Purchase Story

Fine Art and Carved Chinese Plaques Set the Pace at Potomack

The Potomack Company, Alexandria, Virginia

Photos courtesy The Potomack Company

The November 18, 2017, cataloged auction at The Potomack Company was held at the firm’s galleries in Alexandria, Virginia. The sale presented a mix of offerings from a broad group of categories, with a concentration of lots from an equally broad selection of fine art.

In his opening remarks, auctioneer Patrick O’Neill announced that the company recently formed a separate Native American department. Previously, Native American material had been offered within Americana, or as specialty sections of general catalog sales. Christine Messing, currently the manager of Americana, will assume management duties of the new department as well. Interest in and consignment of Native American material has increased to the point that this was a logical addition for the firm. Messing will have the assistance of Antiques Roadshowappraiser Linda Dyer, a well-respected consulting specialist in the field. Dyer will be available as needed for evaluation, cataloging, and estimates.

This lot consists of three articles of carved white jade. Included are two elongated rectangular belt plaques along with a smaller plaque. All three pieces are pierce-carved, with the two larger pieces featuring a distinctive writhing dragon amid cloud scrolls and lotuses. The larger pieces measure 6½" wide; the smaller piece is 2¾" wide. All three items date from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The group sold as the high lot of the day, won by a telephone bidder for $28,125 (est. $600/800).

This Chinese school mountain landscape depicts rough terrain, with two figures crossing a bridge in a deep valley, headed toward a temple or shrine on the left side of the piece. There is a second, smaller structure set on the edge of a cliff high up on the right. The image is inscribed in the lower left “XinYuhua.” A calligraphic poem describing the scene is added upper right. The poem is inscribed “Xu Bangda” (1911-2012). The landscape sold in the room for $5312.50 (est. $300/500).

Here is a Chinese gray pottery horse figure that dates from the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.). The figure stands 46½" high and exhibits traces of polychrome paint. The figure is accompanied by a commercial thermoluminescence test related to its dating. The horse sold to a telephone bidder for $13,750 (est. $6000/8000).

As is often the case at Potomack, the top lot was of Asian provenance. A group of three small carved white jade plaques soared to a surprising $28,125 (including buyer’s premium), well over their $600/800 estimate. Two of the rectangular plaques were described as “belt plaques”; the other example was similar in design and style, though much smaller.

Other Asian material of note included a pair of 19th-century Chinese famille rose hat stands, drilled and fitted as lamps, that made $4375 against a conservative estimate of $400/600. A small decoratively carved white jade circular pendant with a floating Buddhist prayer wheel in the center brought $562.50, just topping its high estimate. And a 19th-century Chinese famille rose barrel-form glazed ceramic stool brought $2125 (est. $300/500).

This 34" x 27" oil on canvas was hotly contested by several bidders. The painting is by an unidentified artist of the northern Italian school and dates from the 18th century. This image, in various forms, is referred to as “The Rape of Europa.” It depicts the mythological tale of Zeus, transformed into a white bull, enticing Europa away from her handmaidens before taking her to Crete. The painting sold in the room for $16,250 (est. $1200/1600).

A telephone bidder won this 12½" x 15" framed oil on canvas depicting a bowl of brightly colored chrysanthemums. The painting is by David Burliuk (American/Ukrainian, 1882-1962). Burliuk is known as the “father of Russian Futurism.” Futurism was an early 20th-century movement that celebrated the rapidly changing world, voicing disdain for virtually anything that could be identified with the past. Futurists expressed themselves in many forms, including politics, visual arts, theater, and literature. This example is one of six lots of Burliuk’s artwork to cross the block at the sale. It sold for $2812.50 (est. $1200/1600).

This oil on canvas is by Thomas Birch (British/American, 1779-1851). The painting depicts a view of New York harbor, with sailing vessels and a sidewheel steam/sail merchant vessel. The fortification Castle Williams on Governors Island is shown center right. The 22" x 33" painting is framed and displays a Vose Galleries of Boston label identifying the artist and the scene. The painting was won by a left bidder at $16,250 (est. $25,000/50,000).

