The Way of Tea

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The tradition of the Japanese tea ceremony is a cultural activity that began in the 9th century and has developed over the ages. The ceremony morphed from austere religious ceremonies, to extravagant tea-tasting parties hosted during the reign of the Kamakura Shogunate.  From there it developed into the refined and routine practice of Chanyo.

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Chinese Oil Spot Tea Bowl, Song Dynasty
sold for $10,625

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A Karatsu Chawan, Momoyama Period 16th C.
Now live: closing March 20, 2017

The introduction of tea to Japan is attributed to the 9th century monk, Eichu. He reportedly imported the brick tea or “dancha” upon his return from China. This type of tea was ground using a mortar and added to hot water along with other herbs and flavorings.  Japanese Nobles partook in the early tea ceremonies, and the cultivation of tea began in the Kinki region.

Tencha and matcha, both finely ground forms of tea, were later introduced to Japan during the 12th century by another Buddhist monk, Eisai again from travels in China. Eisai imported seeds that would produce a quality tea.

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Tencha was initially used in religious ceremony until the Kamakura Shogunate and the Warrior Class adopted and began to indulge in the practice. The ceremony was revolutionized and transformed into a lavish event. Chadogu, or ceremonial utensils, became luxury items and the “tocha” or tea-tasting parties offered grandiose gifts to the winner of the tea-tasting games.

Royal Satsuma Tea Bowl, Meiji Period, 19th C.
sold for $9,120

Collectors of wares such as these appreciate their items for the simplicity of their form and muted natural color palate.  Others love a splash of vibrant color that seems to surprise you as it jumps out of the glaze.

Stoneware Seto Chaire, Edo Period 17th/18th Century
Now live: closing March 20, 2017

Eventually, the tea ceremony returned to a classical presentation with the rise of the Kitayama and Higashiyama Cultures. These cultures were both centered on a more elegant and refined world. These periods helped to define what we consider to be Traditional Japanese Culture.

Japanese Iron and Bronze Teapot, ca. 1900
sold for $3,781.20

The Tea Ceremony began to represent Wabi, the spiritual and internal aspects of human life. Murata Juko, a 15th century student of Zen, developed the concept of chanyo. The essence of chanyo, as Juko outlined, “The Way of Tea,” has four fundamental principals: harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquility (jaku).  Removing itself from the lavish styles of the past the aesthetic became much starker as is evidenced here.

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Large Japanese Ceramic Jar, Tamba, 16th Century
sold for $5,125.00

This refined ceremony is practiced in a variety of styles and etiquette or “temae” depending on: season, occasion, setting, and an assortment of other variables, some are formal occasions and others are a casual event.  It uses a number of chadogu, which are often valuable possessions of the hosts and their guests, and are sometimes even given names out of respect for the object.

We do not see collections of Japanese tea ceremony wares come up for sale at auction very frequently. It is always a joy to observe the collecting interests, and passions of the chaire, chawan, or other objects past owner.  And to have the opportunity to begin a new adventure with a piece that has been treasured and used for hundreds of years, with reverence and love. Currently live are many such items closing on April 20, 2017.  View them in this auction.

Chado or the Japanese tea ceremony is now practiced by all classes. It is iconic and incorporates many facets of the lifestyles that define the Japanese Culture.

An Annual Exhibition: Lark Mason Associates

Asia week New York 2017

Each year during Asia Week New York, Lark Mason Associates presents a selection of works of art from all the major Asian cultures.  This includes items from China, Japan, Korea, India, Tibet, and Himalayan cultures. In 2017, the gallery presents a fine selection of Chinese huanghuali furniture, including an outstanding large recessed-leg table.

The gallery at 227 East 120th street, open all Asia Week, will remain open March 17th and 18th, 9 am to 5 pm.  Select items, including three of the below lots, will be on view by appointment in Texas April 14th to April 17th.

Huang Huali 黄花梨

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Chinese recessed-leg tables are typically constructed with a top that is a thin but highly figured panel set into a frame.  This is in turn supported by double-legs at each end, joined by a carved and pierced decorative panel. This table is unusual in the use of a solid plank for the top composed of highly figured huanghuali.

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Ju Ming 朱銘

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Ju Ming (born 1938), an artist whose sculptural works often depict tai chi practitioners, is based in Taiwan.  His raw, chiseled sculptures are tightly constructed and energetic. His subjects carry political overtones and have found audiences in China, Taiwan, and internationally.  This sculpture depicts Zhang Fei, one of the heroes of the Three Kingdoms novel.  Ju Ming is still continuing to produce works.  The example offered is unusual and early and is estimated at $80,000-120,000. 

Lacquer 朱漆

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Chinese carved lacquer has a storied past that extends back over 2000 years. The pair of boxes in this sale are from the 18th or 19th century.  They depict idealized rural scenes with figures among mountainous landscapes with pavilions and foliage. Beautifully carved boxes of this type rarely are found in pairs and are estimated at $7,000-10,000. 

Jadeite 翡翠

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Jadeite, a material first used in Chinese works of art during the 18th century, is noted for the brilliance of green, russet, and lavender tones incorporated into naturalistic carvings. This deep-bodied censer is a fine example of jadeite wth a range of hues from light to bright green. Estimated at $40,000-60,000, the censer is expected to garner significant interest from bidders. 

A Salute to Asia Week New York

Asia Week New York 2017

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A gold and enamel ring. Mughal, Indian. 18th century, Susan Ollemans Oriental Art

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that celebrates the art of ancient and modern Asia.
Though centered in New York City, it is international in scope with participants arriving in March of each year for a full week-plus packed agenda of dealer gallery exhibitions, performances, readings, auctions, and museum exhibitions and openings.

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Asia Week New York 2016, Metropolitan Museum

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Buddha Shakyamuni. China, Yuan Dynasty, ca. 1300, Dr. Robert R. Bigler

From March 9-18 New York will be the worldwide mecca for Asia Art and thousands of individuals, including collectors, dealers, scholars, and other enthusiasts will flock to Manhattan to immerse themselves in the cultural arts of Asia. The Chairman of AWNY during the 2016 to 2017 season is Lark Mason Jr., who with his colleagues Margaret Tao and Noemie Bonet and their Planning Committee partners and board members, pull together the event. The ten day celebration is packed with activities and these are months in the making.

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Left to right: Lark Mason Jr., Chairman of Asia Week New York; Tom Campbell, Metropolitan Museum Director; Maxwell Hearn, Metropolitan Museum Director of the Asian Art Department

Planning begins almost immediately after the end of the preceding season, lining up dates set in coordination with the participants and reserving space for the grand reception held in 2016 and 2017 at the main hall of the Chinese Art Gallery of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Met opens their Asian galleries for the evening and all attendees are welcomed by Tom Campbell, Director; Maxwell Hearn, Director of the Asian Art Department; and Lark Mason Jr.

This years evening builds on the enormous success of the prior year, with record attendance both for the evening and the week of events.

Other major institutions participating in AWNY include those in New York City and in other cities, including The Newark Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, The Noguchi Museum, The Rubin Museum of Art, Tibet House, Princeton University Art Museum, Japan Society, Asia Society, Charles B. Wang Center, China Institute, Japanese Art Society of America, and Korean Cultural Center of New York.


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Large Chinese Huanghuali Recessed Leg Table, 17th century, Lark Mason Associates

Auction Houses and Galleries

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Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892). Fujiwara Yasumasa Plays the Flute by Moonlight (Detail). Japan, 1883, Scholten Japanese Art

In addition to these fine institutions, AWNY is the largest and most diverse gathering of dealers in the arts of Asia covering works from South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the dominant Asian countries of China, Japan, Korea, and India. These respected companies are known for their expertise, scholarship, and for gathering and presenting the finest works in their fields. Works from ancient cultures though contemporary works are on display, presented by five major international auction houses: Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Bonhams, Doyle, and iGavel Auctions / Lark Mason Associates.

