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, known as 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 was in good condition save for a faint small hairline crack to the cover measuring about .4in or 10mm.

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.

Wayne Wright collection powers the two-day Summer World Treasures sale at Jackson’s July 30-31

Marvin Cone, 'Barns and Shed,' estimated at $45,000-$60,000 at Jackson's.

CEDAR FALLS, IA — The lifetime collection of Wayne Wright (1938-2015) comes to Jackson’s International Auctioneers as a 700-plus lot two-day Summer World Treasures sale July 30 and July 31. Wright was a passionate collector who focused on early 20th century leaded glass lamps, with more than 100 starring in the sale.

Coming to market from the Wright collection is a Tiffany Studios Woodbine table lamp dating to 1905. The leaded glass shade is 16.25in in diameter and is paired with a Tiffany patinated #444 acorn-form bronze base. The lamp descended through three generations of an Iowa family who are believed to have been the original purchasers. It carries a presale estimate of $8,000-$12,000.

The first day’s top estimated lot is a stunning work by famed American Regionalist and founder of the Stone City Art Colony Marvin Cone (1891-1965). Barns and Shed is a signed oil on board dating to 1957. Measuring 10.75 x 24in, the classic Iowa farm scene is estimated at $45,000-$60,000.

Wright had a passion for Russian art, reflected heavily in day two’s inventory, with 235 items available. One of the day’s top lots is a Fabergé gold, enamel and diamond brooch featuring the likeness of Empress Catherine II (1762-1796), better known as Catherine the Great. The broach comprises a a 1766-dated gold 10-ruble coin, with the front featuring an enameled bust portrait of Catherine, its background in translucent red enamel. The bezel is set with cut diamonds and red cabochons. The folding pin is hallmarked St. Petersburg, 56 (denoting 14k gold) and the workmaster initials of AH, suggesting August Hollming. Measuring just 1.3in, the diminutive brooch dated to 1896-1908 is estimated at $10,000-$15,000.

This large Russian silver samovar dates to around 1895 is carries a cyrillic hallmark for its creator NK and is marked throughout for St. Petersburg. Standing 17.75in in height, it features a tapering baluster form and a domed circular base with four ball feet. With a total weight of 3650 grams, the samovar is estimated at $15,000-$25,000.

Robert Louis Stevenson- and Samuel Clemens-connected items are top lots at Potter & Potter July 25

Robert Louis Stevenson-owned ceremonial feast kava bowl, estimated at $10,000-$20,000 at Potter & Potter.

CHICAGO — An important Tahitian relic from the extensive South Sea travels of Robert Louis Stevenson and two items associated with Samuel Clemens (who wrote as Mark Twain) are star lots at the Fine Books and Manuscripts sale at Potter & Potter July 25. The complete catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

Best remembered for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde, Scottish-born Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) lived only a bit shy of four and a half decades but packed adventure into every turn. While often sickly, he traveled his beloved South Seas extensively and eventually would succumb to a stroke at his home in Samoa.

In 1888, Stevenson traveled to Tahiti and befriended a local tribal king named Ori A Ori. While visiting, his chronic illness problems arose, and he was nursed back to health by the daily ministrations of Princess Moe, a royal Tahitian known for her great beauty and her mastery of English. She visited the author several times a day with specially prepared meals. Stevenson’s wife Fanny (1840-1914) would later remark that Princess Moe’s care saved her husband’s life.

As was the custom of Tahitians, Stevenson was presented this ceremonial feast kava bowl by Chief Ori. Such a large and impressive dish (27in diameter) would have been used only with dignitaries, making its gifting a major honor. When Stevenson returned to Hawaii, he either sold or regifted it to the Spreckles Sugar family’s patriarch, Adolf Claus J. Spreckles (1828-1908, the “Sugar King”). The bowl was passed down through the Spreckles family until its eventual emergence on the market in 2007. Potter & Potter estimates the kava bowl at $10,000-$20,000. It comes with a temporarily detached brass plaque detailing its origins and is one of three Stevenson-connected lots in the sale.

