Press Release – March 8, 2019

Introducing Brunk Auctions’ kickoff spring sale featuring cut glass, gemstones, marbles and breccias, watercolors, flora and fauna Naturalist prints, and early maps

Asheville, North Carolina — Join Brunk Auctions for a multi-faceted March 21-23, 2019 auction weekend, certain to be an epic kickoff to our spring auctions. Between our Emporium and Premier auctions, this month’s eighteen-hundred-plus lots auction features a plethora of earthly delights, from loose gemstones, unusual glazes, distinct marbletops, to an important six-piece map, and a brilliant scattering of cut glass tableware.  Also featuring furnishings from important Southeastern private estates and regional museums, plan for full days and accelerated excitement across bidding platforms. Scope the distinctly earthy and robust offerings below:

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Silicas (SiO2 ): Glazes and Glass

The primary ingredient in glaze is silica, which when mixed with other ingredients like copper or aluminum, will translate various colors and textures.  With earthen clay being porous, glazes were developed for practical reasons, to waterproof vessels and pots but also, eventually, to decorate. Many early Chinese ceramics are known for distinct colors like Celadon (Song Dynasty, 960-1279) or Peach-bloom (Kangxi Period, 1662-1772), colors which were perfected over reigns and under the endorsement of emperors.  These two Chinese Copper-Red Glazed Vases (Lots 1470 & 1471) are marked with the reign mark of Daoguang (1821-1850), the Copper Red glaze with a typically low success rate.  Modern methods allow us to understand the complexity of the copper red glaze system, which is a notoriously difficult glaze with a high count of failure due to inconsistent size and density of cuprite particles, and the fact that it relies on a “reduction atmosphere,” or the willful creation of lack of oxygen in the kiln. Because Daogung’s reign was so short, ceramics that survive from this period are rare.  Yet another set of rarities are two Early Chinese Frescoes possibly from the Song Dynasty (Lots 1501-1503). Impressing a distinct serenity, flowing female deities with elaborate headdresses cascade amongst clouds.

Volcanoes make unrefined glass constantly, known as obsidian, however fine glass requires purity of ingredients and ideal conditions to create a glass blank for decorative cutting.  The historical cut to clear glass we see in Lots 700-955 require the addition of lead oxide which makes ordinary glass soft enough to cut with rotating wheels without risk of fracturing.  American Brilliant Period cut glass was the result of a line of at least seven talented craftspeople, from gatherer (melting the original molten glass formula) to the polisher (finishing the blank by polishing with wooden softwood wheels).  Brought to us by twelve different collectors, March’s auction contains over 170 exceptional Cut Glass objects, including Dorflinger, Hawkes, Stevens and Williams, J. Hoare and Libbey examples, from demijohns to decanters to butter tubs to stems.  


Rare Sculptural Pieces from artist Daniel Brush

He prefers that his pieces be called objets de vertu, which is categorized as “tiny decorative pieces noted for their fineness of material and craft, often reflecting considerable effort and finesse on the part of the maker.”  The former art history professor at Georgetown University, Daniel Brush, has a strong following, but perhaps only 20 collectors own his one-of-a-kind pieces.  He works alone, and produces at most maybe five objects a year (each with hundreds to thousands of hours investment).  These rare offerings by Daniel Brush feature mastodon ivory, yellowish orange diamonds, and his well-known high karat gold granulation. Daniel Brush : Lot 1296 / 22kt. Diamond & Resin Brooch; Lot 1297 / Gold Turned Snuff Bottle; Lot 1298 / 22kt. Pendant

Under Pressure

“I’m a perfectionist.”  Reginald C. Miller, also known as “Mr. Sapphire,” set a precedent for quality and integrity in the lapidary field.  Miller’s pursuit of perfection and passion for colored gemstones in the field made him “arguably the most trusted, talented cutter of important colored gemstones of our time” (Cushion Gem, 2016).   Elite stonecutters who have followed Miller’s discerning eye remark: “Unfortunately…high standards are no longer as common to the gem trade as they once were… with scientific breakthroughs such as the advent of heat treatments [which] opened the doors for a “science of deception.”  Find the joy and value of reinventing your own design amongst this choice selection of loose gemstones, offered from the world-renowned lapidary’s personal collection — any March birthdays out there? See the loose 21.7ct. Aquamarine gem (lot 1432).

Other featured items:


Gold (Au): Marbles and Breccias in French Furniture

Architecturally and decoratively popular throughout the gilded age, metamorphosed limestone (marble) and sedimentary breccias visually alluded to the extravagance of France during the 15th and 16th centuries.  Notable for their angular, broken fragments and thick dendritic veins (indicative of an explosive or impactful event), breccias are often harvested in caves or in submarine environments. Striking and often colorful, some of the most famous examples of its ornamental use are the columns in the Minoan Palace of Knossos (Crete) in about 1800 BCE, and the Egyptian state of the goddess Tawaret in the British Museum.  Also, it was considered a “precious stone” by early Romans. Designed for the upper class, ornate gilt-work and flashy marbles encapsulate 16th century France, when a major cultural shift took place, ultimately resulting in Louis XVI losing his head. When the merchant class was able to afford this posh furniture with their hard-earned money, nobility’s fame and fortune was overshadowed. Each of these gilded age pieces speak to the harsh contrasts between hard work and inheritance, the nuanced contrasts between rococo and neoclassical.   

