Fairfield, Maine, February 2-4, 2012 ~ For over 40 years, the auction firm of James D. Julia, Inc. has presented an astonishing number of collections, estates, and individual items to an eager antique buying public. Their auctions are recognized in each of their four specialty divisions to have featured some rather phenomenal and historical finds over the years. Their most recent auction is no different, other than the fact that rare opportunities seemed to be even more prevalent. The three day event showcased an incredible array of treasures covering the gamut of American & European paintings, furniture, folk art, marine & nautical items, bronzes, silver, weathervanes, Oriental rugs, historical items, porcelain, and more. Touted as one of their largest and most diverse winter sales to date, it did not disappoint.
Enjoying tremendous popularity these days is Orientalia and high end Chinese objects d’art. Topping the list was an outstanding pair of Huanghuali yoke back chairs from the Richard B. Hobart Collection. Bought in 1921 in Beijing by Janet E. Hobart, the chairs have remained in the Hobart family ever since. The Hobart Collection established the benchmark for the Chinese antiquities market in the United States at two famous sales in 1969 and 1970 at Sotheby’s in New York. These important and stately chairs with flowing lines, pagoda crossbar tops, and stylized lotus flower carvings were breathtaking. The pair sold for $460,000 within a presale estimate of $400,000-500,000. Some of the many highlights included a unique and exceptional selection of heirlooms and property belonging to the great granddaughter of Prince Duan Aixinjueluo Zaiyi, and grandniece of The Last Emperor Puyi. Included was an exquisite royal carved ivory, abalone and rosewood screen that featured a highly elaborate carved scene known as “Birthday Gathering of the Immortals”. Depicting a procession of individuals paying homage to central figure, and housed in an inlaid framework, the piece sold for $138,000 within its $100,000-150,000 estimate.
Highly sought after for their purported mythical aphrodisiacal qualities, items made from rhinoceros horns have become all the rage among the most advanced of collectors. This auction contained a variety of items carved from these coveted horns. An important seal believed to be from the late 1700s engraved in the Ch’ien Lung style and highlighted by a carved pair of foo dogs was one such item. Originally given by Prince Alashan Aixinjueluo Duoluoteselen to Crown Prince Aixinjueluo Pujun during his visit to the palace in Inner Mongolia, it descended through the family until its arrival at Julia’s auction block. After a fevered bidding battle well beyond its $75,000-100,000 estimate, it ultimately sold for a phenomenal $322,000.
This auction contained not one, but two exceedingly rare carved rhinoceros horn libation cups. An 18th century example found recently in a private home depicting a carved lotus flower in a tangle of stems with smaller blossoms, cranes, and other creatures relief carved into the sides sold for $230,000 within expectations of $200,000-300,000. A large and important example from the Qianlong Period (1736-1796), Qing Dynasty formerly of the Morris Altman Estate surprisingly failed to find a buyer.
Also from the Royal Family collection was a fine stoneware figure of Li Tieh Kuei. The exceptional and bold carving representing the immortal, the imposing figure with pronounced features and flowing robes sold for many times its $5,000-7,000 estimate to finish up at $26,450.
From other collections came a variety fine Asian objects. Highlights included a cased set of four elaborately carved ivory Chinese elders being tended to by servants. Wearing draped flowing robes and mounted to carved rosewood branch pedestal bases, the set sold for $8,050 against a presale estimate of $4,000-6,000. No one expected a small 18th century cameo cut shadow agate pendant to perform as it did. Depicting a fisherman in a landscape and inscribed with a poem on the reverse, the bauble ultimately sold for $17,250, more than 86 times the low end of its $200-300 estimate. Nearly as dramatic was a selection of 19th century Chinese snuff bottles that included a carved cinnabar heart shaped example depicting children at play. It, too, sold for $17,250 against a $300-500 estimate. A rock crystal example painted on the interior with a canal scene leading to a walled city in the background sold for $13,800, well exceeding its $200-300 estimate. A lot of two snuff bottles with cameo decoration likewise exceeded a $200-300 estimate to sell for $5,750.
Japanese objects also fared well, and diminutive Netsukes proved to be quite popular. A carved boxwood figure of a wild hound inlaid with ivory eyes ignored a $300-500 estimate to bring $6,900. A lot of two carved wood examples depicting a snail and famed poetess Ono No Komachi went out at $5,290 (est. $200-300). Carved ivory examples included an exceptional and detailed basket vendor laden with his wears that sold for $1,955 and one of a man carrying a foo dog that sold for $1,610. Each exceeded their clearly conservative $200-300 estimates.
Day One started things off with over 400 paintings covering American and European artists. Illustration art included an impressive original artwork used for a 1921 Peters shotgun cartridge calendar by Phillip Russell Goodwin. Peters was later sold to the Remington Arms Company in 1934 and this very image was used again for a commemorative calendar by Remingtion in 1983. Picturing four men in their period hunting gear in a cozy hunting camp, it sold for $47,500 against an estimate of $50,000-75,000. A pair of action packed works by Gilbert Gaul depicting big game hunters likewise sold within its estimate for $17,250. An equally action packed scene attributed to Arthur Tait of an old west standoff between a frontiersman and a pack of Indians went out at $16,962, surpassing a $7,500-12,500 estimate.
