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Fine Chinese furniture tops two-day auction in $12.8-million auction at Bonhams in San Francisco
A fine and rare pair of zitan and hongmu recessed leg altar tables 18th/19th century. Each with a two-board top set into a mitered, mortise and tenoned frame with moulded veneer edge joined to recessed solid legs cut at the top to receive the superbly carved apron designed as a continuous meander of peony blossoms and foliage tendrils rendered in high relief, the meander repeated on the side panels tongue and grooved into the side of the legs and slab feet. 35 1/4 x 91 1/8 x 19 1/8 in (89.5 x 231.5 x 48.6cm). Sold for $2,714,500; Pre-sale est. $120,000-200,000. Photo: Courtesy of Bonhams.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- A group of fine Chinese furniture, formerly in the Collection of Eleanor Majors Carlisle - a pillar of San Francisco society at the turn of the 19th century, took the spotlight at Bonhams more than $12.8-million auction of Fine Asian Works of Art held December 20-21. The two-day sale offered up 900 lots, obtained from private collectors, estates and institutions throughout the United States.

A rare pair of zitan and hongmu recessed leg altar tables, 18th/19th century, from the Carlisle estate soared to $2,714,500 (est. $120,000-200,000) against fierce bidding on the telephones and a packed room of international buyers. An elaborately carved zitan and hongmu throne chair, 19th century, brought $1,022,500 (est. $200,000-300,000), preceded by an unusual huanghuali clothes rack, Qing dynasty, which sold for $338,500 (est. $120,000-200,000). A set of four zitan, hongmu mixed wood and cinnabar lacquer mounted side chairs, from the same collection, sold for a remarkable $266,500, over 20 times its pre-sale estimate of $20,000-30,000. The stellar prices brought by the sale of this furniture was presaged by the $5.7 million record price set in 2004 when Bonhams sold an important Ming dynasty Hongwu period underglaze copper red dish discovered in the family’s San Francisco Bay Area residence.

Dessa Goddard, Director of the Bonhams Asian Art Department in North America, commented, “We are delighted with the results of this two-day auction. The international response to fresh works, with reasonable estimates offered by Bonhams, is quite encouraging for the market as a whole.”

Works of art and bronzes also captured the rapt attention of the crowd. A cast bronze seated figure of the Buddha, Ming dynasty, from the Estate of Dino Bigalli, maestro of the Chicago Civic Light Opera, took center stage, bringing $578,500 (est. $40,000-60,000). A set of four grisaille enameled porcelain hanging plaques, Republic period, inspired heated bidding and brought over 15 times its estimate of $12,000-18,000, realizing $230,500. A 19th century jade and hardstone inlaid lacquer wood panel of kingfishers and wisteria, based on a pair of panels commissioned during the Qianlong period for the Yucuixuan, caused a flurry of excited bidding, bringing $338,500 (est. $6,000-8,000). This panel was discovered in one of Bonham’s San Francisco monthly public consignment events.

Works by the renowned artist Qi Baishi were the top selling lots of the more than 100 paintings offered. An album, comprising nine paintings of various subjects, more than doubled its pre-sale estimate of $200,000-300,000, selling for $506,500, while a painting of Chinese peonies by the same artist brought $158,500 (est. $50,000-80,000). A Ming handscroll dated 1625 by Wei Zhike (active 1609-1627) sold for $43,750 (est. $10,000-15,000). Two Tibeto-Chinese thankas of Arhats, 18th/19th century, sold for $110,500 (est. $12,000-15,000), against animated bidding from the floor and the telephones.

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