Published: October 25, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Michaan’s Auctions
ALAMEDA, CALIF. – A French Napoleon III faience figural compote on tripodal base, circa 1870, topped Michaan’s October 14 Traditional & Old Masters auction, going out at $25,830 to a first-time buyer bidding from across the pond. Comprising a low white circular bowl with two scroll handles applied close to the sides, the compote stood over a quadripodal base of goat legs, surrounded by a cylindrical pedestal on a flat, round base. It was painted a la Greque in shades of terracotta and black and bore black enamel interlaced “L”s to the base’s underside.
There was no shortage of rare decorations to be acquired in the 291-lot sale, and the following day’s gallery sale offered an additional 500 lots, starting off with a bang in the form of a California fire extinguisher grenade, circa 1890, photography, desirable jewelry, furniture and choice Asian art. In all, the two days toted up $472,290 in sales and posted a 74 percent sell-through rate. Registered bidders assembled on LiveAuctioneers (980), Michaan’s Live (341) as well as floor, absentee and phone (30, 28 and 27, respectively).
The California fire extinguisher grenade put out its $2/3,000 estimate, realizing $10,160. Amber glass, the front reading “California Fire Extinguisher” and its cork was inside the 6½-inch-high bottle. Usually a staple category in rare bottle auctions, antique fire grenades had their roots reaching back to the time of the Roman Empire when there were no bucket brigades or fire hoses. The early American examples stem from their resurrection as a fire-fighting invention during the Civil War era. The first patent for the fire grenade was awarded in 1863 and there was soon no shortage of manufacturers to provide them. Vintage fire grenades are attractive to many collectors who enjoy them for their variety of shapes, sizes and colors.
A jewelry highlight in the gallery sale was an unmounted 1.55-carat round brilliant-cut diamond that captured its high estimate at $8,890. It featured one unmounted round brilliant-cut diamond measuring approximately 7.48 – 7.33 by 4.47 millimeters together with nine unmounted round brilliant-cut melee diamonds weighing a total of approximately 0.49 carat weight.
A photograph by Henri Cartier Bresson (French, 1908-2004) was bid to $6,985. The 1961 gelatin silver print, “Sifnos Greece,” shows a young girl suspended in time while running up a flight of steps, serendipitously placed in a labyrinth of lines and shadows interacting with the Greek architecture. The print’s approximate dimensions were 11½ by 17½ inches; it was signed lower right in ink with copyright credit blindstamp lower left. Master of black and white 35mm film, Bresson often photographed his subjects in artfully candid moments of motion, such as this mid-stride moment, capturing a spontaneous and fleeting scene.
Two pieces of period of furniture were notable in the October 14 sale. One was a Nineteenth Century large, glazed door cabinet that reached more than twice its high estimate to sell for $5,080. The cabinet was in six pieces – a central two-door cabinet on a two-door base, flanked on either side by single-door cabinets on single-door bases. With a molded cornice, it was approximately 103 inches high by 113 wide by 18½ inches deep. The second, going out at $4,763, was a Louis XV giltwood console table fitted with a red breche marble top, and on a boldly carved giltwood base with X-stretcher.
A Chinese blue and white porcelain seated happy Buddha brought a smile to bidders’ faces and a surprising price of $5,080 against a $500/800 estimate. Decorated in underglaze blue and white, the Hotei god of abundance and happiness is depicted smiling and seated comfortably, one hand clasping a prayer bead necklace over his left knee, the other hand holding a sack. He is dressed in a flaring robe scattered with floral motifs, a four-character marker’s mark impressed to the unglazed base, reading “Wei Hongtai Zao,” inscribed with an export red inked China mark, atop a carved and fitted hardwood base.
Decorative highlights were led by a Nineteenth Century Derbyshire fluorspar Blue John urn on a pedestal with a black base, approximately 14¼ inches high. It left the gallery at $4,445.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. Next up at Michaan’s is a Luxury auction on November 18, followed by the firm’s gallery auction on November 19. For information, www.michaans.com or 510-740-0220.
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