The AWNY dealer participants include: Walter Arader, The Art of Japan, Backmann Eckenstein Japanese Art, Dr. Robert R. Bigler, Prahlad Bubbar, Buddhist Art, Ralph M. Chait Galleries, Inc. China 2000 Fine Art, Carlo Christi, DAG Modern, Dai Ichi Arts, Ltd., Carole Davenport, Egenolf Gallery, FitzGerald Fine Arts, Oliver Forge & Brendan Lynch Ltd,, Francesca Galloway, Nicholas Grindley, Robert Hall Asian Art, Ltd., Gallerie Christophe Hioco, HK Art & Antiques LLC, Nayef Momsi Ancient Art of Asia, Michael C. Hughes LLC, Andrew Kahane, Ltd, Kaikodo LLC, Kang Collection, Kapoor Galleries Inc., Alan Kennedy, Tina Kim Gallery, Navin Kuman Gallery, J. J. Lally & Co., Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art, Laurence Miller Gallery, Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd, Susan Ollemans Oriental Art, Onishi Gallery, Pace Gallery, Phoenix Ancient Art, 19th Century Rare Book & Photograph Shop, Giuseppe Piva Japanese Art, Priestley & Ferraro, Alexis Renard, Samina Inc., Scholten Japanese Art, Runjeet Singh, M. Sutherland Fine Arts, Ltd, Tenzing Asian Art, Erik Thomsen, Hiroshi Yanagi Oriental Art, YEWN, and Zetterquist Galleries.

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A Limestone Head of Bodhisattva China, from the Gongxian Buddhist caves Northern Wei dynasty, early 6th century, J. J. Lally & Co.

Information about Asia Week is centered in the Asia Week New York website.

The website provides a rich array of information, with lists of participants, calendar of events, supporters, latest news, and press room.


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Lee Ufan, Untitled, Korea, 2016, Painting on porcelain, Pace Gallery

Asia Week New York in the News

Come by and visit our seller, Lark Mason Associates exhibition
March 9th – March 18th, 2017
10am – 5pm (closed Sunday)
227 East 120th Street New York, NY 10035

“It’s New York’s salute to the vibrant arts of Asia, a 10-day festival where visitors admire or acquire ancient treasures and contemporary masterworks displayed in lustrous galleries, auction houses and museums. Now in its eighth year, Asia Week New York, which begins on Thursday, has blossomed into a kind of high-culture pub crawl where international and local exhibitors showcase fine art from all corners of Asia, and museums and others stage special events.

This year more than 50 vendors are participating — the most ever… A prime feature of Asia Week New York is the open house atmosphere at galleries and museums in and around the city.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has several Asian-themed exhibitions, including “Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting,” featuring about 100 works from the 12th century forward that demonstrate different modes of pictorial narrative, and “An Artist of Her Time: Y. G. Srimati and the Indian Style,” which features 25 watercolors by the Indian artist Y. G. Srimati (1926-2007).

Other highlights include

  • An exhibition of memorabilia by Isamu Noguchi made while he was interned in Arizona during World War II (Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, Queens).
  • An exhibition by the Japanese Art Dealers Association, Saturday to March 13, will feature a 14th-century “sleeping lamp stand,” or nemuri todai, made of lacquered wood and metalwork. It shows three children at their studies, one of whom has drifted off to sleep (Ukrainian Institute of America, Manhattan).”

To view all of the activities and members of Asia Week New York:

To read the entire article click here:

Blumenthal, Ralph, and Tom Mashberg. “A Year After Raids, Asia Week New
York Returns to the Spotlight.”The New York Times.”, 05 Mar. 2017.

Le Pho: a Lens on French Indochina

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Le Pho (French/Vietnamese 1907-2001), Oil on Canvas (dim. 34.5 by 45 inches) sold for $20,625 on iGavel by Lark Mason Associates 7.7.2015

The Artist: Le Pho

Le Pho was a French Vietnamese painter whose career began in Paris as a scholarship student at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and then in Hanoi at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts de Indochine. Along with other Vietnamese ex-patriat painters including Mai Trung Thur, Vu Cao Dam, and others  his career spanned periods in Vietnam, France, and in the United States.

The documentation of paintings is important to its authenticity.  It validates an artist’s style at a particular time.  While finely executed and of a beautiful subject matter, the fact that this painting retains its original purchase receipt from 1966 is remarkable. Currently on iGavel closing on February 28th. Click here

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Le Pho (Vietnamese/French, 1907-2001), Le Vase Bleu, Oil on Silk Laid Down on Board, (dim. 31.5 by 20.75 inches), sold for $25,001.25 on iGavel by Everard Auctions and Appraisals 2.28.2017

Below is a similar example that recently sold at Sotheby’s:

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Le Pho (1908-2001), Yellow Roses, Oil on silk fixed on board (dim. 36 1/2 by 24 inches), sold for $35,461, at Sotheby’s 4.4.2016

Among this group, Le Pho enjoyed considerable success and his works regularly appear at auction.   Le Pho, whose works draw from impressionists and surrealist sources, are characterized by a lithe representation of the human form reminiscent of works by Modigliani (more info and in his later years, using splashes of brilliant color.  

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Le Pho (Vietnamese, 1907-2001), Le gateau d’anniversaire, (dim. 52 by 76 inches), sold $235,942 at Christies 11.25.2012

The Climate

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French Jesuit Missionary to Vietnam, Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660)

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Map of Southeast Asia

French Indochina comprised political regions governed by France during the late 19th century of Annam, Tonkin, and Cochinchina, which are the modern states of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam (more info).
origins of French involvement with southeast Asia extend back to trade in spices and other materials during the 17th century, by  traders and Jesuit missionaries (more info).

 French government sought stronger control over territories in the region to protect their trading investments. 

Political interventions were often accompanied by military force throughout the 19th century, keeping the port cities of
Annam and Tonkin under French control. Cambodia became a protectorate of France and concessions and treaties established control of regions of Thailand and Vietnam forming French Indochina in 1887, a political confederation that survived until 1954. 

The Architecture

French art and architecture flourished in Indochina, incorporating elements of regional influence in a Beaux Arts style,where grand buildings were built in economic and cultural centers.  Travel by artists, architects, and other culturally influential individuals brought these influences to Paris.

The colonial architecture of this period in what was French indochina is today being restored.  Among these distinctive structures are the formerly Musee  Louis Finot, which is now the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi (more info)  and the Presidential Palace (more info). As this restoration takes place painters such as Le Pho and other artists whose styles uniquely displayed European and Southeast Asian influences are widely recognized.

For More information:ũ_Cao_Đàm


Thomas Hart Benton and the Celebration of America

Thomas Hart Benton is a painter and muralist at the forefront of the two related early 20th Century American Art movements called Regionalism and Social Realism.  He was born in 1889 in Missouri, and died in 1975 in Missouri. Much of his art was created during and in response to the Great Depression.

Thomas Hart Benton, ‘Goin’ Home’, lithograph Sold for $1,440.00

Many of Thomas Hart Benton’s works celebrate America’s growth, and at the same time, depict its past. As a young man, Benton traveled America, viewing the nation’s socioeconomic landscape, depicting the individuals he met, and the recording the beautiful and strange dichotomies he observed.

Thomas Hart Benton, “The Race,” Lithograph Sold for $15,000.00

One of Benton’s most popular lithographs showing just such a juxtaposition of new and old is of a horse and a train. The reflection of the horse, an ambiguous shape, mirrors the smoke rising from the train in the distance, signifying the changes taking place in America’s country life.

