First edition of ‘The Book of Mormon’ by Joseph Smith nets $195K at Swann

Joseph Smith, 'The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi,' sold for $150,000 ($195,000 with buyer’s premium) at Swann Auction Galleries.

NEW YORK — The first edition of the scripture of the Mormon church was released just days before the official establishment of the church on April 6, 1830. Titled The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi, this was the only edition that lists Joseph Smith as the ‘author and proprietor’ of the text rather than as the translator, and the only edition with his two-page preface.

The first edition was printed by E. B. Grandin of Palmyra, NY, with numerous variants (in the 1973 paper Variations between Copies of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon, scholar Janet Jenson has identified 41) and so very few surviving copies of the book exist which are entirely identical. The copy in original publisher’s calf offered by Swann Auction Galleries in New York on June 27 has the two pages of witness testimony at the end, but not the index pages which were inserted in later copies. Featuring six early ownership signatures (it was first owned by one De Witt C. Mott), in 1962 it was bought by Alfred L. Bush, longtime curator of Western Americana at Princeton University’s Firestone Library, for $50. Consigned by his estate with a guide of $60,000-$90,000, it hammered for $150,000 ($195,000 with buyer’s premium).

The sale also included a copy of Trozos Selectos del Libro de Mormon, an 1875 printing that represented the first attempt to translate the Book of Mormon into Spanish. The project was undertaken in Salt Lake City by recent Spanish convert Meliton G. Trejo and Daniel W. Jones. The print run of 1,500 copies was delivered to Chihuahua by missionaries on horseback and from there, 500 of the copies were mailed to prominent Mexicans across the county. While several are known in library collections, this was the first copy recorded at auction and it sold accordingly, bringing $24,000 ($31,200 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $1,000-$1,500.

The other lot of particular note in the June 27 Printed & Manuscript Americana sale was a contemporary printing of perhaps the greatest speech given by abolitionist Frederick Douglas (1818-1895). Addressing a local women’s abolitionist group in his hometown Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852, Douglas used the occasion to focus on the continuing enslavement of millions.

“What to the Slave is Your Fourth of July?” he asked. “The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me.”

The copy of the 10,000-word ‘Fourth of July’ speech was issued shortly afterwards by local printer Lee Mann & Co. Some were sold to members of the audience, while an advertisement in the anti-slavery newspaper North Star offered copies for ten cents each or six dollars per hundred.

Swann’s cataloger said no copies had been traced at auction since the firm sold another in 2007. However, it is possible to point to a much more recent sale – the printing sold for $69,000 at Schultz Auctioneers in Clarence, New York in November 2023. Swann Galleries’ copy, with an early owner’s gift inscription dated 1858 on the title page, made a near identical price, hammered at $70,000 ($91,000 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of $6,000-$9,000.

Nelkin collection of Japanese ukiyo-e art showed strong results at Heritage

Katsushika Hokusai, 'The Falling Mist Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province,' sold for $60,000 ($78,000 with buyer’s premium) at Heritage Auctions.

DALLAS — Ruth Nelkin of Stamford, CT and New York City bought antiques across a wide variety of different disciplines, from Fabergé to French art glass. However, her primary passion was for ukiyo-e, the Japanese artform that has captivated Western eyes since the late 19th century.

Her collection was sold by Heritage Auctions in Dallas on June 27 as part of its series of Nelkin sales.

A retired stockbroker whose late husband worked in investment banking, Ruth Nelkin was seldom outbid at auction. “Mrs Nelkin always sat in front,” recalled specialist consultant Sachiko Hori. “I doubt she ever shook her head to indicate ‘no’ to the auctioneer. That was her determined way, resulting in this magnificent collection with depth and variety.” Most of the items had not seen the market in more than 30 years.

Heritage’s 246 lots were arranged chronologically from the 18th to the 20th century.

The sale contained 24 lots credited to the most celebrated of the Japanese printmakers, the Edo-period artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). As expected, the top lot in the sale was a complete 1832 series of his Eight Views of the Ryukyu Islands, created in anticipation of the arrival of a tribute mission from the semi-autonomous Ryukyu kingdom in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in November 1832. Hokusai had never visited the remote islands so instead based his compositions and titles on illustrations from the book Ryukyu kokushiryuaku published in 1757, adding in fictional elements for the Japanese audience including exotic plants and snow-peaked Fuji-like mountains. The set was estimated at $150,000-$200,000 but hammered at $125,000 ($162,500 with buyer’s premium).