Offerings in the fine art category were broad, and the prices seemed to be very reasonable, with most lots settling within or slightly above their estimates. The exceptions are noted among the photos. Several additional fine art lots are worthy of added attention. A stark winter landscape scene of peasant families and their homes near a large chateau by Willem Vester (Dutch, 1824-1895) brought $1250 (est. $1200/1500). A vibrant unsigned watercolor on paper depicting a busy Russian flea market scene, probably late 19th or early 20th century, brought $1375 (est. $500/700). And an oil on canvas peasant scene titled Grinders, by Adolphe Pierre Leleux (French, 1812-1891), dated 1855, sold for $2000 (est. $800/1200). The scene depicts a husband and wife working together at a grinding wheel; she is turning the crank while he holds the blade in position for sharpening.

Here is a late 19th-century horse-head trade sign. The well-sculpted head is likely from France and is made of zinc. The surface is nicely patinated. The piece is designed to be mounted on a wall; it is 19½" high, 14" wide, and 15¾" deep. The sign brought $4062.50 (est. $1500/2000).

This circa 1815 ormolu-mounted slate mantel clock is French. The face is marked “Boulu E.ve de Lepine,” identified in French as “Watchmaker of the Empress.” The clock features a white enamel dial; the case is decorated with an ormolu drape with tassels; the arched frame displays fluted and ormolu-accented pilasters; and the clock rests on a rectangular plinth raised on bun feet. The clock stands 16" in overall height. It sold to an Internet buyer for $4687.50 (est. $1200/1800).

Other interesting items included a 15¾" diameter cast bronze bowl by Clio Bracken (1870-1925). The bowl is in Art Nouveau style, with two handles in the shape of scantily clad figures positioned as though they are preparing to climb into the bowl. It brought $2500 (est. $2000/3000). A lot consisting of three wooden English boxes, including two small tea caddies—one octagonal with satinwood veneer, the other in mahogany with satinwood marquetry swags and pilaster corners—and a 19th-century writing box with a flat top and an inward-canted sarcophagus-like base, brought $1375 (est. $500/700).

For additional information, contact The Potomack Company at (703) 684-4550 or visit its website, (www.potomackcompany.com).

A Bonfoey Gallery label on the reverse identifies this oil on canvas as Landscape with Man in Ox Cart, circa 1905, by the Dutch artist Herman Johannes van der Weele (1852-1930). Van der Weele is known for his depictions of simple peasant and farm life of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This painting measures 16" x 11½" and is signed lower left. The painting sold to an Internet bidder for $6875 (est. $1200/1800).

When we hear the name Alexander Calder, his colorful mobiles immediately come to mind. But Calder (1898-1976) worked in many mediums. This jute wall hanging is an example of his work with fiber. The 6' x 8' composition is apparently one of a large edition, numbered “12/100” and signed “CA / 75,” both using thread. An absentee bidder won this piece for $5000 (est. $4000/6000).

This scene, Jardin du Luxembourg, is by Martha Walter (1875-1976). The oil on canvas depicts a group of women relaxing in a sunny outdoor setting, some with parasols. The 19¼" x 27" oil on canvas is signed lower left, but it is not dated. The painting sold to a telephone bidder for $15,000 (est. $20,000/30,000).

This lot consists of a pair of 18th-century black lacquer and parcel-gilt Chinese tables, together with conforming cabinets. The cabinets are constructed with paneled doors and sides and decorated with landscape scenes. The cabinet interiors are fitted with an intricate array of shelves, drawers, and compartments, all profusely decorated in gold. Each table features an elaborately scrolled skirt and is raised on cabriole legs terminating in ball-and-claw feet. The tables, including the tray-like top surfaces, are decorated in the manner of the cabinets. Each assembled pair measures 63½" x 37" x 21¼". These tables and cabinets sold to a telephone bidder for $11,875 (est. $10,000/20,000).

Originally published in the March 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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