Rare, Remarkable Chinese Porcelains From a Prominent Collecting Couple Go Up for Auction in New York

Bonhams New York is offering a host of delicate treasures in its “Cohen & Cohen: 50 Years of Chinese Export Porcelain live auction on January 24.

On view January 18–23, the 155 lots feature an array of mostly 18th-century Chinese porcelains, including famille rose vase garnitures, rare ‘European subject dishes and figures, and large Kangxi-period famille verte and blue and white dishes, a popular style for porcelain cabinets of the time.

Vying for highest sale price is a figure of a European lady from the Qianlong period, ca. 1740, estimated to fetch between $80,000–$100,000. The famille rose standing lady appears to have been modeled after a print by Dutch artist Casper Luyken, ca. 1703. The pattern illustrates figures in 17th-century Jewish costume, allegedly worn by women in Frankfurt’s Jewish community.

“One lovely aspect of the European lady figure is that the Chinese potter,” Michael C. Hughes, Vice President & Head of Department for Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art at Bonhams, told Midnight Publishing Group News, “is after having copied the sculptural form and style of dress from the original Western print, he did not know the decoration to be found on the lady’s clothing. So he had simply added an entirely Chinese decoration, as you see in the cloud scrolls on the apron and the dragon roundels to the blue cape.”

A garniture of five famille rose ‘parrot-on-a-swing’ vases, Qianlong period, ca. 1740. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Among the highest estimates is a pair of large famille rose ‘torch bearer’ candle sconces for the European market, ca. 1740, estimated at $80,000–$120,000. The brightly colored, ornamental pieces have an enameled center with a standing figure holding a flaming torch overhead and an unlit torch lowered at the right side. It’s all within a cheerfully hued frame displaying latticework, scrolling leaf forms, and other baroque motifs, as well as open-winged parrots for extra splash, all enameled and featuring gilt highlights. 

Pair of famille rose ‘torch-bearer’ rococo candle sconces for the European market,
early Qianlong period, ca. 1740. Courtesy of Bonhams New York.

Bonhams has enjoyed a long relationship with Michael and Ewa Cohen. The Cohens count clients all over the world, from the Hong Kong Maritime Museum in Hong Kong to the British Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, among many others, noted Hughes. “Michael and Ewa’s philosophy was to buy as collectors rather than dealers—only buying pieces that excited them,” he said. “They had standards to what they collected and sought out exceptional quality, rarity, and historic interest…We’re honored to be a part of their story.”

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English Quarry Workers Have Struck Elizabethan-History-Lover’s Gold With the Discovery of a Rare 16th-Century Ship

Last April, workers dredging for gravel in a quarry just outside Dungeness in Kent, England inadvertently turned up the remains of a shipwreck. Perplexed by the discovery, they called upon the services of Wessex Archaeology, which swiftly recognized the historical significance of the find, determining it to be a 16th-century vessel, one of the very few from the era to have survived.

Wessex Archaeology would excavate more than 100 timbers that made up the ship’s hull, with support and funding from Historic England. These components—from the massive planks to the round pegs pinning these boards together—were crafted out of English oak, which, through dendrochronological analysis, has been dated to between 1558 and 1580. 

“To find a late 16th-century ship preserved in the sediment of a quarry was an unexpected but very welcome find indeed,” Andrea Hamel, the marine archaeologist at Wessex Archaeology who was first on the scene, said in a statement. “The ship has the potential to tell us so much about a period where we have little surviving evidence of shipbuilding, but yet was such a great period of change in ship construction and seafaring.”

Remains of a rare 16th-century ship found at a quarry in Kent. Photo: © Wessex Archaeology.

The late 16th century marked a transitional period in ship construction as much as a remarkable time of growth in England’s maritime trade.

In Northern Europe, shipbuilding was evolving from traditional clinker builds, where planks are overlapped rather than joined (most commonly seen on Viking longships), to frame-first construction, where the internal hull is built before planking is added. This latter technique is best evidenced by the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s most notable warship that was deployed from 1510 to 1545. 

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I further saw the expansion of England’s naval commerce, spurred on by the formalizing of trade with Russia, Turkey, and Venice. Tellingly, the majority of known shipwrecks from the late Tudor period have been designated the remains of merchant vessels, including the Gresham Ship, which was located in the Thames Estuary in 2004.

Archaeologist laser-scans the remains of a rare 16th-century ship found at a quarry in Kent. Photo: © Wessex Archaeology.