In the 1830s, Hokusai entered his most prolific period as a print artist. Another eight-plate series from 1832 is A Tour of Waterfalls in Various Provinces (Shokoku taki meguri), the first ukiyo-e series on the theme of falling water. The image of the Kirifuri falls (located a few miles northeast of the temple complex of Nikko) is particularly dramatic, appearing like the tentacles of sea creature or the roots of a tree. Nelkin’s impression, rich with the imported Prussian blue pigments popular at the time, was deemed a particularly good example. Estimated at $30,000-$35,000, it took $60,000 ($78,000 with buyer’s premium) — way more than the average price for this image.

The key figure in the early 20th century shin-hanga (new prints) movement that followed an intense period of modernization and Westernization in Japan was the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo. Although there was little interest at the time in Japan itself, an eager market existed for these prints in the US and Europe.

Watanabe first worked with the prolific Kawase Hasui in 1919, issuing a 16-print series titled Souvenirs of Travel followed by another of the same title two years later. As Kawase’s sketchbooks and the original printing-blocks were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, these are rarities.

The image of Tsuta Marsh in Mutsu Province (Mutsu Tsutanuma) from the 1919 travel series (estimate $6,000-$7,000) was sold at $26,000 ($33,800 with buyer’s premium), while two prints from the 1921 suite, Snow at Hashidate (Yuki ho hashidate) and Nishimikawazaka on Sado Island (Sado Nishimikawazaka), took $19,000 ($24,700 with buyer’s premium) and $27,666 ($35,965 with buyer’s premium) respectively.

Across his long career, Hasui produced several prints showing the Zojoji Temple in a snow setting. The rarest, and one of the finest of all pre-earthquake ukiyo-e, shows a man dressed in Western-style clothing walking in a blizzard toward the great Buddhist seminary. Titled Snow at Zojoji Temple, it was produced in a limited edition of just 100 in 1922. The example here was pitched at $6,000-$7,000 but sold at $36,000 ($46,800 with buyer’s premium).

Jeffrey S. Evans’ Premier Americana four-day sale yielded strong results

Andrew Coffman / Rockingham decorated stoneware covered sugar bowl, sold for $29,000 ($36,250 with buyer’s premium) at Jeffrey S. Evans.

MT. CRAWFORD, VA — The four-day Premier Americana sale at Jeffrey S. Evans took bidders throughout the entirety of American history with a stunning 2,200 lots covering nearly every category of Americana collecting. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers for June 19, June 20, June 21 and June 22. This piece covers the top lot from each session.

Day one was topped by a Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. circa 1825-1835 blown-molded diminutive pedestal candlestick with a GII-18 decanter stopper. Previously published in the 1996 work Blown and Pressed American Glass by Richard Carter Barret and Frank L. Forward, the piece went through 26 competitive bids before landing at $13,000 ($16,250 with buyer’s premium). It had been estimated at just $2,000-$3,000.

Matilda Brett Graves (circa 1823-1886) was born and raised in Philadelphia and lived with her parents Bartholemew Graves (c. 1776-1853) and Mary Burk (1780-1851) and her four sisters. In 1832, when she was just nine, Matilda created this 17.25 x 13.75in sampler which is part of what is now known as a “Philadelphia Presentation” sampler. Such examples feature a central area with a six-line verse vignette, a basket holding fruit (in this case, two rows of strawberries and sprigs of berries at each end), and borders featuring scrolling vines (here, strawberries once again). Signed Matilda Graves’s Work done in her 9th year, the sampler carried a $2,000-$3,000 presale estimate. Two dozen bids took the hammer to $9,500 or $11,875 with buyer’s premium.

Interestingly, Matilda never married. The 1850 US Census for South Mulberry Ward, Philadelphia, records her living with her elderly parents, two married sisters with children, and an unmarried sister in addition to two servants. Matilda died on May 8, 1886, and is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia along with most of her family.

From a Los Angeles estate comes this late 19th century American School cigar store Indian. Its form is somewhat unusual, in that the carving features an eagle headdress and wolfskin robe, while the chief’s right hand is aloft and his eyes raised to the sky. Retaining its original paint, the 81in tall carving from an unidentified maker took $16,000 ($20,000 with buyer’s premium) against an $8,000-$12,000 estimate.

