Rare Imperial Tribute Guangzhou Embellished Ivory and Tortoiseshell Fan, Qing Dynasty

I’m not all that experienced with Asian art, historical or otherwise, but every now and then, there’s a piece you just can’t ignore.  While browsing through the exhibitions this past weekend at Sotheby’s New York Headquarters, this particular fan was a featured item and I must tell you, it is awe-inspiring.  It is difficult to tell from the picture because the detail on this item is so intricate and elaborate that you really must see it in person.  The workmanship is simply astounding – the white piece of this item is made of pierced ivory that has been meticulously carved into a woven pattern that looks like tiny threads of string.  It would be a difficult task with thread, let alone ivory, and then more layers of ivory and jade have been sculpted, painted, and attached to the piece for embellishment.  I can’t be certain, but I would be shocked if there is any person alive today that could produce this kind of work.

This is the real reason to go to exhibitions, to be surprised at the beauty out there you never knew existed.  I look through almost every auction catalog at the major houses and some of the more prominent auctions at the smaller houses, but I breezed right past this item while leafing through the first time.  It took an in-person experienced to be astonished.

Available until March 23rd (hurry!) as Lot 149 in the Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art Auction at Sotheby’s New York Headquarters

Qing Dynasty Imperial Tribute Fan

Regency Style Gilt Bronze-Mounted and Ebonized Bureau

As you all well know, I’m all about Regency period furniture, and I think this table is a very fine example of the style.  Lean, embellished, formal, regal.  It isn’t for everyone, sure, but there’s something quite appealing about the feel of this piece to me.  One of the things I really love about looking at antiques is that I rarely just see the piece itself, I can often picture the entire room around it.  I think that’s actually why I like this table so much – it isn’t really about the table, it’s about the pleasure I get from thinking about the space it fits in and the sort of person it fits with, if that makes sense at all.  Imagining what I could do at this desk, the kinds of things I would read and write, the trips I could plan, the sort of life I would lead if this table were in my house – that’s perhaps the most appealing aspect for me.

Available as until April 1st, Lot 70 in the Fine European Furniture Including Tapestries, Silver, Ceramics and Carpet Auction at Sotheby’s New York office.

Regency Style Gilt Bronze Mounted and Ebonized Bureau

White Carrara Marble Bath

You know you’ve made it when you spend lazy weekends soaking in your white Carrara marble bathtub, ideally while feeding grapes into your mouth while being fanned by a large leaf.  In all seriousness though, this is certainly a “wow” piece for any home.  The lion’s head is clearly the standout detail here, but the carved waves on the side and the way the rim has been carved to look like fish scales makes it the whole package.

Incidentally, Carrara marble is an interesting material – quarried from the town of Carrara in Tuscany, it is the same material used to carve such treasures as the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column, Michelangelo’s David as well as many of his other works, and the Marble Arch in London, directly in front of Buckingham Palace.  You can see the famed blue-gray veins in this piece off to the right of the picture.

Available until April 1st as Lot 308 in the Fine European Furniture Including Tapestries, Silver, Ceramics and Carpets Auction at Sotheby’s New York Office.

White Carrera Marble Bath

Italian Rococo Walnut and Fruitwood Parquetry Commode

This is really the kind of piece to make you salivate – it has a natural elegance to it, incredibly detailed without bragging about it.  The inlay is masterful, but what I really like is the wood selection and how they’ve centered the interesting part of the grain (is that…burl walnut?) smack in the middle of the front curves.  The feet are also lovely; a bit staunch, but they fit the overall scale quite nicely.  So refined and so understated, this is exactly the kind of item I’d like to pick up one of these days.  Leave it to the Italians…

Available until April, 1st as Lot 101 in the Fine European Furniture including Tapestries, Silver, Ceramics and Carpets Auction at Sotheby’s New York Offices.

Italian Walnut and Fruitwood Commode

1940s Vintage Magazine Rack

Aside from being an antique-aholic, I’m completely obsessed with magazines, so this phenomenal magazine rack speaks a few loves.  How wonderful this would look next to my sofa, loaded down with Aperture, Monocle, Gastronomica, National Geographic, Wallpaper, and whatever else made it into my arms this week at the bookstore.  I can’t say this really says, “1940s” to me, but I suppose on a close inspection it seems to be more reproduction quality than an original.  That’s fine with me, I’m not allergic to reproductions provided I know what I’m getting into upfront.  For anyone else looking for their magazine fix, may I suggest you start reading MagCulture?  It’s a brilliant take on the state of printed design and independent magazines.  Has anyone out there any favorite magazines I need to pick up on my next run?

Vintage Brass Magazine Stand

Available at AreaID Inc., in New York.

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