The wreck in Kent was found some 984 feet from the sea, in a quarry that experts deem could once have been on the coastline. Having been locked deep in waterlogged shingle, the remains have been exceptionally preserved.

“Some of the samples we have still feel so fresh that you can smell the tar,” said Hamel on the January 1 episode of BBC’s Digging for Britain series, which documented the team’s efforts in excavating and studying the vessel’s hull.

Every piece unearthed by Wessex Archaeology has been digitally photographed and laser-scanned, allowing scientists to build a complete 3D model of a vessel now estimated to measure more than 82 feet-long and weigh about 150 tons. The ship, though, remains unidentified. 

Once their study is complete, archaeologists will rebury the ship close to where it was found, as the timbers are in danger of shrinking and losing all detail the more they dry out. By returning the remains to the environment, the team hopes to preserve them in situ.

“Hopefully, as techniques change,” Hamel added, “future archaeologists could go back and recover the ship and do more work on it.”


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An Art History Professor Spotted an Unusual Painting at a Local Church. Now, It Is Being Hailed as a Major Italian Baroque Discovery

An art history professor in Westchester, New York, has discovered a rare Italian Baroque painting at a local church.

Iona College professor Tom Ruggio did a “double take” when he first saw the work at the Church of the Holy Family, he told ABC News, which first reported the discovery. He “realized immediately it was an Italian Baroque painting,” he said, and snapped some pictures with his phone to share with fellow art history experts in Italy and New York City.

Now, the painting, which has been identified as a 17th-century work by Cesare Dandini, is enjoying pride of place at Iona College’s Ryan Library on a three-month loan.

The work is known as Holy Family with the Infant St. John and dates to the 1630s. Experts said they thought it was missing all of these years. Dandini was “an artist of considerable refinement [and] promoted the Florentine devotion to strongly colored and elegantly crafted compositions,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which also owns works by the artist and helped authenticate the newly discovered work.

The Midnight Publishing Group Price Database lists 192 auction results for Dandini. The artist’s record at auction is $753,530 (£498,500) for Tobias and the Angel, sold at Sotheby’s London in 2000.

“It was God’s providence,” Monsignor Dennis Keane with Church of the Holy Family told Midnight Publishing Group News. Ruggio visited the church and made his discovery more than a year ago, near the start of lockdown. Keane clarified that the purchase of the painting, by the church’s former pastor, Monsignor Fitzgerald, actually happened at a gallery in Rome, and not London as initially believed and reported to ABC. Keane says the church believes the work was hung there sometime around 1962.

The painting will arrive back at the church from the Iona shortly before Christmas, Keane said, and plans for displaying it are in the works. For all the years that it has been hanging there, he and the church staff knew that it was an important Italian work but believed it was “follower of” or “after” Dandini, a qualification that often happens with Old Master works where attribution is not 100 percent certain. In this case, the research proved that it is in fact a genuine work by Dandini.

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This New York Exhibition Brings Together Two Rare Complete Sets of Prints By Jackson Pollock

Every month, hundreds of galleries showcase new exhibitions on the Midnight Publishing Group Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on the exhibitions we think you should see. Check out what we have in store, and inquire more with one simple click.

What You Need to Know: The new exhibition “Jackson Pollock: The Experimental Works on Paper” at Barbara Mathes Gallery in New York showcases Pollock’s little-known engravings and silkscreens from the 1940s and ‘50s. Pollock was first exposed to printmaking in the 1930s through his work in the Works Progress Administration, but his first experiments with engraving came in the mid-1940s with a series he produced at Atelier 17, a celebrated New York print studio that had relocated from Paris during World War II. On view here a set of those 1944 prints (available as a group) that show the influence of Surrealism on Pollock as he vacillated between abstraction and figuration. These early works are showcased by a later series of silkscreens (also available as a group) from the early 1950s produced with the help of his brother, Sanford McCoy, himself an esteemed printmaker. The prints were based on six of Pollock’s “black paintings,” made from 1951 to 1953, which largely abandoned color and the allover compositions of his drip paintings. 

Why We Like It: Though Pollock’s abstract paintings are his most famous works, these prints showcase Pollock’s lasting interest in figuration, visible in his early works of the 1940s and reemerging in his prints of the 1950s. Rather than the spontaneity of his drip painting, these prints speak to his interest in rhythmic, thought-through compositions and calligraphic mark-making. The set of prints from the 1950s also offers a rare collaboration between Pollock and McCoy, who together designed these prints as a suite. The complete portfolio presented here is a rare opportunity to see the works as the artists intended. What’s more, Pollock gifted this complete set to his brother, making these works particularly meaningful.