Potter & Potter is also featuring four Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) items in the sale, including the event’s top lot: an inscribed first edition, Bal’s third issue presentation copy of The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrim’s Progress from 1869. The inscription reads This book is given to Miss Jane Findlay Shunk, With the Kindest regards of Mark Twain [flourish] Harrisburgh, [sic] Jan. 21 / 72. Ms. Shunk (1792-1878) was a married woman at the time of the inscription, the daughter of former Pennsylvania governor William Findlay (1768-1846) and the wife of Pennsylvania Governor Francis Rawn Shunk (1788-1848). Though not well known today, The Innocents Abroad was Clemens’s most successful book during his lifetime, and is today one of the best-selling travel books of all time. It carries a presale estimate of $20,000-$30,000.

An interesting insight into Clemens’s personal life comes in the form of an autographed letter signed (ALS) in which he states he cannot yet help in the dramatization of Huckleberry Finn for production at the Iroquois Theater in Chicago. Dated August 22, 1902, Clemens writes (in part): The play came, but before I could snatch a look at it Mrs. Clemens was prostrate with a so serious illness that I have been as sick-nurse ever since: + I am still that, + am not expecting to do any work for some little time to come. The interesting correspondence for a show that would ultimately close after only 40 performances due to bad reviews is estimated at $4,000-$6,000. It is noteworthy that Olivia Langdon Clemens (1845-1904) would pass away from heart failure just two years later.

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).

Antique French bebe dolls by Leon Casimir Bru and Jules Steiner anticipated to soar at Frasher’s July 22

Leon Casimir Bru, French bisque blue-eyed bebe size 13, estimated at $30,000-$36,000 at Frasher's.

OAK GROVE, MO — Frasher’s Doll Auction returns on July 22 with more antique French bebes from the 19th century’s biggest names in the doll-making business. The sale includes French bisque bebes, German bisque character dolls, paper-mache dolls and much more. The complete catalog is now available for review and bidding at LiveAuctioneers.

The sale’s top estimated lot is a stunning French bisque blue-eyed bebe by Leon Casimir Bru in the rare size of 13. Standing 32in in height, the bebe features a pressed bisque head mounted to a kid-edged bisque shoulder plate. The doll dates to around 1884. The bebe is dressed in an “exquisitely embroidered” cream silk costume, lace-trimmed bonnet, stockings, and original Bru leather shoes. The bebe is estimated at $30,000-$36,000.

Next up is a Series G French bisque bebe by Jules Steiner, another giant of 19th-century doll manufacture. The bebe’s bisque head is mounted to a French composition fully jointed body, and is dressed in an antique pink silk costume with lace-edged collar, an antique silk bonnet, and wearing leather shoes signed Modes de Paris. Considered one of Steiner’s rarest models, it is estimated at $16,000-$26,000.

The final top lot is a blue-eyed French bisque Brue JNE bebe in size 10 (22in in height). Made during the Chevrot period of Bru JNE manufacture, the 1888 bebe features fine bisque quality of painting, and carries a fully original and sturdy body. The bebe is anticipated to bring $15,000-$20,000.

 
 
 

Five Marjorie Reed stagecoach paintings rolled to triumph at John Moran

Marjorie Reed, ‘Across the Colorful West-Old Staging Days’, which sold for $9,220 with buyer’s premium at John Moran.

MONROVIA, CA – All eight paintings by American Western artist Marjorie Reed (1915-1996) offered in the June 4 Art of the American West sale at John Moran found new homes. But the five that depicted stagecoaches – the subject that made Reed’s reputation – all beat their estimates. Complete results for the sale can be seen at LiveAuctioneers.

Reed, the daughter of a commercial artist, showed talent early, winning a job with a Walt Disney subsidiary when she was just 14 years old. Disney had hoped to recruit her for his animation department, but that didn’t work out. “I couldn’t adjust to the regimentation,” she said.