The movement Benton was integral in creating, Regionalism, has been largely eclipsed in Art History by other slightly later abstract American Art movements of the mid 20th century. However, it ultimately was important as a seed to creating and defining a unique American art that was separate and distinct from Europe.  The aesthetic embraced Realism and rejected the predominant movement of European Modernist abstraction.

Rejecting subjects of New York and the city he focused on the heartland where he was born, celebrating and elevating the American daily rural or small town existence. 

Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri Farmyard, Lithograph, 1936

Currently available for auction is one such lithograph, depicting a Missouri farm with farmers taking part in tasks that would be at home in 19th century America, while a plume of train smoke billows on the horizon. The smoke looms, as though the billows were mountains, above the home.

Traveling the United States he witnessed, depicted, and ultimately preserved through art the drama of every day life for the farmer, the coal miner, or mill worker.  And at its most basic, Benton’s art is layered with symbols and images of fertility, spring, and harvest.  Some of these are quite subtle, and others less so.  One of Benton’s most famous works is that of “Persephone.”  He depicts a young woman naked in a classical pose, as a lascivious old farmer stares at her.

Thomas Hart Benton, Slow Train Through Arkansas, Lithograph, 1941 Sold for $4,126.25

Oddly enough, 40 years before Benton’s birth, U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton, from Missouri, gave a speech that is credited as being the reason St. Louis was connected by railroad to the Western-reaching railroads in the mid 19th century. Though of no relation, it would seem trains are a legacy for the Benton name.

Thomas Hart Benton, “West Texas,” Lithograph Sold for $2,500.00

Thomas Hart Benton was as much an historian as he was an artist, recording the State of the Union through each stroke of his brush.  Should you wish to learn more about this important American artist please look at the links below.

To find Thomas Hart Benton for sale:

To find one of Thomas Hart Benton’s best works, visit the Nelson Atkins Museum and look for Persephone:

To learn more about him watch this video produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

To view some of his murals:

Asian Deities: a Primer to Religious Figures in Sculpture with a Focus on Gilt Bronze

The imagery of Asian religious sculptural figures can be bewildering. Distinguishing Chinese deities from Japanese and Indian from Thai can be a daunting challenge. With multiple materials ranging from wood to gilt bronze and figures taken from Hindu, Buddhist, and other religions it is not an easy task.

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Chinese Gilt Bronze Figure of Vajrasattva, Early Ming Dynasty $1,530,000.00

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In this primer I’ll review the most common Asian deities and provide pointers about how to distinguish the sculpture of one Asian culture from another.  This is useful as an introduction and will provide you with an insight into what terms are commonly used in this field, and what they mean.









With sculpture, there is a hierarchy of value based upon material. Generally, the most common figures are those that are made of easy-to-work organic materials, usually wood. Wood figures can be painted or, more commonly, lacquered. Small, carved wooden figures were made in large numbers and are relatively common, while large, imposing wooden figures were most often made for important religious sites, and are therefore much scarcer, and thus usually more valuable.

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Khmer Sandstone Torso of a Male Deity, Angkor Period, Bakong Style $12,600.00

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Chinese Lacquered Wood Figure of a Guandi, Ming Dynasty $63,000.00


Stone religious figures are similar to those in wood, but almost always created for large public buildings. Some were created as architectural embellishments, others as independent sculpture. Many were originally painted, but most have lost their pigments through exposure and often burial. There are many images of buddhas created in Jade, and Jadeite, however we will not address them in this blog.

By far, the most desirable types of religious sculpture for collectors are those in metal, usually bronze. 


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Tibetan Gilt Bronze Figure of a Seated Lama, 16th C. $103,125.00

Bronze is created from an alloy of copper and tin with smaller amounts of other metals. Bronze is less brittle, more durable and melts at a lower temperature than iron; it oxidizes only superficially. While most Hindu and Buddhist bronze figures are undecorated, others are covered in colored lacquer, and the highest-quality figures are those that are gilded. A lacquered or gilded surface enhances the appearance, and reflects the special devotional aspects of the figure.

“figures are often associated with legends, stories of great accomplishments that are represented by symbolic imagery that is meant to remind the viewer of the event.”

Gilding bronze can be accomplished by two processes. Mercury gilding is achieved by an amalgam of mercury mixed with gold, which is heated in a furnace where the mercury evaporates, leaving the gold on the surface. Once the gold has been annealed to the surface, it is polished, resulting in a resplendent shine. A less costly and less complicated process covers the bronze with thin sheets of gold under a transparent or burgundy lacquer surface.



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Mongolian Gilt Bronze Seated Figure, Tara, 17th/18th C. $487,500.00

In Asia, gilded bronze figures are found in the Himalayan cultures of India, Tibet, and Nepal; China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, and other Asian societies. Gilded bronze figures are the apogee of metal sculpture. Most figures have a devotional purpose and are either Hindu or Buddhistic and frequently incorporate elements from both sources. 

Images are often distinguished by their attributes, which are physical characteristics that represent an element of their personality, protective powers, or emotions. A vengeful figure will often have a grimacing expression; a benevolent figure, an expression of calm and quiet dignity. Protective figures will sometimes brandish swords or other weapons. In addition to the appearance, figures are often associated with legends, stories of great accomplishments that are represented by symbolic imagery that is meant to remind the viewer of the event.


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Tibetan Gilt Bronze Figure of a Seated Lama, 16th C. $103,125.00

Ritual hand gestures, called mudra, originated from dance, where positioning the hands and fingers in a specific manner would have an effect on the dancer and also convey meaning to the viewer. Many bronze figures of Asian deities have the hands displaying a particular mudra. 

The abhaya mudra represents peace, protection and the dispelling of fear.

One of the most often seen is the abhaya mudra, formed by raising the right hand to shoulder height with the arm bent and palm facing forward with the fingers joined and pointing up, while the other arm is hanging down at the side of the figure. The abhaya mudra represents peace, protection and the dispelling of fear.


One of the helpful identifying characteristics of gilt bronze figures, in addition to the imagery of the figure, is the base upon which the figure stands. In Tibet and China, these bases are often embellished with borders of upright lotus leaves, and in many instances the base itself is in the shape of a lotus leaf.

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Sino-Tibetan Gilt Bronze Figure, 18th century, Sold for $144,000.00

In Tibetan and other Himalayan cultures, it is also common to find the underside of the base with a thin metal cover, incised with a vajra or dorje symbol, and within this sealed base is often contained a paper inscribed with a prayer.

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Chinese Gilt Bronze Figure of Vajrasattva, Early Ming Dynasty $1,530,000.00




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Chinese Gilt Bronze Standing Buddha on Lotus Base, 17th/18th C. $108,135.60

The most important and common figure depicts Buddha, a person who has reached an understanding of the world and universe in which we live, and who exists to lead others to the same state of understanding. Some figures depict the historical Buddha, a prince who lived in the 5th/6th century B.C.E., but others represent an idealized Buddha.


Most figures of Buddha are seated with legs crossed on a raised base. Images of Buddha usually wear a double robe, often with an incised foliate decorated border and have long, pendulous ears and a cranial bump, called an ushnisha. The hair is tightly coiled and often has a raised bump above the eyes in the center of the forehead, called the urna, and the hands are raised in a mudra.

Although most figures of Buddha are sitting, in Thailand and other South Asian societies, figures of Buddha are often standing, reclining or walking, and unlike the figures of China, Japan, or the Himalayan cultures, the cranial bump is sometimes augmented by a spike or spire.


A bodhisattva is a person who has not yet attained enlightenment, but is on the path towards enlightenment. A bodhisattva can take many forms, and in Japan is called bosatsu. The most well-known bosatsu in Japan is Jizo, a monk, depicted most often with a shaven head and wearing a long robe. This figure is similar to but different from the Tibetan arhat, an enlightened disciple of the Buddha, called a luohan in China, who also frequently appears in the visage of a monk.

