Published: May 29, 2007
The cream of the crop at Skinner’s April 14, 2007, Asian arts sale was represented by two objects that each sold for $64,625. A signed Japanese Meiji period mixed-metal vase was handsome with designs of autumn flowers in silver, gold and copper with borders of butterflies along the base and the neck. Bidding opened at $2,700 and was jumped abruptly by an eager Internet bidder, but it was hammered down to an American collector in the room. The vase was estimated conservatively at $2/3,000.
An Eighteenth Century Chinese rhinoceros horn cup, carved in the form of a lotus leaf with peonies and other blossoms, was a major draw and it sailed past its estimated $25/35,000 to $64,625.
The cover lot was coveted. A beautiful 24-inch pair of Japanese Meiji period cloisonné vases with silver wire decorated with a wraparound design of dragons in brown and greenish yellow against a black body sold on the phone for $49,938.
The auction spurred strong international interest as well as buying on the part of New York and London trade in the room and on the phones. It was striking that the Asian, European and American bidders were considerably more youthful than ordinarily seen in the salerooms. Nineteen buyers from the Chinese mainland participated, with New York and London trade also a significant presence.
James Callahan, head of Skinner’s Asian art department, has observed a strengthening in the market over the course of recent sales. He cited a set of four Chinese seals estimated at $300/500 that three years ago would have sold within estimate. The Nineteenth Century jade examples, which measured about 1-inch each, sold for $4,994. A large (11 inches) Nineteenth Century soapstone seal with a finial carved with a foo dog and puppies brought $2,585.
An album of ten landscapes and a dedication panel on paper by Huang Pin Hung drew a phone bidder competition that ended at $41,125. The album was one of 83 lots from the collection of New York art dealer and collector Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. The Ellsworth collections are far ranging and important; his donations of modern Chinese paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and of Chinese calligraphy to the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian are prized.
A painting of a mid-autumn festival by Ch’i Pai Shih from the Ellsworth collection sold for $8,225 to the same phone bidder who took the album. The same buyer paid $646 for a lot of three Chinese scrolls that comprised calligraphy, a landscape and a stone running that was estimated at $100/150. The Ellsworth paintings, referred to as guohua, are particularly coveted because they are executed in ink and mineral or water soluble pigments on paper or silk.
Other modern Chinese pictures from the Ellsworth collection included the 1980 painting of a scholar by Fan Tseng that Ellsworth purchased directly from the artist, and which realized $27,025 against an estimated $300/500. The same buyer bought a lot of five Twentieth Century Chinese scrolls by Tsui Tzu Fan for $5,875 against the estimated $300/500 and paid $3,819 for a hanging scroll with the image of a girl at a balcony.
A calligraphy album page in ink on paper signed by Want To came from the Ellsworth collection and went to an Internet bidder for $1,175.
A 1982 portrait of a horse in ink and colors on paper came from the Ellsworth collection and was estimated at $300/500. Despite aggressive bid jumping on the part of a phone bidder, the picture ended up selling to a buyer in the room for $6,463.
A Nineteenth Century Chinese scroll by Kao Chi Fang in ink and pigments depicting a boy leading two water buffalo had Ellsworth provenance and realized $4,994, as did a 1979 painting of a lotus plant by Huang Yung Yu.
Ellsworth is also an expert of Chinese bronzes and furniture. A bronze figure of Maitreya thought to be from the Ling dynasty realized $7,050, and a bronze plaque from the Third to the First Century BC with a winged horse design sold for $5,288. A Han period bronze crossbow mechanism with gold inlay realized $6,463, and a Third Century belt hook in gilt bronze with inset silver florets and an animal head finial realized $4,406.
A Ming period square turquoise cloisonné vase from the Ellsworth collection attracted much attention and went on the phone for $4,700. Three cloisonné scroll pulls, two of the Ming period, the other an Eighteenth Century example, sold for $3,819, and a pair of cloisonné vases in Tsun form with animal bodies realized $4,113.
A Han dynasty gilt bronze vessel in Hu form with Tao Tieh mask hands realized $6,463.
