Fabulous birds and Asian dieties take bidding to a higher plane at I.M. Chait’s June sale

BEVERLY HILLS — Two cloisonné enamel phoenix-like model sculptures walked off with the top honors at I. M. Chait’s June 29 sale. Rendered as candlestick holders, the birds were more than 5 feet tall, their heads cocked to one side, their combs gilt and their tails dripping with enamel work. Standing on double lotus bases they appeared nothing less than mythical. Admired by many, they were the obsession of two who drove their price well above the catalog estimate to the day’s high of $45,937, including 20 percent buyer’s premium.

The second high was taken by the catalog cover lot, a boldly colored 18th century Qianlong period doucai enameled dragon jar. A porcelain fantasy of dragons, clouds and Buddhist symbols rendered in reds, greens and yellows, the jar epitomized the doucai technique. The double fired process was invented in the 14th century and hit its apotheosis in the 18th century. In pristine condition, the jar commanded $36,750. Another item, a serenely-cool celadon crackle glazed Yongzheng Guan-type vase (Lot 205) of archaic bronze form with squared bulbous body and squared handles performed as expected, commanding $29,400.

Other top-tier porcelains reflected the variety of Chinese forms and designs that were sought by both the Imperial households and well-to-do Westerners in the 18th and 19th centuries. An Imperial Jiaqing famille rose dish with a poem inscribed on its biscuit white center and banded by floral designs on a yellow ground with gilt trim commanded $23,887. A Jiaqing blue and white mallet vase-form vase with the Jiaqing mark and of the period commanded $15,313. A Yongzheng celadon glazed porcelain vase with a bulbous, somewhat flower bud shaped body, went for $11,025. The 18th century vase had a Sotheby’s Holdings, Hong Kong provenance.

From the Liao Dynasty, an attractive and extremely rare silver ewer decorated with a parcel gilt phoenix with outstretched wings soared to $15,313. From the Han dynasty, a large prancing horse, of Sichuan pottery, made $9,494. Perfect for displaying such treasures was a pair of antique Chinese hardwood cabinets with open shelves and carved details that went off at $8,400.

With the regular inclusion of collections of Asian Buddhas and deities in its sales, I.M. Chait is becoming the auction house of record for such ritual items. Though mostly parcel gilt, bronze or pottery, this sale featured a massive Cambodian (Khmer) Bayon sandstone head of Avaloketeshvara. The circa 13th century carving, more than two feet high, portrayed the deity with eyes closed, elongated ears and snail curl hair. It commanded $15,000. Earlier, a circa 17th-18th century Sino-Tibetan figure of Maitreya, was the source of a bidding war that drove its price above estimate to $7,044. A large Sino-Tibetan gilt bronze deity with tiers of multiple heads and arms and an elaborately detailed mandorla, all inlaid with turquoise and coral cabochons, brought $4,800. Several smaller deities fetched prices in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.

Jade also took center stage, with an Imperial Jadeite pendant the main attraction. A cleverly carved squirrel climbing one side of the elongated pepper form pendant made it irresistible to one buyer at $16,800. A jadeite and diamond ring with a marquise cut cabochon of translucent emerald green flanked by an undulating ribbon of diamonds exceeded estimate when it made $10,800.

The collection of carved jades, consistently popular collectibles in the West and most especially in the East, ran deep and affordable. As varied as the imagination is large, the items ranged from spare and almost contemporary looking forms to the ornate and highly reticulated. A charming offering of two ducks holding onto a lotus branch brought $6,400. At the lower end, a carved spinach jade rhinoceros rendered in a bronze-like archaistic style with a raised relief pattern of geometrics and bird form, found its price at $2,040.

 A small but outstanding collection of antique silk robes brought uncommon interest. An antique dragon robe topped its estimate to make $9,600, while a fine silk Kesi dragon robe went to a collector for $6,600.

Japanese swords topped off at $8,400 with a circa 17th century Samurai sword. An antique Japanese wakizashi fetched $4,200 while a 17th century Samurai sword made $2,250.

Natural history items proved the power of their appeal as well, with a pair of massive citrine geodes from southern Brazil going for $4,200. A rare naturally occurring alphabet of agate cabochons, each containing an iron-stained natural inclusion in the shape of one of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, went off at the top of its estimate at $4,500.

All prices include 20 percent buyer’s premium. For a complete list of prices realized, visit www.chait.com.

The next I.M. Chait Asian and International Fine Arts Auction is slated for August 24.

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