Did you know Maitreya is the only Buddhist deity revered as both a Buddha and a Bodhisattva?


Asian art for sale, Chinese gilt bronze for sale, chinese gilt bronze at auction, Buddhist art for sale, Buddhist art at auction, antique chinese art, ming dynasty chinese art.

Chinese Silver Inlaid Bronze Figure of Guanyin, 18th C. $8,125.00

One of the most important Buddhist figures represented in gilded bronze is that of Guanyin, the goddess of mercy or compassion. Called Kannon in Japan, or alternatively in China, as a male in the manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, this figure is often standing and wearing long, gently draped robes. In both China and Japan, this figure usually is identified by the graceful appearance, heavy lidded eyes, long pendulous earlobes, and open-necked robe revealing a long beaded necklace.  Here Guanyin is displayed in a bronze form, inlaid with silver.

Seated versions in the posture of royal ease have one raised leg with the other draped over the base on which the figure is seated. Although most often represented as female in China, the figure was also represented as male or female in other Asian cultures. Frequently, Chinese versions of Guanyin are depicted with a small child or attendant.


Tara is another popular bronze figure found throughout Asian cultures, but not often in China. The consort of Avalokitesvara, this figure is a bodhisattva, and is found standing or sitting and usually is voluptuously modeled, wearing multiple long strands of beaded necklaces, a crown, and often with lotus flowers rising from each shoulder.

There are many manifestations or characteristics of Tara, most of which are identified with the colors green or white.

Asian art for sale, Chinese gilt bronze for sale, chinese gilt bronze at auction, Buddhist art for sale, Buddhist art at auction, antique chinese art, ming dynasty chinese art.

Mongolian Gilt Bronze Seated Figure, Tara, 17th/18th C. $487,500.00


Asian art for sale, Chinese gilt bronze for sale, chinese gilt bronze at auction, Buddhist art for sale, Buddhist art at auction, antique chinese art, ming dynasty chinese art

– Indian Bronze Figure of Parvati, 19th C. $11,760.00

Shiva, a Hindu deity, is identified by a third eye in the forehead. This figure usually appears in South Asian cultures where Hinduism and Buddhism mingled. Often in a regal stance, the figure of Shiva frequently wears a crown and holds a trident, emblematic of authority. His consort is Parvati, the divine mother goddess whose manifestations are represented by all other goddesses. When alongside Shiva, Parvati is usually depicted with two arms, when alone, often with four and standing beside or on a tiger or lion.


From the ancient beginnings of Buddhism in India and its spread by pilgrims throughout Asia, local spiritual beliefs, practices, and imagery were adopted and adapted by the different peoples along the way. Buddhism was layered on local Hindu, animist, or other beliefs, and a pantheon of deities, gods, goddesses, spirits, forces and manifestations of human emotions and experiences combined to create the imagery that is unique to each Asian culture. Understanding the interwoven texture of these cultures is the foundation for identifying any Asian sculptural work. 

This article written by Lark Mason was first published on Antiques Roadshow website:

The Importance of Ritual in Chinese Art

Archaic to Present Ritual Bronze Forms

In China, rituals were an important aspect of formal and informal life. Many of the most striking examples of the importance of ritual in Chinese art are found in objects. Such as jade forms included as part of a burial ceremony during the Shang and earlier periods and ancient bronze cooking and wine vessels.

Chinese Archaic Gu Form Bronze, Shang Dynasty, Ancient chinese art for sale,

Chinese Archaic Gu Form Bronze, Shang Dynasty, Sold for $18,125.00

Many of these designs were used in later periods in China to create works of art that hinted at their ancient, ritual origins but were most often decorative and devoid of any ritual significance. One of these Chinese ritual wine vessels was the gu, a trumpet-shaped form that incorporated stylized animals and bands of angular decorative elements.

Chinese Cloisonne Gu form vase, 18th century, gilt bronze, 1700's asian art, Chinese art for sale, history of cloisonne

Chinese Cloisonne Gu-Form Vase, 18th Century, sold for $114,186.00

Later versions of the gu, such as this 18th century cloisonne example were made for someone who understood the ancient bronze source, but appreciated the complexity and beauty of the brightly colored interpretation in cloisonne.

Vintage Chinese Vase, Sterling silver, silver, Asian silver, Cloisonne, 20th century, antique

Chinese Enamel and Silver Gu Form Vase, 20th century, sold for $3,507.50

Modern interpretations, such as this silver example, hint at the earlier importance of ritual in the use of a precious metal.  Celebrating an archaic Chinese ritual form in a luxurious way.  

Ritual Paintings

Land Water Ritual, chinese painting, buddhist art, buddhistic ritual painting, land and water ritual

Chinese Qing Imperial Buddhist Water & Land Ritual Painting, 17th/18th century, sold for $246,875.00

This Chinese Buddhist “water and land deliverance” ritual painting shows the cycle of redemption and rebirth of death and reincarnation. In this example, a female deity with attendants stands among pastel clouds in an etherial heavenly landscape. The viewer is taken from the temporal to the eternal, and in contemplation would be transported beyond the many challenges of daily life in a reflection upon eternity.  With a miniature mountain representing the earth below.

Miniature mountain, jade mountain, awesome chinese art, beautiful antiques, gold, gilt bronze, silver

Chinese Zitan, Hardstone, Gilt-Bronze, Silver, Other Materials Miniature Mountain 19th century, sold for $258,000.00

Ancestral portraiture is an important part of Chinese funerary traditions. Individuals commissioned their ancestors portraits, worshipped and cared for these objects for both self serving, and pious purposes.  The belief is that one’s ancestors still influence your life. Though no longer living, their worship will bring longevity, financial success, and other benefits.  Below is one such ancestral painting.  These objects have both cultural and historic importance. Through them we see what silks, rugs, furniture, and jewelry were considered important.

Chinese Ancient art, qing dynasty, ritual art, ancestral portrait

Chinese Imperial Ancestor Portrait, Color Inks on Silk, 19th Century, sold for $90,000

Ritual is important to all cultures, but particularly so to China. Ritual objects and paintings enabled the participant to more fully comprehend the significance of the ideas being communicated, in the past and in the present.  And they give us a window into an ancient world with different ideals, and a unique culture.

For more information on Ancestral Portraits:


For more information on Bronze Censers and Mythical Animals:

Some Recent Developments and Trends in Antiques Auctions


With the year coming to an end, iGavel Auctions is reviewing data from the year past.  In the art and antique auction arena in 2016, there were some interesting trends seen in the online marketplace.

1. Online bidding continues to gain momentum, with 35% of bids now happening on the Internet.

2. Of those that have purchased items in an auction, 50% have done so only online.

3. More and more “Millennials” are buying antiques online, due to the quality of the items found at their fingertips, and the excitement of competing for a piece they love.

4. More online sales, means fewer printed catalogues. Rather than a single static image many online auction houses offer multiple images. And on several including we leave the data online so it can be used as a resource to allocate historic prices.

5. Millennials seem to prefer shopping from mobile devices, and happily is mobile responsive.

6. Per their research, more and more consumers prefer buying from auctions because they pay better prices, for unique and high quality items, which are an investment rather than simply functional.

7. When shopping online, consumers value ease of bidding, transparency of information, and reliable fulfillment.

iGavel Auctions – a trusted leader in the online art and antique auction world – offers shoppers and bidders exactly what they are looking for:

• ease of viewing and shopping for a wide variety of unique items, including art, antiques, furniture, accessories and other decorative items;

• transparent pricing and information;

• simple payment processing; and 

• a variety of delivery options.


SOURCES: To read the complete articles, which includes the data gathered by Barneby’s (a leading search engine aggregator for art and antique auctions), click here, as well as here.