Lay your eyes on the opulent, intricate, and romantic French furniture offerings from private collectors in our March sale:


Tracing Tectonics

Highlighted features from our official ongoing partnership with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are two museum-deaccessioned maps, to include the rare and important Bishop James Madison Map of Virginia (Lot 1620 / Estimate $80,000-$120,000), printed in six separate sections and acquired directly from a descendant of the printer.  Re-assembled by Colonial Williamsburg’s paper conservator so that it retains the original margins and character, this is perhaps the only known copy of Madison’s map to survive.  Achieving a breadth of acute details with its 41 x 71-½ in. borders, this map set was both functional and symbolic of the expanding worldview of the colonial elite and intellectual pursuit of geography and mathematics.  “Maps tell us what was known, or believed, about the land, suggest how people travelled and traded, and record routes taken across oceans and continents,” shares Margaret Beck Pritchard, Colonial Williamsburg Curator of Prints, Maps and Wallpaper since 1982.  Co-author of Degrees of Latitude, which provides not only standard cartographic analysis but also cultural context for the making and use of these 2-D objects, these two unique maps celebrate and explore how we understand American settlement and colonization.  Another regional map to consider is the Fry & Jefferson Map of Virginia, featuring the “most inhabited part of Virginia” in 1751, this copy including hand coloring and a significant cartouche (Lot 1618 / Estimate $20,000-$30,000).  


Remembering Maritime Excursions in Wood, Oil, and Gouache

From a Private Virginia Collection and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation arrive an assemblage of memorabilia, featuring ships in great pause and a surveyors compass, but also a ship’s bell clock and war-related canes.  


Mighty Pigments, Mighty Observations

“Born in Caves,” colored clays which are found in soft deposits of the deep earth were transformed into artistic pigments.  Referred to as “ochre,” these reddish and yellowish clays are thought to have been first used on the walls of UNESCO site Lascaux, a suite of complex caves found in southwestern France where animals depicted correspond with those of the Upper Paleolithic.   Minerals such as cinnabar, azurite, and malachite were later used by Egyptians to produce the rich reds, blues, and greens their hieroglyphics are recognized for. So, the history of pigments has evolved heavily along with trade routes and the introduction of synthetic chemicals– however, the watercolors used today still bear origins of earthly deposits.  Meet Will Henry Stevens (1881-1949), a North Carolina “pioneer of modernism,” whose abstract ways and soft naturalism harness distinct palettes of color in pastel and watermedia. Four offerings which demonstrate Stevens’ acute attention to softened edges include: Fenced Farm Aerial View, Mountain Landscape, Blue Green Abstract and Forest Stream (Lots 1660, 1657, 1656, 1658 respectively).  And a South Carolinian working in pigments at the same time was Alfred Heber Hutty (1877-1954), considered one of the leading artists of the Charleston Renaissance.  A striking 27 x 20 in. gouache featuring Old St. Phillips (c. 1950) will be offered on March 23, with an estimate of $8,000-$10,000 (Lot 1631).

Unearthed from Marion and Theodore Gore’s lifelong collection (over fifty passionate years) are a series of naturalist prints from British, German and Dutch artists across the 16th to 19th centuries.  Amongst these time capsules of early scientific documentation are birds, beasts and botany, alongside insects, shrubs and observations of the air, soil and waters, exploring the “exotic American colonies firsthand.” Of particular Southern interest and regard due to his expedition in the Carolinas, Florida and Bahama Islands, is British naturalist Mark Catesby.  “Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands, 1754 has lost none in its power to delight since its publication 250 years ago,” exclaims Arader Galleries, 40 year collectors of fine historical paper art.  In 1712, 29-year-old Catesby began a seven year exploration of the Virginia colony, developing a two-volume work which is considered to be one of the most important achievements of eighteenth-century natural sciences.  Prohibited by cost, he collaborated with fellow artisans; he trained in the art of etching with French expert Joseph Goupy to help prepare his 200 prints for print. Novice in classification, he studied with British botanist William Sherard, who supplied Latin polynomials, used as species names before Linnaeus’ binomial system came into general use.  His vibrant juxtapositions of flora and fauna distinguished naturalistic accuracy in a unique, charming obsessive nature, and remains a benchmark in American natural history with recognition on par with “since the art of printing was discovered” (Mortimer). Increasingly, Catesby and other Naturalists such as John James Audubon (who would follow in his footsteps a century later), received financial investment for their technical and pioneering merit as well as world-wide attention for the evolving classification of plants and animals.  

Please see other naturalist prints by Emanuel Sweert (Dutch, 1552-1612), Basilius Besler (German, 1561-1629), Maria Sibylla Merian (German, 1647-1717), Dr. Robert John Thornton (British, 1768-1837), George Brookshaw (British, 1751-1823) and John Miller in the Gore Collection.  

Data adapted from David Yih (Connecticut Botanical Society), Winsor & Newton, American Cut Glass Association, NY History Degrees of Latitude Exhibition Notes, Lolo French Antiques, Cushion Gem, Museum of Art and Design, Blue Spiral Gallery.

Please visit for images and full descriptions, email or call 828-254-6846 with any questions about our bidding process, consigning with us, or with item inquiries.