A Gaggle of Interests – Jan 10, 2010

West Meets East in this small tankard, offered at New Orleans Auction

In this series, the UAA team will list some of the interesting items that we have found in auctions, antique shops, shows or eBay. We neither own the items or have the capability of examining the items in person in some 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. c, Jan 23, 2010. Lot 16, Chinese “Rose Mandarin” Porcelain Tankard

A remarkable Chinese export porcelain that unite western design with Chinese motif. Although drinking cup earthenware in Europe have been made with molded decoration long before the import of Chinese export porcelain, the hardness of the fired clay could hardly withstand the weight and metal handles were common until the discovery the Chinese porcelain. When such a design was brought to Chinese craftsmen, they didn’t understand the purpose of the handles. In fact, even nowadays Chinese still don’t use cups with handles. For them, a handle breaks the continuum of the wholeness of the picture; even worse it deprives the intimate touch between hands and cups. They call such ugly-designed cups “ma ke bei”, directly from the English word “mug”.

Yet whatever Chinese craftsmen may have hated such designs, they nevertheless used their imagination to make the handles decorative. This one features a dragon that perches and bites into the main body. The intense colors recall the folky strong blue and brown glaze of European earthenware; but perhaps for this particular one, because of the lack of picture references, Chinese makers chose the subject they excelled at.

Compared to most dinnerware, tankards tend to be preserved in better condition because the enameled surface does not have to face the scratches and grinds from daily use. The world is flat, and has been so, based on this small drinking cup.

A late classical recamier from New Orleans Auction

2. New Orleans Auction, Jan 24, 2010. Lot 924, American Late Classical Mahogany Recamier

This recamier from a later period,  with a foliate-carved scroll arm, the molded seat rail raised on turned and lobed legs, may lack the elegance of  those with curved backs, but it would certainly enhance the muscular quality of some brownstone parlors, or a bachelor’s living room. It is a handsome furniture that can be multi-functional and best of all less expensive than furniture of lesser-quality  from stores. The Moorish-looking fabric may not appeal to steampunks, but the total cost including re-upholstering a recamier can still  be attractive if one is used to shop at Ethan Allen.

3. Trinity International Auctions, Jan 23, 2010. Lot 4, Music in the Garden by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli

Music in the Garden by Adolphe Joseph Thomas Monticelli

Monticelli’s paintings have always captivated me with the archaic subject matter and the stunning innovative painterly style. The seemingly irreconcilable contrast between the two renders the images with certain type of mysticism and charm that can hardly be explained through words. If Narcisse Diaz introduced him the concept of nudes or costumed figures in woods, he advanced his contemporary Barbizon fellow in his richly textured surfaces that produce a scintillating effect. Some of his works look so sketchy that would confuse the eyes who are used to the 19th century art. What I love the most is his instinct brushstrokes that emancipate his reflection of true nature from the exactness of academy, the mannered poeticism of Barbizon and the maneuvering of objectivity of Impressionism. In this panel painting, the music session in the garden has an unusual dynamic and a torrent energy that would overrun the finely dressed ladies if they had been painted much more presentationally. In some way, the overgrown garden and the yearn of human communication under Watteau’s brush find an outlet in this image.

4. Pook & Pook, Jan 16, 2010. Lot 760, Soap Hollow, painted dower chest drawer

Soap Hollow chest drawer,, treasure from Southwest Pennsylvania at Pook and Pook

A few years ago, Westmoreland Museum of American Art presented a show of frakturs, stonewares and furniture made in southwest Pennsylvania region. Nothing was more peculiar than those bright-colored soap hollow furniture. Geo found that the collector’s passion for Americana lie deeply in regionalism, unique patterns and the identification of makers. At that time he wrote, “Remarkably some three hundred documented pieces of Soap Hollow furniture exist today, one chest which brought $115,000 at Garth’s auction recently. Impressive at a time when a sophisticated Empire sideboard might not fetch $2,000 at auction“. Even with the recession which may have brought the prices backward a few years, this particular dower chest drawer is still estimated high enough to make those New Orleans Auction participants wonder the difference between high and low art. We have met Mr. Muller, the author of the book “Soap Hollow: The furniture and its makers” during the lecture at the museum, who pointed out besides wave-fold backsplash pattern, the most recognizable of Soap Hollow furniture is the maker’s name and date squarely painted on the front. This would sound garish and gaudy on finely carved Chippendale mahogany furniture, but the craftsmen of Pennsylvania German would have never thought of its market impact when they signed and dated them for simple utilitarian purpose: registering a piece of fact. Although the feet have been replaced, this chest drawer retains all the stunning ground surface in pristine condition which can drive collectors in mania. The floral vines and tulips are typical of Pennsylvania German. This chest is not signed but is attributed to John Sala based on the book mentioned earlier. Whoever owns it would have fun figuring out who could have been the girl for whom this chest drawer was made. The only fact is her initials: NS.