Day four was topped with a stunning performance for a Shenandoah Valley (Virginia) Andrew Coffman / Rockingham decorated stoneware covered sugar bowl. The bowl — one of only three signed examples known by Coffman — was recently discovered in a local estate. It contained a note reading, “This sugar bowl made by Andrew Coffman, clay pottery, Rockingham, Va. (Elkton) for my Great Grandad Maiden. Momma gave to me. Hattie.” The note had been written by Hattie Monger Kiblinger (1910-1977) of Ladd (Augusta County), Virginia. Hattie received the bowl from her mother, Mary Ella Baugher Monger (1869-1956) of Elkton, Virginia, who received the bowl from her mother, Virinda Jane Maiden Baugher (1838-1908) of Swift Run and Elkton. Virinda was the daughter of William David Maiden (1788-1875) of Elkton, the original purchaser of the bowl.

Stamped A. COFFMAN / ROCKIGHAM [sic] VA, the bowl carried a presale estimate of $10,000-$20,000, making it the most anticipated lot of the day. It did not disappoint, hammering at $29,000 and selling for $36,250.

Gandhi ALS smashed presale estimates to top $210K at International Autograph

A letter from Mahatma Gandhi to Hermann Kallenbach sold for €180,000 ($194,784 or $210,921 with buyer's premium) at International Autograph Auctions Europe.

MALAGA, SPAIN — An autograph letter signed (ALS) by Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) penned to the man he called his ‘soulmate’ has sold for €180,000 ($194,784 or $210,921 with buyer’s premium) at International Autograph Auctions as a top lot in the Autographs, Letters and Manuscripts sale June 27.

Gandhi met the German Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach (1871-1945) in South Africa in 1904 and the two men continued correspondence for many years after he returned to India in 1915.

Kallenbach was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s ‘satyagraha’ philosophy – in particular the notions of nonviolence, truth and equality. Coming from a wealthy family, he abandoned a lavish bachelor lifestyle for a simpler life and acted as manager for Gandhi’s satyagraha movement in South Africa. He left a considerable portion of his estate for South African Indians in his will.

This four-page letter, undated but probably dating from the 1920s when Ghandi was living among the rural poor in the Sabarmati Ashram, proved of particular interest for its warm expressions of friendship and its philosophical and spiritual content.

Gandhi begins: “I thought of you whilst grinding. I wished you were opposite me helping to grind. I then thought how we would have talked away, how you would have perhaps kicked against the monotony of it, how you would have wanted to turn the handle alone, how I would then have gone for you & how you would have patiently put up with all that and so we would have made ourselves merry. But it was only a dream. I sighed and I laughed.”

He then expresses his optimism in the face of human conflict: “The experiences you are undergoing are all a preparation for a better future, no matter what it is to be. I shall fondly hope that these experiences are nothing but an asset for our joint life. War must end one day and one day we must meet and again be physically near one another as we are in spirits today. Let not the life there have a depressing effect upon you. Then it will be well with you. Mind is its own place; it can make heaven of hell and hell of heaven.”

The letter was signed by Gandhi at the top of the first page. The estimate had been €15,000-€20,000 ($16,000-$22,000).

Carlo Scarpa for Venini Pennellate vase leads our five auction highlights

Carlo Scarpa Pennellate vase designed for Venini, which sold for $100,000 ($131,000 with buyer’s premium) at Wright June 6.

Carlo Scarpa for Venini Pennellate Vase, $131,000

Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) designed for Venini from 1932 to 1947, creating around 30 different ranges. The 13in (33cm) vase offered at design specialist Wright on June 6 is from the Pennellate (Brushstrokes) series. 

The Pennellate technique involved decorating a clear glass vessel with small amounts of opaque glass – in this instance, glass in hues of orange and red – while it was being blown. Spinning the glass created the irregular painterly effect of brushstrokes. This vase, model 3664, is similar to another circa-1942 example pictured in the 2012 catalog Carlo Scarpa: Venini 1932-1947

Pennellate pieces were notably difficult to make, and relatively few have come to market. However, this is the second that Wright has offered in as many sales. Back in December, the firm sold another Pennellatte vase in turquoise and iron red. Although fully signed to the base with a three-line acid stamp reading ‘Venini Murano Italia’, it had been bought at a thrift store in Richmond, Virginia for just $3.99. Described by Wright as one of the rarest pieces the firm had offered in more than a decade, it was estimated at $30,000-$50,000 and hammered at $85,000. 

