FALLS CHURCH, VA. – When a lot of two Chinese bronze vessels in the June 12 Fine and Decorative Arts Auction at Quinn’s Auction Galleries had six phone lines in place well before the sale, David Quinn had an inkling that things might get interesting. The two, which had been cataloged without a date and estimated at $200/300, received numerous requests for condition reports and photos. By the time the lot came to the block, three additional phone bidders had joined the fray and bidding opened at $100. A competing bid of $40,000 quickly escalated bidding among several phones and online bidders. At the $60,000 mark, all of the online bidders had dropped out, leaving the action to the phone lines. When the gavel fell, a Chinese buyer in Spain, bidding on the phone, had paid $203,200 for the two, which apparently were from the Ming dynasty and were made in the Fifteenth or Sixteenth Century.
When we asked Quinn where he had found them, he said they had been with a couple of local collectors who have been in the process of downsizing. “They did not know what they were, but they’re thrilled with the results.”
“Even without those Chinese bronzes, we got to almost our low estimate, so we’re happy with the results. Overall, I’d say the sale did pretty well,” Quinn said, noting the total gross of $875,000. The auction was carried live on two online platforms and international buyers came with deep pockets, taking several of the higher-priced lots.
Despite an auctioneer’s best efforts to collect payment from buyers, there are usually one or two lots that go unpaid after a sale and those works are put back up for auction. Sometimes the lot brings more than it did on its first go-around, sometimes it does not. The latter was the case with a group of three Sevres porcelain cabinet plates that brought $31,750 in the firm’s January 30 auction and went unpaid. The plates had a central floral decoration and green borders and were reoffered with an estimate of $4/6,000 after it was discovered that one had provenance to a service made for Empress Josephine in 1808-09; the other two had belonged to Edward, Duke of Kent, who had received the plates as a gift from King Louis XVIII. The plates brought $24,130 from a buyer in Japan.
The sale offered a few more surprises, though none of the magnitude seen by the bronzes. A George III Thomas Hunter bracket table clock, circa 1760, in an ebonized wooden case with ormolu mounts and silvered chapter ring that Quinn said was “a lovely clock with a gorgeous chime,” sold to a buyer in Florida for $10,160, well ahead of its estimate. A framed Chinese Song dynasty book titled Zizhi Tongjian and written by Sima Guang made more than ten times its high estimate and sold for $6,985.
“Thinking Girl” by Angel Botello (Spanish/Puerto Rican, 1913-1986) an oil on panel measuring 20½ by 17½ inches, brought $22,860, while a marble bust of Napoleon signed “E. Santarelli, Firenze, 1836″ topped off at $6,350, more than five times its high estimate.
A buyer in the United Kingdom paid $12,065 for a portrait of Admiral Keppel that was attributed to Lemuel Francis Abbott (British, 1760-1803) and from the same Arlington, Va., estate that had the Botello. Louis Vuitton is a name that continues to resonate with collectors worldwide and always brings good sums even if the piece is in less than perfect condition. That was the case with a well-worn late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century courier trunk that will be making another journey, this time to an Italian buyer who had to pay $6,350 for it.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Quinn’s Auction Galleries’ next sale is anticipated to take place September 11.
Quinn’s $1.3 Million Auction Shows Diversity Of Estate Collection
FALLS CHURCH, VA. – On January 30, Quinn’s Auction Galleries conducted a fine and decorative arts auction featuring American, European, Asian and Modern selections from the estates of Washington, DC, notables as well as elegant residences in the northern Virginia region.
Ongoing Covid-19 restrictions prevented a gallery event with in-person floor bidding, but the auction was accessible by means of several alternatives, including phone bidding on auction day, live online and absentee.
There were more than 4,000 registered bidders from 67 countries participating in the sale.
Among the featured consignments in the 650-lot auction were classical antiques and marquetry furniture from the estate of Catherine Spencer Eddy Beveridge (1881-1970) and her aunt, Delia Macomb Spencer Field, the second wife of Marshall Field. The goods came directly from the Beveridge family home in upper northwest Washington and included selections of Meissen porcelain and high-end marquetry furniture.
“The sale was a massive success, doing more than $1.3 million, premium included, against an estimate of $550/700,000,” said Matthew C. Quinn, senior vice president of Quinn’s Auction Galleries.
A Nineteenth Century American School portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), American art collector, philanthropist and patron of the arts, earned more than 25 times its high estimate, bringing $69,850 and going to some local DC-area collectors.
Gardner famously founded the eponymous museum in Boston housed in a building designed to emulate a Fifteenth Century Venetian palace after receiving a large inheritance from her father. Early in the morning of March 18, 1990, thieves disguised as police officers robbed the museum of 13 works worth some $500 million – the greatest known property theft in history, works that to date have never been recovered. The full-length oil on canvas portrait, rendered in shadowy tones, came from the estate of a private collector in Potomac, Md., and measured 47½ by 27½ inches.