Other frustrations shaped her life. She dreamed of living on a ranch, but that simply wasn’t possible near Los Angeles, where she grew up. Evidently, she experienced some pushback trying to pursue a career as a woman artist of Western imagery, as she sometimes signed her works with male names, such as Harvey Day or Fred Day.

Her friend Captain William Banning, the son of a stagecoach driver, taught her the history of the Butterfield Overland Mail route, a 2,800-mile circuit that the Overland Mail company stagecoach service followed when hauling mail across the American West from 1858 to 1861, when the Civil War interrupted its six-year contract with the US Postal Department. It was the longest stagecoach route in the world.

Company vehicles departed from two points in the east: Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, bound for San Francisco by way of Arkansas, what is now Oklahoma (but was then called ‘Indian country’), Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico proper before entering California.

Overland Mail won the $600,000-per-year government contract, which today would be worth about $21.6 million, by pledging to move mail between St. Louis and San Francisco twice a week in 25 days maximum, year-round. Passengers were permitted, but relaying the mail at speed took priority. Those headed east paid $100 (about $3,825) and those headed west paid $200 (about $7,650) for more than three weeks of misery, eating twice a day, making do with layovers that lasted about five minutes, and learning to fall asleep in the swaying, ever-moving stagecoach.

New York Herald reporter Waterman L. Ormsby, who traveled the circuit in full and recounted the experience for his readers, summed it up memorably: “Had I not just come over the route, I would be perfectly willing to go back, but I know what Hell is like. I’ve just had 24 days of it.”

Such realities did not deter Reed, who kept her focus on romantic images of bright red stagecoaches flying across spectacular Western landscapes drawn by teams of horses, sometimes four and sometimes six, and seemingly always having at least one white horse among them. Reed sketched the route, traveling along it in her Model T Ford, and used those sketches to produce her Butterfield Stage series in 1957. In that same year, twenty color images from that series appeared in the book The Colorful Overland Stage.

The five stagecoach-centric paintings presented at Moran, all signed as Marjorie Reed, reinforced the notion that collectors want these Reed works most of all. The Stage is Here!, rendered in 1975 and the only one among them that had an explicit date, sold for $10,896 with buyer’s premium. Right behind it, at $9,220 with buyer’s premium, was Across the Colorful West – Old Staging Days, a scene of a stagecoach streaking across a landscape worthy of a John Ford film. It was the only one of the Moran group in which stagecoach passengers are clearly visible.

Nocturnal Stagecoach, which appears to show a vehicle departing a change station with an escort of two mounted troops, brought $6,705 with buyer’s premium, while Passing of the Stage in Earthquake Valley, depicting two stagecoaches passing each other as their relief drivers wave in greeting, realized $5,029. The fifth and last Reed stagecoach piece, an oil on canvasboard dubbed On Time at the Change Station, earned a respectable $4,610 with buyer’s premium.

Gold ring with carnelian intaglio carved by Nathaniel Merchant leads our five auction highlights

Gold ring with carnelian intaglio carved by Nathaniel Merchant, which hammered for CA$80,000 ($58,365) and sold for CA$101,600 ($74,135) with buyer’s premium at AH Wilkens May 28.

Gold Ring with Carnelian Intaglio Carved by Nathaniel Merchant, $74,135

TORONTO — This gold-mounted carnelian intaglio ring depicting classical profiles of Cupid and Psyche embracing is signed in mirror image capitals for Nathaniel Marchant (1739-1816). Prolific in both Italy and England, he was probably the most famous gem engraver of the late 18th and early 19th century.  

In 1792, he published the Catalogue of One Hundred Impressions from Gems engraved by Nathaniel Marchant – listing the various subjects in his oeuvre and the names of the members of the social elite who commissioned them. This particular subject is listed there as ‘Cupid and Psyche: From a group in the Museum Capitolinum. This group was found in the year 1749, on Mount Aventine.’ 

