Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy Eldred’s
EAST DENNIS, MASS. – Eldred’s conducted a weekend-long auction April 27-29 full of Asian treasures in every medium and scale, from a multitude of countries and regions. Almost 900 objects were offered, representing fine and decorative arts as well as practical antiques that would have been used every day by their original owners. “There never seems to be a shortage of material [in this category],” said Annie Lajoie, head of Asian art.
The catalog was assembled from many different private collections, many of which were fresh-to-market with extensive provenance. With only two Asian art sales per year, Eldred’s can assemble a diverse array of objects that attracts bidders from all over the world on their online platform. The total for all three sessions amounted to around $500,000 in sales.
The top two lots of the first session exemplified the beauty of practicality so admired by collectors of Asian art. A Nineteenth Century reproduction of a Qianlong bowl sold for $7,500, exponentially higher than its $400/600 estimate. The small bowl is decorated with two five-clawed dragons chasing a fiery pearl, their vibrant shapes blazing against the white porcelain field. The second highest lot was a Meiji period inro case, complete with an attached netsuke and ojime, each works of art in themselves. With three wise monkeys continuously decorated against a gilt background, the case far exceeded its $600/800 estimated and closed at $5,940.
The top lot of all three sales was a Nineteenth Century Chinese imperial yellow porcelain oversize altar bell-footed candlestick, estimated at $5/7,000, that was converted into a table lamp during the Twentieth Century. Drilled through the bottom to allow for hardware, the candlestick had also been restored at the lower half. Despite this condition, the lamp sold for $33,750. According to Lajoie, imperial yellow porcelain is highly sought-after. “With the repair to the base, I was concerned that it might not fetch more than $10,000,” she added, “Thankfully, I was wrong.” Another lamp, converted from a Chinese blue and white jar, was among the second session’s top lots. Estimated at $200/300, the jar lamp lit up at $9,375.
Also in that day’s sale was a set of 28 woodblock prints from “Yoshitoshi’s Thirty-Six Ghosts” series, created by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Considered the last master of ukiyo-e, Yoshitoshi’s career straddled both the Edo and Meiji Restoration periods when Japan was rapidly adopting western technology and culture. While open to innovation, he also wanted to preserve the traditional woodblock printing practice when lithography and photography were overtaking the art market. This collection of oban tate-e, which refers to their size, sold for over three times its low estimate at $18,750.
Another surprise of the second session was a Nineteenth Century Chinese cricket cage, which sold for $8,125 against its $400/600 estimate. Crickets were, and still are, representative of longevity and good fortune in Chinese culture. While sometimes raised for fighting, crickets were also kept for their captive songs in containers of various quality. This porcelain cage sports turquoise glazed slides, as well as famille rose decorations of erotic scenes on its top surface.
The third and final session’s top sales yielded similarly high results despite conservative estimates. “We are often surprised before a sale when we see the interest that comes in through condition reports and phone bid requests,” Lajoie commented, “Happens to the best of us!” At the forefront was a jade-mounted sterling silver vermeil humidor, stamped with the mark of the early Twentieth Century artist Edward I. Farmer (d 1942), which was estimated at $500/800 and realized $11,250. Credited as an art dealer and gallerist in his New York Times obituary, many of the American maker’s chinoiserie creations have appeared at auction over the past decade. The third highest lot contained two figurines also carved from jade, known as “chicken bone” in reference to its color. The carvings of two recumbent horses and a boy with a lotus staff brought in $8,750 (estimated at $600/800).
Prices stated include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.eldreds.com or 508-385-3116.
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