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Lot 388. Two Chinese Amber Carvings and An Agate Carving of Double Fish, 18th Century. Height of double fish carving 6 in., 15.2 cm. Price Realized: $62,500 (Estimate $2,000 - $4,000)© Hindman LLC. 

CHICAGO, IL.- Property from The Strong National Museum of Play’s collection realized more than $821,600, doubling its expected estimate with extraordinary prices achieved for Chinese amber fish carvings, bronzes, porcelain figures and Japanese inro. Strong Diversions: Property from a Lifetime of Play spotlighted works from prominent collector and philanthropist Margaret Woodbury Strong, whose passion for learning and scholarship developed through her unique upbringing and global travel. Strong assembled one of the largest and most unique private collections of the 20th century, inviting visitors to her home as early as 1948. Her collection of over half a million objects formed the foundation of what would come to be known as The Strong National Museum of Play.

Strong’s mother, Alice Motley Woodbury, was a passionate collector of Chinese and Japanese objects d’art, and bidders were eager to secure items from her collection. Bidders had particular enthusiasm for the large collection of yatate and sagemono.

Chinese Amber Fish, Bronzes & Porcelain Wares

Leading the auction was a set of two 18th century Chinese amber carvings and an agate carving of double fish (lot 388), which sold for an impressive $62,500 against a presale estimate of $2,000-4,000. The red and white fish measure six inches in height and feature exceptional detailing.

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Lot 388. Two Chinese Amber Carvings and An Agate Carving of Double Fish, 18th Century. Height of double fish carving 6 in., 15.2 cm. Price Realized: $62,500 (Estimate $2,000 - $4,000)© Hindman LLC. 

the double fish carved of bicolor agate to show one red and one white, supported on a hardwood stand.

Chinese bronzes were also among popular lots, such as a bronze 'lion' incense burner (lot 344) and an archaistic bronze vase, fanghu (lot 345), both of which shattered their estimates, selling for $31,250 and $28,125 respectively. A pair of late 17th century Chinese gilt bronze figures of standing officials (lot 350) were also top performers, selling for $16,250 against a presale estimate of $5,000-7,000. The quintessential Ming style of the figures, with finely cast official’s hats, flowing robes, and stunning gilding, made this lot highly desirable.

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Lot 344. A Chinese Bronze 'Lion' Incense Burner, 19th century. Height: 23 1/2 in., 59.5 cm. Price Realized: $31,250 (Estimate $800 - $1,200)© Hindman LLC. 

heavily cast and raised on four beast feet, the body flanked by a pair of S-shaped handles.

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 Lot 345. A Chinese Archaistic Bronze Vase, Fanghu, Ming dynasty, 16th-17th century. Height: 15 1/2 in., 39.5 cm. Price Realized: $28,125 (Estimate $3,000 - $5,000)© Hindman LLC. 

in the style of the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC), of square section, set atop a straight foot with the swelling belly rising to a slightly flaring neck, on all sides the shoulder set with a Taotie mask handle suspending a loose ring.

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Lot 350. A Pair of Chinese Gilt Decorated Bronze Figures of Standing Officials, Late Ming dynasty, 17th century. Total height of larger 15 3/4 in., 40 cm. Price Realized: $16,250 (Estimate $5,000 - $7,000)© Hindman LLC. 

each bearded figure shown standing stiffly atop a square plinth, wearing long robes upturned shoes, each face cast with a serene expression, both hands poised to hold a hu tablet in front of the chest.

Porcelain items, such as a Chinese copper red glazed porcelain bowl (lot 394) which sold for $28,125, also achieved excellent prices. Made during the Yongzheng period, this bowl is an amazing example of one of the most impressive Chinese porcelain techniques in the history of Chinese art.

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Lo 394. A Chinese Copper Red Glazed Porcelain Bowl, Yongzheng period (1723-1735). Diameter 5 3/4 in., 14.5 cm. Price Realized: $28,125 (Estimate $8,000 - $12,000)© Hindman LLC. 

the slight flaring mouth rim rising along a slight s-curve from the deep walls, all supported by a straight foot ring. The exterior of the bowl and foot covered in a smooth lustrous glaze of deep jam tone, showing a dappled thinning along the mouth ring opposite depth at the foot. White glazes covers the interior and recessed base, incised with a  six-character mark of the period in underglaze blue.

Provenance: Alice Motley Woodbury (1859-1933)
Margaret Woodbury Strong (1897-1969), by descent.
Accessioned by the Strong in 1975.

Japanese Inro

Japanese inro, cases for holding small objects, by Shiomi Masanari saw high demand in the auction. A 19th century Japanese gold lacquer four-case inro (lot 467) climbed well past is estimate of $1,500 - $2,500 to achieve $40,625. This inro is decorated in iroe-togidashi-e on a kinji ground with two mice, and is accompanied by a crystal ojime and a mouse-form netsuke. A large Japanese gold, red and black lacquer three-case inro in the form of a set of samurai armor (lot 460) sold for $16,250. Japanese inro in the form of armor are very rare, and unlike typical rectangular form works that come to market today, inro of this larger type are rendered with greater detail and form, indicating that this particular inro may have been made for Japanese Samurai.