A $4/6,000 estimate was no match for bidder enthusiasm for a carved lacquer and wood guanyin, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), which was pushed to $63,500, won by a buyer in New York. The 21½-inch-high figure came from the estate of a southern Maryland collector/dealer and was on a red lacquer wood stand. Gilt throughout the whole body with red brown lacquer, the guanyin presented a serene face; sitting on the base with one leg crossed; five lotuses beneath his feet.
Another Chinese guanyin, this one a large three-piece gilt-bronze example, late Ming/early to mid-Qing dynasty, also performed well, bringing $57,150. Seated in double lotus position (dhyanasana) with the left hand held in dhyana mudra and the right in karana mudra, the guanyin wears a long flowing robe and dhoti bordered with stylized flowers with the chest open draped with an elaborate necklace with hardstone inlay.
A portrait of a lady in black by Alphonse Maria Mucha (Czechoslovakian, 1860-1939) shattered its $4/6,000 estimate by finishing at $53,975. Mucha, of course, is best known as the graphic artist behind many Art Nouveau posters. This portrait, painted in 1917 at Zbiroh castle, was done in oil on canvas, signed and dated lower right, 47 by 42 inches. The painting came with a letter as to the authenticity of the work by Wolfgang T. Swatek, who wrote, “The picture doubtlessly a work of the Czech painter and graphic artist Alfons Mucha…If I interpret the signature and date next to it correctly, the picture has been painted 1917 at Zbiroh Castle near Prague, where A.M. dwelled from 1910-1928 to complete the totally 20 giant canvasses of his Slavic epic, partially also as bare commission works Mucha painted numerous portraits during this period. This picture is one of them, The identity of the model and the little child in the mirror…are not to be determined….The portraited person is most probably a wealthy townswoman of Prague, very definitely shown in splendid evening robe.”
The Beveridge estate contributed a group of three Sevres cabinet plates with green and gilt border and central floral design that had descended in the family. Marked on base, the plates surpassed their $200/400 estimate to earn $31,750. Fetching $21,590 and also from the Beveridge estate was a group of seven Sevres green and gold plates with central floral designs, circa Eighteenth Century.
Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808-1879) was a French painter, sculptor and printmaker, whose many works offer commentary on the social and political life in France, from the Revolution of 1830 to the fall of the second Napoleonic Empire in 1870. This sale offered a caricature of a court scene by the Nineteenth Century artist, a watercolor on paper that was signed upper right and 7¼ by 11¼ inches. Estimated $6/8,000, it did $27,940.
A pair of classical spelter male and female sculptures, one depicting a female figure leaning on torch that rests on a helmet and the other a nude male with a scroll or map case holding a tool in his left hand went out at $26,670, a decided premium over their $300/500 estimate. When we say, “went out,” that should be qualified to mean that at 41 inches high for the woman and 42 inches high for the man, the successful bidder would have to line up a third-party shipper as Quinn’s did not offer in-house shipping for the lot.
A rare 11-1/8-inch ruby-ground famille rose porcelain vase with a six-character Qianlong red-seal mark, probably of the period, was decorated with good-luck symbols on the neck and shoulder. Its main composition showed children on a residential terrace overlooking a pavilion and landscape. Since its purchase in 1922, the vase had remained in the Beveridge/Field family, passing by descent through subsequent generations. It was bid to $25,400.
“This is one of the best auctions we’ve ever produced,” said Quinn.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house.
The gallery’s next estate fine and decorative arts sale will be conducted in June. It will host a wine sale and an African art sale coming up late February, early March. For more information, www.quinnsauction.com or 703-532-5632.
How the COVID-19 pandemic has altered estate sales
Estate sales can be emotional for families, and now they are also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has largely sidelined the in-person estate sale.
“In a traditional estate sale. People come through your house. There can be 25 or 30 people coming through. How do you do that in COVID?” said Matt Quinn, at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church, Virginia.
The answer is moving estate sales online, and traditional estate sales companies as well as auction houses are doing a lot of them. Quinn’s itself reports its biggest July for business in its history — more than twice as much business as a year ago
“We have shifted to an online-only auction model in the home that allows us to go into the home, sort things, organize them, describe them, photograph them, put them up online, give the buyer confidence to buy and then execute those sales,” Quinn said.
Quinn’s is aggressively hiring in all positions, from people who physically move the merchandise to the auction experts who write the auction listing descriptions to administrative staff.
Many estate sales come after the death of a family member, and self-managing an estate sale is probably not something a grieving family would want to do, but with the time and the right technology, it could be done.
Quinn still recommends hiring a professional to evaluate the contents being sold.
“The biggest risk families have is not understanding the the value of objects in the home. We’ve seen it too many times, when there’s been a $100,000 painting on the steps of a Goodwill, or somebody bought something at an estate sale for $10 and later sold it at an auction for $100,000,” Quinn said.