Chinese Jade and Jadeite: a tradition spanning six millennia

Jadeite, a silicate mineral of the pyroxene group is one of several types of stones often used by Chinese craftsmen for carving works of art. It is not the same as jade, which is also called nephrite, but of different composition but also used extensively as a media for craftsmen in China.

set_of_three_chinese_green_jadeite_necklaces897_5Jade and jadeite are often confused and assumed to be the same stone. Jadeite has a crystalline structure and is composed of aluminum and sodium while jade is of calcium and magnesium and has a fibrous structure.


Set of Three Chinese Jadeite Necklaces, sold 10/27/15 $325,000



In early Chinese cultures jade was carved into ritual forms included in burial sites. Forms such as the cong, a hollowed rectangular tube; bi, a circular disk centered by a circular aperture; and the huang, a

Chinese Carved Jade Cong, Western Zhou with Later
Added Carved Inscription          bidding live to 10/20/16

semi-circular arc are a few of these                                          ritual forms jade-champion-vaseLater jade carvings often emulated early ritual bronze shapes such as the gu, a trumpet shaped wine vessel or ding, a deep-bodied food vessel raised on three usually cylindrical legs.
Chinese Qing Dynasty Jade Champion Vase, sold 11/13/13     $86,025.60jade-duck        Chinese Celadon Jade Duck, 18th century                    sold 11/02/11     $53,400

chinese_celadon_jade_finger_citron_box_18th_c293_5Small animals and amulets carved of jade represented zodiac figures or Buddhistic emblems and were carried for good luck or personal adornment. Larger carved figural groups represented mythological and Buddhistic subjects and these were often also associated with good luck or other attributes. An excellent example of a naturalistic form was sold by Lark Mason Associates on April 30, 2014 of a finger citron, sometimes referred to as a ‘buddha’s hand’ because of the finger-like appendages rising from one end. This example, in a pale green color frequently referred to as ‘celadon’ from the French, for pale green, also incorporated bright russet colored patches, typical of jade. It realized $162,000 at auction.

Jadeite was not extensively used as a carving material until the middle Qing dynasty and lavender-jademost examples of jadeite were created during the late Qing period and after the fall of the Qing dynasty. The most highly prized jadeite is that which is brilliant and translucent emerald green, often called ‘imperial jade’ but jadeite comes in a range of colors from a rich russet to stunning lavender. A rare example of lavender and brilliant green jadeite occurring in the same stone was sold in September 11, 2011 by Lark Mason Associates on the website. The large high-shouldered vase was principally in a deep, rich lavender jadeite and perched on the lip and encircling the open mouth, was a bright green coiled dragon forming the handle. The stunning use of color and clever carving helped this object realize $117,000 at auction. Jade and jadeite are two stones that were used to great effect by Chinese craftsmen and the best examples from all periods can be seen in major museums in the United States and Europe, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and others.

Netsuke: a brief introduction to a Japanese art of passion and utility

Currently live on Lark Mason Associates is offering an encyclopedic collection of Netsuke.  Cute, utilitarian, erotic, religious, and mythological, they are truly exceptional.  We have taken this opportunity to write a little bit about this Japanese art form using netsuke from this sale as illustrations.


It is believed that netsuke began to be used in Japan in the 16th century.  As the country became unified and more stable, cities like Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo became thriving metropolises where a townsperson would need an attractive, yet practical, way to carry necessities such as money and tobacco pouches (sagemono). Early netsuke were more utilitarian than decorative.  Simple sections of a material such as wood or ivory, with some sort of means of passing a cord through- either a natural or drilled himotoshi.

masanobu-netsukeSimplicity eventually gave way to personal expression: small Chinese ivory carvings were converted to use as netsuke.  The Japanese produced carvings with an eye towards fashion as well as function, creating more compact compositions with unobtrusive himotoshi.


The above carving bears many hallmarks of an early netsuke. The classical subject and bold carving of a dragon amongst the waves, the simplicity of the shape and the unhidden himotoshi, the apparent age and wear of the material itself, all indicate this is likely a rather early netsuke

Although different types of dragons exist in Chinese mythology, the Japanese habitually depict the three-toed rain dragon. Terajima Ryoan’s Wakan sansai zue, a type of encyclopedia published in 1715 lists the nine attributes of different creatures of which the dragon was believed to be composed: the head of a camel with the horns of a deer, eyes of an oni, ears like an ox, the neck of a snake, and body of a sea serpent covered with the scales of a carp, with a hawk’s claws and paws of a tiger.


Others have a more religious meaning. This beast of burden, with its placid nature, is an emblem of Zen Buddhism whose teachings follow the ten stage journey of a herds-boy and his ox. The ox does not need to be led by the boy as it follows its own natural instincts, thus serving as an example to his master.


A reclining ox is also associated with the popular Japanese story of court minister Sugiwara Michizane who was falsely implicated in a play against the emperor and banished to Kyushu where he died of grief. On the journey to bring his remains back to Kyoto the bullock pulling his cart lay down in the road and refused to move, forcing the groom to bury his master at that spot, which was later marked with a Shinto shrine. His name was eventually cleared after his avenging spirit attacked the Imperial Palace with thunderbolts and he was defied as Tenjin. He came to be known as the patron saint of literature and a cult grew up in his name, the shrines all displaying a sculpture of a reclining ox.


The above and below netsuke reference a legend in which the octopus-physician to Ryujin, the Dragon King of the Sea, prescribes a monkey’s liver to heal the King’s daughter.  The monkey outwits the jellyfish sent to capture him, by telling the jellyfish his liver is on land.  When sent to fetch his liver from land the monkey makes his escape and the jellyfish is pounded to a pulp by Ryujin, which is how jellyfish became so gelatinous.


In the first carving the monkey, with a very human-like bemused expression, seems to have the situation well in hand. There seems to be little danger that the octopus will have any success in securing his prey. Osaka, 19th century.  While in the carving below the octopus physician has the situation in hand, however unlike the monkey he seems hesitant as to how to proceed.

Netsuke were as much signs of status as they were expressions of taste and personal flair.  Netsuke are made up of carving of myths and legends, erotic encounters, and simple weights carved to show skill or aesthetic prowess through cute or intricate characters.



Currently several of us in the iGavel office are reading The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, the story of a man’s family’s collection of netsuke.  They began collecting in 1871 and in 2009 they were inherited by the author, who having only a cursory understanding of netsuke of them dove head first into the world of family history and netsuke.  Start your collection today and change your family’s destiny.


iGavel Interiors: Taking the Grand Tour Without Leaving Home


The romantic notion of taking the “Grand Tour“ — an extended shopping spree to the art and antique markets of Italy, France and England, and loading containers with treasures to ship home — is just that, a romantic fantasy of a bygone era.   The new reality has been re-imagined with iGavel Interiors’ curating on-line estate sales in cooperation with many of the country’s leading independent auction houses allowing buyers to shop an international marketplace from the comfort of their own home.

The concept behind iGavel Interiors’ on-line estate sales is to highlight each item in situ.  Photographs are taken in the living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms to feature each item in its proper place. Whether unique one-of-a-kind antiques, or 20th Century reproductions, the focus is on enabling buyers to participate in the sale by allowing them to imagine how any piece may look in their own home. The combined expertise of iGavel Interiors and the presenting auction houses provides assurances to the buyer of the integrity of each item with condition reports and low reserves adding to the credibility and ease of the shopping platform.


Highlighted in iGavel Interiors’ Sept. 8-15, 2016 sale, the Carol C. Brubaker Estate – St. Simons Island, Georgia, Presented by Everard Auctions and Appraisals, Savannah, GA (  — was an Italian painted secretary, a French provincial armoire, an English Georgian-style breakfront, a reproduction Charleston, SC, inlaid mahogany sideboard, and a collection of Faberge eggs.  A total of 158 antiques, reproductions and collectibles were featured in this sale.  The sale closed with all of the lots being sold, with prices above estimates in most categories and the majority of lots exhibiting fierce bidding.