This red and orange Pennellate variant did even better. Estimated at the same level, it hammered for $100,000, or $131,000 with buyer’s premium.

Carlo Scarpa Pennellate vase designed for Venini, which sold for $100,000 ($131,000 with buyer’s premium) at Wright June 6.
Carlo Scarpa Pennellate vase designed for Venini, which sold for $100,000 ($131,000 with buyer’s premium) at Wright June 6.

French 19th-century Hat Shop Six-Door Display Case, $46,125

French 19th-century hat shop six-door display case, which sold for $37,500 ($46,125 with buyer’s premium) at King Galleries June 1.
French 19th-century hat shop six-door display case, which sold for $37,500 ($46,125 with buyer’s premium) at King Galleries June 1.

ROSWELL, GA — A monumental 19th-century six-door display case was offered at King Galleries June 1 with a noteworthy estimate of $8,000-$10,000. It was a featured lot in the house’s European Antiques and Premier Estates auction.

Featuring its original exterior paint glass, the 144in-wide and 111in-tall display case had been built for a hat shop in Montpellier, France. Noting the interior back panel and interior paint were later additions, a furious battle broke out among LiveAuctioneers bidders, sending the piece to a final hammer of $37,500, or $46,125 with buyer’s premium.

Baroness von Langendorff’s Circa-1959 Hermès Kelly Crocodile Handbag, $20,480

Baroness Gabriele Langer von Langendorff’s Hermès Kelly crocodile bag, which sold for $16,000 ($20,480 with buyer’s premium) at Roland June 1.
Baroness Gabriele Langer von Langendorff’s Hermès Kelly crocodile bag, which sold for $16,000 ($20,480 with buyer’s premium) at Roland New York June 1.

GLEN COVE, NY — As part of the dissolution of the estate of Baroness Gabriele Langer von Langendorff on June 1, Roland New York achieved a strong $16,000 ($20,480 with buyer’s premium) for her circa-1959 Hermès Kelly crocodile handbag. The bag was not part of the original Roland New York sale from the Baroness’s estate, but rather the house’s June 2024 Estates auction.

Made from black Porosus crocodile leather with gold-plated hardware, the vintage handbag was in well-loved condition and retained its original locks and keys. Bidding started with a $7,500 offer and climbed skyward from there, landing at the $16,000 final bid from a LiveAuctioneers participant.

Climax Mechanical Apple Parer, $7,620

Climax mechanical apple parer by George W. Brokaw of Lodi, New York, which sold for $6,000 ($7,620 with buyer’s premium) at Butterscotch Auction June 5.
Climax mechanical apple parer by George W. Brokaw of Lodi, New York, which sold for $6,000 ($7,620 with buyer’s premium) at Butterscotch Auction June 5.

BEDFORD, NY — More than 100 patents for mechanical apple parers were granted between 1850 and 1890. Serious collectors aim to own one of each. Some are relatively easy to find with a budget of $50, but others, such as the Climax apple parer patented by George W. Brokaw of Lodi, New York on May 11, 1869 will cost much more.

Brokaw’s version is one of only a few lathe-style apple peelers in which the knife is stationary. Instead, the fruit is mounted via a fork on a revolving turntable. This mechanical marvel is known from only a handful of examples and very rarely returns to the market.

The example offered at Butterscotch Auction on June 5, with an estimate of $150-$300, came for sale by descent from ‘an important South Salem, NY collector’. Mounted on a contemporary custom-fitted wooden stand, it hammered for $6,000 ($7,620 with buyer’s premium). The last example previously sold took $4,800. 

Climax mechanical apple parer by George W. Brokaw of Lodi, New York, which sold for $6,000 ($7,620 with buyer’s premium) at Butterscotch Auction June 5.
Climax mechanical apple parer by George W. Brokaw of Lodi, New York, which sold for $6,000 ($7,620 with buyer’s premium) at Butterscotch Auction June 5.

Mid-19th-century French Painting of Hot Air Balloons, $8,482

Lemoine-Benoit’s ‘Fête de Ballons pour glorifier Montgolfier, Château de la Muette’, which sold for $7,250 ($8,482 with buyer’s premium) at Thriftiques of Iowa June 9.
Lemoine-Benoit’s ‘Fête de Ballons pour glorifier Montgolfier, Château de la Muette’, which sold for $7,250 ($8,482 with buyer’s premium) at Thriftiques of Iowa June 9.