The ring appeared at AH Wilkens on May 28, where it was fully cataloged but estimated at a modest CA$3,000-CA$5,000. It provided more evidence of a strong market for the glyphic arts when it hammered for CA$80,000 ($58,365) and sold for CA$101,600 ($74,135) with buyer’s premium.

Gold ring with carnelian intaglio carved by Nathaniel Merchant, which hammered for CA$80,000 ($58,365) and sold for CA$101,600 ($74,135) with buyer’s premium at AH Wilkens May 28.
Gold ring with carnelian intaglio carved by Nathaniel Merchant, which hammered for CA$80,000 ($58,365) and sold for CA$101,600 ($74,135) with buyer’s premium at AH Wilkens May 28.

Early 20th-century Carved Wooden Tribal Figure from the Congo, $42,240

Early 20th-century Congo carved wooden tribal figure, which sold for $33,000 ($42,240 with buyer’s premium) at Bruneau & Co. May 29.
Early 20th-century Congo carved wooden tribal figure, which sold for $33,000 ($42,240 with buyer’s premium) at Bruneau & Co. May 29.

CRANSTON, RI — Mathia Komor (1909-1984) was a pioneering art dealer who was in the vanguard of promoting and selling primitive art from around the world to Western collectors. From the opening of his New York gallery in 1934 to its closing upon his death, Komor photographed and meticulously documented every item to pass through his business. The photographic archive is now part of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

On May 29, the auction house Bruneau & Co. had a large 29in-tall carved wooden tribal figure from the Congo that bore a Komor Gallery inventory sticker, along with another suggesting it had at some point been in the collection of the Linden, an ethnographic museum in Stuttgart, Germany. Conservatively estimated at just $800-$2,400, dozens of competing bids took the figure to a final hammer of $33,000 ($42,240 with buyer’s premium).

Pocket Watch Given to Winston Churchill by British Prime Minister Asquith, $131,000

Churchill's pocket watch, bearing the message ‘To Winston with gratitude H.H. Asquith Xmas 1905’, which hammered for £76,000 ($96,335) and sold for £103,360 ($131,000) with buyer’s premium at Dawsons May 23.
Churchill's pocket watch, bearing the message ‘To Winston with gratitude H.H. Asquith Xmas 1905’, which hammered for £76,000 ($96,335) and sold for £103,360 ($131,000) with buyer’s premium at Dawsons May 23.

MAIDENHEAD, UK — A minute-repeating pocket watch given to Sir Winston Churchill by Henry Herbert Asquith for Christmas in 1905 hammered for £76,000 ($96,335) and sold for £103,360 ($131,000) with buyer’s premium at the Berkshire auction house Dawsons.

Both men went on to become British prime ministers: Asquith as leader of the Liberal Party from 1908 to 1916, and Churchill for the Conservatives in 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955.

The gift of the watch relates to Churchill’s decision to ‘cross the floor’ in 1904, moving from the Conservatives to the Liberal Party. Churchill disagreed with the Conservative leadership’s stance on several policies and instead sided with the progressive wing of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party gained power a year later, and Churchill served as a member until 1908.

Asquith bestowed the gift to acknowledge this bold move. The 18K gold full hunter watch by John Bennett of 65 Cheapside, London is inscribed on its inner case ‘To Winston with gratitude H.H. Asquith Xmas 1905’ and engraved with Churchill’s coat of arms on the outer case.

The watch came for sale by descent from the Countess of Enniskillen, who bought it in 1983 as a gift to her husband from the London jeweler Hennell for £3,000 (roughly $3,800). At Dawsons’ sale on May 23, it carried an estimate of £20,000-£30,000 ($25,350-$38,025).

Oil Study Attributed to Pierre Hubert Subleyras, $91,950

‘The Hermit, Brother Luce’, an oil study attributed to Pierre Hubert Subleyras, which hammered for €65,000 ($70,700) and sold for €85,800 ($91,950) with buyer’s premium at Carlo Bonte May 28.
‘The Hermit, Brother Luce’, an oil study attributed to Pierre Hubert Subleyras, which hammered for €65,000 ($70,700) and sold for €85,800 ($91,950) with buyer’s premium at Carlo Bonte May 28.

