Fine Asian decorative art and furniture lead Gray’s Sept. 12 auction

CLEVELAND – The private collection of the late Dr. Ronald J. DiCenzo, the former Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, will be auctioned on Wednesday, September 12, by Gray’s Auctioneers & Appraisers. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.

“Dr. DiCenzo’s collection was perhaps one of the most extensive in Ohio,” said Serena Harragin, CEO of Gray’s Auctioneers & Appraisers. “While most of the lots are Chinese in origin, there is also a wide variety of Japanese artifacts, such as the set of twelve woodblock prints or the authentic Katana with Saya. Any enthusiast of East Asian culture, craftsmanship and décor will be sure to appreciate this auction.”

Asian art

Watercolor and ink on laid paper by Chinese artist Pu Jian (1893-1966), titled Scholar in a Landscape Calligraphy Scroll, 36 ¼ inches tall by 17 ¼ inches wide (est. $800-$1,200).

Lot 307 (above) is a beautiful watercolor and ink scroll by early 20th century Chinese calligraphy artist Pu Jian (1893-1966), also often referred to as Pu Jin. A member of the Manchu Imperial family and a cousin of the last emperor of China, Pu Jian was part of an elite Beijing painting circle known as the Songfeng huahui, or the Pine Breeze Painting Society. Most of its members were relatives of the Imperial family.

Pu Jian lived through a tumultuous period in modern Chinese history. His surviving works demonstrate a devotion to traditional Chinese painting and crafts. The scroll, titled Scholar in a Landscape, depicts a Confucian scholar and his attendant traversing a bridge by a waterfall, surround by dense foliage depicted vividly in the traditional style practiced by Pu and his contemporaries in the Songfeng huahui.

Lot 398 is a large Japanese burled elm wood Tansu chest with brass mounts from the 20th century. A longtime fixture of Japanese homes, large size cabinets such as the one up for auction are designed to be disassembled into smaller pieces for easy relocation. The word Tansu is derived from two Japanese characters – tan and su – which refer to the storage of food and the carrying of firewood, respectively.

Asian art

Pair of late 19th/early 20th-century Chinese Sancai glaze stoneware foo dog roof tile finials, 18½ inches tall by 19½ inches wide (est. $400-$600)

Lot 15 is a pair of Chinese “foo dog” roof tile finials. While they became known erroneously as “foo dogs” in the West, the mythical creatures depicted in these finials and many other pieces of traditional Chinese art and sculpture are actually lions. These guardian figures have long been a fixture of Imperial Chinese heraldry, ceramics and architecture dating back at least as far as the Han Dynasty in the 6th century AD.

Leading off the auction this month is a wonderful collection of Chinese blanc de chine ceramic figures. Known to the Chinese as Dehua porcelain, blanc de chine porcelain production dates back to the Ming Dynasty and is produced in the town of Dehua, in the Fujian province. First exported to Europe in the early 18th century, these ceramics became internationally renowned for their uniquely pure ivory tone.

Asian art

Chinese 19th-century porcelain blanc de chine figure of Guanyin, flanked by two figures of children, 13½ inches tall (est. $200-$400)

Lots 1-8 are blanc de chine figures of Guanyin, the sacred bodhisvattas of Chinese religion and folklore. Lot 9 is a large singular male Foo Dog. Lot 10 comprises two smaller male Foo Dogs with a Guanyin. Lot 11 is a matched pair of male and female Foo Dogs. Lot 12 is a collection of six smaller blanc de chine decorative items, including Guanyin, Budai (or “Laughing Buddha”), Gautama Buddha, and a small lidded bowl. Lot 13 is a 9-inch blanc de chine vase depicting mythical creatures in relief.

Asian art

Pair of 20th-century Chinese palace-size blue and white porcelain vases, 56 inches tall (est. $400-$600)

Lot 96 is a Chinese blue and white porcelain basin, while Lot 65 consists of a pair of palace-size blue and white porcelain vases. Lot 110 is a large Chinese archaic style storage vessel. Lot 114 comprises two large porcelain vases depicting birds resting on flowered branches. All are fine porcelain. Famille jaune, noire, rose and verte are French terms that classify Chinese porcelain by the dominant element in its color palette.

Asian art

Chinese archaic-style stoneware storage vessel, 15 inches tall by 16¼ inches wide (est. $400-$600)

 Lot 20 is a lovely famille jaune porcelain vase. Lot 28 consists of two famille rose porcelain vases. Lot 24 is a pair of famille jaune fishbowls. Lot 26 is a famille verte vase. Lot 18 is a pair of eye-popping high relief vases. A number of Japanese ceramic objects are also up for auction, including Lot 437, a Japanese Imari porcelain lidded jar, and Lot 467, a fine pair of blue and white Japanese porcelain vases.

Over 30 lots of cloisonné will be offered. Highlights include a large temple size censer in Lot 255, two large pedestals in Lot 262, two incense burners in Lot 261, two smaller wood and cloisonné pedestals in Lot 263, a pair of large vases in Lot 264 and a pair of double gourd vases in Lot 265. Cloisonné is a time-honored technique for affixing gemstones, colored glass or vitreous enamel to metalwork objects.

Asian art

Early 20th-century Chinese temple size cloisonné censer, 34 inches tall (est. $400-$600)

Finely detailed carved wood and stone items are also up for auction, including a carved hard stone landscape depicting figures huddled around a cliff side temple beneath a tree. The detail work and color of this object are exquisite. Lot 238 is a pair of carved elm architectural brackets, depicting the fearsome visages of a dragon clutching an embroidered ball, an example of magnificent craftsmanship.

Lot 372 is a large carved hardwood drum depicting another dragon, Lot 208 is a set of six brilliantly carved hard stone figurines, Lot 342 is a carved and gilt lacquered plaque depicting birds resting among a dense thicket of floral plants, and Lot 343 is a similar gilt and lacquered wooden plaque, depicting an aquatic scene of fish and squid surrounding a waterside shrine. Many other lots will also be featured.

The Wednesday, September 12 auction will commence at 10 a.m. ET. For additional information on any item in the auction, call 216-226-3300.

About Dr. Ronald J. DiCenzo:

Dr. DiCenzo received his Ph.D. in Japanese history from Princeton University in 1978. As part of his studies, he spent several years in Japan during the 1960s, where he first began collecting the wide variety of beautiful antiques now up for auction. As part of the Oberlin faculty, he galvanized student interest in Japan on campus as it was rising as an economic and cultural superpower in the mid-1970s.

DiCenzo went on to help Oberlin College affiliate with the newly formed Associated Kyoto Program consortium of colleges in the U.S., through which he sent scores of students for study abroad in Japan.