Imperial Qing Famille Rose Vases, $384,000
DALLAS – A pair of imperial Qing famille rose vases were offered for sale at J. Garrett Auctioneers on September 11. The 14in (35cm)-high vases, with Jiaqing (1796-1820) marks and of the period, had been bought by a St. Louis, Missouri family at the Chicago Antique Show in 1977. Given an estimate of $100,000-$200,000, they hammered for $300,000 and sold for $384,000 with buyer’s premium.
Vessels of this type (that are much faked) first became popular during the Qianlong reign (1736-1795). They combine the yellow enamel ground synonymous with the imperial household, archaistic dragon handles, a wealth of auspicious motifs and the lively depiction of figures in a landscape, painted in famille rose enamels. While the majority of Qianlong vessels depicted boys at play, by the Jiaqing reign other figures were popular.
In this case the emblems of upside-down bats, lotuses and ruyi scepters, which are synonymous with happiness, purity and long life, and the golden wan characters, which multiply good wishes by ten thousand, are accompanied by finely painted landscapes of elders and children by the sea. Both pieces had minor condition issues. One had a repair to the rim and the hands while another had a restored chip to the base.
Portrait By Joseph Stella, $9,500
LARCHMONT, N.Y. – This 1944 portrait by Joseph Stella (1877-1946) hammered for $9,500 against an estimate of $4,000-$6,000 at Clarke Auction Gallery on September 10. The portrait of Clara Fasano, which came by descent from a Long Island family together with an original gelatin photographic print of the sitter, was thought to have been a personal gift from the artist. A similar pastel-on-paper version of this work is listed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum collection.
The Italian-born American modernist Joseph Stella is primarily recognized for his Futurist-inspired paintings of New York, especially the Brooklyn Bridge and Coney Island. However, by the late 1930s, Joseph Stella’s work attracted considerably less attention, and he complained bitterly about the poor attendance at his career retrospective at the Newark Museum in 1939. Painted just two years before he died, this portrait was among his last finished works.
Remington Rifles And Cartridges ‘Spinner’ Flange Sign, C$22,000
NEW HAMBURG, Canada — A remarkably well-preserved double-sided lithographed tin sign advertising Remington rifles and cartridges handily beat estimates at Miller & Miller Auctions, Ltd. on September 17, during the second day of a two-day sale.
Considered possibly unique by the auction house, the circa-1910 sign features an unusual wind-driven feature, dubbed a “spinner,” in the bullseye of the sign’s target artwork. Designed to catch the eye as it hangs in a breezeway outside, say, a hardware store, the sign boasts excellent color and only minor surface scratches. The reason for its amazing condition was detailed by the auction house: “Found in a wall in Armstrong, British Columbia,” apparently entombed for decades before its rediscovery and its appearance at auction.
When the hammer fell, the item sold for CA$22,000 ($16,346, or $20,105 with buyer’s premium) against estimates of CA$12,000-CA$15,000 ($8,800-$$11,100).
1978 Blue Little Person, An Early Cabbage Patch Doll, $14,670
NEWARK, Ohio – If you remember Cabbage Patch Kids, your recollections likely take one of two forms: happy childhood days playing with a favorite toy, or waiting in toy stores in the run-up to Christmas, hoping to secure the prize every little girl wanted to see under the tree in 1983. (Maybe you still have the scars from that experience, and maybe they’re literal – newspapers and magazines reported that parents were coming to blows over the right to claim a doll, and “Cabbage Patch Riots” has its own entry on Wikipedia.)
People are still fighting for Cabbage Patch dolls, but in a far more civilized manner. On August 24, Apple Tree Auction Center conducted a 142-lot sale of Cabbage Patch Dolls, and the top lot sold for $12,000 ($14,760 with buyer’s premium). At least three other lots hammered in the high four-figure range.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the victorious doll wasn’t like those that prompted a terrified Zayre’s store manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to wield a baseball bat in one hand while tossing packaged dolls to the desperate crowd with the other, and you are right. Those toys were mass-market products made by Coleco. The one that earned five figures in Ohio was the work of the man who entered the license agreement with Coleco in 1982: Xavier Roberts.
Clad in a white, exuberantly lace-fringed dress with matching bonnet and socks, Heather Gail was made in 1978, in whole or in part by Roberts. The phrase “Cabbage Patch Kids” didn’t exist yet – she was a Little Person. Specifically, she is known as a Blue Little Person because blue is the color of the border on her birth certificate; similar high-performing dolls in the sale that predated 1982 were identified as Red or Burgundy Little People.
The signatures of Roberts and the doll’s willing parent appear on the adoption papers, which give Heather Gail’s birth date as December 21, 1978 and her place of birth as Cleveland, Georgia. Roberts’s signature also appears on the body of the doll itself.
If you missed out on a Cabbage Patch Kid back in the 1980s but can’t justify spending almost $15,000 for a scarce deluxe original, know that Xavier Roberts’s endeavor, Babyland General Hospital, is alive and well and still in Cleveland, Georgia, placing newly hand-stitched dolls, called ‘adoptees,’ with prospective parents for sums in the $200-$400 range.