Strauss & Co’s April sale includes two remarkable single-owner collections of Chinese porcelain

24 Mar 2021

Two remarkable single-owner collections of Chinese porcelain and works of art, one assembled by a storied Plettenberg Bay family, the other drawn from the property of a lady connoisseur with an exclusive period focus, will go under the hammer in Strauss & Co’s first marquee sale of 2021.

The three-day sale, which will be livestreamed via Strauss & Co’s updated website, includes a day devoted to the decorative arts and jewellery. Scheduled to take place on Monday, 12 April 2021, highlights from the three sessions include an exceptional diamond ring featuring a flawless emerald-cut diamond weighing 2.55 carats and a Cape silver commemorative cup awarded to a Burgher Cavalry officer in 1805.

The Property of a Connoisseur comprises sixteen lots dating from the mid-seventeenth to mid-eighteenth centuries and includes a richly decorated famille-verte Chinese rouleau vase (estimate R280 000 – 320 000) and rare Chinese famille-verte dish enamelled with the Chinese deity Magu beside a cart bearing gifts of longevity, luck and happiness (estimate R450 000 – 550 000).

Many of the works in this exacting collection, such as lot 210, a Chinese celadon-glazed brushpot with incised motifs (estimate R200 000 – 250 000), were acquired from reputable English and Swiss dealers like Bernheimer Fine Arts and John Sparks. “It is both extremely unusual and extraordinarily difficult to pursue collecting with such concentrated focus,” says Vanessa Phillips, joint managing director and an expert in porcelain. “The quality of the individual lots in this particular consignment bears testament to a discerning eye of a patient collector.”

The 34-lot Jerling Estate Blue and White “Kraak” Porcelain Collection is similarly noteworthy for its precise focus. Identifiable by their distinctive underglaze of cobalt blue, Chinese export porcelain in the Kraak style have long been a pedigreed collectable. The Portuguese trade in Chinese porcelain traces its origins to the late 1500s. Not long afterwards, in 1630, the São Gonçalo, one of the great merchant ships of Portugal’s naval age, sank with a payload of Chinese porcelain while at anchor in Bahia Formosa, now Plettenberg Bay.

Centuries later Peter and Della Jerling – descendants of Johann Jacob Jerling, a former cobbler with the Dutch East India Company and the first free burgher to settle east of the Keurbooms River – discovered shards of porcelain from the São Gonçalo deposited in the dunes along the Plettenberg Bay coastline. The discovery activated a lifelong interest in collecting. Alongside their extensive collection of porcelain shards, the Jerlings also acquired many extant examples of Kraak ware, notably at auction and from dealers such as Anita Gray, a Chinese porcelain specialist based in London.

Highlights from the Jerling Collection include Ming Dynasty dishes from the Wanli-period. Lot 169 is decorated with eight ducks before a riverscape (estimate R30 000 – 40 000) and lot 170 features auspicious symbols enclosed by a diaper frame (estimate R35 000 – 50 000), both measure roughly 50cm in diameter. Noteworthy smaller examples are lot 161, which is decorated with three ducks (estimate R9 000 – 12 000), lot 162, which features three magpies before rocky outcrops (estimate R15 000 – 20 000), and lot 165, which shows a pair of spotted deer within a wooded landscape (estimate R12 000 – 15 000).

Also from the Jerling Collection, lot 166 is a large bowl from the Jingdezhen region decorated with a seated maiden (estimate R40 000 – 60 000). Lot 178 is a Ming Dynasty pouring vessel (estimate R10 000 – 15 000) and lot 182 is a Qing Dynasty cylindrical brushpot decorated with a bird perched on a blossoming branch (estimate R20 000 – 25 000). Eights lots of fine Cape silver collected by the Jerlings are also on sale, including a silver presentation box by Peter Clarke Daniel (estimate R20 000 – 30 000) with an inscription detailing the struggles of the Cape’s early Lutheran settlers.

“The sadness of the decision by Peter and Della’s two sons to part with their collection, which was a central part of their home while growing up, is offset by the hope that that it will be treasured by another family who will derive as much pleasure from it as they have for many years to come,” says Vanessa Phillips. “The remarkable quality of both single-owner collections of Chinese porcelain and works of art is borne out by the large number of condition reports we have already received.”

The session devoted to oriental works of art also includes an exceptional Chinese export “Canton” 113-piece dinner service (estimate R200 000 – 300 000), as well as a Chinese cloisonné enamel ruyi sceptre from the Qianlong period (estimate R120 000 – 150 000), formerly owned by Sir Philip Eric Millbourn, an English ministerial adviser who was instrumental in the shaping of Heathrow Airport.

The afternoon jewellery session includes a number of pieces by distinguished makers, among them lot 256, a lady’s sapphire, diamond and gold evening bag by Tiffany & Co (estimate R120 000 – 130 000). The three gem-set rings by London goldsmith David Thomas (estimate R75 000 – 80 000). Lot 291 is an amethyst and gold flower brooch by FRED (estimate R12 000 – 15 000), a renowned Parisian house owned by LVMH.

In line with an international trend for collecting coloured stones, our catalogue includes emeralds, sapphires, tourmalines and a pair of pear-shaped aquamarine diamond earrings weighing approximately 13.70 carats. Lot 275, a flawless D-coloured diamond ring, represents especially good value for collectors considering its size. The pre-sale estimate is R500 000 – 550 000.

The final session of the day covers furniture and silver. The highlight of the silver is lot 359, a Cape silver commemorative cup presented to Captain Johannes Linden of the Burgher Cavalry of Stellenbosch pursuant an 1805 mission to capture deserters from the Hottentot Light Infantry Corps (estimate R200 000 – 300 000). The cup was produced by Johan Hendrik Vos, a member of the respected Vos family of Cape silversmiths.

English silversmiths have consistently featured in Strauss & Co’s auction sales since 2009. The forthcoming sale continues this tradition. Lot 323 comprises three William IV silver dishes by William Bateman of London (estimate R65 000 – 80 000) and lot 327, a two-handled presentation tray by Charles Stuart Harris of London (estimate R70 000 – 80 000). The catalogue also includes a small selection of noteworthy Portuguese and Italian silver (lots 344-346). “Our criteria for evaluating silver are twofold: we look first at maker, and then at the time and date,” says Sophie-Louise Fröhlich, specialist in the decorative arts “While silver’s value as a base material is a factor for some collectors, it is not the primary consideration from the standpoint of a discriminating collector.”

Lot 357, a painted and welded steel dining suite by renowned Hungarian-French designer and tapestry maker Mathieu Matégot circa 1950, leads the furniture selection. The current owner’s father mistakenly purchased this at an auction in Zambia in 1959, but went on to enjoy proud usage, notably at the owner’s wedding. Other outstanding furniture on offer includes two Cape stinkwood pieces from the Oudtshoorn district. Lot 373 is a jonkmanskas from the Highgate Ostrich Farm (estimate R80 000 – 100 000) and lot 375 comprises a pair of wall cupboards with yellowwood inlays (estimate R150 000 – 200 000). Both lots are fine examples of historical Cape country furniture.

Strauss & Co’s marquee live sale of modern, post-war and contemporary art, decorative arts, jewellery and fine wine will commence on Sunday, 11 April. The sale of all the lots mentioned here will take place on Monday, 12 April 2021. The sale will be livestreamed to bidders from two sales venues in Cape Town and Johannesburg. There is an option to bid in-person at both venues. Covid-19 safety protocols will apply throughout.

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Mia Borman 084 685 1671