We have two different types of auction to ensure the right bidder sees your items. We offer various specialty auctions, typically one to two a month. These auctions cater to collectors of specific items, who will pay top dollar for those items. Our specialty sales include: Stamps & Coins, Jewelry & Watches, Dolls, Toys & Trains, Pottery & Porcelain, Military & Firearms, Japanese Art, and more. We love building new sales around your collections.
Oftentimes, lower value items are sold through our weekly auctions, but again we focus on you and will find the correct auction to maximize your dollars. Our weekly auction will bring you 150,000+ registered bidders in the greater capital area, far more than anyone in this region. Our partner Rasmus, the largest commercial auctioneer in the region, has been exclusively online for close to 20 years calling their last live auction with us in 2003 when we sold the contents of DC restaurant institution Blackies’ House of Beef and Lulu’s Club Mardi Gras. Our almost two decade old partnership allows us to bring to you the reach that others just can’t.
And what happens to your items that are not saleable? We take care of that too! We have long standing partnerships with many local businesses including movers and disposal companies. We also work with nonprofits, most notably Northern Virginia Family Service and their Clock Tower thrift store on Annandale road, a short 4-5 blocks from our facility. If we determine that we cannot sell or items pass at auction we will do our best to donate those to a local thrift store prior to recycling or trash options.
Anna Chan Chennault (Chen Xiangmei 陳香梅) was born in Beijing. Her early interest in world affairs and Chinese literature was shaped by her maternal grandfather, the diplomat Liao Entao廖恩燾 (aka Liao Fengshu鳳舒).
A graduate of Lingnan University, she worked as a wartime correspondent for the Central News Agency and first met her future husband General Claire Lee Chennault (陳納德) when assigned to interview him.
Her book A Thousand Springs (一千個春天) describes their happy marriage. After the famed leader of the Flying Tigers died in 1958, she moved with their two daughters from Monroe, Louisiana to Washington DC.
She was an influential political figure for many decades. She worked under President John F. Kennedy to help resettle Chinese refugees fleeing the Cultural Revolution. She was a major fund-raiser during Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign, and reportedly acted as a secret envoy for him to South Vietnam. A longtime supporter of the Nationalist government of Taiwan, she nonetheless returned to China in 1981 at the request of Ronald Reagan.
Deng Xiaoping remarked at their meeting, “There are 100 members of the US Senate but only one Anna Chennault.” Appointed Vice Chairman of the President’s Export Council, she led multiple trade missions to Asia during 1981–1985. Her personal connections with Asian leaders made her an asset for establishing business as well as political relationships. During this period, she advised not only on matters of US-China trade but also on promoting the emerging trade between China and Taiwan. In 1989, she led the first large delegation of Taiwanese businessmen to China for the purpose of exploring investment opportunities. Questioned about her changed attitude toward the PRC, she explained that people “must be humble enough to learn, courageous enough to change their positions.” She also described herself as a bridge between the U.S., China, and Taiwan.
Among other presidential appointments, she was a member of the White House Commission of Presidential Scholars (1985–1993), the Co-Chairman of the National Heritage Groups Council under Gerald Ford, and the International Chairman of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Commission under Bill Clinton.
Anna Chennault’s career as a businesswoman included the position of Vice-President of Flying Tiger Line, a cargo airlines founded by a former pilot of her late husband. As a contract negotiator for landing rights, she oversaw the airlines’ international expansion throughout Southeast Asia. She worked also as a consultant for companies that included Pan American Airlines, General Electric, Northrup Grumman, and Fleishman Hillard.
Founder of the Organization of Chinese-Americans (OCA) in 1973, Anna Chennault encouraged Asian-Americans to become pro-active citizens in their communities and to run for political office. She traveled across the US to speak at meetings of Asian and Chinese-American organizations, and was an active or honorary officer of many—among them, the Organization of Chinese-American Women, and the non-profit organization Joy Luck Club. She also befriended and informally advised many elected officials of Asian heritage.
Anna Chennault continued her initial profession of journalism until the last decade of her life, writing essays and opinion pieces for Chinese-language newspapers and magazines. She authored dozens of books. Among those in English, A Thousand Springs and Chennault and the Flying Tigers were both on the “New York Times” bestseller list. The “Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America” (Radcliffe College) holds her collected papers in English. Those in Chinese were donated to Zhejiang University Library in Hangzhou, China.
The “Live Auction” on July 23 is for the benefit of the Council for International Cooperation (國際合作委員會), a non-profit and non-political foundation that Anna Chennault established in 1989 for the purpose of fostering cross-cultural understanding, particularly among the peoples of the US, China, and Taiwan. By agreement of CIC’s board of directors, proceeds will be donated to schools in the DC metropolitan area that offer programs in Chinese language and culture. The objects in this auction were selected from Anna Chennault’s office and her Watergate penthouse, where she received numerous dignitaries and gave newsworthy parties. Some items were originally presented to her during her travels to promote international trade.