Review By Z.G. Burnett; Images Courtesy Bonhams Skinner
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. — Bonhams Skinner hosted a two-part European Décor and Design Auction on July 18 and 19, with online bidding that opened on July 8. Offering almost 800 lots of mostly English, French and Portuguese furniture, “much from a Dallas area matriarch,” the auction also included bronzes, Palissy ware, KPM plaques and decorative arts of all types. One of the largest categories, however, was a selection of Chinese porcelain which drew considerable interest. The auction total amounted to $988,988 with a 90 percent sell-through rate for Part I and a 93 percent sell-through rate for Part II. Both auctions achieved a 100 percent sell-through rate by value; many of the top lots brought results that were exceedingly higher than their estimates.
The highest price achieved throughout both days’ auctions was $76,700 for a .916 silver and enamel cigarette case from Fabergé. The case was made between 1908 and 1917 by Feodor Rückert (Moscow, 1840-1917), a master silversmith and goldsmith of German heritage. The case was decorated with floral and geometric patterns surrounding an enamel scene after Viktor Vasnetov’s “Ivan Tsarevich Riding the Grey Wolf” (1889), and closed with a central sapphire cabochon clasp. On the interior surface was a scratched inventory number, as well as “K. Fabergé” under the Imperial Warrant.
Second place in price belonged to a monumental Chinese export silver tankard from Wongshing, Canton, that was bid to $28,800. The tankard’s high-relief decoration on its double walled body was divided into three registers depicting battle scenes, and had a bamboo form handle. Next in silver was a continental figural box in the shape of a cat’s head with cabochon eyes for $7,680. The cat was probably made in Germany in the Twentieth Century, and was realistically modeled with its surface chased to imitate fur. The only American lot to rank highly in either auction was a Tiffany and Co “Faneuil” pattern sterling silver flatware service that achieved $6,080.
Bronze groups also did well during both parts of the auction. “Hound with Game” after Emile Truffut (French, 1843-1895) was far larger than its catalog photograph suggested, almost 44 inches high and 23 inches wide. Showing an inscribed signature and dark brown patina, the bronze was bid to $23,040.
Another “after” bronze inscribed and dated 1870 by Paul Comolera (French, 1818-1897) was a large model of a rooster on a rocky base, which achieved $19,200. Third in this category was “After the Hunt” by Pierre Jules Mene (1810-1879), showing a man in traditional Scottish Highland dress with his horse, holding a fox aloft to the delight of his three hounds. This was also inscribed, dated 1861, and sold for $11,520.
The first part of the sale was led by Chinese porcelain, dating from the late Seventeenth Century to the Nineteenth Century. July 18’s top lot was a large Chinese porcelain jar, decorated in underglaze blue with dragons and clouds. Dated to the Nineteenth Century, the jar was not only unusual for its 19-inch height but also for its arresting, large-scale dragon imagery, and it was bid to $44,800 from a $500/700 bid. Following this jar in price and also predating it was a group lot, but not a pair of polychrome enamel vases for $15,360. Showing similar courtyard scenes with slightly different forms, the vases were described as “transitional” and dated to circa 1670.
Blue and white pieces from the Kangxi period (1662-1722) were the most popular subcategory of Chinese porcelain in both parts of the sale. The highest selling of these was a squat bulbous pot with metal handles, decorated in underglaze blue with men in a courtyard on one side and a scholar in mountainous landscape on the other, which closed at $12,160. Another pot with metal handles and a porcelain cover, showing a flower garden abuzz with insects, sold for $6,400. Two vases both reached $11,520; in the first part of the auction was an open-mouth vase showing dragons and clouds, and in the second part was a lobed vase decorated with birds and flowers on a scrolled ground.
The top piece of furniture was a Gustavian painted cabinet from Sweden, made in the Nineteenth Century, that was bid to $12,800. The rectangular cabinet showed Ionic pilasters in the Neoclassical style and showed old, possibly original robin’s egg blue paint with a dark-painted top. An Egyptian Revival set of an ormolu clock accompanied by two matching urns followed in price for $7,680. The clock was decorated with a reclining sphinx and pharaoh head masks, and the urns showed pharaohs and hieroglyphics. All three were mounted on trapezoidal bases with stylized swan-capped feet.
Prices quoted with buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. Bonhams Skinner’s Prints & Multiples: Summer Splash auction will occur on August 14. For information, www.skinner.bonhams.com or 508-970-3000.