Fairfield, ME ~ February 4-6, 2015. Julia’s Fine Art, Antique & Asian Department kicked off their 2015 auction season with a fabulous winter auction that spanned three days and featured over 2,000 lots. Because of the exciting array of goods, bidders came out in droves to be a part of the sale. Registering over 5,000 online bidders representing 61 countries and 650 in-house, absentee and phone bidders, the sale’s massive gross exceeded $3.5 Million.
Among the vast offerings of fine art, antiques, folk art, and historical items, once again, Asian antiques and artifacts proved to be particularly strong. The sale included hundreds of such lots, some of which came from an estate collection of a renowned Taiwanese diplomatic family with ties to Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. The collection consisted of a variety of carved figures, seals, censers, jade, porcelain, and more. Of particular note was a magnificent bronze figure of Guanyin from the Ming Dynasty period. Displaying a benevolent expression and shown wearing a long loose robe and elaborate headpiece, decked in divine beading and jewels, she was seated on an ornate lotus stand. This phenomenal piece went out just above its $160,000-180,000 estimate to sell for $189,600. The following lot was a gilt bronze Buddha figure in the Ming style seated on a delicate throne. Ornamented with turquoise and coral, the piece sold at the upper end of its $25,000-30,000 estimate for $29,625.
From the same collection came an impressive carved wood altar table with intricate allover traditional Chinese design and fretwork. Believed to have been constructed from Zitan, a rare Chinese wood typically reserved for royalty, the table sold for a princely sum of $58,662, surpassing an estimate of $28,000-32,000. Chinese furniture from other collections included two pairs of Huanghuali armchairs from the 18th century. A pair of yoke backed examples with dragon carvings sold for $16,590 against a $3,000-5,000 estimate while a pair in an austere block form sold within its $10,000-15,000 estimate for $11,850.
Jade and jadeite also proved to be quite popular, especially when quality was high and estimates were conservative. A well-carved celadon jade Ruyi scepter intricately carved with plum trees, branches and flowers sold well above expectations of $3,500-4,500 for $24,700. From the Taiwanese diplomat estate, a carved white jade elephant representing peace from the Qing Dynasty period was no white elephant. It sold for $23,700 against an estimate of $8,000-12,000. The following lot was a carved white jade censer from the same time period. The urn form topped with lion handles and a carved lion finial showed exceptional translucence. It neared mid-estimate to sell for $47,400. Natural jadeite jewelry included two breathtaking emerald green pendants carved depicting Quanyin. The first, mounted within diamond encrusted scrollwork sold for $26,662 and the second, set within a diamond encrusted aura went out at $54,510.
Elaborate cloisonné included a variety of censers. Of particular note was a pair of repousse gilt copper examples on stout foo dog tripod legs with dragon handles and finials that brought $21,330, surpassing an estimate of $2,500-3,500. A bulbous pair of censers with uprising handles and gilt covers with bats and chrysanthemums sold for $18,525 against a $9,000-12,000 estimate.
The auction continued with vases in an assortment of styles and forms. From the Taiwanese diplomat estate, a massive pair of carved cinnabar lacquer baluster vases with landscape village scenes saw active bidding. It neared the upper end of its $28,000-32,000 estimate to sell for $32,587. A Famille Rose bottle vase with a globular body and long neck, decorated with butterflies and bats flying among the flowers went out at $12,350 against a conservative estimate of $500-700. And a Famile Verte shoulder vase with flaring lip and decorated with children at play in a large courtyard sold within its $14,000-16,000 estimate for $14,220.
Other highlights included a rare and finely carved rhinoceros horn figure of Budai from the Wanli Period (1573-1620). Depicted in the traditional form with a joyful expression and wearing loose fitting robes to reveal his plump belly, which represents contentment and abundance, he is shown with various children climbing across his belly and back. This lot, complete with proper documentation sold for $53,325, surpassing its $30,000-40,000 estimate. And an assortment of textiles included a number of Thangkas, Tibetan religious paintings on cloth. A framed ethereal example depicting Shakyamuni ignored an estimate of $1,000-1,500 many times over to sell for $13,585.
The auction kicked off with over 300 paintings and other artworks including selections from a private Boston collector whose keen eye for quality Cape Ann school works brought him to some of the finest galleries in the Northeast to make his favored purchases. Included were such luminaries as Thomas Nicholas, whose “Valley Farm, Vermont” offers a view of the state’s rolling hills with its rural residents amid a blanket of snow. It sold for $14,220, more than doubling the low end of its $6,000-8,000 estimate. From the same collection, Emile Gruppe’s “Fall Beechnut” that the consignor purchased from the Gruppe gallery in Jericho, Vermont sold for $8,887 against expectations of $3,000-5,000. And his oil on board by Aldro Thompson Hibbard entitled “Winter Solitude” depicting a village woman trudging along a snowy path past her stone farmhouse went out at $6,792 against an estimate of $1,500-2,500.
From other collections came such works as Charles Woodbury’s “Playing in the Waves” that depicts several bathers in suits that leave everything to the imagination. It changed hands at $26,662 versus a $10,000-15,000 estimate. A selection of illustration art included Dean Cornwell’s large scene of an opium den showing a dimly lit dingy room that appears to have seen its share of action. It finished up at $16,950, within an estimate of $15,000-25,000.