IOWA CITY, IA — With very few exceptions, the French artist Victor Philippe Lemoine-Benoit (active 1831-1850) devoted his painting career almost entirely to one subject: hot-air balloons of the type made famous by the Montgolfière brothers in the late 18th century. Although very little is known about Lemoine-Benoit, he cannot have witnessed the event he portrayed in dozens of related paintings of varying sizes.

On June 9, one of his works came under the hammer at Thriftiques of Iowa. The 2ft 1in by 15in (63 by 38cm) canvas, later mounted in a convex frame, was titled, as many Lemoine-Benoits are, Fête de Ballons pour glorifier Montgolfier, Château de la MuetteWhen they appear for sale, these joyful anachronistic images are perennially popular – larger examples can break five figures. This one, estimated at just $10-$1,000, hammered to a LiveAuctioneers bidder at $7,250 ($8,482 with buyer’s premium).

Estate of Stephen Sondheim outperformed healthy estimates at Doyle New York

Stephen Sondheim's gold record for the film soundtrack to 'West Side Story', which sold for $35,000 ($46,550 with buyer’s premium) at Doyle.

NEW YORK — Doyle New York‘s sale of the personal effects of Broadway musical master Stephen Sondheim soared far beyond healthy estimates June 18, drawing fans of the legendary composer who wanted to own a piece of his illustrious career and passions. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

The most anticipated lot did not disappoint. Created by workmaster Karl Armfelt for Fabergé in St. Petersburg between 1908 and 1917, this billiards table with a hidden interior compartment had been estimated at $12,000-$18,000. Floor bidding started at $5,500 and kept climbing until the final offer of $55,000 ($73,150 with buyer’s premium). The piece had been exhibited at a Fabergé event at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York.

Sondheim’s first big hit was as the lyricist (librettist) for the music created by Leonard Bernstein for United Artists’ 1961 smash hit musical film West Side Story, which had previously debuted as a Broadway musical in 1957. Columbia Records awarded him this gold record to commemorate $1 million in sales of the movie’s soundtrack in 1961. Doyle’s notes included this awesome anecdote:

The opportunity to write the lyrics for West Side Story came after the librettist Arthur Laurents saw a preview of Sondheim’s musical Saturday Night and thought he might be a candidate to write the lyrics for the show. Leonard Bernstein was writing the music for this adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and, while Betty Comden and Adolph Green were slated to write the lyrics, they were busy in Hollywood and Sondheim was given a chance to audition for Bernstein, whom he impressed. At first, Sondheim was discouraged — he wanted to be a composer and librettist of musicals, but he asked the opinion of his mentor Oscar Hammerstein II who said: “Look, you have a chance to work with very gifted professionals on a show that sounds interesting, and you could always write your own music eventually. My advice would be to take the job.” The rest is history.

The gold record was estimated at just $1,000-$1,500, but hit $35,000 ($46,550 with buyer’s premium).

Sondheim’s treasury of thesaurses and rhyming dictionaries were surprise overperformers in the sale. This lot of dictionaries, thesauruses, and books on crossword puzzles in well-loved condition hammered for $20,000 ($26,600 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of just $400-$600. A set of four editions of Roget’s International Thesaurus, two of them dating to 1946, also trounced its $200-$300 estimate to hammer for the same price, $20,000 ($26,600 with buyer’s premium).

Canadiana and automobilia collections smashed estimates at Miller & Miller

1936 Chevrolet half-ton truck, which sold for CA$100,000 ($72,845, or $89,600 with buyer's premium) at Miller & Miller.

NEW HAMBURG, CANADA — Two prominent Canadian collections came to market June 17 at Miller & Miller. The estate of automobilia enthusiast Dr. Michael Francis and the eclectic Canadiana collection of Jon Church were sold in two sessions.

The Church items brought the biggest numbers in the dual-session sale. The top lot was a 1936 Chevrolet half-ton truck. Miller & Miller noted 1936 was a big and transformative year for General Motors’ Chevrolet division. It was the first year for the redesigned ‘clear vision’ instrument panel and the redesigned ‘low curved corner.’ With only 17,056 actual miles since new, bidders sent the truck to an amazing CA$100,000 ($72,845, or $89,600 with buyer’s premium) against an estimate of just CA$25,000-CA$30,000 ($18,000-$22,000).