A selection of snuff bottles was given estimates of $200/300 and $300/500 and brought impressive prices. An enameled glass example with a relief decoration of flowering trees and rocks was signed Ku Yueh Hsuan and realized $23,500 from a California dealer. A Nineteenth Century carved coral example with relief carvings of Liu Hai and Boddhiharma crossing the Yangtze River on a reed was an exquisite pale tangerine color. It sold on the phone for $16,450. The same buyer took a late Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century yellow jade example that was carved with foo dogs for $7,638.
A colorful bronze vase from the Shahn period (1600‱100 BC) with malachite and cuprite and Tao Tieh masks realized $29,375. A Ju type Chinese vase with a six character Ch’ien Lung mark in a pale lavender green glaze fetched $21,150. It was accompanied by a Japanese collector’s box and a silk bag.
A lot of five hardstone carvings included four jades in the form of a small censer, a figure of a goddess and a pair of vases, together with a peach-shaped agate cup sold for $17,625.
A 27-by-15-inch famille rose plaque with a scene of the Immortals set in a rosewood frame carved with dragons sold for $15,275 against the estimated $500/700, and another example with a scene of warriors in a mountain pass set in a dragon carved frame realized $7,638, ten times the high estimate. A pair of famille rose enamel plaques decorated with scenes of the Immortals fetched $14,100.
A 56-inch pair of lacquered plaques with hardstone inlay of jade, lapis and carnelian with the characters Peace and Brilliance and an inset Ch’ien Lung seal sold for $11,750.
A pair of Eighteenth Century Chinese yoke back huali wood chairs had carved back splats and sold for $14,100. A single Eighteenth Century yoke back huali wood chair realized $4,406.
The highlight of a selection of Japanese woodblock prints was two examples by Hashiguchi Goyo. The 1918 “Yabakei” sold for $4,700, and the 1920 piece “Evening Moon at Kandu” went for $4,113 to the same phone buyer. “Evening after the Rain” from “The Inland Sea” by Yoshida Hiroshi sold for $2,938 to the same bidder on the phone who paid $1,528 for Hiroshi’s 1927 “Chikugo River.”
Japanese netsuke enticed bidders. A late Eighteenth Century ivory example of the Iwami School was carved with marine life around a central clamshell, signed Nitto kuni Awa Go Ho Shu jin saku, and sold in the room for $8,225. The same buyer took another Eighteenth Century ivory example carved in the form of a mermaid for 3,189 and an Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century netsuke in the form of a snail for $2,468. He also paid $6,463 for an inro with a silhouette of a village on a silver ground and four compartments, gold lacquered ojime and an ivory netsuke carved with a pavilion in the mountains for $6,463.
A boxwood netsuke of the Kyoto school in the form of a toad was signed Masanao and went to a phone bidder for $4,994.
Ivory carvings included two late Nineteenth Century 18-inch Indian figures; one of the goddess Sarasvati on an inlaid wooden stand sold for $8,225, and a figure of the goddess Lakshmi brought $6,463. An Internet buyer paid $4,994 for two Nineteenth Century Chinese wrist rests, one of which was carved with scenes from the peach tree oath, the other with figures on horseback on a mountain path.
A late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century soapstone resonance stone in Pi Tsung form decorated with dragons sold on the Internet for $6,463. A Nineteenth Century pale green jade resonance stone carved with images of the Eight Precious Things was also $6,463, also to an Internet bidder.
A Ming period bronze bell was inscribed with the date 1609 and sold for $3,819.
A dainty 8-inch Eighteenth Century underglaze blue vase with Ming style “heaped and piled” decoration of lotus scrolling went for $4,700 against the estimated $500/700. A pair of blue and white dragon dishes with the Kuang Hsu mark with the same estimate realized $4,113. A K’ang His period baluster jar with a blue underglaze sold for $7,344 and a Chinese roleau vase with famille verte reserves of warriors and landscapes on a blue ground sold for $4,044. A yellow saucer with the Hsien Feng mark and engraved with dragons and pearls realized $3,173.
Textiles of interest included a Chinese yellow silk panel embroidered with a stylized lotus scrolling that sold for $5,288 and two Chinese robes and a hat that fetched $2,223.
A Japanese Meiji period hanging panel embroidered with a central shish surrounded by flowers, water, air and dragons realized $4,113.
All prices quoted reflect the buyer’s premium of 17½ percent of the first $80,000 and ten percent thereafter. For information, 978-779-6241 or www.skinnerinc.com .
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