BRUGES, Belgium — On May 28, the Carlo Bonte auction house offered The Hermit, Brother Luce, an oil study attributed to the French late Baroque painter Pierre Hubert Subleyras (1699-1749).

The painting is a variation on one of a set of pictures illustrating Jean de la Fontaine’s Fables, which was commissioned by the duc de Saint-Aignan, the French ambassador to Rome from 1723 to 1741. Subleyras spent much of his career painting in Italy, settling permanently in Rome in 1728 after winning the Prix de Rome the previous year.

The story is not one for 21st-century mores. A local hermit, who has become enamored of a widow’s pretty daughter, disguises himself as a priest and convinces the girl that God wishes their union to produce a new pope. The hermit’s deception is discovered after the baby is revealed to be a girl. Several versions are known, including one dated to circa 1745 that is in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The work was also made into a print that is a mirror image of this composition.

The auction house was reluctant to declare this 12 by 9in (30 by 22cm) canvas an autograph work, demonstrating caution both in the cataloging and in the estimate of €800-€1,200 ($850-$1,285). However, bidders were more confident in the quality of the picture and its connections to Subleyras. It hammered for €65,000 ($70,700) and sold for €85,800 ($91,950) with buyer’s premium.

Late 19th-century Sterling Snake Pitcher Attributed to Gorham, $20,000

Late 19th-century sterling snake pitcher attributed to Gorham, which sold for $16,000 ($20,000 with buyer’s premium) at Akiba Galleries May 23.
Late 19th-century sterling silver snake pitcher attributed to Gorham, which sold for $16,000 ($20,000 with buyer’s premium) at Akiba Galleries May 23.

DANIA BEACH, FL — Although the designer and silversmith are unknown, this sterling silver snake pitcher is likely part of the group of trompe l’oeil objects produced by during the 1870s and 1880s by the Gorham factory in Providence, Rhode Island. The marks to the base of a lion passant and an anchor, plus the gothic letter G, were those used by the Gorham from circa 1863 until the 1890s.

Few other examples of this vessel, formed as two coiling snakes, are known, but there is one in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It is pictured on the front cover of the catalog for the 2008 exhibition Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000

Rather than cast, the bodies of pieces such as this were raised with a hammer, with the contours formed using the repoussé technique. The scratch marks to the example in the MFA indicate that the factory net price for this item was a substantial $160.

Akiba Galleries offered this pitcher in its May 23 Hidden Gems sale. It was cataloged as ‘20th century’ and ‘after a piece by Gorham’, and some 232 prospective bidders were watching this item on LiveAuctioneers when it came up for sale. Estimated at $1,000-$3,000, it hammered at $16,000 and sold for $20,000 with buyer’s premium.

Vintage coin-operated arcade devices come to life at Gray’s July 24

Chicago Band Box automaton, estimated at $2,000-$4,000 at Gray's.

CLEVELAND — More than 150 top-quality vintage coin-operated machines will be the focus of Gray’s Auctioneers on July 24. Most of the machines are from the early- to mid-20th century and represent a galaxy of mechanical genius in their design and operation. Gray’s notes the sale is from a private, one-owner collection in northeastern Ohio, and proceeds will be donated to the Summit County Humane Society and The American Cancer Society. The complete catalog is open for bids now at LiveAuctioneers.

The sale’s top lot is a circa-1929 Chester-Pollard Amusement Company ‘Play the Derby’ arcade game. Insert a nickel and two players can each spin a dial to ‘race’ two horses along the racetrack. The number of the winner is noted on a placard after the winning horse crosses the finish line. Gray’s notes the device has undergone numerous restorations. ‘Play the Derby’ is estimated at $8,000-$10,000.

The Genco 5-cent, ‘Super Two-Player Basketball’ arcade game dates to the 1950s and features two miniature players controlled by two joysticks. Scoring depends on which basket your player successfully shoots into, with points ranging from 2 to 8. The reverse-painted backboard has significant loss and the game is currently non-operational. It is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.