What the Gallery Says: “When seen side-by-side, these rare engravings and silkscreens are an exciting look at the development of Pollock’s style from the mid-1940s to the early 1950s. Even though they were made over half a century ago, the works feel contemporary and fresh,” said Barbara Mathes, founder of the gallery.

Jackson Pollock
Silkscreens (Set of 6) (1951)
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Jackson Pollock, Silkscreens (Set of 6) (1951). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Silkscreens (Set of 6) (1951). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Silkscreen (Set of 6: 3 of 6) (1951). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Silkscreen (Set of 6: 3 of 6) (1951). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Silkscreen (Set of 6: 5 of 6) ( 1951). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Silkscreen (Set of 6: 5 of 6) ( 1951). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.


Jackson Pollock
Untitled (Set of 6) (1944–1945)
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Jackson Pollock, Untitled (Set of 6) (1944–1945). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled (Set of 6) (1944–1945). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled (ca. 1944-45). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled (ca. 1944-45). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled (ca. 1944). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

Jackson Pollock, Untitled (ca. 1944). Courtesy of Barbara Mathes Gallery.

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Are We in for a Basquiat Auction Boom? A Fashion Executive’s Rare Skull Painting Could Fetch Over $50 Million at Christie’s

The season of dueling Basquiats is upon us, with two major paintings up for sale next month—one at Christie’s, the other at Sotheby’s. Together, they may bring in $100 million.

Christie’s will offer In This Case (1983), a large skull on a red background, in its New York evening sale of 21st century art on May 11. The canvas has an unpublished estimate of about $50 million. Two days after that, Versus Medici (1982) will be part of Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction on May 13, where it is estimated to bring in between $35 million to $50 million.

“It’s going to be Basquiat versus Basquiat,” said Alberto Mugrabi, a private art dealer and collector. “They are both great paintings.”

The works come to market as demand for Basquiat is surging, according to dealers and auction executives. Just last month, Basquiat’s Warrior (1982) fetched $41.8 million at Christie’s Hong Kong, a new record for a Western artist in Asia. Last year, hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin paid more than $100 million for a major 1982 Basquiat owned by newsprint magnate Peter Brant during the pandemic lockdown.

The seller of the skull at Christie’s is Italian businessman Giancarlo Giammetti, a co-founder of the Valentino fashion house, according to a person familiar with the work. It used to hang in Giammetti’s Manhattan apartment, where it was photographed above his dining table in a 2013 Architectural Digest spread. Christie’s declined to comment on the identity of the seller. Giammetti could not be immediately reached for comment.

Installation view of Basquiat's retrospective at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Photo: Christie's.

Installation view of Basquiat’s retrospective at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Photo: Christie’s.

Skulls are among Basquiat’s most sought-after works. The symbol is part momento mori, an icon of death; part self-portrait; and part memorable logo, harkening back to Basquiat’s origins as a street artist.

Giammetti purchased the painting for $999,500 at Sotheby’s in 2002. It is the last of three large skull canvases Basquiat made in successive years, according to Christie’s.

In This Case was included in the late artist’s blockbuster retrospective in 2018 at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, where the three skulls hung together. The other two are an untitled blue skull from 1982 that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa bought for $110.5 million in 2017, and a blue-and-peach one from 1981 in the collection of the Broad museum in Los Angeles. Maezawa’s work holds Basquiat’s auction record.

Christie’s rival Sotheby’s is hoping to strike gold with the seven-foot-tall Versus Medici, which Basquiat painted soon after an influential trip to Italy in 1981. The painting is among the artist’s “most forceful visual challenges to the Western art establishment, in which the young artist boldly crowns himself—the son of immigrants from Haiti and Puerto Rico—as successor to the artistic throne as established by the masters of the Italian Renaissance,” according to the house.

Art handlers with Basquiat's Versus Medici (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

Art handlers with Basquiat’s Versus Medici (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Only two other works by the artist have sold for more than $50 million at auction.

“Everything that relates to the new generation of Black artists, he was the beginning of all this,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st century art. “Without Basquiat, art history of the past 40 years would have been very different. He’s the most desirable artist at the moment.”

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