An interesting observation, that became clearly visible in this sale, is that the market prices for 18th and 19th Century pieces are comparable to the market for 20th Century reproductions of those 18th and 19th Century pieces.  The highlights of the sale below are indicative of this trend.

The Italian Painted Secretary in the Venetian Style, 19th Century, was photographed against a bold crimson-painted wall and adjacent to elegant,  floor-to-ceiling drapes.   There were 23 bids vying for ownership of this coveted piece by those who could envision it being in their bedroom, study or other featured placement in their home.


The Louis XV Style French Armoire, 18th/19th Century, received as many bids as the other larger antique casegood pieces and sold for its estimated value, which was on par with the reproduction pieces.


The George III Mahogany Secretary, 18th Century, is a piece that most buyers can see in their home, perhaps for its multi-functionality as well as its slim profile.  The sale price was comparable to similar pieces sold at traditional auction houses this year adding to the allure and credibility of the iGavel Interiors online estate sales platform.


Buyers could easily imagine their own collectibles showcased in the English Georgian Style Walnut Breakfront Bookcase.  This 20th Century reproduction looks nothing less than elegant photographed against cream-colored walls with chair rails and wainscoting, and a Persian rug on the floor.


There were over twenty bids on the four Faberge Eggs and 2 Picture Frames.  These 20th Century reproductions make an elegant statement as decoratively assembled on the Baker Inlaid Mahogany Sideboard.  The sideboard is included in Baker’s Historic Charleston Collection 20th Century line.  Here one can have it all – antiques and collectibles, all within reach.


In cooperation with the presenting auction house, all items are shipped directly from the site (unless buyers are able to pick the item up themselves), thereby reducing the risk of damage in packing and shipping.  

iGavel Interiors is a convenient way to stage and execute a successful estate sale for both the seller and the buyer.  Antiques and reproductions are offered in situ, side-by-side.  Buy what you like with the assurance from experts as to the quality and condition of each item.

Art Fix Daily Asian Highlights Article


Thanks to Art Fix Daily for mentioning our upcoming Asian, Ancient, and Ethnographic auctions that go live tomorrow October 4th and October 6th. There will be over 750 lots of Asian works of art available, including an exceptional sale of fine netsuke, Ming Huang Huali furniture, and a curated selection of Ming and Qing porcelain, jades, and ancient bronzes.


Slag Glass: a brief introduction

american_bronze_and_yellow_slag_glass_chandelier_c1910543_2Slag glass, as we know it today, originated in England in the late 19th century as a means to produce attractive glass works with a new and exciting look for a lower cost. Formed in part as a byproduct from the iron smelting process, slag glass was being made by many different manufacturing companies in England and in America.  Rising to new levels of popularity in the early 1900’s, slag glass is no longer produced as it once was.  Though production has lagged, slag glass chandeliers and lamps are beautiful accent pieces to add to your modern home.


“Since the process of making slag glass was shrouded in a certain amont of mystery, stories sprang up to try and account for the process behind the effects. For example, it was a good bet that Sowerby’s Blue Nugget color of 1883 was the result of adding cadmium to molten glass, but how to explain Gold Nugget? Stories soon spread that John George Sowerby, son of the company’s founder, was tossing gold sovereigns into batches of amber glass to create this dramatic hue.”

Although it is unlikely that this American bronze and yellow slag glass chandelier, circa 1900, contains gold sovereigns, it certainly makes for an interesting dinner conversation.

american_bronze_and_yellow_slag_glass_chandelier_c1910543_1To view the above lot online click the link below, live until October 4th, 2016. To view in person you are welcome to join us for our open house on October 1, from 1-5pm Please RSVP at

To learn more about slag glass:

Quote taken from:

Litchfield County Auctions’
20th Century Design, Fine Art & Antiques
Jewelry & Designer Fashion Sale Preview

Don’t forget to stop by iGavel Auctions on May 26th to see the many items Litchfield County Auctions has to offer in their 20th Century Design, Fine Art & Antiques, Jewelry & Designer Fashion Auction, with property from Major Estates & Collections in New York, Rhode Island, NJ & CT.

Antique & Modern Furniture, Fine Art including: “Excalibur 5” 1967, by Enrico Donati; “Kleines Bildnis mit vier schwarzen Vierecken” 1921, by Paul Klee; Nu (Nude) 1954, After Henri Matisse, Maeght Editeur; and a portrait of Mrs. George Colgate, ca. 1835, by Samuel Lovett Waldo.

Jewelry by Cartier, Chaumer & Sterlay; Watches by Rolex & Patek Philippe; Plus Georgian, Georg Jensen, Tiffany & Christofle Silver.

Online Bidding: May 26 – June 3

Go To Auction Page

Auction Exhibition & Tag Sale:
Friday, May 30 – Tuesday, June 2, 10am-5pm each day
*Free Appraisal Day: Saturday, May 31, 10am-2pm*

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Asia Week New York | A Celebration of Asian Art | March 13 – 21, 2015


iGavel Auctions & Lark Mason Associates are honored to be a proud sponsor of Asia Week New York 2015. During Asia Week, many other auction houses, museums and art societies hold specialized events and lectures for interested parties. Click here to learn more about the events that will be taking place during Asia Week.

Asian, Ancient and Ethnographic Works of Art

This year’s Asian, Ancient and Ethnographic Works of Art online auction will be live between April 8th through the 22nd on  Below is a highlight that will be offered during the auction:

 featuredimage2015-1-igavelChinese Imperial Embroidered Silk and Metal Ceremonial Uniform, c. 1910

Click here to visit the Asia Week New York website

Asia Week Preview

March 13 – 20, 10am–4pm
Closed Sunday

Online auction begins April 8 – 22 on

Lark Mason Associates Auction Gallery
227 East 120th Street
New York, NY 10035
(between 2nd & 3rd Avenues)

Auction Results | Early Fall


iGavel’s fall auction season started strong in September with excellent results for German Neo-Impressionist Gabriele Münter in Everard and Company’s Estate of Bruce Van Wagner and Laura Robinson, Spring Island, SC and Other Owners Auction.

Both paintings offered by the artist underwent competitive bidding, totaling twenty-five bids between them  and achieving a total price of over $400,000 USD with Buyer’s Premium. Other highlights included an oil on canvas by American painter Sanford Gifford that sold for over $150,000 USD with Buyer’s Premium on 23 bids. 

Nye and Company’s September Auction had strong results for French furniture, with a Louis XIV Specimen Marble-Inset Cabinet-On-Stand, Italian, 1st Half of 18th C., selling for $87,500 USD with Buyer’s Premium on nearly 40 bids. a Pair of Louis XVI Style Ormolu-Mounted Malachite Vitrines, French Taste, 19th C.,  received similar attention, ultimately selling for over $20,000 USD with Buyer’s Premium on 23 bids.

Auction Results:

Item image
 Realized: $ 254,375
No. of Bids: 15
Item image
Realized: $ 158,750
No. of Bids: 10
Item image
Realized: $ 156,250
No. of Bids: 23
Item image
Realized: $ 87,500
No. of Bids: 39
Item image
Realized: $ 20,626.25
No. of Bids: 23
Item image
Realized: $ 15,625
No. of Bids: 31
Item image
Realized: $ 12,500
No. of Bids: 18
Item image
Realized: $ 11,565
No. of Bids: 24
Item image
Realized: $ 10,937.50
No. of Bids: 15
Item image
Realized: $ 10,437.50
No. of Bids: 31

View All Results






Lark Mason to Conduct a Lecture on Asian Art in Dallas, Texas

13East and Orient requests the pleasure of your company
for a lecture by Asian art expert Lark Mason.
Speaking on “The Changing Dynamics of the Asian Art Market.”

