Published: April 3, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Nadeau’s Auction Gallery
WINDSOR, CONN. – “I think we’re going to have a few sleepers with the Chinese lots,” said Edwin Nadeau Jr, auctioneer, as we walked around the preview room before Nadeau’s March 25 sale.
An auctioneer’s intuition is rock solid. No matter how quiet bidders are and how cryptic their inquiries will be, the auctioneer, nine times out of ten, will know what is going to do well. That was the score at Nadeau’s sale when a solid core of sleepers that included Asian works, English paintings, early glass, furniture and sculpture rose to the forefront with competitive bidding from a host of bidders who converged on the Connecticut gallery with wishful hopes to bring home treasures.
The top lot of the day was a luminous English half-length portrait that was cataloged with a $1/2,000 estimate as a painter in the circle of Sir Joshua Reynolds. It featured a middle-aged man in a period red velvet coat and matching vest before a blue sky with clouds around him. The artist created an aura of clear blue sky around the sitter’s head and gradually darkened the sky as the background reached the corners of the canvas.
Of the 544 lots in the sale, the portrait sat at lot 481, just near the end.
“We had eight phones on it and all of the internet platforms were hot,” said Nadeau Jr. “It was a fire fight to get it to that value, bids were coming from everywhere.”
The portrait fetched a healthy $30,000 and came from a sprawling Southampton estate, along with a selection of furniture, china and other English paintings. Unable to name the consignor, Nadeau was only able to say that it was a well-known person and that their anonymity was important to them.
Making up the bulk of the top lots in the sale was a collection of Chinese art, porcelain, bronze, cloisonne and other works that came from various consignors in the tri-state area.
A Nineteenth Century Chinese oil on paper mounted on canvas garnered considerable interest and hammered down at $15,600, nearly twice the high estimate. The work depicted a Nineteenth Century waterfront view of the Bund of Shanghai, showing the British and American consulate, the Customs House, the Holy Trinity Church towering in the background and American and British war battleships among Chinese junks on the Huangpu River.
Receiving plenty of attention was a large crackle glaze celadon vase with a blue seal mark to the bottom and applied tube handles. As the sale went on, Nadeau noticed a steady stream of Asian bidders trickling into the gallery, a few at a time. His imagination started wandering, hoping for a big hit; he was not disappointed when the vase sold well above the $800 high estimate for $12,000.
A bronze censer with elaborate incising and pierced lid, nearly 10 inches on all sides, rose above the mark to sell for $10,200. The lid featured three dragons and two phoenix birds amid clouds, all sitting on a footed base with foo dogs among waves. The piece had foo dog handles and an impressed six-character mark on the bottom.
A hardwood altar table with detailed carvings brought $9,000 after competitive bidding from the internet and the room. It had a rectangular top over a bat carved skirt and carved front with pierced supports, all set on a dragon face base. Nadeau noted that it may have been Hung-mu wood.
Also selling for $9,000, probably the highest value per square inch in the sale, was a small Chinese carved white jade. The piece measured 2 inches tall and featured russet inclusions to the top and back, giving the jade a nice touch of color. The front was hollowed out and featured a quality and smooth fruit carving.
Among traditional pieces in the sale were a few standouts that brought good results in today’s market.
Reining in $18,000 was an amber cut-to-clear carafe with Gorham sterling top that stood nearly 14 inches tall. Regarding the lot, Nadeau laughed and recounted a story that the prior owner had passed along to him. A few years earlier the consignor’s home was broken into and the intruder came in through a window directly next to where the carafe sat in the windowsill. The unwelcome visitor took the usual things: the stereo, TV, jewelry. But they left the carafe right where it was, unaware that it was special. A natural immunity to theft sounds like the beginning of a clever marketing campaign. “Objects so nice, the burglars don’t even know what they are.”
Towering high at 42 inches and weighing 362 troy ounces was an Edward and John Barnard silver candelabra with truly impressive detail. The English work had an angelic winged figure at the top over a leafy canopy, three arms with nine candle holders spread across them over three central figures that stood on the base with scrolled feet. Nadeau’s catalog dated the piece to around 1853-54. It went out at $16,800.
It can sometimes take a while for a consignor to let go of something. That seemed to be the case when an old client of Nadeau called him up to sell a Chippendale chest on chest attributed to Woodbury, Conn., maker E. Booth. Nadeau had sold the piece’s matching little brother, a low chest, for the same consignor nearly 30 years ago. It reached $12,000, the high estimate. “It’s good for today’s market,” said Nadeau.
“We were more than pleased with the Chinese action,” said Nadeau. “And to get that result for the cut glass carafe – we were very happy with the market on those unusual pieces.”
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, 860-246-2444 or www.nadeausauction.com.
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