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The “Charged Up” Charger

Fran Kramer | October 4th, 2013

This 15" high x 17" long standing temple kylin censer, in cast bronze with cloisonné and gilt decorations, was from a Baltimore estate. The price was an early indication that Orientalia buyers were tuned in, as one paid $50,600 for the piece.

On the very last page of the 76-page sale catalog appeared this early delft charger. It was nice and sold for a surprising $25,875. “Everyone loved it,” said Cottone, “and it is a rare form and an early piece, maybe late seventeenth or early eighteenth century.” With a 13" diameter, that’s about $2000 per inch.

We hope that whoever spent $201,250, the top price of the sale, for this pair of enormous Meissen urns, 33" high, has a good housekeeper for their dusting and a good insurance policy that covers breakage. The degree of intricacy in the carving was incredible. When an artist is working for royalty like the Princess of Sweden/Queen of Saxony, Carola of Vasa (1833-1907), only the best will do. Cottone mentioned that the pair of urns might be among the most expensive Meissen pieces ever sold.

Parked in front of the auction gallery was the 1954 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith James Young Sport Saloon with only 39,000 miles, and it was quite a sight. It opened at $32,000 and ended at $52,900, going to an on-line bidder from the southern tier of New York. If he/she wishes to drive it, though, the right-hand drive could be a problem, but then, it’s a trophy piece, and no one drives trophy pieces, do they?

Cottone Auctions, Geneseo, New York

Photos courtesy Cottone Auctions

Cottone Auctions’ October 4 and 5, 2013, sale saw impressive, strong prices for Orientalia, a Rolls-Royce car, a pair of Meissen urns, a Napoleon III cabinet, an Edgar Payne painting, and a second-century Roman marble torso, but it was a lot near the end of the sale that got the best bang for the buck, or should we say the rooster crowed all the way to the bank.

A rare early 18th-century delft charger, 13" diameter, with polychrome decoration and a big strutting rooster, in mint condition, estimated at $200/300, brought over 100 times the low estimate from a phone bidder. “Everybody loved it,” said Sam Cottone. Guess so!

When I asked Cottone about how happy and surprised the consignor must be, he paused and said, “It was from the estate of an old-time private collector.” Well, whoever the consignor was had to be elated with the $25,875 price (includes buyer’s premium).

It was a very big sale, but on the second day there was a very small crowd in the room, about 100, with another 30 of Cottone’s staff. One local dealer, Diane DeVolder of Ontario, New York, was one of about ten local dealers there. She and a few others came for the “entertainment” and the chance to make a good buy from the last few lots, but there was nothing for her that day.

The 15 phone lines were busy; over 2000 people registered with Cottone to bid on line, and 20% of the sales went to them. Talk about the power of technology.

The recipe for Cottone’s auction success is lots of objects of virtu, rare, in great condition, highly advertised, and with appeal to emerging markets such as China and Russia. The New York Times recently reported that much Orientalia sold to China does not really sell. The “sales” hype the market, but no one really ever knows if the items sold. We asked Cottone if he ever had a non-payer for an Oriental piece. “No,” said Cottone, “when they bid in my sales, they pay with no problems. I know my buyers, and they know me.”

So, what were the top prices?

In the six-figure bracket was a pair of mid-19th-century Meissen urns, 33" high, decorated with figures, insects, flowers, and cherubs, that were made to commemorate members of the Saxon royal house, Carola of Vasa, the Queen of Saxony, and her husband, King Albert. The urns may have been given by the royal couple as a diplomatic gift. Eight phones were in use, and the bidding rose from $5000 to $201,250, the top price of the sale. They sold to an overseas buyer.

Ever hear of artist Arthur Luiz Piza? Me neither. Born in Brazil in 1928, he lives and works in Paris. His mixed-media works are abstract to the max and usually in ocher tones. Cottone had two pieces, both framed, 14" x 11" and 13" x 9½", estimated at $1500/2500 each. The tan/brown compositions brought $46,000 and $48,300. His relief collages have been exhibited at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art. One of his works sold for $177,830 in November 2011 at Christie’s, Amsterdam.

The sale brought a total of $2.2 million and proved again that both foreign buyers and foreign pieces are hot. And it proved again that on-line bidding is not only here to stay, it is becoming a potent force. I repeat, about 20% of all the lots went to Internet bidders. “A good shot in the arm for the market,” said Cottone about the sale.

What about Americana? There were only 63 lots. A lot of three 1841 silhouettes sold for $230, and a great T. Harrington, Lyons, New York, stoneware churn brought $11,730. In between were examples of Federal furniture, needlework, and early porcelains that all came at the very end of the two-day sale.

For more information, check the Web page ( or call (585) 243-3100.

This Napoleon III ebonized and inlaid porcelain cabinet, with signed KPM plaques, 64" x 84" x 22", opened at $27,000 and kept on going until an on-line bidder got it for $33,350 after competing with at least nine phone bidders.

There was lots of interest in this marble Roman torso from the second century and from a private collection. With a height of 20" and detailed carving, the piece sold to a southern collector on the phone for $86,250. Estimated at $20,000/40,000, it opened at $25,000 and kept several phone bidders busy.

These two compositions by artist Arthur Luiz Piza (Brazilian, b. 1928), reliefs in ocher tones, from a Rochester, New York, estate, sold for shocking final prices of $46,000 and $48,300. What do you think? Beauty and genius are in the eye of the beholder?

This Edgar Payne (1883-1947) painting, a Laguna Beach area seascape, signed, relined, but with no inpainting, opened above its high estimate of $25,000 and sold to a floor bidder for $47,150.

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

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