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Blue Plate Special and Oriental Buffet

Mark Sisco | October 12th, 2013

This 1883 Royal Worcester plate is 7 7/8" in diameter and is intricately honeycombed and hand painted and has a center scene of a gilt mountain landscape in Oriental style attributed to George Owen. It closed at $20,400.

This Chinese Kangxi period water pot, cataloged as in the taibo zun form, sold for $12,000. Cobbs photo.

As with several other lots of Orientalia, the Internet dominated the bidding on this three-panel 20th-century Chinese table screen in wood and porcelain, only 12¼" high. The remote bidders were enthusiastic enough to chase it just a wee bit past the $400/600 estimate to $6000.

This one excited all Internet bidding from the get go. A Chinese porcelain ink stand from the late 18th or early 19th century, it is in a hemispherical shape with what was cataloged as a “moon blue” glaze with subtle geometric and floral decorations under the glaze. The container was presented on its teak stand and carried only a $250/450 estimate, but the Web bidding carried it all the way to $3600. Cobbs photo.

The Cobbs Auctioneers, Peterborough, New Hampshire

The Cobbs Auctioneers have a strong track record of selling White Mountains art, and their October 12, 2013, auction in Peterborough, New Hampshire, was replete with works by William Preston Phelps, Gifford Beal, Harrison Bird Brown, and others. It was, however, rare Orientalia and a spectacular Royal Worcester plate that topped the sale.

Two oils on canvas depicting autumn scenes by New Hampshire favorite son artist William Preston Phelps (1848-1923), each in gilt gesso frames, were offered. A 15¾" x 24" (sight size) view of a rustic farm shed in a yard filled with cornstalks and pumpkins sold for $4800 (includes buyer’s premium). Later a 13 7/8" x 22" scene of a small herd of cattle cooling their hooves in a pasture stream brought $2760. Although he traveled extensively in Europe and the American West, most of Phelps’s artworks were plein-air landscapes of his native New Hampshire.

“Probably the most important piece of English porcelain we’ve ever had,” Charlie Cobb announced as a Royal Worcester porcelain plate attributed to George Owen came to the block. With a perfect web of intricate lacy honeycomb reticulations surrounding a central image of a mountain landscape, all bordered by a zigzag pattern of white and aqua dots, it was one of the headline rarities of the sale. It was estimated at $8000/12,000 and easily finished well beyond the mark at $20,400, over the phone. It’s going back to England.

A complete folio of 19 signed prints by muralist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was produced by the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, and dated 1933. The book itself was signed, and each print was signed on the mat, which also carried the print’s title. According to the museum’s Web site, Rivera was the subject of its second monographic exhibition (the first was Henri Matisse) in a five-week run that spanned from December 1931 to January 1932. The museum brought Rivera to Manhattan, where he produced eight new murals for the exhibition, featuring New York and Mexican subjects. And according to the catalog listing, in 1933 the museum opened its architectural wing with the first exhibit a display of prints of Rivera’s murals. Rivera was commissioned to paint murals for Rockefeller Center, and a set of prints identical to the ones on display were prepared by the museum and printed by Ganymede in Berlin, Germany. Rivera probably signed this particular volume on the night of the opening for one of the organizers. Along with it came documentation from the museum archives, a photo of Rivera signing a portfolio, and a record of its deaccessioning from the Springfield City Library (Massachusetts). In all, the lot sold just under the $6000/9000 estimate for $5700.

Topping the Oriental lots was a Chinese Kangxi period (1654-1722) water pot in the taibo zun or “chicken coop” shape, with a rounded dome and slightly recessed base, with six Kaishu character reign marks. The tan, peach blush glaze was over a layer of dragons and medallions. The Internet bidders didn’t fool around, opening it at $7000. By the time it was over, the $700/900 estimate was ancient history, and the price was $12,000.

For more information, visit the Cobbs Web site ( or call (603) 924-6361.

This 10 5/8" x 22 7/8" finely detailed pastel on paper of a fox-hunting scene by Charles Morris Young (1869-1964) of Maine and Pennsylvania shows a gathering of well-dressed sportsmen and their supporters about to set off for an adventure. It neatly doubled the $2000/3000 estimate, finishing at $6000. Young produced numerous such Pennsylvania fox hunting images, but this was the only rendering in pastel that I could locate.

This large (13¼" diameter) Georg Jensen sterling circular tray, weighing about 36 troy ounces, with open three-dimensional handles within the diameter and stamped with Jensen’s impression, plus marks reading “Sterling 483 Denmark” and “GI 925,” sold for $9000 (est. $4000/6000).

This is a carved ivory netsuke by Katabori of Urashima Taro, showing the fisherman as an old man carrying a turtle on his back. An ancient Japanese legend (actually a series of legends) has it that a boy named Urashima Taro once rescued a turtle and was rewarded for his benevolence with a magical visit to the undersea palace of Ryujin, the dragon god. After a three-day visit, he asked to return to his home and found himself 300 years in the future. The little ivory gem rang in with a solid $5700 against a $2000/3000 estimate. Cobbs photo.

This 29½" tall and wide Chippendale oxbow chest in mahogany with a wide overhung conforming top, cock-beaded case, four graduated drawers, and replaced period hardware is probably of Massachusetts origin. It rang out with a solid $10,800 price.

Originally published in the January 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest

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