Property from The Strong National Museum of Play to be auctioned off

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Property from The Strong National Museum of Play to be auctioned off
A Large Japanese Gold, Red and Black Lacquer Three-Case Inro. Signed Shokasai, Edo Period, 19th Century. Estimate: $10,000-15,000.

CHICAGO, IL.- Hindman Auctions is will present Strong Diversions: Property from a Lifetime of Play on March 28, which will feature items from The Strong National Museum of Play’s collections and its founder, Margaret Woodbury Strong. Strong was a prominent collector and philanthropist, whose passions developed early in life through her unconventional upbringing. Her parents, each avid collectors, took her on extended travels across the world, which encouraged her sense of curiosity and instilled within her a lifelong passion for learning.

By the middle of the 20th century, Strong had assembled one of the most heralded private collections in the United States and had to add two wings to her Rochester, N.Y. home to accommodate all of her works. When she passed away in 1969, she left the entirety of her collection to a foundation that would form what is today known as The Strong National Museum of Play, home to the National Toy Hall of Fame.

The Strong’s Vice President for Collections Christopher Bensch explained, “The Strong National Museum of Play grew out of the collection of our founder, Margaret Woodbury Strong, who was herself the daughter of ardent collectors. Margaret’s mother, Alice Woodbury, assembled most of this collection of Asian materials during the family’s globetrotting travels in the early 20th century. Since these items are outside the museum’s mission to focus on the history of play, it’s wonderful to have this opportunity to share them with the world and, through the help of Hindman, connect these objects with new generations of eager collectors.”

A Collection of a Lifelong Learner

The auction will feature more than 350 works of Asian Art from the museum’s collection, many of which originated from the personal collection of 19th-century Chinese and Japanese objects d’art of Strong’s mother, Alice Motley Woodbury. The one-of-a kind objects reflect Strong’s love of discovery and scholarship.

“We are delighted to be partnering with The Strong Museum to offer this truly inspiring selection of Asian art and scholars’ objects,” shared Annie Wu, Hindman’s Director and Senior Specialist for Asian Art. “The stories told through both the museum itself and this collection are remarkable, and we are honored to present works from someone who was so dedicated to scholarship and sharing her striking collection with the world.”

Chinese Works of Art

Chinese art will lead the auction, beginning with a selection of jade and precious stone snuff bottles. The session will also feature jewelry, such as a coral, jade, jadeite and hardstone necklace (lot 328; estimate: $1,500-2,500). Extraordinary bronze and wood sculptures will follow, including a pair of 17th century gilt decorated bronze figures of standing officials (lot 350; estimate: $5,000-7,000). Their rounded faces, with finely cast official’s hats and flowing robes are of typical Ming style. The gilding on these figures is almost complete, adding to the value of this already exceptional lot. Décor items such as table screens and porcelain objects will also be offered.

A Chinese copper red glazed porcelain bowl, from the Yongzheng Period (lot 394; estimate: $8,000-12,000) is a particularly distinct object. The lustrous, smooth and even toned ruddy glaze on this bowl is exceptional due to how difficult it was to form a glaze this radiant. The imperial reign mark underneath illustrates the strong calligraphy skill of the maker/painter. The Yongzheng Emperor only ruled for approximately 10 years, but had a keen eye for art, especially porcelain. Monochrome glazed porcelain wares such as this bowl, made during the Yongzheng period, represent the strongest Chinese porcelain techniques in the history of Chinese art.

Japanese Objects and Art

Japanese objects include a selection of over twenty inros, cases for holding small objects. The group is highlighted by a rare large gold, red and black lacquer three-case inro (lot 460; estimate: $10,000-15,000). Unlike the inro that often come to market today, which tend to be rectangular form, this larger type is rendered with greater detail, illustrating that it was potentially made for a Japanese Samurai, making this work even more desirable for collectors.

Japanese portable writing sets, called yatate will also be offered, including sets originally from the collection of Alice Motley Woodbury, Strong’s mother. Alice was particularly fascinated by small portable Japanese containers and objects, such as these cleverly designed kits that artfully contain a miniature brush, seal paste and ink, of which she amassed one of the world’s largest collections.

Additional Japanese items in the offering are carved netsuke –miniature sculptures and tsuba – hand guards for Japanese swords and bronze and porcelain wares. Highlight lots include animal inspired works such as a Japanese silver articulated model of a crab (lot 510; estimate: $1,000-2,000) and a small copper alloy okimono of a fish (lot 512; estimate: $1,000-2,000).

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