A rare collection of Chinese works of art, compiled by retired Navy Capt. S.N. Ferris Luboshez of Falls Church, Va., was sold here today at Sotheby's for $1.3 million (including the 10 percent buyer's premium).
The collection, which Luboshez purchased while stationed in Shanghai after World War II, included about 100 examples of bronzes and ceramics from the Shang Dynasty through the Ming Dynasty.
As central field commissioner for the State Department's Foreign Liquidation Commission from 1945 to 1949, Luboshez was able to buy rare pieces from Mandarin families. In 1949 the Communists banned the sale of art to outsiders, and Luboshez was one of the last to remove art from China. He was a discriminating connoisseur, according to specialists in the field, and collectors and dealers turned out today, paying high prices for the objects.
Luboshez, along with his wife, Bea, watched the sale from a glassed-in balcony while more than 500 Chinese art enthusiasts vied quietly for key lots, crowding together in the back of the room, both Westerners and Easterners bowing as they entered and exited. A digital currency exchange board converted U.S. dollars to, among others, Hong Kong dollars, Swiss francs, Japanese yen and Singapore dollars, reflecting the international audience.
The Luboshezes jotted prices in their catalogues. Luboshez said he had decided to sell because, "I don't need the objects any more. They are imbedded in my head."
The highest price, $198,000, was paid for a rare, glazed pottery figure of a court lady from the Tang Dynasty. The serene and graceful seated figure was one of the few lots that disappointed the Luboshezes. "We had hoped it would bring more. Two years ago we could have gotten $300,000," said Luboshez.
Other high prices were paid for archaic bronzes, ceremonial vessels with rich and mellow green-brown patina. A Shang Dynasty wine vessel, intricately decorated with masks and dragons, brought $154,000. Another Shang wine vessel, in the shape of a tiger and owl with intricate decoration, was sold for $126,500 to a London dealer. A bronze cauldron and cover from the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (circa 500 B.C.) brought $70,000, lower than the estimated $80,000 to $120,000.
For more than 2 1/2 hours, bids were called in a slow cadence, and there was little excitement registered in the room.
Even Luboshez was affected by the solemnity in the room, and he told a sad story after the sale: "In the midst of all this, my dog died today. And that is a greater loss for me than the loss of these art objects. In the case of a living creature the loss is a different feeling."