A handsome Chinese gilt-bronze seated Buddha statue, probably made in the late 19th or early 20th century and substantial in size at 20 ½ inches tall, soared to $143,000 at a multi-estate Asian Discovery Sale held Nov. 17 by Alderfer Auction & Appraisal. The sale was held in the firm’s spacious gallery, located at 501 Fairgrounds Road in Hatfield.
The Buddha was easily the top lot of the nearly 250 items that changed hands. It carried a relatively modest pre-sale estimate of just $3,000-$5,000, but a bidding war broke out between a Chinese gentleman in the United States and Chinese phone bidders in mainland China. In the end, the American claimed the prize, but not before a lively and spirited exchange took place.
Alderfer was prepared for that eventuality. The firm had a bank of eight phones dedicated to bids pouring in from Asia, and enlisted the aid of a Chinese student from Philadelphia to help with translations. During the day, bids came in from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and other countries, too (to include Greece, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and the Russian Federation).
“There’s no doubt that Asian antiques are hot right now, and a lot of that has to do with China’s emerging wealthy class,” said Matt Wilcox of Alderfer Auction & Appraisal. “We had an idea the Buddha was something special, and the final price confirmed that. I think its large size was a factor, plus it was fresh to the market, in original condition, and had sufficient age.”
Around 60 people attended the auction live, while Internet, phone and absentee bidding were all brisk. Online bidding was facilitated by Artfact.com. The sale totaled about $170,000, which means the Buddha alone accounted for a high percentage of the gross. “It was a discovery sale, something for everybody,” Mr. Wilcox said. “We had nice, solid items and one killer lot.”
Following are additional highlights from the sale. All prices quoted include a 13 percent buyer’s premium (for online and credit card bidders) or 10 percent (for cash and check bidders).
Only three other lots topped the $1,000 mark. One was a pair of cinnabar lamps (created from a hand-carved mold and given a Chinese red lacquer finish). They brought $3,300. The others were a beautiful Chinese porcelain vase with fish ($1,320), and one lot consisting of two highly collectible Japanese carved netsuke figures. They went to a determined bidder for $1,044.
Another pair of netsuke objects flirted with the $1,000 mark before topping out at $988. Netsuke were invented in Japan in the 17th century and originally served a practical purpose: they were button-like toggles that secured a cord at the top of a sash, to hold a sagemono (or hand-crafted box, used in place of a pocket). Over time, the netsuke themselves became art objects.
A pair of foo lions (Chinese guardian lion figurines) coasted to $935; a pair of Chinese hand painted scrolls garnered $735; a Chinese jade mythological creature, 5 inches tall by 8 ¼ inches long, also made $735; and a Chinese porcelain tea cup with figural handle rose to $565.
The first lot to be offered – a netsuke bundle of pug dog puppies – commanded $468. The third lot in the sale – a netsuke cluster of frogs – knocked down at $330. Also, a celadon jade covered urn, 7 inches tall, went for $367; a group of four Chinese snuff bottles changed hands for $339; and a beautiful Japanese Satsuma platter, 12 inches by 14 ½ inches, topped out at $385.
`An ivory-handled sterling paper knife, with the Asian ivory handle relief carved with three monkeys in a “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil” pose, commanded $348; a pair of polychrome porcelain birds climbed to $303; a Chinese porcelain floral vase brought $311; a tall patinated bronze dragon vase made $303; and a blue and white Chinese porcelain plate hit $330.
Alderfer Auction & Appraisal’s next big Asian auction will be held on Thursday, Feb. 23, in the Hatfield gallery. The firm is still accepting quality consignments for that auction. Prior to that, the firm will hold a Discovery Art Auction on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Alderfer Auction & Appraisal holds weekly brick-and-mortar (live-only -- no Internet bidding) multi-estate sales.
Alderfer Auction & Appraisal has been a family-run business since 1959. The firm is always accepting quality consignments for future auctions. To inquire about consigning an item, an estate or a collection, you may call them at (215) 393-3000; or, you can e-mail them at email@example.com. To learn more about the firm, log on to www.alderferauction.com.