The Market | By Eleanor H. Gustafson

End notes: A carved ivory wrist rest

November 1, 2011  |  A mid-twentieth-century Chinese carved ivory double wrist rest sold at Cincinnati's Cowan's Auctions' first Asian art sale on August 26 for the handsome price of $47,000 (including premium) off a presale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. Designed as an aid for scholars in the painstaking arts of calligraphy and brush painting, wrist rests were long made in China in carved wood and jade as well as ivory and other semiprecious materials. This one was obtained by the consignor directly from the carver sometime after World War II, so it turns attention to the art in the postwar years.

The exterior is realistically carved to replicate a section of bamboo cane, with roots sprouting from the rhizome-shaped end and bamboo shoots and leaves along the sides, while the interior holds polychrome crickets and a cicada minutely carved from the ivory. "This is a brilliant bit of carving and I am completely unsurprised that it sold for the amount it realized," says the Asian art expert Lark Mas…» More

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The Market | By Eleanor H. Gustafson

Dealers bring biggest & best to the 56th Annual Winter Antiques Show

January 22, 2010  |  There is no arguing with the idea that the Winter Antiques Show, which opened last night at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, is the BIG one. Now in its fifty-sixth year, its seventy-five dealers from around the world are showcasing some of the very best in the decorative arts, painting, and folk art. There is a lot to see, and some of it is huge. We've picked out a few that are hard to overlook. You really can't miss James and Nancy Glazer's majestic copper elk right inside the entrance. Standing ten feet high, it was made about 1903 by the W. H. Mullins Company of Salem, Ohio, and originally topped the Elks Club in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Across the aisle, Todd Prickett of C. L. Prickett has an exceptional Boston block-front chest-on-chest (c. 1775) that's almost eight feet tall-and was included in Luke Vincent Lockwood's seminal Colonial Furniture in America of 1913.


It might seem that Gerald Peters Gallery has only five objects on offer, they are so enormous, but there are several smaller pieces as well. The centerpiece, of 1914, is a fourteen thousand-pound, nine-foot-tall urn carved by Paul Manship from a block of Tennessee marble with a neoclassical frieze of Indians hunting buffalo and engaged in intertribal warfare. On the booth walls hang Manship's Four Elements, four of eight parcel-gilt bronze reliefs he did for façades of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company's old headquarters in downtown Manhattan (the other four are in the Philadelphia Museum of Art). All eight were detached during AT&T's removal from the building in the 1980s. Considerably smaller but equally powerful is the gallery's collection of British Championship Animals, modeled by Herbert Haseltine in 1925.
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The Market | By Eleanor H. Gustafson

Endnotes: Combat ready

December 30, 2009  |  When visiting the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Fair in New York in October, I was struck by the imposing arms and armor on display in the booth of Peter Finer of London—enormous poleaxes, a beautifully ornamented Italian half suit of armor, a bronze cannon on its field carriage. It made me stop and wonder idly about how you might display such things at home, and then quickly brought to mind an article Antiques ran a year ago about the rise and fall of William Randolph Hearst as a collector. Among the most dramatic of Hearst's holdings were the legions of suits of armor he displayed in the vast Gothic style armory he created in his New York apartment in the early twentieth century. Most were among the treasures sold after he was beset by financial woes in the 1930s.
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The Market | By Eleanor H. Gustafson

Stampede

December 3, 2009  |  Texas is full of cattlemen, but few with the style and panache of Derrill Osborn, whose "herd" was offered at the Dallas Auction Gallery in October. Best known for shaping decades of men's fashion—he headed that division at Neiman Marcus for more than twenty years—Osborn has been a "cattleman" ever since his great-grandfather whittled him a little wooden cow when he was a child. In the ensuing years he amassed a collection of bovine art that spanned centuries, continents, and mediums and included German wood carvings, nineteenth- and twentieth-century paintings, Empire furniture, and Staffordshire figures and other ceramic forms decorated with cattle motifs. The appeal of cows, he says, is that they always look so content. But the collection had overrun his house, and he decided it was time to make sure his vaches found happy homes elsewhere.

Osborn's cows may have been contented, but not so all of his bulls, to judge by two Staffordshire figure groups and a spill vase with figures on the theme of bullbaiting offered at the sale. A regrettable blood sport in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in which a tethered bull was set upon by dogs, bullbaiting—occasionally called bull-beating­—was abolished in Britain in 1837.
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The Market | By Eleanor H. Gustafson

Endnotes: Duck call

November 24, 2009  |  This Canada goose clearly lost its bearings, migrating all the way to South America in the twentieth century before returning to the United States this past August. A routine e-mail inquiry to Christie's in New York resulted in the exciting realization that it was only the fourth decoy of its type to come to light. What makes it so special is the dovetailed, or slot-neck, construction for attaching the head and neck to the body. The four known geese from the rig each bear a number painted on both parts; here it is 6, indicating that there may well be at least two more of these beautifully sculpted birds out there for the hunting.

That is good news, because recently de­­­­­­­coys have been attracting hunters of many sorts—not only fowlers themselves, but also bird lovers, folk art collectors, environmentalists, and even celebrities. Their sculptural beauty appeals across boundaries of taste, price, and personal philosophy, notes Stephen B. O'Brien Jr. of Copley Fine Art Auctions …» More

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NYG 2013

[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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