Think Of Throwing Away Your Rustic Hanging Corner Cupboard? Think Again!

The outcome of Pook & Pook Auction on April 25 is a mixed bag, although the overall result certainly beat my expectations. The session of period furniture and decorative accessories included items from two Pennsylvania educational institutions, the Henry Ford Museum at Dearborn, MI, the estate of Meredith Schuibbeo, Dr. John William Boor, Myrtle B. Quier. The surprise: A rustic hanging corner cupboard outshone a mahogany pembroke table which bears a label of  Anthony Quervelle. And an ear-chipped chalk cat with a  worn-out tail fetched as much as a Federal tall case clock.

A carved and painted bird on a perch (Lot 369) at Pook & Pook

Not all Americana lots were popular, but enough to discerne the flavor of the market in Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware area. A carved and painted bird on a perch, possibly made in the early of the 20th century (Lot 369) was sold for twice its high estimation. Its  simplified, less-scientific modeling of the body, with decorative drawing would definitely attract my attention in an antique store, but to pay $850 plus premium for such a folk art object would certainly involve a lot of energy, passion and knowledge in this field.

Geo commented that he had probably thrown some cupboard out of the attic before, whose forms may be similar to that of Lot 530. If so, he would regret to see that such a painted cupboard was sold for $3,800 plus premium. At first sight, it is just utilitarian object with no fancy decoration. But the blue paint, expensive in the late 18th century, indicates it may have been treasured as an important item as the notion of functions and purposes began to take shape for each room in a house. The Ephrata Cloister provenance would certainly heat up the interest of such an object out of the early religious German community in Pennsylvania.

Chalk Figure of a Cat offered at Pook  & Pook (left), Egyptian Turquoise Faience Figure of a Baboon  at Sloans and Kenyon (right)
Chalk Figure of a Cat offered at Pook & Pook (left), Egyptian Turquoise Faience Figure of a Baboon at Sloans and Kenyon (right)

The real surprise in the auction was a chalk figure of a cat with a chipped right ear and a heavy-worn tail. If not for the age, I would not have a second thought of such an object which can be found in different medium throughout the rural area of Pennsylvania. A beautiful turquoise faience Egyptian baboon (also with a chipped right ear) is offered at Sloans and Kenyon. I would be much happier to get the charming  baboon (a possible reference of God Thoth) at a tiny fraction of what the cat figure has realized in Pook & Pook.

The most sophisticated Chippendale furniture, on the other hand, performed lackluster in the same auction. Chairs (Lot 362, 358, 469) were sold under the low estimation. These squared legged chairs are handy and sturdy. But the fact they are practical and useful probably unintuitive decreases their demand in the market because such decorative objects become burdensome and non versatile once the perfect number have been collected. The “mahogany syndrome” even affected two furniture both Geo and I would have expected to fetch high. A Philadelphia classical mahogany pembroke table, ca 1825, bearing the label of Anthony Quervelle (lot 500) was sold for $1,100. Except the hardware of the drawer is missing, the craftsmanship in the carving is superbly executed. Similarly, a Baltimore center table with a pristine marble top (lot 465) fetched $2,600, which although beat the high estimation, was still a bargain based on Geo’s experience.

A Philadelphia classical mahogany pembroke table (left) and a Baltimore classical mahogany center table (right)
A Philadelphia classical mahogany pembroke table (left) and a Baltimore classical mahogany center table (right)

About Hui

Wang Hui lived from 1632 - 1717 and followed in the footprints of his great grandfathers, grandfather, father and uncles and learned painting at a very early age. He was later taught by two contemporary masters, Zhang Ke and Wang Shimin, who taught him to work in the tradition of copying famous Chinese paintings. This is most likely the reason why critics claim that his work is conservative and reflects the Yuan and Song traditions. One critic claimed that "his landscape paintings reflect his nostalgic attachment to classical Chinese aesthetics. Along with the other Wangs, Wang Hui helped to perpetuate the tradition of copying the ancient masters rather than creating original work.

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