As predicted, the vintage Ford ‘Garage’ lighted dealer sign from Ancaster, Canada was also highly desired by bidders. Estimated at CA$20,000-CA$30,000, it doubled its high estimate by hammering at CA$60,000 ($43,705, or $53,760 with buyer’s premium).

The third top performer was an automotive clock originally installed in a Duesenberg. Made in Switzerland by the Jaeger Watch Company of New York, the chronograph features a 60-second hand and a 30-minute indicator, which allows the user to measure elapsed time in seconds and minutes. It is also an eight-day clock, meaning that it could run for eight days without needing to be wound. Estimated at CA$1,200-CA$1,500, it hammered for CA$22,000 ($16,025, or $19,710 with buyer’s premium).

 

Yongzheng porcelain incense box astounds by commanding $406K at Tremont

Yongzheng porcelain box and cover, which sold for $320,000 ($406,400 with buyer's premium) at Tremont.

SUDBURY, MA — The biannual offering of Chinese, Japanese and Indian works of art at Tremont Auctions on June 30 was dominated by the multi-estimate performance of a single lot. A small porcelain incense box and cover decorated with butterflies and flower and carrying a Yongzheng (1722-1735) four-character seal mark shot to $320,000 ($406,400 with buyer’s premium). The first bid had been just $250.

Bidders were hoping this 2.25in box belongs to a very small group of famille rose vessels decorated with exceptionally well-painted butterflies and flowers.

The combination of butterflies and flower sprays in Chinese porcelain has its origins with Ming blue and white but it took on new life in the Qing period with the development of the famille rose palette of overglaze enamel colours. It was during the Yongzheng reign that the famous ‘butterfly bowls’ emerged with their images of two facing butterflies representing a joyful encounter. Butterflies — that in Daoism are associated the freedom of the soul — were also included in Qing dynasty decoration to suggest duplication of an auspicious wish, since the word for butterfly in Chinese is homophonous with a word meaning to repeat.

The flowers are also carefully chosen, depicting tree peony blossoms — the ‘king of flowers’ in Chinese culture and jasmine — the fragrant flowers used in the 18th century to decorate and to perfume the emperor’s apartments and clothes.

Tremont Auctions said the box, that came from an old estate in Massachusetts with little known about its history, was in good condition save for a faint small hairline to the cover measuring about .4in or 10mm. The box was sold to an international buyer. 

Chinese Blue and White Fish Jar in the Yuan Style leads our special five Asian auction highlights

Chinese blue and white fish jar in the Yuan style, which hammered for €820,000 ($880,300) and sold for €1 million ($1.1 million) with buyer’s premium at Aste di Antiquariato Boetto June 19.

Chinese Blue and White Fish Jar in the Yuan Style, $1.1 Million

GENOA, Italy – There was saleroom drama at Aste di Antiquariato Boetto on June 19 when a 12in (30cm) Chinese blue and white jar estimated at €2,000-€2,300 ($2,150-$2,470) shot to €820,000 ($880,300), ultimately selling for €1 million ($1.1 million) with buyer’s premium. While the auction house dated this piece to the 18th century, bidders speculated it was a Yuan dynasty fish jar, or guan, from the 1350s.

The ‘fish-in-waterpond’ motif first appeared on Yuan dynasty blue and white ceramics. The subject was not just decorative. The species of fish – typically qingyu (a type of mullet), baiyu liyu (carp), and guiyu (mandarin fish) – conveyed a deeper Daoist meaning. Fish were considered the manifestation of spiritual freedom, the treasured aim of China’s intellectual elite.

Despite their great age, many Yuan fish jars are preserved. Although they vary greatly in quality and price, the best can bring spectacular sums. A particularly fine example in the Joseph Hotung collection sold for almost HK$40 million (roughly $5.1 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in October 2022.

Large jars of this type – among the very first pieces of blue and white porcelain – were often made to contain alcohol, or water for making tea. Excavations suggest they were produced at several ceramic centers, including Longquan, the Cizhou kilns, and at Jingdezhen.

Chinese blue and white fish jar in the Yuan style, which hammered for €820,000 ($880,300) and sold for €1 million ($1.1 million) with buyer’s premium at Aste di Antiquariato Boetto June 19.
Chinese blue and white fish jar in the Yuan style, which hammered for €820,000 ($880,300) and sold for €1 million ($1.1 million) with buyer’s premium at Aste di Antiquariato Boetto June 19.