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Lot 467. A Japanese Gold Lacquer Four-Case Inro, by Shiomi Masanari, Edo period, 19th century. Length 2 3/4 in., 7 cm. Price Realized: $40,625 (Estimate $1,500 - $2,500)© Hindman LLC. 

decorated in iroe-togidashi-e on a kinji ground with two mice signed in red lacquer Shiomi Masanari, the interior of black lacquer, together with a crystal ojime and a mouse-form netsuke. 

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Lot 460. A Large Japanese Gold, Red and Black Lacquer Three-Case Inrosigned Shokasai, Edo period, 19th century. Length 5 7/8 in., 15 cm. Price Realized: $16,250 (Estimate $10,000 - $15,000)© Hindman LLC. 

An 18th century gold lacquer five-case inro (lot 466), also featuring a mouse, was another highlight of the sale. Selling for $9,375 against an estimate of $1,000-2,000, the inro features an illustration set on a kinji ground, and the interior is made of a nashiji lacquer. It is accompanied by a carved wood mouse-form netsuke signed Masanao. 

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Lot 466. A Japanese Gold Lacquer Five-Case Inro, by Shiomi Masanari, Edo period, 18th century. Length 3 5/8 in., 9.2 cmPrice Realized: $9,375 (Estimate $1,000-2,000)© Hindman LLC. 

the vertical rectangular inro decorated in gold, silver and coloured hiramaki-e and togidashi-e showing a large mouse with a male figure seated on its back, grasping its tail, all set on a kinji ground, the interior of nashiji lacquer, signed Shiomi Masanari in red lacquer, together with an amber ojime and a carved wood mouse-form netsuke signed Masanao.

Yatate from Alice Woodbury Strong’s Collection & Additional Highlights

There was particularly strong enthusiasm for Alice Woodbury Strong’s collection of yatate, Japanese portable writing sets that contain a miniature brush, seal paste and ink, and were often carried by scholars. Bidders appreciated Alice’s keen eye for quality and were eager to win works from one of the world’s largest and most respected collections of the form.

Decorative art and furniture lots also proved to be highly coveted, including a Chinese export hardwood table (lot 429) and carved hardwood sofa (lot 431) which skyrocketed past their presale estimates in the hundreds to realize $12,500 and $8,750, respectively. 

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Lot 429. A Chinese export hardwood table, late 19th century-early 20th century. Height 25 1/2 x depth 14 in., 64.7 x 35.5 cm. Price Realized: $9,375 (Estimate $1,000-2,000)© Hindman LLC. 

the square top of burlwood set within an a delicately carved apron pierced with lotus and peony in scrollwork above four inward curving cabriole legs joined by stretchers at the feet beneath a sectioned platform.

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Lot 431. A Chinese Export Carved Hardwood Sofa, 19th century-20th century. Height 39 3/8 x width 76 3/8 x depth 28 3/4 in., 100 x 194 x 73 cm. Price Realized: $8,750 (Estimate $300-500)© Hindman LLC. 

carved of rectangular form and supported by four animal-mask feet joined by elaborate seat and crestrails caned and pierced with twisting vines bearing double gourds.

Note: Property of a Chinese official Fluoqua, by repute. 
Accessioned by the Strong Museum of Play in 1979. 

Additional highlights included a Chinese coral, jade, jadiete and hardstone necklace (lot 328) which sold for $10,000 compared to an estimate of $1,500-2,500; a large pair of Chinese famille verte porcelain figures of Fu lions (lot 401), which sold for $9,375 against a presale estimate of $3,000-5,000; and a set of three Japanese carved box netsuke, which realized $8,750 compared to a presale estimate of $700-900. 

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Lot 328. Chinese coral, jade, jadiete and hardstone necklace, 19th century.Length of coral strand 27 in., 68.5 cm. Price Realized: $10,000 (Estimate $1,500-2,500)© Hindman LLC.

having a primary strand of near-spherical coral beads evenly interspersed with four white jade examples, on topped with a bottle-shaped example to form a central double-gourd form terminal, from which a reticulated jadiete and white jade figure of a rat suspend from brass chains; variously strung with ten other carved hardstone, coral, jade, and a jadeite chain-strung pendants. 

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Lot 401. A large pair of Chinese famille verte porcelain figures of Fu lions, late 19th century-early 20th century. Height of each lion 27 1/4 in., 69 cm. Price Realized: $9,375 (Estimate $3,000-5,000)© Hindman LLC.

depicted seated upright, the female and male each resting one clawed front paw on a cub and reticulated ball, respectively. The yellow bodies dappled in black suggesting coarse coats, with long manes of conical curls descending from the crown of the head to furls at the tail, having wide open mouths bearing fangs, broad snouts, and large movable eyes; each wearing a ribbon collar beaded with gilt double gourds ornaments, their muscular shoulders and hindquarters decorated with spurts of flame wisps. Each raised above a rectangular stand painted on all sides with flowers and butterflies against a black ground.

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Lot 439. A set of three Japanese carved box netsuke, 19th century. Length of largest 1 7/8 in., 4.8 cm. Price Realized: $8,750 (Estimate $500-700)© Hindman LLC.

the first example carved to show an opening on a gourd revealing a galloping horse, signed Toyomasa, 豐昌; the second in the form of a seated tiger with its head turned, signed Masanao, 正直; and the third a recumbent stag, unsigned

Bidding for Strong Diversions: Property from a Lifetime of Play was available via phone, absentee bid, live online on Hindman’s Digital Bid Room and to live bidders in the saleroom.