Asian soapstone carving sells for record $2.3M at Michaan’s

An exceedingly rare and important soapstone figural carving,18th century, dated by inscription to 1750. Sold for $2,235,000. Record price for soapstone carving sold in a US Auction house. Michaan's image.

An exceedingly rare and important soapstone figural carving,18th century, dated by inscription to 1750. Sold for $2,235,000. Record price for soapstone carving sold in a US Auction house. Michaan’s image.

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Michaan’s Fine Asian Works of Art Auction held on Sunday, June 23, 2013 realized over $4,670,000, making it the San Francisco Bay Area company’s highest grossing event ever. LiveAuctioneers.com provided the Internet live bidding services for the sale.

Half of the day’s gross was attributable to another phenomenon: lot 3080. An exceedingly rare and important soapstone figural carving centering Qing dynasty imperial porcelain kiln supervisor Tang Ying was far and away the star of the auction.

Expectations ran high for the work of art, with a presale estimate of $100,000-150,000. As bidding commenced for the piece, people rose from their seats amongst a standing room floor audience of well over 100 attendees, while all phone banks were busy with calls. Two online bidding stations managed the activity as calls poured in from around the world. Heavy floor and phone bids pushed the selling price to $2 million, closing with a victorious phone bid and a round of applause. The carving broke auction records as it captured a final price of $2,360,000, making it the highest-selling Asian soapstone carving ever auctioned in the United States, as well as Michaan’s highest-single selling lot to date.

Asian Art Specialist Harry Huang remarked that the sale “…greatly exceeded my expectations. I believe that this work of Tang Ying will continue to be a powerful force in the world marketplace. I also think that this auction speaks volumes on the explosive state of the current Asian antiquities marketplace; what appears to be its very bright future is a thrilling prospect for Michaan’s Auctions.”

Categorically, fine jade carvings dazzled at auction, with a substantial list of successes. Two jade double-gourd-form pendants performed amazingly well, as they sold for over 53 times their high estimate (lot 3027, $1,500-2,000). The pendants closed at $106,200, garnering expressions of elation and awe. The pair of pendants topped a lengthy list of 15 additional carved jade lots to sell from over 5 times to over 33 times projected high values.

Additional honorable mentions from the astounding jade sales included two phoenix plaques at $64,900 (lot 3014, $2,000-3,000) and two figures of pigs at $50,150 (lot 3074, $1,000-1,500). Three jade lots also managed to realize a price of $44,250 each, greatly exceeding their estimates. The shared figure was seen in groupings of two rectangular white jade pendants (lot 3008, $2,000-3,000), four animal carvings (lot 3020, $1,500-2,000) and three white jade bird carvings (lot 3033, $4,000-6,000).

Chinese paintings were another section of the auction to hold top performers. A new international record was established by a hanging scroll titled “Mountainous Dwellings” by Li Yin (lot 3217, $25,000-35,000). The piece realized $112,100, the highest figure ever achieved at auction by a Li Yin work. Rounding out the impressive lots in the category was a collection of fan paintings and calligraphy by various artists that sold for $76,700 (lot 3218, $30,000-50,000), a hand scroll after Li Tang depicting figures on horseback for $56,050 (lot 3206, $3,000-5,000) and an anonymous album of three paintings realizing a price of $50,150 (lot 3209, $2,000-3,000).

A 14th century album of 12 paintings attributed to Wang Yuan (lot 3210, $6,000-8,000) and a landscape hand scroll in the style of Wen Boren (lot 3212, $4,000-6,000) each brought $47,200. In addition to the substantial figures that these painting selections brought, the section proved to be a formidable platform in obtaining solid numbers for lesser-known artists. Examples are found in an ink and color on paper hand scroll after Xu Longjiu (lot 3208, $5,000-7,000, sold for $10,620) and Zhong Hui’s album of 10 paintings sold as lot 3225 ($1,200-1,800, sold for $5,900).

Handsome figures were also seen across other Asian art disciplines. A Tibetan cloisonné enamel ewer and cover from the Qianlong period surpassed its $20,000-30,000 estimate at $53,100 (lot 3150). Multiple ceramic offerings saw fruitful numbers, as evidenced in a pair of famille rose porcelain plaques (lot 3310, $5,000-7,000, sold for $32,450), a famille rose vase of the Guanxu mark and period that sold for over 13 times its high estimate (lot 3292, $1,500-2,000, sold for $26,550), yet another famille rose offering in a pair of 19th century vases (lot 3294, $3,000-5,000, sold for $26,550) and a pair of enameled-porcelain plaques signed “Zou Guojun” (lot 3311, $4,000-6,000, sold for $26,550). A pair of hardwood armchairs with marble insets was another lot to realize $26,550. It sold for over eight times the projected high value (lot 3178, $2,000-3,000).

Numerous private collection offerings in the auction produced excellent sell-through numbers, as did the entire sale, which had a more-than-84% sell-through. A largely jade-based, private San Francisco collection saw a 100% sell-through of its 44 lots, as did a prominent collection once owned by Senator Theodore Francis Green. A collection of Chinese silk fan paintings from the Reynold Tom Collection sold out as well, as did the entire painting collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Tom.

Michaan’s Auctions Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Bradley acknowledged the impact and scope of the sale. “This Asian auction has established itself as the largest and most significant event in our company’s history thus far. The sale of the Tang Ying carving was the largest single sale I have presided over in my career. It has been a thrilling and exciting time to say the least.”

View the fully illustrated catalog, complete with prices realized, online at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

 

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ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


An exceedingly rare and important soapstone figural carving,18th century, dated by inscription to 1750. Sold for $2,235,000. Record price for soapstone carving sold in a US Auction house. Michaan's image.

An exceedingly rare and important soapstone figural carving,18th century, dated by inscription to 1750. Sold for $2,235,000. Record price for soapstone carving sold in a US Auction house. Michaan’s image.

Li Yin (Early Qing Dynasty),Mountainous Dwellings.Sold for $112,100. World record price the artist. Michaan's image.

Li Yin (Early Qing Dynasty),Mountainous Dwellings.Sold for $112,100. World record price the artist. Michaan’s image.

Two jade double-gourd-form pendants. Sold for $106,200. Michaan's image.

Two jade double-gourd-form pendants. Sold for $106,200. Michaan’s image.

Two jade figures of pigs, Han Dynasty.Sold for $50,150. Michaan's image.

Two jade figures of pigs, Han Dynasty.Sold for $50,150. Michaan’s image.

After Li Tang (1066-1150), Figures on Horseback, Qing Dynasty. Sold for $56,050. Michaan's image.

After Li Tang (1066-1150), Figures on Horseback, Qing Dynasty. Sold for $56,050. Michaan’s image.

Tibetan cloisonne enamel ewer and cover, Qianlong mark and mark of the period.Sold for $53,100. Michaan's image.

Tibetan cloisonne enamel ewer and cover, Qianlong mark and mark of the period.Sold for $53,100. Michaan’s image.

Pair of hardwood armchairs with marble insets. Sold for $26,550. Michaan's image.

Pair of hardwood armchairs with marble insets. Sold for $26,550. Michaan’s image.