Uncut Qing Dynasty Apricot Yellow Dragon Robe, $33,282

Uncut Qing apricot yellow dragon robe, which hammered for $25,800 and sold for $33,282 with buyer’s premium at Kelmscott’s Gallery on June 15.
Uncut Qing apricot yellow dragon robe, which hammered for $25,800 and sold for $33,282 with buyer’s premium at Kelmscott’s Gallery on June 15.

PLANO, TX – The colors and designs of Qing dynasty robes were designed to convey rank and entitlement. The rules were set out during the reign of the Qianlong emperor under The Regulations for the Ceremonial Paraphernalia of the [Qing] Dynasty, completed in 1759, and they were strictly adhered to.  

According to the Qing court regulations, robes in the apricot yellow (orange) color embroidered with imperial symbols of authority were assigned to imperial princes of the first rank and his sons. 

An uncut robe in this color was offered at Kelmscott’s Gallery on June 15. It was consigned from the collection of a British family living in Dallas, and by repute had been among the many Qing works of art removed from the Old Summer Palace by Anglo-French troops in the final act of the Second Opium War in 1860.

Undated but probably from the Xianfeng (1850-1861) period, it was estimated at $1,500-$3,000, but hammered for $25,800 and sold for $$33,282 with buyer’s premium to a bidder via LiveAuctioneers.

Uncut Qing apricot yellow dragon robe, which hammered for $25,800 and sold for $33,282 with buyer’s premium at Kelmscott’s Gallery on June 15.
Uncut Qing apricot yellow dragon robe, which hammered for $25,800 and sold for $33,282 with buyer’s premium at Kelmscott’s Gallery on June 15.

Chinese Red Lacquered Scholar’s Painting Table, $407,460

Chinese red lacquered scholar’s painting table, which hammered for €300,000 ($322,100) and sold for €379,500 ($407,460) with buyer’s premium at Marques Dos Santos June 15.
Chinese red lacquered scholar’s painting table, which hammered for €300,000 ($322,100) and sold for €379,500 ($407,460) with buyer’s premium at Marques Dos Santos June 15.

PORTO, Portugal – The sale of Asian art at Marques Dos Santos on June 15 included a classic Chinese sleeper. This red lacquered table, inset to the top with a dali marble ‘picture stone’ panel, was estimated at €1,000-€2,000 ($1,075-$2,150), but hammered for €300,000 ($322,100) and sold for €379,500 ($407,460) with buyer’s premium.

Tables of these proportions were likely used for painting in a scholar’s studio, its generous length and depth providing ample surface for free, unimpeded movement around a paper scroll. The corner leg and the recessed waist with reticulated narrow panels gives it its distinctive form, one pioneered in the Ming period. The magnitude of the price suggests a date from the late Ming or the early Qing period. 

Daoguang Mark Chinese Famille Rose ‘Cong’-form Vase Painted with Imperial Hunting Trip Scenes, $163,750

Daoguang mark Chinese famille rose ‘cong’-form vase painted with scenes from an imperial hunting trip, which hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium at Freeman’s Hindman June 21.
Daoguang mark Chinese famille rose ‘cong’-form vase painted with scenes from an imperial hunting trip, which hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium at Freeman’s Hindman June 21.

CHICAGO – This unusual famille rose ‘cong’-form vase is painted with scenes of huntsmen, two with camels and two on horses. Standing just shy of 12in (30cm) tall, it has an iron red six-character Daoguang (1821-1850) mark to the base. Although later mounted as a lamp, it was in fine condition and had not been drilled. 

This design of Manchu officials on different mounts comes from images of the imperial hunting trip called Qiuli (Autumn hunting), which was instituted by the Kangxi emperor and continued into the Daoguang reign in the early 19th century. 

The subject, which appears on a number of Daoguang-period objects, also creates several visual puns with auspicious messages of the type that delight Chinese decorators. For example, the combination of the dog and the camel creates the term huanluo, meaning joy and happiness.

The vase appeared at Freeman’s Hindman’s sale of property from the Aline Elwes McDonnell Trust on June 21. It came by descent to Aline McDonnell (1923-2023) via her husband Hubert McDonnell Jr. (1919-2004), who had inherited it from his father Hubert McDonnell Sr. It had an estimate of $2,000-$3,000, and it hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium.

