A Gaggle of Interest – Nov 8, 2009

New York Central Poster from Bloomsbury Auctions
New York Central Poster from Bloomsbury Auctions

In this series, UAA team will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops or eBay. Neither do we own the items nor we have the capability of examining the items in person in most cases. It mainly serves as an inventory record of what interests us (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. Bloomsbury Auctions, Nov 12, 2009. Lot 78, Leslie Ragan, New York Central System Poster

Geo commented several years ago he bought a similar poster (lot 81) for 40 dollars, but this one is backed on linen, thus can be preserved and hung easily. “It must be a good deal, because the frame store told me someone saw the poster and wanted to buy it immediately.” He commented. This is a powerful image of New York Central. Streamlined Hudson J-3a locomotives, featured here by the artist Leslie Ragan, was perhaps one of the most striking locomotives designed in the 1930’s, the workhorse that pulled the 20th Century Limited diverged markedly from the “inverted bathtub” form of the Mercury locomotive. The so-called low art – Illustration, posters from the era of Art Deco has become popular in recent years, in particular among those young generations. The futuristic stylization finds their true followers who regard it as the vintage in harmony of the present, thus possess a tremendous potential to become the next great thing.

American Classical Mahogany Sofa from Neal Auction
American Classical Mahogany Sofa from Neal Auction

For much of the artist, please refer to this blog “Leslie Ragan’s Visions of Progress”.

2. Neal Auction, Nov 21, 2009. Lot 317, American Classical Mahogany Sofa

If you can afford you, empire sofas are in general much more affordable than before. In other words, you can be picky about the condition and fabric color and patterns since re-upholster may cost more than what you pay for an antique sofa. At any rate, I cannot find anything to quibble about this handsome sofa. With the tubular crest rail terminating in volutes with sunflower rosettes, the scrolled arms carved with acanthus, the molded seat rail on fruiting cornucopia brackets and hairy paw feet, it can certainly be used for any magazine featuring furniture of classical period. More likely than not, the spring was installed to provide better cushioning. I do not think such alteration decreases the originality and the value of the sofa. At least I would want to a sofa to comfortably sit on, not one placed in a period room of some museums. Believe it or not, I am not the only one who can always fall sleep on my antique sofa. It is elegant, comfortable, and most of all not more expensive that the one you see in Macy’s. If only I had more room for it…

A Thai Buddha Statue
A Thai Buddha Statue

3.  Sloans & Kenyon, Nov 13, 2009. Lot 242, Thai Bronze Figure of Buddha, Bangkok Period

It is a little disappointing that the statue is dated to Bangkok period which lasted from 1767 to 1932. What interested me about this statue is its hybrid style. The thin ghostly drapery with tubular arms indicate it is directly influenced from India, which differs greatly from those in China where heavy folds of Buddha’s clothing  came from their interaction with Persians. But the Buddha looks more slender than most of the original Indian statues. The head knob, or ushnisha, has evolved into something like a flame.

Here is the moment when Shakymuni meditates under a Bodhi tree, at the dramatic moment of his final quest for enlightenment. He closes his eyes to reject sights of the source of temptation and distraction.  When evil forces leaded by Mara tried to distract hi, he calmly touched his hand to the ground to call support from the earth goddess. This is an image that even a non-Buddhist can enjoy the mellow and tranquil state of being.  Sometimes, I guess, you don’t have to exercise yoga to soothe your mind.

4. Swann Galleries, Nov 9, 2009. Lot 54, Eugene Delacroix, Un Forgeron.

From the auction catalog:

Aquatint on Chine collé, 1833. 227×160 mm; 9×6 3/8 inches, full margins. Either an undescribed intermediate state between the third and fourth states (of 6), with only the artist’s monogram in the image upper right; or the fourth state (of 6), with the letters masked. A superb, richly-inked impression.

Intensified drama - The Blacksmith by Eugene Delacroix
Intensified drama - The Blacksmith by Eugene Delacroix, offered from Swann Galleries

One of my favorite prints during the preview, this print, although fairly small, has tension and emotions that rivals big canvas works. (Note, the original oil painting has not been found yet.) Here the aquatint techniques enables the artist to work from dark to light, and thus put great contrast in the glowing melting meta and the reflected light that instantly renders the face of the blacksmith true characters. The different grayness of tonality and painterly skill instead of drudgery line works surely works well with Delacroix for his Romantic style.

The state is a different form of a print, caused by a deliberate ad permanent change to the plate or block. Artists often take prints from a plate and then do further work on the plate before printing more impressions. Thus two prints from different states may show (to discerning eyes) the progress how artists perceive perfection. Because of the nature of drypoint , not many impressions can be made before the details wear out. Specifically, Delacroix completed the plate in 1833. Only a very few impressions were pulled at that time and there was no formal edition. He had worked on the plate at the studio of Villot, and at the sale of Villot’s effects in c.1864 the plate was acquired, along with five others, by the leading mid 19th century French print publishers Cadart and Luquet.

Lastly, all the lots in this sale come from a single owner: James B. Parks.

William Dunlap Portrait
William Dunlap Portrait

5. Gene Shapiro Auctions LLC, Nov 22, 2009. Lot 76, William Dunlap portraiture

If it is true that best collectors buy ahead of market, portraiture perhaps is one of the areas that you can spend little to assemble a well-respected collection.  William Dunlap’s works seldom come to the market, perhaps because the demand is low and quality works won’t surface to the market. First of all, it is a portrait signed and dated. Secondly the sitter is known. Thirdly it has a good record of provenance. Lastly and most importantly, it is an excellent works of art from an important portrait painter with a colorful career. Here is a short bio from artfact.com

William Dunlap is an American painter, writer and playwright. After working in England with Benjamin West between 1784 and 1787, Dunlap concentrated primarily on the theatre for the next 20 years. His two main interests are documented in his large Portrait of the Artist Showing his Picture of Hamlet to his Parents (1788; New York, NY Hist. Soc.). He wrote more than 30 plays and was called by some the ‘father of American drama’. He was the director and manager of the Park Theatre in New York from 1797 until its bankruptcy in 1805 and again, in its revived form, from 1806 to 1811. He began to paint miniatures to support his family in 1805 and travelled the East Coast of America as an itinerant artist. By 1817 he had become, in his own words, ‘permanently a painter’.

As for the sitter — Henry Seymour, because of the back label from the painting, I can search information based on the year when he was born and the year when he died. Possibly, Henry Seymour is the New York banker and politician. Here is the information from Wikipedia.

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