Tale of 2 ladies: Moravian flask, Guanyin lead Kennedy’s auction

This rare Moravian pottery flask, circa 1811, sold for $28,600. Kennedy’s Auction Service image

SELMER, Tenn. – From ornately carved furniture by R.J. Horner to fine art, Kennedy’s Auction Service’s June 2 auction of the Carl Smith estate in Memphis’ central garden district, had it all but it was two ladies, each standing less than 2 feet tall, that drew the most attention. In a case of East meets West, the two figures—one from North Carolina, the other from China—brought much presale attention here and performed well. Absentee and Internet live bidding was available through LiveAuctioneers.

A rare Moravian pottery flask in the form of a woman in a green dress, holding a bouquet of posies, 6 5/8 inches tall, crossed the block for $28,600. The circa 1811 piece (above) is thought to have been made in the shop of Rudolph Christ (1750-1833) in Salem, North Carolina, who was renowned among Salem potters from 1789 to 1821.

The figure descended in the family of a West Tennessee historian and collector and is in original condition. A smaller example of this flask is in the collection of the Old Salem Museum in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

The flask is in surprisingly good condition all things considered. The consignor found it laying in the grass at her grandmother’s house in 1990 in Collierville, Tenn., noted auctioneer Mark Kennedy. “They were cleaning out her grandmother’s house and she found it in the backyard,” he said. “She kept it for 25 years before deciding to sell and it survived years of sitting on a shelf in the TV room with games and children playing.” While the flask elicited much bidding online and on the phone, it ended up going to an appreciative local buyer for whom this is his first purchase of Moravian pottery.

The second lady featured in the sale was a late 19th- to early 20th-century Xu Yunlin Dehua figure of a Guanyin in blanc de chine, 23 7/8 inches tall, which fetched $23,100 from a Chinese buyer. The hooded bodhisattva is standing on a base featuring an animated koi fish emerging from circulating waves. The robe-clad figure is holding a scroll and is embellished with Buddhist jewelry. It is marked with the seal of Xu Yunlin (aka Xu Youyi) and a Dehua seal mark.

This Xu Yunlin Dehua figure of Guanyin in blanc de chine pottery, nearly 24 in. tall, realized $23,100 from a Chinese buyer through LiveAuctioneers. Kennedy’s Auction Service image

The sale overall was deemed a success and had a total of 1,365 registered bidders. “We were quite pleased with how the auction performed,” Kennedy said. “Phone and Internet bidding was very active but in-house bidding was also strong. This auction was very wide-ranging, which helped drive a lot of interest. Our sales are usually quite diverse with offerings to appeal to many kinds of collectors.”

The top lot of the auction was an R.J. Horner mahogany grandfather clock with J.J. Elliott nine-tube works that attained $90,750 from an in-house buyer. Retaining its original finish, the 118½-inch-tall clock has a silvered dial signed “Elliott London” and a retailer’s plaque reading “Muhr’s Sons Philadelphia.” The clock has standing mermaids flanking the glass door and is profusely carved with winged griffins, pierced carved angel crest, flowers, foliage and birds.

The top lot of the auction at $90,750 was this R.J. Horner mahogany grandfather clock with J.J. Elliott nine-tube works. It stood 118½ in. tall. Kennedy’s Auction Service image

The parade of R.J Horner (1854-1922) furniture across the block continued with a 12-piece dining suite, with its pieces auctioned separately. However, a determined phone bidder managed to keep the suite together. A figural maiden carved china cabinet, circa 1890, led the grouping at $12,430. The pieces in the suite sold for a combined total of $42,650.

Lighting up the auction was a Tiffany Tulip lamp shade marked Tiffany Studios on the interior lower edge that was put on a circa 1915 lamp base (not Tiffany) that earned $24,860. The family who owned it, Kennedy said, had not realized they had an authentic Tiffany shade.

This Tiffany Studios Tulip lamp shade having a 16-inch diameter sold for $24,860. Kennedy’s Auction Service image

Fine art offerings ranged from paintings to sculpture highlighted by an oil on canvas attributed to Nicolao Landucci (1801-1868) titled The Gladiator, which brought $6,497. The mid-19th-century painting, measuring 40 by 63½ inches, depicts a gladiator’s entrance into the Coliseum in ancient Rome.

Attributed to Nicolao Landucci, ‘The Gladiator,’ an oil on canvas painting in a large Italian carved and gold gilt Baroque-style frame measuring 58 by 81½ in., sold for $6,497. Kennedy’s Auction Service image

The sale was rich in historical significance. A Robert E. Lee Memorial engraved portrait, circa 1870, did well at $3,960. The 20-by-24-inch portrait contained in an Aesthetic Movement gold frame was inscribed “Sold by Authority of the Lee Memorial Association for the erection of a monument at the tomb of Genl. R. E. Lee at the Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia …”

This Robert E. Lee Memorial engraved portrait, circa 1870, took $3,960. The 20-by-24-inch portrait was inscribed ‘Sold by Authority of the Lee Memorial Association for the erection of a monument at the tomb of Genl. R. E. Lee at the Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia….’ Kennedy’s Auction Service image

Another standout in this category was a Hindenburg archive that included a telegram, two brochures and three postcards sent to a couple in Memphis sold for $700. The postcards, stamped with German airmail stamps featuring swastikas and airships as well as the Hindenburg postmark, were mailed in May 1936, 12 months before the airship exploded and burned while docking in New Jersey.

Rounding out the auction were a pair of French Louis XV-style 19th-century bronze and ormolu 10-light candelabras that sold for $4,802, a pair of giant clam shells weighing 94 pounds each that made $3,503 and a cane with an engraved gold cap, presented in 1906 to a Tennessee rector, going for $960.

For details contact Kennedy’s Auction Service at 731-645-5001.