Daoguang mark Chinese famille rose ‘cong’-form vase painted with scenes from an imperial hunting trip, which hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium at Freeman’s Hindman June 21.
Daoguang mark Chinese famille rose ‘cong’-form vase painted with scenes from an imperial hunting trip, which hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium at Freeman’s Hindman June 21.
Daoguang mark Chinese famille rose ‘cong’-form vase painted with scenes from an imperial hunting trip, which hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium at Freeman’s Hindman June 21.
Daoguang mark Chinese famille rose ‘cong’-form vase painted with scenes from an imperial hunting trip, which hammered for $125,000 and sold for $163,750 with buyer’s premium at Freeman’s Hindman June 21.

Kangxi Clair-de-lune Monochrome Vase, $203,200

Kangxi clair-de-lune monochrome vase, which hammered for $160,000 and sold for $203,200 with buyer’s premium at Golden State Auction Gallery June 15.
Kangxi clair-de-lune monochrome vase, which hammered for $160,000 and sold for $203,200 with buyer’s premium at Golden State Auction Gallery June 15.

SAN FRANCISCO – The pale blue hue known as clair-de-lune is one of the most treasured Qing monochrome glazes, and was reserved exclusively for imperial porcelains. The color, inspired by the Ru wares of the Song dynasty, appeared first in Kangxi porcelain and remained popular throughout the Qing dynasty. 

This 8in (21cm) high vase has a six-character Kangxi (1661-1722) mark and is thought to be of the period. Offered by Golden State Auction Gallery on June 15 with an estimate of $20,000-$80,000, it hammered for $160,000 and sold for $203,200 with buyer’s premium.

It had provenance to the collection of C. Philip Cardeiro (1930-2014) of Boston, Massachusetts. He made his first acquisition in the 1940s and thereafter began a lifetime of collecting that continued unabated for the next six decades, with the greatest bulk of his collecting taking place in the late 1960s and 1970s. 

Kangxi clair-de-lune monochrome vase, which hammered for $160,000 and sold for $203,200 with buyer’s premium at Golden State Auction Gallery June 15.
Kangxi clair-de-lune monochrome vase, which hammered for $160,000 and sold for $203,200 with buyer’s premium at Golden State Auction Gallery June 15.

Oh, snap! Vintage Leica camera sells for $1.4M at OstLicht

Leica GG 250 Reporter, which sold for €1,100,000 ($1,175,970, or $1,469,960 with buyer's premium) at OstLicht.

VIENNA — A selection of vintage Leica cameras appeared at OstLicht Auction June 5 with estimate-smashing results. “33 years of experience with classic cameras have enabled us to bring this unique collection to Vienna,” said OstLicht’s Peter Coeln. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.

The sale’s top lot was a Leica GG 250 Reporter fitted with the first Leica-Motor, dating to 1941 and originally delivered to the Luftwaffe for use in aerial reconnaissance. The Leica-Motor MOOEV no. 10006 is not only the earliest example known to exist, but is also in mint condition. It also has the screw-in support to keep the camera in balance.

OstLicht noted that very few cameras were equipped with the MOOEV electric motor drive, and most were lost in shoot-downs by the Allies. Estimated at €340,000-€380,000 ($364,000-$407,000), the 250 Reporter hammered for a whopping €1,100,000 ($1,175,970, or $1,469,960 with buyer’s premium).

This black-paint MP with matching Leicavit MP was owned and used by famed German photographer Eric Schaal. According to factory delivery records, it was delivered to Köln, Germany on October 25, 1957. The chassis of the camera is engraved P 141, and it came with a matching black-paint Summicron 2/5cm no.1468980 with a raw brass mount. The camera and lens were very fine and completely original, and were presented at OstLicht with a copy of Eric Schall Photograph as confirmation of the provenance. Estimated at €300,000-€340,000, it hammered at €500,000 ($534,530, or $668,165 with buyer’s premium).

The final highlight was the first of only two Leica 250 prototypes. Originally based on a Leica II chassis, the camera was converted into a Leica 250 with a slow shutter speed. The two cameras were the only Leica 250 prototypes produced in 1933. Since its conversion in 1936, the camera remained in the same never-restored and fully-working condition. Representing a unique opportunity to acquire one of the most important cameras in Leica’s history, it was estimated at €150,000-€170,000 ($160,000-$182,000) and closed at €380,000 ($406,245, or $507,800 with buyer’s premium).