Brought to you by East & Orient Company at 1123 Slocum Street, Dallas
On Monday June 30th at 6:30 P.M.  |  Directions to East & Orient

R.S.V.P.  214-741-1191


Lark Mason is a noted Asian art expert. He was selected to appear on the PBS series Antiques Roadshow and has been a regular member since the series’ inception in 1996. Formerly with Sotheby’s, now the owner of iGavel Auctions and its New York City consignment center Lark Mason Associates. He regularly serves on vetting committees of art and antiques shows, advises museums and private collectors, and writes books and articles on Chinese and Asian works of art.

We hope to see you there!

Elizabeth Gertz
East & Orient Company

Brian Witherell Featured in Comstock’s Magazine


Published on
y Allison Joy

Juxtaposed against the crisp, modern lines of Brian Witherell’s home in Alkali Flat sits a trove of ancient treasures, premier antiquities cherry picked from his company’s massive antique collection.

Witherell’s Auction House is a family business, started in 1982 by Brian’s father, Brad, an avid collector of firearms and Western Americana since 1969. And while Brian wasn’t always sure he’d go into the antique business himself, growing up encased in history left a lasting impact.

“I’m not drawn to guns as much as other aspects,” Witherell says. “But I was always in my dad’s office. I remember he had a painting of Custard’s battlefield. It was so detailed, and I would just sit there and study that and get engaged in that particular painting.”

Prior to 2005, Brian and his father dealt primarily in private acquisitions, jet setting around the country to procure collectibles for a Midwestern doctor and an heir to a snap-on tool throne. That was before the economy crashed.

Witherell says that the recession, coupled with an aging collector base that is gradually being replaced with a new generation of tech-savvy hunters, changed his business model, pushing him toward online sales. Now, he sells more than 90 percent of his wares at seasonal online auctions held through They feature everything from fine art to vintage automobiles.

All those items have to live somewhere. The front lobby of his home, where Witherell takes his meetings, is artfully appointed with a Ming Dynasty-era Huanghuali table (estimated to be worth $60,000 to $80,000) and horseshoe-backed chairs (that run for up to $50,000 apiece). Witherell was in the running against big names like Christie’s to procure the collection, which, along with other Asian antiques, went up for auction in mid-March.

He is an avid collector though, and not everything fits nicely into the Witherell family’s two-story home. Much of what has been sold or is in need of cataloguing sits across the driveway in a small storage building. Witherell moves deftly through what appears to be a scattered maze of discarded miscellany. As he reaches up to shelves or moves aside a box, it becomes clear that this chaos is meticulously organized. He gingerly picks up the weathered face of a tall William Cummens case clock, placing it beside its towering, mahogany body as he weaves his way through the hodgepodge.

“These street lights are fun,” he says, gesturing to a couple of cast iron lamps (he says, perhaps jokingly, that they must weigh about 800 pounds) he acquired from the estate of Sacramento’s late Eppie Johnson, the restaurateur and founder of Eppie’s Great Race. The lamps, adorned with emblems of California history, like steer heads and wagon trains, are from San Francisco and date back to the turn of the 19th century.
It seems impossible that one man’s brain can keep all of these items — their origins, value, age and story — straight. But Brian, who moonlights each summer on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” television series, also works in appraisals and has, over the years, built a massive reference library plus a network of other antique experts he can call on for second opinions and advice.

He says the fickle market for antiques can leave amateur antique buyers with collections worth far less than they were procured for. There’s no reliable way to predict what buyers will want, and that means what is valuable today may not be en vogue in the coming decades. He compares a Louie Vuitton trunk he pulled from a garage on 17th Street to a powderhorn that predates the revolutionary war. Both sold for $5,000 (almost a third of what the powderhorn is worth, he says).

“A powderhorn is much more rare,” he says. “In terms of historical significance, it’s much more significant. It shows this time and place in America, so it’s really a powerful statement in my mind. A Louie Vuitton trunk just has the monogram, but millions of people want it and therefore it brings in a lot of money.”

He says the market is currently moving away from what he calls “grandma furniture,” pieces that are heavy, ornate and overwrought. In demand are Asian and contemporary styles. Translation: 1980s furniture is now fetching more at an auction than 18th century pieces.

Witherell says there is no crystal ball to predict which way the market will go. Even he has been surprised. Last spring, he was called to an estate in Sonoma County to assess a collection of gold the owner had purchased on QVC.

“She had boxes and boxes, and you would think that would have to be the stupidest investment that you could make,” he says. But the savvy senior had purchased the pieces when gold ran for $400 an ounce. Witherell sold it at $1,800 per ounce.

“She (more than) tripled her money from shopping on QVC,” he laughs.

So there’s money to be made. Locked in a safe in Witherell’s office is an antique, gold quartz chain in pristine condition. It was purchased by a goldsmith at an antique shop near Bodega Bay for about $1,200. Brian points to thin veins of gold running through the marbleized quartz, explaining its rarity and history. He thinks it could potentially sell for more than $15,000.

Still, Witherell does not recommend getting into collecting for the money. Instead, he recommends amateur buyers focus first on what they love and second on what they can afford. He says every collection needs what is known in the business as a “golden spike,” like the gold quartz chain, an item that will legitimize a collection even if its other pieces are of slightly lesser value.

“You’re never going to get respect for collecting something that is mediocre,” he says pointedly. “So if you can’t afford a million-dollar gun, don’t invest in guns because you’ll never be respected as a gun collector. You need to have a masterpiece in your collection to be taken seriously and for that collection to be viable in the marketplace should anything ever happen to you.”

For those wanting to collect but who lack seven figures to invest, Witherell says antique advertisements and contemporary ceramics are a good place to start, as is regional art with local value.
Still, the biggest piece of advice he has to offer is, “Buy what you enjoy and what you can live with.” For Witherell, who expertly makes a living off the monetary potential of antiques, the true joy comes from embracing historical beauty and connecting to the past.

One of Witherell’s latest acquisitions comes precisely from that line of thinking. In June of 2013, he purchased the Grass Valley Old West Show, a 40-year-old auction that, though it has changed hands over the years and is almost unrecognizable from its original iteration, holds a value for Witherell that goes beyond the estimated $20,000 it could generate for him annually.

It was started in 1982 by three gentlemen who called themselves the Western Americana Association. One of those men was Brian’s father.

A founder of what was originally a gun show, Brad sold his interest when the cost of hosting the show increased with ballroom rental rates. More than 40 years later, it has come full circle.

Brian calls it a destination show that draws niche collectors from around the country, but says the dealers who frequent the show are people he has known since he was a child. He plans to preserve the traditional form and format of the show. The only addition will be a corresponding online auction, from which highlighted items will be previewed at the show itself. The added revenue from online sales will allow him to better promote the show itself.

This attention to the preservation of history, and investment in what is to him personally significant, is reflective of Brian’s overall philosophy on collecting.

“When done correctly [collecting] can enhance your life,” he says. “It keeps your mind active, and it gives you an aesthetic beauty that you can live with every day. If you end up making money at that, more power 
to you.”

Lark Mason Celebrates Year of the Horse at Lincoln Center


In celebration of the Year of the Horse, Lark Mason of iGavel Auctions and Lark Mason Associates attended the Chinese New Year’s festivities at Lincoln Center this past Saturday, February 8th. Of particular note was the concert of Tian Jiaxin, the young Chinese classical pianist. When asked about the concert, Mr. Mason responded “It was a summarily excellent experience: the celebration of Chinese New Year in tandem with the sublime playing of Mozart, Chopin, Lizst, and others was truly a memory to cherish.”