At Rago, an exceptional tall carved and painted Black Iris vase by Kataro Shirayamadani

5. Rago Arts and Auction Center, jan 16, 2010. Lot 23, a vase by Kataro Shirayamadani

I simply love this vase.  The purity of the flowers under stark contrast with the background and the succinctness of the whole scene makes it truly outstanding at the first impression. Yet the near monochrome vase with layers so subtle and detailed would also command further examination from those who seek extraordinary examples that truly speak oriental aesthetics. David Rago once commented on Shirayamadani that he “used the entire vase surface for his designs, unlike most period decorators who focused primarily on the front of a vase and treated the back as an afterthought. Further, he integrated elements of his Eastern training and the fluid lines of Art Nouveau to add life and a creative spark to his efforts. The painting is crisp and detailed, the subject matter encompasses the vase, and the design is at once ancient and contemporary. There are only a handful of such vases in private and museum hands.” The black, gray and white is reminiscent of lacquerware of Edo period when a whole box is surrounded by landscapes or flowers that were carefully designed. The mannered naturalism, to render space to indicate infinity and create dynamics, intensity and depths by compactly overlayering different glazes or colors, cannot find a better speaker than this consummate vase.

An important pastel work by Dwight William Tryon

6. DuMouchelles, Jan 17, 2010. Lot 12003, Seascape at twilight, a pastel work by Dwight William Tryon

Tryon’s artworks, associated with a style usually called “quietism” or “quiet impressionism,” are less well known, partially due to the restriction of the Freer Gallery and the shift of focus in Smith College. But his works have been a blue chip and didn’t fluctuate very much during the recession. Tryon’s pastel works are very rare in the market and DuMouchelles’ location makes me wonder whether this work can be related to Charles Freer, his most important patron. Tryon was a master of the pastel media; in particular he found the use of pastel in seascape irresistible.  In Linda Merrill’s book “An Ideal Country: Paintings by Dwight William Tryon in the Freer Gallery of Art,” the author said that the ocean provided inexhaustible opportunities for Tryon’s art, especially when observed at night. Tryon’s particular talent for the intangible is shown to advantage in evocations of the crepuscular effects of the eerie hours. When similar works were displayed in Gallery four of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, Julian Alden Weir called them “peace reins supreme”.

This particular pastel is important because it came from his “Sea Phases” series which was created throughout the autumn of 1915. The series, with the observation of atmospheric conditions of different hours, was the crowning distillation of his 10 years’ experience in pastel marine painting. Freer bought almost the entire series which helped keep the integrity of the series in one public institute. Tryon proudly said “they seem to rouse universal enthusiasm, not only among those who see but also among those who only feel.” Since the exact number of the series is not known, and apparently the Freer Gallery does not own this one,  secretly I wish this particular work could join the rest of the series.

“Shirayamadani used the entire vase surface for his designs, unlike most period decorators who focused primarily on the front of a vase and treated the back as an afterthought,” remarked Rago. “Further, he integrated elements of his Eastern training and the fluid lines of Art Nouveau to add life and a creative spark to his efforts. The painting is crisp and detailed, the subject matter encompasses the vase, and the design is at once ancient and contemporary. There are only a handful of such vases in private and museum hands.”

7. Four Vintage Glass Castor Cups Floor Protector ebay item 350300796740

Do you have some plastic or rubber-like furniture protectors under your casters? Upgrade to glass and you’ll immediately notice the difference. If you have a table that’s a little too low, sometimes the circular rubber ones can fit snuggly inside the glass ones to add some height. I see these around at William Keith, in studio, on ebayantique shops for as little as $2 each, and as much as $10 each. It can be hard to find four of the same size when you’re looking for them. Here’s four on ebay in Quebec, Canada starting at $9.99.

8. Cabinet Card Photo Signed by William Keith ebay item 260533726112

Here’s an engaging photo of California landscape painter William Keith. The photo shows Keith in a studio and is signed on both sides. There appear to be some minor condition issues. The price seemed a little high, but there is one bid and the card is currently at $49.99. There’s also a William Keith painting coming up for auction at Trinity International Auctions January 23 (lot 40) in Connecticut deaccessioned from Harmensen Western American Collection. It’s estimated at $4,000-$6,000. The card would certainly add to the interest for the winner of this lot or any William Keith painting owner.

9. French Tapestry, ZZ IMports, LLC, Brooklyn Flea Market

Zach Zaman pointed out this tapestry was machine-made, originating from around 1900. I’ve not looked closely at many tapestries, but this one seemed a good value at an asking price of $200. Looking at the back of the canvas, it becomes apparent that it’s not hand-made. Fabrics on the wall are excellent choices for music and entertainment rooms because they absorb sound.  Mr. Zaman says he would be at the Brooklyn Flea next week if anyone is interested.

See more items from our report on the Broolyn Flea in Williamsburgh Saving Bank building.

About UAA Team

Urban Art and Antiques first published in 2007. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, let us know. Email urbanartantiques (at) gmail.com

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