NEW YORK – Among the many highlights of the Alan and Simone Hartman collection at Bonhams New York is a copy of the monumental catalog of the Bishop collection of Chinese jades. The deluxe volume, which was once owned by the last tsar of Russia, carries an estimate of $100,000-$150,000 as part of the extraordinary single-owner dispersal on Thursday, December 14.
The Bishop Collection: Investigations and Studies in Jade was published by the De Vinne Press in an edition of just 100 sets in 1906. Through more than 90 plates, 14 original watercolors and the words of numerous specialists, it documents the entire collection of Heber Reginald Bishop (1840-1902), a railroad magnate prominent in New York’s high society at the turn of the 20th century. He had agreed to donate his 1,000-plus collection – the largest accumulation of its type in the world at the time – to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the months before he died, leaving detailed instructions as to how the catalog should be completed and distributed. Although the project had cost close to $200,000, none of the copies were to be sold; they were instead presented to institutions and heads of state across North America, Europe and Asia. This set, specially bound in morocco gilt by Stikeman & Co, has the arms of Nicholas II (1868-1918). Inside is a book plate for the Winter Palace.
This is one of only four copies of The Bishop Collection to have appeared at auction in half a century. It was bought by the London rare book dealer Charles Traylen at Christie’s in 1972 and was acquired by Alan Hartman the following year.
Hartman, who died in 2023, was one of the greatest dealers of his generation. Born into an art- and antiques-dealing family in Manhattan in 1930, his firm Rare Art became a byword for excellence, with galleries in New York, Dallas and Palm Beach. In particular, he was recognized as a world authority in Chinese jade. He acquired his first hardstone carving at the age of 12, beginning the collection that was sold by Christie’s Hong Kong for a mighty $40 million in 2006-07.
There are just six jades in this select 114-lot sale, but they include pieces featured in the Hartman exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2003-04) and illustrated in the 1996 catalog Chinese Jades from the Collection of Alan and Simone Hartman.
Estimated at $50,000-$70,000 is an 11in (27cm) high 18th-century white jade vase carved in high relief with shuang xi ‘double-happiness’ medallions. The form (based on Yuan dynasty porcelain vessels) is known from a closely related vase in the Palace Museum in Beijing.
Dating from the 18th or 19th century is a ‘landscape and poem’ table screen in a pale celadon stone. Carved to one side with a mountain landscape and to the other with the characters ‘Yu Zhi’ (by imperial command) above a poem by Liu Huanzhi, it is estimated at $30,000-$50,000.
While the core of the Hartmans’ collection was Asian art (and more will be presented by Bonhams across sales in 2024), much of the financial muscle in this auction comes from their holdings of Impressionist and Modern art. It includes six- and seven-figure pictures by Signac, Monet, Sisley, Renoir, Pissarro, Caillebotte and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Leading the sale is Paul Signac’s 1902 work Sisteron, estimated at $4 million-$6 million. One of only nine works painted by the artist that year, it depicts ‘the gateway to Provence,’ a medieval town situated on the banks of the river Durance in a narrow gap between two mountain ranges. The scene is rendered in shimmering Pointillist brushwork, with hints of Fauvism in the use of vibrant colors.
The sale also includes a lifetime cast of Auguste Rodin’s Minotaure, Version Aux Cornes Courtes, estimated at $150,000-$250,000. Depicting the moment in which a sacrificial maiden falls into the clutches of the Minotaur, the composition was conceived between 1883 and 1885 and was widely exhibited around the turn of the previous century.
This 13in (33cm) version was sand-cast by the Griffoul & Lorge Foundry around 1887. Its first owner was the American painter William Turner Dannat, who lived in Paris between 1880 and 1890. Hartman bought it in 1975.