Rock-Ola is best remembered for their extensive line of jukeboxes, but they also designed and marketed a variety of coin-operated arcade devices. The Ten Pins arcade game is from the immediate post-World War II era and for 5 cents, the user gets five frames of bowling gameplay. Complete and all original with its key, it too will require work to return to full operational status. It carries a presale estimate of $3,000-$5,000.

The Chicago Band Box automaton was produced by Chicago Coin Machine Company in the early 1950s. It functions as an extension speaker for a jukebox. Insert a coin, make a musical selection, the curtain draws open, and seven band members — a pianist, violinist, drum player, upright bass player, saxophonist, trumpeter and trombonist — begin to move. This lot will require work to return to full functionality (the lot description notes the motor begins to smoke after a minute of operation). It is estimated at $2,000-$4,000.

Alden Mason monumental Burpee Garden work leads MBA Seattle’s Northwest Modernism and Fine Arts sale July 18

'Watermelon Grabber,' a monumental oil by Alden Mason from the Burpee Garden Series, estimated at $75,000-$150,000 at MBA Seattle.

RENTON, WA – A textbook work from Alden Mason’s Burpee Garden series leads the line at MBA Seattle on July 18 as a featured lot in the Northwest Modernism and Fine Art sale. Watermelon Grabber, one of the monumental series of canvases created by the Northwest School artist from 1970-1976, carries an estimate of $75,000-$150,000.

The large color field abstracts Alden Mason (1919-2013) called the Burpee Garden series were breakthrough works in his career. At the time Mason — professor at the University of Washington School of Art from 1949 until 1981 — was working with oil paints diluted with varnish to create the transparent, pooling effects of watercolor that he associated with the germination of seeds.

Round-the-clock painting of huge canvases and breathing varnish fumes in a poorly ventilated studio left Mason exhausted and he was forced to change medium in 1976.

The artist chose this particular 5ft 10in x 7ft 10in canvas from 1972 for show at the 74th Western Annual exhibition at the Denver Art Museum in 1973 and it was sold that year to the Washington State collector William H. Klein (1945-2024).

In total there are six works by the artist in the sale plus works by other Northwest School artists including Guy Anderson (1906-1998), Richard Gilkey (1925-1997) and ‘big four’ painters Morris Graves (1910-2001) and Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986). A work of local significance is the original oil on canvas view of the Seattle Space Needle created for one of the posters published for the Century 21 Exposition at the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962. Acquired directly from the family of the artist Harry Bonath (1903-1976), it is estimated at $3,000-$6,000.

A Picasso-Madoura ceramic charger Picador et Taureau comes by descent from the collection of Norman Davis (1897-1991), a former vice president of the Seattle Art Museum who was a director of the Seattle World’s Fair Fine Arts exhibit in 1962. The 1959 charger, with impressed Madoura Plein Fue, Empreinte Originale de Picasso marks is number 34 from an edition of 100. It is guided at $6,000-$9,000.

A copy of the Andy Warhol 1974 hand-colored screen print Flowers with a pencil signature and the edition number 205 of 250 has an appealing estimate of $6,000-$9,000. Also appealing to Warhol fans is a signed Campbell’s tomato soup can (estimate $500-$1,000). Referencing the artist’s most celebrated Pop works, it was signed in New York in the 1970s for a member of the consignor’s family.

The bespoke art furniture designs created by the father and son team of Philip (1907-1987) and Kelvin (b.1937-) LaVerne from the 1950s-1980s are increasingly popular in the marketplace. The reference book Alchemy: The Art of Philip and Kelvin Laverne by Evan Lobel with Kelvin LaVerne will be released in October 2024. Offered here is a brass and pewter Etruscan design center table with the heavily patinated surface (achieved by burying items in acidic soils) that became the Laverne’s signature. It promises to be a popular lot with a guide of $6,000-$9,000.