European art was highlighted in part by a signed19th Century European School work of various figures standing seaside enjoying a Mediterranean sunset. It sold for $18,960, surpassing an estimate of $6,000-12,000. Bidders saw through scattered paint loss and other areas in need of attention to bring a lovely work by Estonian Johannes Hall beyond its $3,000-5,000 estimate to $9,480. Depicting a papal procession in St. Peters basilica, the piece showed exceptional perspective and realism.
The diversity continued with numerous nautical works by such names as S.F.M. Badger and Antonio Jacobsen. The former’s portrait of the “Sovereign of the Seas” showing a massive three-mast schooner neared high estimate to sell for $14,220. Badger’s depiction of the steamer “Guyandotte” cutting through the towering waves hit midway through its $8,000-12,000 estimate to bring $10,428.
The second day featured a vast array of antiques, furnishings and folk art including over two dozen weathervanes chosen from private collections and acquisitions from across the country. Featured was a leaping stag example by Washburne or Fiske with cast zinc head and detailed copper body. Estimated for $5,000-6,000, it sold for $14,220. A large “Nelson” running horse weathervane by Washburne or Mott of New York featured a well modeled horse with cast zinc head and hollow copper body. It exceeded its $6,000-8,000 estimate to sell for $8,887. Surprisingly a large and well-detailed hollow molded copper grasshopper with realistic elements attributed to L.W. Cushing and Sons of Waltham, Massachusetts failed to find a buyer.
Other folk art included a very rare set of 25 carved and painted shore birds by master decoy carver A. Elmer Crowell. From a private collection, consigned by the grandson of the original purchaser, and accompanied by the original bill of sale the desirable set was hotly contested for. It ultimately went to a phone bidder for $82,950, well above a $10,000-15,000 estimate. An important and historic Portland, Maine Civil War soldier’s quilt, circa 1864 depicting red and blue stars surrounding a stars and bars shield was another great highlight. Inscribed with supportive notes by its makers, this historic work will now reside in the Maine State Museum having sold above its $8,000-12,000 estimate for $14,220.
The auction continued with a variety of other historical items including documents, books, and other objects from the Judge George Greene Museum of Southern History. Greene was a passionate and avid collector and researcher of history and ultimately became highly regarded for his knowledge and collection. Of particular note was a trove of original sheet music, broadsides, and photographs relating to piano virtuoso “Blind Tom” Wiggins. Born blind and possibly autistic, he was a “throw-in” when his parents and two of his purported 19 siblings were purchased by a Columbus, Georgia lawyer. Essentially born into slavery, he was discovered at a very early age to be able to memorize and mimic the most sophisticated pieces of music ever written. He could sing in German, French, and English by the age of 10. He quickly became a “prized possession” for the family and eventually became famous, performing all over the world and making his owners royal sums of money. The grouping, which took almost an entire room in the museum to display, sold for $29,625 against an estimate of $10,000-20,000. From the same collection and also bringing $29,625 was an effigy pot in the form of a dog circa 1300 A.D. Found at the Neisler Indian Mounds in Taylor County Georgia in 1928, this exceedingly rare funerary object was in exceptional all original condition. The collection continued with such unusual historical items as a cannonball documented to have been fired into the USS Hartford during the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 that prompted Admiral David Farragut to shout the immortal words, “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!” It blasted through its $1,000-2,000 estimate to sell for $5,332.
From other collections, other historical items included an exceedingly rare silver Congressional Medal for Herbert Leach of the Jeannette Arctic expedition of 1879-1882. This ill fated mission soured shortly after departure, becoming trapped in an ice pack and drifting north toward the Pole for the next 21 months. Provisions dwindled and eventually the ship began to give way under the pressure of the ice and sank. Leach was one of the 25 survivors and was given this medal, which descended through the family until being consigned to Julia’s. Coincidentally, it sold to a descendent of Leach for $21,330, exceeding an estimate of $10,000-20,000.
The sale was rounded out by a large selection of early American furniture from the mid-18th and into the early 20th centuries, as well as silver, and various household antiques. Highlights included a lovely Portsmouth bow front Federal inlaid mahogany chest of drawers. From the first quarter of the 19th century, its string inlaid front, and inset satinwood oval panel drawers made for a stunning piece of furniture. It sold for $9,183 against expectations of $6,000-8,000. A Federal inlaid mahogany cylinder 2-part secretary with upper bookcase section over a barrel roll desk above three lower drawers sold for $6,517, surpassing an estimate of $3,500-5,500. A Gustav Stickley chest of drawers with dressing mirror was an exceptional example of American Arts & Crafts furniture, selling for $7,702, surpassing an estimate of $4,000-6,000.
Highlights in the antiques segment included a Queen Anne mirror with candle arm and broken arch top. This mid-18th century piece surpassed expectations of $600-800 to land at $6,813. A selection of silver included a 98-piece sterling silver flatware set by Tiffany in the Palmette pattern. This lovely set went out at $9,480 versus a $3,000-4,000 estimate. A 187-piece Tiffany sterling flatware set in the Lorenzo pattern sold for $7,406 (est. $4,000-5,000) and a lage and rare Georg Jensen silver serving tray with ivory handles brought $8,295 against a $4,000-6,000 estimate.
Julia’s upcoming auctions include their phenomenal firearms and military memorabilia auction that will be held in March. This will be followed by a special single-owner auction showcasing the exceptional collection of Dr. Helga Wall-Apelt featuring fine Asian antiques. Other auctions include a rare lamp & glass auction as well as their toy & doll auction in June, and their end of summer antiques, fine art, and Chinese artifacts auction 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: email@example.com.