Corot’s view of a Swiss village

Five to Buy

SARASOTA, Fla. – This unframed 8 by 11in oil sketch of the Swiss village of Dardagny is signed by the French landscape painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875). At Helmuth Stone Gallery on August 6, it more than doubled the top estimate to bring $31,000 plus the buyer’s premium. It sold in the room with the underbidder coming from one of the 36 bidders who had added it to their ‘watch’ lists on LiveAuctioneers.

Corot was a tireless traveler. For much of his working life he would spend his summers outside making studies and sketches and would spend his winters finishing more polished, market-ready works in the studio.

In his later years he was an enthusiastic patron of the rail network that was expanded across France and other parts of continental Europe in the 1850s and 60s. He visited Dardagny, a small village west of Geneva, on three occasions in 1852, 1857 and 1863. This tranquil June or July scene of trees and pasture with the lavender-blue hills of the Jura in the distance depicts an area now best known for its winemaking. It was sold as an autograph work.

The strong market for Corot’s works in North America in the 19th century ensures that many of them still reside in US collections. However, it also resulted in a huge number of Corot forgeries. The French art historian Rene Huyghe famously quipped that “Corot painted 3,000 canvases, 10,000 of which have been sold in America.”

When Doulton did the Martin Brothers

Five to Buy

MORETON-IN-MARSH, U.K. – Anthropomorphic bird jars are typically associated with the work of the Martin Brothers of Southall, London. Robert Wallace Martin first began modeling them in the late 1800s and continued until the advent of the First World War. However, the concept was borrowed by other manufacturers. This 9in (22cm) model of a squat creature with broad beak and owl-like eyebrows is by Royal Doulton. Its form recalls both the Martin Brothers birds and a Jugendstil pewter inkwell by Kayserzinn.

Signed to the base ‘Noke’ for artistic director Charles Noke and ‘HN’ for Harry Nixon, who pioneered the oriental-inspired Chang glaze applied to this piece, it is titled A Quaint Old Bird. The name appears to be taken from a popular song in the successful musical comedy The Catch of the Season that was first released in 1904.

One of only a handful known, it was offered on behalf of a private collector with an estimate of £5,000-£8,000, or roughly $6,300-$10,100, at Kinghams Auctioneers on July 26 where it sold for £12,500, or about $15,800.

The first major work on French agriculture

Five to Buy

BEDFORD, N.Y. – Theatre d’Agriculture et Mesnages des Champs, issued in 1600, is the first major work on French agronomy. Divided into eight books, it includes information on viticulture, gardens, food, crops and livestock.

The author Olivier de Serres, Seigneur du Pradel (1539-1619) was an early advocate of crop rotation and had 20,000 mulberry bushes planted in the Tuilleries Gardens to increase the breeding of silkworms.

The first edition printing offered as part of Butterscotch Auction’s July 16 summer estates sale came from the Greenwich, Connecticut collection of Carl and Shirley Sontheimer, founders of the cookware brand Cuisinart and noted cookbook collectors. Housed in a restored early leather binding, it was rated a fine copy, retaining the title page by Flemish engraver Karen van Mallery as well as the woodcut vignettes that head each of the eight volumes and 16 woodcut illustrations of parterres (formal garden layouts).

The example sold as part of the Lawes Agricultural Library at Forum Auctions in London in 2018 made £6,500 (about $8,200). The Sontheimer copy, offered with an estimate of $2,000-$4,000, took $11,000 plus the buyer’s premium.

Wang Xisan snuff bottle at 20 times estimate

Five to Buy

EPPING, N.H. – Devin Moisan AuctioneersJuly 15-16 sale was topped by a 1974 Chinese snuff bottle decorated by Wang-Hsi (Xisan). Taught by masters of the late Qing dynasty, Wang Xisan (b. 1938-) was responsible for the revival of the Gu Yuexuan (enameled glass) technique in the years after the Cultural Revolution. Using modern techniques, including new tools and materials and the electric furnace, his works were nonetheless anachronistic, often depicting scenes and figures from dynastic China.

This bottle, dating to 1974 with a provenance to an exhibition the following year at Hugh Moss, London, is painted with six boys each holding a red celestial disc surrounded by animals representing the beasts of the Chinese zodiac. The sapphire stopper rests within a silver collar.  Estimated at $500-$800, it finished at $19,375.