Other American art included a snowy New York City street scene by Edmund Greacen showing the bustling downtown in the midst of a chilling blizzard. It sold for $21,850 against an estimate of $6,000-9,000. And a winter logging scene by Aldro Thompson Hibbard went out at $9,200 versus expectations of $5,000-7,000.
Several fine European and Continental works included Adolphe Perrot’s outstanding rendition of the monumental cemetery at Cathedral Square in Pisa, Italy. Portraying tremendous sense of perspective and detail of one of the country’s treasured landmarks, it sold for $40,250, exceeding its $5,000-10,000 estimate. Austrian artist Wenceslas Von Brozik’s interior scene of an aristocratic family in a lavish room watching the youngest of the group perform a show for the grandparents changed hands at the upper end of its $20,000-30,000 estimate for $27,600. And an impressionistic oil on canvas springtime scene attributed to French artist Camille Pissarro with swirling colors leading to a white cottage went out at $19,550 against a pre-auction estimate of $10,000-15,000.
Day Two continued with a variety of art of a nautical mindset as well as a selection of folk art. The latter category included over ten weathervanes such as an exceptional full body Goddess of Liberty copper figure in a dramatic pose that sold for $29,325 against a $15,000-20,000 estimate. A late addition to the sale was a rare and important steeplechase copper weathervane attributed to A.L. Jewell & Co. that depicted a full bodied horse jumping a fence. An interesting story behind it was that it had been stolen from the family’s barn several years ago and then recovered and retained by the police. The owner has since died, but the heirs decided to send it to auction. It was complete with marvelous verdigris patina and a few inoffensive bullet holes and sold for $77,050, more than doubling its $30,000-50,000 estimate. Others included a whimsical example of a beaver. Unusual to find this form, it was certainly appealing to collectors. It chewed through its $6,000-8,000 to sell for $17,250.
A rare folio binder of North American Indian framed prints by George Catlin was another singular opportunity. What Audubon was to quality aviary illustration, or Currier & Ives to Victorian life, Catlin’s hand was designed for capturing tribal life of the 1800s. With a self important title a mile long that leaves nothing unsaid, “Hunting Scenes and Amusements of the Rocky Mountains and Prairies of America From Drawings and Notes of the Author, Made During Eight Years’ Travel Amongst Forty-Eight of the Wildest and Most Remote Tribes of Savages in North America” is a true treasure. With over twenty illustrations showing various hunting scenes and ceremonial activities, the lot sold within its $40,000-60,000 estimate for $48,300.
The folk art offerings continued into the realm of nautical and marine. In addition to a variety of scrimshaw were several ship portraits including James Buttersworth’s New York Bay yacht racing scene that sold for $63,250 against expectations of $20,000-40,000. The commodore of ship portraits, Antonio Jacobsen’s portrayal of the “Daniel Webster” cutting through rough seas cut through its $7,000-9,000 estimate to bring $14,375. And an important whaling log by Eli Gifford from the ship “Coral” spanning 1854 to 1858 included extensive accounts, personal reflections from the author as well as numerous drawings. This historical treasure exceeded expectations of $1,000-2,000 to sell for $4,600.
Furniture is not as strong as it has been in years past. In fact, today there are extraordinary buys in many forms of antique furniture. For instance, some 18th century desks or upholstered Victorian furniture will sell for half or a quarter of what it will cost you to buy a modern example of lesser quality. Of course there was a handful of strong performers in this auction. Perhaps the first names in pianos, Steinway & Sons found favor with two examples, a Baby Grand and the Cadillac model, the Concert Grand Model D. Each more than doubled their estimates to sell for $12,650 and $9,200, respectively.
The sale was rounded out by a range of accessories including a striking Victorian era Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica covered tureen beautifully decorated all over with branches and blossoms. Resting on its original undertray, it sold for $9,200, exceeding an estimate of $7,000-9,000. It was joined by a jeweled ivory porcelain covered jar attributed to Beleek with elegant floral decoration and pierced handle. It surpassed expectations of $1,500-2,500 to sell for $5,060. A lovely Louis Vuitton steamer trunk with the traditional Damier checkerboard canvas and retaining its original Vuitton paper label and retailer’s label was consigned fresh from a southern Maine home. It went out at $6,037 against expectations of $800-1,200. An exceptional polychrome painted Parcheesi game board from 19th century New England was a rare find. It saw active bidding beyond its $2,500-3,500 estimate to land at $9,487.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction that will be held March 12-13. Their next toy & doll auction as well as their rare lamp & glass auction will follow in June. Julia’s next antiques & fine art auction will take place in August. Julia’s is currently accepting consignments for these and other upcoming auctions. Call immediately for inclusion in these exciting sales. For more information or to place offers on unsold items, contact their offices at 207-453-7125. James D. Julia, Inc., P.O. Box 830, Dept. PR, Fairfield, ME 04937. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.