American, British and French shipping sold in the room for $57,500. Another China Trade view, this one of the bund at Shanghai, was $43,125. A Boston collector got a China Trade oil on canvas portrait of a hong merchant of Canton that is attributed to Lamqua or his studio for $13,800. He also bought a painting of the British ship Lathem for $6,043.
Business has been very brisk at Northeast this summer. First, there was the $9.9 million sale in early August and now this: a cool $3.7 million in marine and China Trade. All this and a 15 percent buyer’s premium, too. Bourgeault noted during the sale that Northeast is the “only major auction house in the country to keep the premium at 15 percent. And we intend to do so as long as possible,” he said. “We appreciate your business,” he added to a round of applause. It should be noted that Northeast’s 15 percent applies only to the first $50,000 of the hammer price, while some other auction houses with a 15 percent premium apply it to the total price.
The other big news was very fine Chinese export porcelain. A gorgeous circa 1690 blue and white monteith with eight octagonal panels of birds and exotic animals sold to a private collector for $57,500. From the Andrus collection, it is heading back to Greenwich, Conn.
Of a selection of truly handsome American market orange Fitzhugh pieces, a covered soup tureen and stand with large spread-wing eagles went for $54,630 to a telephone bidder, who also got a covered hot water serving dish for $18,400. An oval platter with a large sepia eagle bearing the banner with the legend “E Pluribus Unum” went to Henry Moog for $18,400. Moog also took away a pair of export hexagonal vases in famille rose enamel and gilt with foo dog finial covers for $17,250 and, among many other objects, a charming early export figure of a reclining hound in yellow glaze formerly of the collection of Raffi Mottadeh for $1,955.
Three small doucai pieces were highly appealing and highly coveted, but went to one successful bidder in the room. One, a shallow 31/4-inch cup in blue underglaze with orange and green overglaze highlights realized $41,400, perhaps the most expensive piece per square inch in the sale. Another, a 35/8-inch bowl in blue underglaze with overglaze enamels in red, green, orange and mauve, brought $19,550. The third, a shallow bowl with blue underglaze and applied enamels in red, green, yellow and black, was $4,025, due no doubt to a small line along the exterior.
Gore Place, the 1806 Waltham, Mass., summer estate of Christopher Gore, bought an American market Chinese export porcelain reticulated fruit basket stand that was part of the Governor Christopher Gore service for $5,750. Gore, who lived in Boston, and his wife died without children, and their Federal house and much of its elegant contents were sold at auction in 1834. The house is furnished today with fine antiques and art of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries and a few of the Gores’ original possessions formerly in the hands of relatives, friends and neighbors have returned to the house. The fruit basket stand will be added to the collection. Bourgeault noted that in honor of the piece’s return, he will make a donation to Gore Place.
A splendid circa 1780-85 Chinese export porcelain punch bowl whose enameled exterior shows the hongs of Canton was slated to sell. As it had some unfortunate over painting, Northeast sent it to New York to have the paint removed. The power failed and the bowl sat safely in the dark in New York. It is expected to cross the block at the November sale.
Speaking after the sale, Bourgeault observed that he had no surprises in the sale but he had noticed stronger than usual retail buying. That is where the money is this minute.
A cool touch on a hot day were the three prim penguins carved and painted by Charles Hart, who used to sell his penguins along the road between Essex and Gloucester, Mass. The first of these birds, a 43-inch example, sold for $23,000 to New Hampshire dealer Russ Goldberger, who also bought a 37-inch example missing its beak for $7,475. The third, a smaller 18-inch bird, fetched $6,900. Bourgeault said that he was pleased to find the third bird in the basement of a house on the North Shore of Boston. The owners informed him they had just tossed the other two in the dumpster where Bourgeault hastily retrieved them. He never found the beak, though.
A couple of other birds ruffled feathers and sold to Goldberger: a black-bellied plover attributed to Ipswich, Mass., carver Thomas Wilson sold for $13,800 and a pair of yellow-leg decoys, one of which was a feeder, went for $8,050.
A white marble bust of John Paul Jones by Henri Greber after Houdon on a 25-inch green granite pedestal with a marble base and revolving pediment sold on the phone for $35,650.
Not a lot of furniture was offered but the few pieces that did come up were fine. A grand Eighteenth Century Chinese export black and gilt lacquer cabinet on stand sold on the phone for $19,550. The cabinet door opened to reveal a “theater” interior with niches, balconies and compartments. Each of these can be removed to reveal banks of hidden drawers. The cabinet lifts off, leaving an elegant Chinese Chippendale tea table.
A rare set of four China Trade nesting tables in red lacquer, each decorated in gold with a Pearl River scene, brought $3,743 from a phone bidder and a China Trade sofa with a carved and molded frame and the original brass bolts to allow disassembly was of interest and sold at $8,625.
This was a sale that kept bidders in their seats to the very end. The final lot of the nearly 1,100-lot sale was an oil on canvas view of the US vessel Trimountain taking passengers and crew from the British iron clipper Loch Earn, which had collided with the French vessel Ville du Havre causing her to sink. It sold to a telephone bidder for $5,750.
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