A Gaggle of Interests – Jan 8, 2011

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.

A pair of blue and white Chinese platters, dated around 1720, at Christie's
A pair of blue and white Chinese platters, dated around 1720, at Christie's

This week’s gaggle of interested will only focus on 2011 Americana week in New York.

1. Christie’s, Chinese Export Art  Sale, Jan 25, 2011. Sale. Lot 39, a set of two blue and white platters.

Chinese export porcelain has not seen the kind of frantic growth witnessed in the royal kiln porcelain of Ming and Qing Dynasty, yet last year in the Winter Antiques Show, Mrs. Cohen, a  British renowned dealer in the Chinese export porcelain filed pointed out they has seen an average of 9 percent of return, better than many stock portifolios.

Blue and white export porcelain is often overlooked because of its disadvantage in presenting coats of arms in colors. But these two platters are not your typical canton-ware, instead they are possibly from late Kangxi or YongZheng period when blue and white techniques had just been perfected. The folkish drawing, similar with nuanced difference, reflect perhaps they were from a non-royal kiln. For example, the lack of gradation in leaves between shadow and bright, the clumsiness in architectural perspective. Yet it clearly reflects the official style of the time when the color became subtle with more line-drawing instead of brush painting used in depicting layers. Lastly, it is possible that the pair came from the same workshop but two different craftsman. The amount of blue paint used in the borders of the reserves is a matter of personal taste, yet apparently, the two artists could not agree on this one.

2. Sotheby’s Jan 21 and 22, important Americana sale. Lot 303, Portrait of a rosy cheeked young girl in a pink dress by Ammi Phillips.

A rosy-cheeked girl in pink dress by Ammi Phillips offered at Sotheby's
A rosy-cheeked girl in pink dress by Ammi Phillips offered at Sotheby's

Portraits of girls dressed in pink or red tend to attract more than sombre-looking men or restrained women, not to mention regardless of whether it is an Ammi Phillips painting. We did take the note that a large group portraiture of three children by the same artist failed to sell in the auction at Heritage Auctions two months ago.

Based on the auction catalog note, the painting is similar to a few others dated in the early 1830’s when Ammi Phillips began to transition to his more abstract, flattening and pastel-colored style. What interests in me in particular is his use of pattern in the rug, which is a much darker red so that non-competing with a more rose red throughout the body, yet completes a simplified dimensional interior. I have never seen rugs with such patterns, yet as primitive artists are famous for their exactness in capturing detail, I am sure that such patterned  rug must be somewhere. Even though the fabric is flattened and the embroideries is exaggerated, the form and the light gives her face and shoulders a naturalistic looking. She is wonderful to behold.

Pair of Cast-Iron Cowboy Andirons at Keno Auctions
Pair of Cast-Iron Cowboy Andirons at Keno Auctions

3. Keno Auctions, Jan 18, 2011. Lot 150, Pair of Cast-Iron Cowboy Andirons.

A few items at Keno Auctions’ January sale are offered without reserve. This particular one looks quite interesting. The cowboy figures are quite large — 19 inches high and would present a strong presence of personal tastes in any home interior decoration. Of course, there are those collectors who collect not for the sake of decorating. Perhaps for them whether the andirons can compliment the rest of the home furnishings is less important than the fact that they are rare examples of western-art’s masculinity entrenching into the heart of home decore, and the fact that they still maintain the quirkiness of folk art– that indescribable quality of individual expressiveness and perfectly non-perfect craftsmanship.

Its estimate ($800-$1200) makes it more affordable to most of the collectors. But would I have them displayed if I owned them? I doubt? I guess I am still far from being a hard-core Americana collector.

An engraved New York map powder horn at Bonhams
An engraved New York map powder horn at Bonhams

4. Bonhams Jan 25, 2011. Sale 18711, lot 1237, An engraved New York map powder horn

Dated 1761, this power horn not only depicts New York Map (even include Ontario) but also has a royal coat of arm of British Monarch. Dieu et mon droit are shown inside a banner under the coat of arm surrounded by the motto of the English chivalric Order of the Garter – Honi soit qui mal y pense. There are other features in this horn such as various forts and landmarks along the North and Mohawk Rivers, buildings in New York, Schenectady and Albany. Schenectady was spelled as Skenektedy back then. Not familiar with historical buildings of New York, I am not sure whether those buildings are representational or factual-based.

The estimated price is $4000 to $6000.

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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