Fine Art, Jewelry and Decorative Art
This month at Gray’s we have an exceptional collection of Fine Art, Jewelry, and Decorative Art up for our auction on December 5. There are over 400 lots, with a number of truly exquisite finds in each category. The catalogue and bidding are available on graysauctioneers.com.
At Lot 5 is Le Pont Suspendu by Bernard Buffet (1928-1999). Buffet was a French Expressionist painter and a leading figure of the Anti-Abstract art group "L'homme Témoin" or "The Witness Man". His dedication to exquisite representative works amid the rising popularity of post-modernism brought him tremendous acclaim and success in the 50's and 60's.
Born in Paris, Buffet studied art there at L’École National Superieur des Beaux-Arts. In 1946, when he was 18 years old, he had his first painting, a self-portrait, shown at the Salon des Moins de Trente Ans at the Galerie Beaux-Arts. He had a major exhibition nearly every year of his life thereafter. He was supported in the early part of his career by the patronage of his then-lover, the illustrious French Industrialist Pierre Bergé, who would go on to co-found the Yves Saint-Laurent fashion label after leaving Buffet for Saint-Laurent.
In 1958, Buffet married actress and writer Annabel Schwob and they went on to adopt three children. In 1973, Buffet was awarded France’s highest civilian honor, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. That same year Kiichiro Okano opened the Bernard Buffet museum in Surugadaira, Japan. The creator of over 8,000 works, he is well known for his evocative landscapes. This painting is particularly notable for it’s depiction of the Suspension Bridge.
Lot 119 is a rare 18th century Famille-Rose ‘Boy and Chicken’ cup with Imperial poem, Fanggu mark and period of Qianlong dated to the Bingshen Year (1776). It is one of an extremely rare series of cups produced under the Qianlong emperor and modeled on earlier doucai prototypes from the Chenghua era. Doucai refers to a Chinese porcelain technique where parts of the design, and some outlines of the rest, are painted in underglaze blue, and the piece is then glazed and fired, as the blue color used was one of the few available pigments able to maintain its hue at the high temperatures required to fire porcelain.
These original Chenghua doucai, covered in finely painted decorative roosters, are perhaps the rarest pieces of ceramics in the world, and known as the “holy grails” of Chinese porcelain, with one such “Chicken cup” went for 36.3 million dollars at auction in 2014. Even in the time of the Qianlong emperor, the craftsmanship of these pieces was highly regarded, which led the emperor to commission reproductions of the famous “chicken cup” designs like our cup, which are now highly sought-after in their own right. The six-character mark on the base of all these cups, known as a fanggu seal, reads “Da Qing Qianlong fanggu”. This translates to “Made in imitation of antiquity in the Qianlong reign of the Great Qing dynasty”, and signifies that the cup was commissioned directly by the emperor in tribute to the earlier pieces, a reverent sense of historical craftsmanship being a recurring theme in imperial art objects of this era.
The cups were often inscribed with poems composed by the emperor himself, praising the art of earlier eras and providing context for the design painted on the reverse side. In this case, both the poem and the playful design depict the famous child prodigy Jia Chang, a peasant boy so renowned for his skill at training fighting roosters that he was summoned at the age of only thirteen by the emperor Xuanzong to train the imperial fighting cocks. He went on to become a beloved figure in Chinese folklore.
This cup came to Gray’s by way of a private collector> It was displayed and purchased in the 1971 Art for Collectors exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art. A bill of sale indicates that before being displayed at the CMA, the cup was owned by Frank Caro, at the time one of the foremost collectors and dealers of Asian art in the Western world. We are very excited to have such a unique artifact with such a distinguished provenance up for auction this December 5th.
Lot 87 is a colored lithograph entitled Babylon d’Allemagne par Victor Joze by well-known French post-impressionist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). One of the most famous figures of the post-impressionist period in France, Toulouse-Lautrec is best known for his elegant recollections of Paris’s decadent and fantastical nightlife at the turn of the century. A combination of a childhood leg injury and a congenital defect gave him a short stature of only 4’8’’, and dogged by health issues throughout his life, his lifestyle ultimately became too much to handle when he died from complications of syphilis and alcoholism at only 35. In spite of his short career, much like his friend and contemporary Vincent Van Gogh his reputation has only grown with time, and his work lives on as a vibrant chronicle of the arrival of modernity to cosmopolitan French life. Toulouse-Lautrec produced a large amount of commercial work during his lifetime as well, including promotional posters for local nightclubs (most famously the Moulin Rouge) and book releases. This particular piece was commissioned to promote the release of the novel Babylon d’Allemagne by French author Victor Joze.
Lot 6 contains an absolutely gorgeous piece called Queen of Philosophy by Korean artist Rimi Yang. Born in Korea but raised primarily in Osaka, Japan, she studied art here in Ohio at Bowling Green University beginning in 1986 before moving to California in 1991 for stints at California State University, the Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art, and the Otis College of Art and Design. She also spent a summer in Italy studying at the Florence Academy of Art. Coming to painting later in life, Yang has developed a powerfully unique style, attracting acclaim for her vibrantly colorful fusion of Old Masters style portraiture with postmodern abstraction.
Lot 3 is a colorful and almost hallucinatory piece by Persian emigré Yasharel Manzy (b. 1947) called Cap d’Antibes. Now based in Atlanta, Georgia, Menzy did not seriously pursue painting as a vocation until his middle age. After deciding in 1990 to finally take his lifelong hobby seriously and pursue an education in the arts, he began studying under prominent portraitist Marc Chatov and dedicated himself to painting eight hours a day for six straight years. Now exhibiting regularly all over the southeast and selling all over the world, Manzy’s vibrant watercolors depict his subjects in day-glo sunset hues.
Also up for auction is Lot 9, a large Triptych by Harold Gregor (1929-2018) called Illinois Landscape #83. Trained as an expressionist, Gregor found his stride after turning his focus towards landscape paintings in the late 70’s. Gregor’s favorite subject was the wide picturesque vista of the Illinois countryside, earning him the moniker “Dean of the Midwest Landscape”. His style is photorealistic when taken in as one big sweeping image, but his expressionist training comes through in the details with his subtle brushwork and highly saturated, almost psychedelic use of color.
In addition to the numerous works of art available, we have a number of exquisite jewelry pieces available this month including Lot 176, a White Gold and Diamond Drop Pendant Necklace, set with one old European cut diamond weighing approx. 3.42cts, with SI-1 clarity and M-N color. Also set with twenty-seven old European cut diamonds weighing approx. 0.65cts total, with a VS/SI clarity and H-I color. The necklace is set with one emerald cut diamond approx. 0.35ct, four baguette cut diamonds approx. 0.28ctw, and one-hundred-twenty-two old European cut diamonds weighing approx. 2.50cts total. Overall clarity grade of VS/SI and color grades of H-I-J. In lots 174 and 175, we have two gorgeous matching White Gold and Diamond bracelets, one inlaid with Sapphires in Lot 174, and the other inlaid with Rubies in Lot 175. These are just a few the beautiful jewelry pieces available.
This is a huge auction full of striking works of art and craftsmanship, so take a look through our full catalog, available now online.
Gray’s is open for in-person preview November 8th-14th; Monday-Friday 10am – 5pm, Saturday 12noon – 4pm. The auction starts at 11am EST on Wednesday, November 14th with live bidding available at GraysAuctioneers.com. The fully illustrated catalog is now online at GraysAuctioneers.com.