In this series, Geo and I would list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops or eBay. We neither own the items nor do we have the capability of examining the items in person. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interest me (not necessarily in terms of value or investment opportunities) and possibly how much it fetches (if the result can be obtained). If you are serious about some lots, please contact the auction houses, dealers or eBay sellers directly.
1. eBay item 380151203743: 1904 Photo of Officials of St. Louis Exposition by William Rau
As a commercial photographer, William Rau strikes the modern eyes with his cool anti-artsy objectivity. It is in the survey of Pennsylvania Railroad that he found the balance of abstract form of steel rails with the American Wilderness. Occasionally he took pictures for historical events such as Carl Flesch’s violin concert at the opening of Philadelphia Wanamaker, President Mckinley touring Philadelphia’s Washington Monument at its original location: the Green Street entrance to Fairmount Park. True a group of males is not an interesting subject, but perhaps for someone who collects around St. Louis Exposition, such a photo would be a great addition.
2. Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Sept 13, 2009: Lot 24: Frederick William MacMonnies, (American, 1863-1937), Nathan Hale
A reduction bronze made by one of the best sculptors in the late 19th century is hard to miss. The reduction bronze was a new form that enabled artists to reap financial profit from their major public works and satisfy the needs of private collectors. Augustus Saint-Gaudens first invented the reduction bronzes in America and his pupil MacMonnies made reduction bronzes from all his major works. If you want a reduction bronze of his most controversial works “Dancing Bacchante with an Infant Faun”, you probably have to be patient and deep-pocketed; but I would be equally satisfied if I could afford this National Hale, whose famous saying “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country” is in every Chinese student’s English textbook. A similar bronze statue is now at National Gallery of Art.
3. eBay item 370139420787: Japonica by Sir Edwin Arnold. Robert Blum, 1891
I first learned of this book called Japonica from the 1990 Wadsworth Atheneum exhibition catalogue The Japan Idea. The price on eBay of $74.00 for this period edition seems reasonable when compared to those on Alibris priced at $60-$400. The author , Sir Edwin Arnold was an English poet and journalist, who is most known for his work, The Light of Asia, an Indian epic that deals with the life and teaching of the Buddha. Its popularity was increased by the twofold criticism to which it was subjected. On the one hand it was held by Oriental scholars to give false impression of Buddhist doctrine; while, on the other, suggested analogy between Sakyamuni and Jesus offended the taste of some devout Christians. In his later years Arnold resided for some time in Japan, and his third wife was Japanese. There he wrote Japonica which gives an account of Japanese life before Westernization. If you don’t mind not seeing a photo first, you could save $14.00 on Alibris while supplies last. There are also newer copies if new books are your fancy.
4. eBay item 280386944357: Antique Victorian Wood Framed Oil Portrait
If you’re looking for the identity of the artist or the sitter, you might spend the rest of your life and not reach a meaningful conclusion. However this seems to be a real oil painting with well over 100 years of age in a period frame worth at least $50 by itself. Some people who collect old images call these instant ancestors. It helps if they’re pleasing, or at least not offensive to the eye. There are lots of photos provided and it appears to have an old, and likely original backing board. It looks like it’s currently $10.50 with four bids and less than 24 hours left on the auction.
5. Stanton Auctions, Aug 25, 2009: Lot 92, ca 1760 North Shore MA mahogany snake ft tip top tea table.
Geo immediately noticed that the table top is one complete board as is described as 34 inches wide. This means it’s the midsection of a more than 34″ circumference tree! It’s pretty hard to find a 34″ tree these days, but in 1760 it was a bit easier. This table can be appreciated not only for the antique it is, but the magnificent Mohogany tree it used to be.