Chinese vase that topped $1.2 million at Brunk Auctions was a Florida yard-sale find

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Everyone in Asheville was busy checking their Chinese porcelain following the May 9-10 sale at Brunk Auctions. A 12-inch vase believed to be a modern copy and expected to bring no more than $800 sold for $1,236,250, inclusive of buyer’s premium.

The woman who consigned the Famille Rose vase with flowers on a pale yellow ground bought it at a yard sale in Florida about seven years ago. It appeared to be a 20th century copy of a Qianlong dynasty (1736-1795) ceramic. “It is probably Imperial porcelain,” said Ruby McCall, Brunk Auctions specialist on Asian art, after the sale. “That means it was made in the Imperial kilns where court commissioned pieces were fired. Anything not meeting Imperial standards was destroyed. It is a very high quality piece.”

The vase opened at $2,000, a good price for a modern copy. When it reached $1,000,000, principal auctioneer Robert Brunk asked out loud, “What’s the next number?” The audience loved it! This was the first time in the firm’s 26-year history that anything had reached that lofty figure. Brunk picked $25,000 as the next highest bidding increment and after a short volley one bidder dropped out. Hammer price was $1,075,000. The winning bidder has chosen to remain anonymous.

“The room erupted in applause and there was general buzzing for a while,” said Brunk. A few moments later, a Chinese decorated jar with dragons and clouds thought to be an 18th or 19th century copy of a Jialing period (1522-1566) ceramic sold for $69,000 (estimate $600-$1,200). Applause started again.

The oil painting expected to dominate the weekend sale finished a distant second. The Plasterers by New York City artist John Koch (1909-1978) opened at its $175,000 reserve and built slowly from there. The scene depicted in the painting, a spontaneous-appearing glimpse of two workmen repairing the walls in Koch’s Central Park West apartment, was typical of the artist’s “Great Indoors” work. The signed 40-inch by 49 7/8-inch oil on canvas in a Kent-style frame sold to the phones for $241,500, the midpoint of its presale estimate.

Manhattan tapestry preservationist Gloria F. Ross (1923-1998) worked with Jean DuBuffet (French, 1901-1985) to translate his modernistic painting Tapis into a wool wall hanging. The 4-foot 10-inch by 10-foot 5-inch tapestry was woven at Edward Fields Factories on Long Island, New York, in the late 1970s. Tapis brought $12,650 (estimate $2,000-$3,000).

A French artist whose career was much earlier than DuBuffet, Antoine-Denis Chaudet (1763-1810), is believed to have sculpted an unsigned marble bust of Prince Camillo Borghese (1775-1832). Borghese, a wealthy Roman nobleman, was made a French prince and troop commander by Napoleon Bonaparte, his brother-in-law. Borghese’s wife was Pauline, Napoleon’s flirtatious younger sister. Among Chaudet’s works are the busts of Emperor Napoleon and Empress Josephine. The 22 1/2-inch Carrara marble bust far exceeded its modest presale estimate and sold to the phones for $13,800.

Home-state items also fared well. They included North Carolina maps and a North Carolina-made huntboard.

One of the earliest works in the 1,012-lot sale was John White’s map of Virginia and North Carolina. Published by Theodore De Bry, Frankfort, in 1590, the map is a copper engraving on laid paper. It depicts “Chesapiooc” bay complete with sailing ships and a double-spouted sea monster. The 13-inch by 18-inch page from White’s A Briefe and True Report of the New Founde Land of Virginia, sold just above its high estimate at $16,100.

One hundred eighty-five years after White, Henry Mouzon surveyed the Carolinas for the British crown. Four pages from his detailed map from 1775 are housed in two identical modern wood frames. Each frame contains two pages with an overall size of 21 3/4 inches by 51 1/2 inches. The Mouzon maps exceeded their presale estimate by $5,000 to sell for $19,550.

A walnut huntboard that descended in a Montgomery County, N.C., family sold above its high estimate for $15,525. Attributed to the second quarter 19th century, the 55-inch by 65 3/4-inch by 20 1/4-inch huntboard had five dovetailed drawers, two cabinet doors and its original backsplash. Secondary wood was yellow pine.

At the top of someone’s shopping list was a palace-size Sultanabad with a large tree of life design at each end. Its light blue center field is surrounded by a tan border. Although the 12-foot 8-inch by 16-foot 9-inch carpet had been reduced in size with several large repairs and rewoven areas, it topped all other rugs in the sale at $36,800.

Works by British makers dominated the sale’s furniture. Among the standouts was a George I burlwood double chest on bun feet. The top was bookmatched and banded burlwood veneer. From the early 18th century, the 35-inch by 66 1/2-inch by 24-inch chest almost quadrupled its high estimate to finish at $8,050.

Total receipts (with buyer’s premium) for the two-day sale was $2,598,781.

Brunk Auctions is located at 117 Tunnel Road, Asheville, N.C. For more information, visit or call 828-254-6846.