Saturday, April 2, 2016


It all began on a dark and stormy night....(actually not true, but catchy?)
I needed a display table for my Marbro lamps; so I bought the above antique Chinese altar table a couple of weeks ago. This altar table is REALLY LARGE--over 8 1/2 feet wide and in pretty good condition with great patina and the original lacquer surface. After we got it in, I decided that I should research it just last Monday. Much to my delight, it turns out that the table dates to the late 18th or early 19th c. and was originally lacquered in black over the heavy elm base. While I was researching my "display" table, I saw this gorgeous mid-19th c. ivory lacquered altar table on 1stdibs
It was love at first sight--I knew that I had to have one just like it. The only problem is that this table is listed at $17,500--and my pockets won't stretch that far.....but look at that patina and the purity of form.
Wednesday (as usual) I went to preview my Thursday auction. A bit down the first aisle, midway between the high-end and the low-end sections, I found this

MAMA MIA, I couldn't believe my eyes, I had not known this form of altar table existed until just a couple of days prior and it had instantly become my object of intense desire...... IT WAS SITTING THERE WAITING FOR ME. My auction table is a very tiny bit smaller and it does not have the inverted toe, but it is essentially the same table. 
The lacquer technique is called "daqi" which involved soaking a fabric in lacquer, applying the fabric to the wood and then applying additional coats of lacquer.
I was ready to go to $1000. So I gaged my timing, arriving on schedule. I sat with my friend Hillary and waited and waited. Finally, my table comes to block. I look around for all of the Chinese buyers who had been flitting around the table previously and they were no where to be found. Don starts the bidding at $100 (I couldn't believe he didn't know the value) and the bids go up in $25 increments and then in $50 increments and then the bidding stops with me at $350..... and stays there. No body else knew the value of the table (or maybe they simply lost focus and forgot to bid?).....Of course, I'm jumping for joy inside. Needless to say, my price point will not be any where near $17,500.
(To be transparent: I did make a huge buying mistake. I bid on something that I had not previewed/inspected. I'll take it back and re-auction the lot and I'll take a huge loss. But that was a good reminder to me to stay conscious and aware. And the truth is that if you aren't making a mistake every once in a while, you're not being aggressive enough)
Well I've got to get up early tomorrow.
Wish me luck selling some big things as I am jammed to the rafters.
Mary & Jones & Cole


  1. Mary you are on a roll! These tables are astounding, so incredibly beautiful!!
    Love your auction stories!
    The Arts by Karena
    Featuring Artist Scott McBee

  2. Hi Karena, Yes, just rolling along. But I do need to make some room so that I can fit in some more finds. xoxo Mary