Click here to view an interview with Lark Mason and an excerpt of the concert from CCTV

Interview: Harold Nicoll, Host of “The Collector’s Show”


Harold Nicoll is the host of a weekly internet-based radio show called “The Collector’s Show.” Featuring guests who are “single minded folks whose collections are not just important but help to define them,” Mr. Nicoll has created a space where collectors and experts can speak on what they know and love best. We had the opportunity to ask Mr. Nicoll about what brought him to found his show, his interests, and what’s in store for The Collector’s Show.



Tell us about yourself and The Collector’s Show: what gave you the stroke of inspiration to start a show about collecting? What did you do before the show? What finally made you decide to do it?


HN: My background and education are in media relations and advertising. I was working at The Dow Chemical Company in marketing communications and public affairs. I had a broad background in all different types of media, behind and in front of the mike or camera. My wife Marla and I had developed a large collection of Christmas ornaments. I wrote an article that was published in one of the trade magazines about it. Brad Saul, who owns Web Talk Radio (, read the article and called me. He proposed the idea of a podcast about collecting and collectors. I told Brad that I did not know the first thing about podcasting and my knowledge of collecting did not extend very much beyond my own collection. He said it did not matter, that he would teach me how to be a host and mentor me and he has. I always like to do and learn new things, so I agreed to do it. So the inspiration really came from Brad and he deserves the credit for coming up with the idea.

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Dustin Hoffman’s Treasures Now Available in Nye and Company’s Holiday Auction


iGavel Associate Nye and Company Auctioneers and Appraisers’ current holiday auction, was featured today in the New York Post’s famous Page Six column, highlighting Property from the Collection of Grammy Award Winning Actor Dustin Hoffman. The property, taken from Mr. Hoffman’s residential triplex in the San Remo, one of New York City’s landmark residences, is currently available for bidding on iGavel Auctions through December 17th. Below is an excerpt from the column:


Dustin Hoffman is selling off hundreds of antiques and collectibles, Page Six has exclusively learned, as the “Meet the Fockers” star preps to unload his luxe triplex in the San Remo on Central Park West.


The auction being held through Nye & Co. includes high-end furnishings, art and movie paraphernalia from the Oscar-winner’s private screening room. (It doesn’t include any memorabilia or props from his films, so no “Tootsie” wigs or “All the President’s Men” typewriters are on the block.)


We hear that 200 lots in the sale include two autographed and dated movie projectors with reels and lenses, as well as collections of Cartier, Baccarat, Steuben and Lalique glass and Biedermeier, Stickley and Qing Dynasty furniture.

Click here to read the rest on


Click to View Property from the Collection of
Academy Award Winning Actor Dustin Hoffman


Nick Thorn of Litchfield County Auctions on Handling Inherited Items


Vice President of Litchfield County Auctions Nick Thorn was quoted in a recent New York Times article, published on November 20th, 2013, on the troubles and issues surrounding the deaccession of a loved one’s possessions. Below is an excerpt from the article:

A few months after my mother died in 2011 at the age of 93, I put her Manhattan apartment on the market and was lucky enough to have a deal within days. The buyers were paying cash and seemed certain to be approved by the co-op board.


But then I faced the real challenge: disposing of six rooms’ worth of furniture and hundreds of decorative plates, crystal bowls and other knickknacks my parents had accumulated during a 61-year marriage.


A friend who is an art historian and consults on provenance and estate sales helped me consign the truly valuable items (a couple of French paintings and some elaborate jewelry I could never imagine wearing) to Christie’s. She also knew an auctioneer in the Hudson Valley who was interested in silver candelabra and a few other items, and someone else with a gallery in Manhattan who arrived with a wad of bills and paid me on the spot for some silver-plated serving utensils and candlesticks.


But what do with everything else?


In the end, I spent a lot more time unloading the contents of the apartment than I did selling the apartment itself, although the financial payoff was, of course, in no way comparable. And there were moments when the job seemed overwhelming.


My experience, it turns out, was not unusual. “You’re lucky if the contents are worth one-tenth of the value of the apartment,” said Nick Thorn, vice president of Litchfield County Auctions in Litchfield, Conn. “But people get so stressed about this stuff.”

Read the full article on

Sale Highlights | Asian, Ancient & Ethnographic Works of Art Auction

Lark Mason’s online Fall 2013 auction of important Asian, Ancient & Ethnographic works of art will go live on on Tuesday, October 1 through Wednesday, October 15 as announced by Lark Mason, founder and president of the Harlem-based auction house, at 227 East 120th Street.  Over 600 lots drawn from a cross-section of periods and disciplines, from antiquities through the 20th century, will be offered.

Says Mr. Mason, “This is a very large and comprehensive sale with a diverse range of objects – from ancient Chinese tomb pottery to over 200 Japanese swords dating from the 16th to 20th centuries from a private Texas collector. The material is fresh to the market and the estimates are low, which enable Asian art collectors and enthusiasts to buy at accessible prices.” Among the top highlights are:

1A Chinese Gilt Bronze Head of the Daoist Immortal Mazu, Yuan/Ming Dynast

This lot is a large gilt bronze head, remarkable for its size, early date, and refined features. The figure was most probably the Daoist immortal Mazu, a popular deity and guardian of the sea.  Mazu was a historic personage who lived in the Song dynasty. After her death, it was said that she would appear with a lantern or balls of red light to help guide ships in stormy weather. Worshipped by members of the navy, fisherman, merchants and diplomats, she is often depicted flanked by two generals who assist her, and in 1281 the emperor Kublai Khan honored Mazu with the title ‘Imperial Consort.’ (Estimate: $25,000-35,000. Click here to bid)


2A Chinese Bronze Seated Figure of Buddha, Ming Dynasty 

Buddhism was said to have been introduced to China by traveling monks or missionaries through the silk road. The first widespread depictions of Buddha in China appear in the Tang dynasty. During the Song dynasty, Buddhist ideology was subsumed into Chinese culture and merged with the established Daoist ideology. This particular type of figure, typical during the Ming dynasty, is a uniquely Chinese depiction of the Buddha.   (Estimate: $15,000-20,000. Click here to bid)

3A 17th Century Chinese Carved Rhinoceros Horn Libation Cup with Daoist Immortals

Rhinoceros cups were popular gifts with the Chinese aristocracy in the 17th and 18th Centuries. These objects, often given given as gifts at celebrations, held special symbolism, and on this particular rhinoceros cup the eight Daoist immortals and the god of longevity, Shoulao, are carved in a line and are depicted offering birthday felicitations.  As well as wishing the recipient a long life, this cup probably was meant to draw parallels between the recipient of the cup and the immortals. (Estimate: $15,000-$30,000. Click here to bid)

4A Chinese Porcelain Famille Rose Bowl, Qianlong Mark and Period  

This bowl is decorated with pomegranate, peaches and lychee. In China all of these fruit are auspicious and symbolize either fertility or wealth and prosperity. Perhaps the bowl was a wedding gift that relayed the wish for prosperity and many heirs. The peach is often depicted on Chinese porcelains and symbolizes immortality, wealth and abundance. In feng shui it symbolizes love. The pomegranate symbolizes fertility because of the many seeds inside, each seed represents a wish for a son.  The lychee or lizhi is linguistically similar to lizi which means an interest in money and wealth or fertility. (Estimate: $15,000-$25,000. Click here to bid)

5A Chinese Celadon Jade Carving of a Hound, Song/Ming Dynasty

Small jade carvings of animals form a distinct group of jades from the Tang to the Qing dynasties.  Often these jades were amulets that provided spiritual protection for the owner.  Song dynasty jades of this type are known for their naturalistic style, which can most certainly be seen in the details of this example.  (Estimate: $6,000-$9,000. Click here to bid)