DALLAS — The origin of the massive dragon incense burner that helped lead Heritage Auctions‘ Fine Silver & Objects of Vertu Signature ® Auction to a $1,501,201 finish on May 16 might be a mystery, but what’s no longer in question is the final selling price of this exceptional example of Japanese Meiji period craftsmanship. The dragon-form incense burner, which contains nearly 45 pounds of 99% pure silver, sold for $250,000, shattering its estimate of $70,000 and prompting an enthusiastic round of applause in the auction room.
Accented with eyes of more than 22k gold, the theatrically fierce piece stands 32in high and 40in wide. To produce a work of this scale required exceptional craftsmanship and an extraordinary amount of time. The finely articulated scales and barbs that detail the incense burner are of such quality and cost that it must have been commissioned by someone important, possibly a member of the Meiji royal court. But who commissioned the piece remains a mystery. We do know from the marks on the dragon and censer that it was made by the Kimura Toun family, known for their exuberant bronze dragons, and the incense burner by Kagawa Katsuhiro, who was appointed Artist to the Imperial Court in 1906.
“The dragon took my breath away at first sight, as it has for all who have viewed it in the past months,” said Vice President of Fine Silver & Decorative Arts at Heritage Auctions Karen Rigdon. “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to explore and analyze this exceptional work of art and am thrilled by the interest that drove bidding to an impressive result.”
Other highlights of the May 16 event included a Tiffany & Co. partial gilt silver water pitcher that sold for $35,000. The hand-hammered pitcher features naturalistic applied partial gilt lotus blossoms and engraved foliage wrapped around the body, while a petite silver frog perched atop the handle adds a whimsical touch.
The pitcher is from the property of a southern gentleman, as is the circa-1870 Gorham Mfg. Co. partial gilt figural punch bowl with original ladle that earned $35,000 in the May 16 sale and the massive Tiffany & Co. acid-etched silver Renaissance Revival tray that realized $23,125.
Also performing well was a six-piece S. Kirk & Son coin silver repousse landscape tea and coffee service that attained $35,000, a massive pair of 19th-century French silver candelabras that brought $22,500, a six-piece Gorham Mfg. Co. Martele Blue Lily motif silver tea and coffee set that made $20,000, a 49-piece Reed & Barton Louis XV pattern silver table service for 12 that sold for $20,000 and a group of 10 Jenkins & Jenkins Repousse pattern silver hollowware table articles that rose to $18,750.
The auction’s other top lots included a set of 18 Tiffany & Co. gilt silver plates from the collection of the late 19th-century art patron Mary Jane Morgan that achieved $17,500, a 66-piece Hector Aguilar Rope pattern silver partial flatware service for 12 that sold for $17,500, a circa-1895 Faberge silver easel-back mirror that realized $16,250, and a 26-piece Reed & Barton Louis XV pattern partial gilt silver punch service with an American silver ladle that sold for $15,000.
And a foursome of lots all individually sold for the sum of $13,750: a Georg Jensen No. 1052 Swan silver water pitcher, a set of 18 Tiffany & Co. gilt silver finger bowls from the collection of Mary Jane Morgan, a large Reed & Barton Louis XV pattern partial gilt silver two-handled punch bowl and an American chased repousse silver landscape tray attributed to S. Kirk & Son.
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