Vintage buttons, brooches featured in online auction Sept. 2

More than 200 lots of vintage buttons and brooches comprise much of a Jasper52 online auction that will be conducted Wednesday, Sept. 2. The collection ranges from the Victorian age to the mid-20th century. Additional vintage jewelry rounds out the sale catalog.

Edwardian/Victorian 12K gold filled chatelaine brooch, 4 ½in long. Estimate: $90-$110. Jasper52 image

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Choice contemporary art offered in Jasper52 auction Sept. 1

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Jasper52 will present an online auction of urban and contemporary art that includes works by some of today’s most recognized artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Banksy, KAWS and many more.

Damien Hirst, (British, b. 1965) ‘H7-3 Butterfly Heart,’ 2020, laminated Giclée print on aluminum composite panel, 28 x 29in. Estimate: $5,000-$6,000. Jasper52 image

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Mandalas transcend form to become art

NEW YORK – In Himalayan and Indian art, the mandala is an important tool for meditation and visualization. In brief, a mandala is essentially a circular construct to diagrammatically represent the universe and typically features a deity or deities. They are highly precise and technical and come in many forms from painted ones to architectural mandalas and in the form of lotuses.

Architectural mandalas are essentially replicas of painted mandalas while lotus mandalas are more decorative. For the sake of brevity, in this article we will forgo the painted cloth examples (often referred to as thangkas) and instead focus on sculptural mandalas. These are highly sought after today and are typically crafted in gilt-bronze, silver or a copper alloy.

A large cast gilt-bronze Avalokiteshvara with many arms in front of a mandala has a Tibetan inscription on the back of its lotus base. The piece brought $40,000 + the buyer’s premium in March 2020 at Madison Square Gallery Inc. Photo courtesy of Madison Square Gallery Inc. and LiveAuctioneers

For Westerners, they are collectible as art objects and transcend their original use as a tool for meditation and spiritual enlightenment. After a slump in recent years, the market has rebounded for these objects because of increased demand from both institutional and private collectors, particularly among Chinese and American buyers.

Three-dimensional mandalas run the gamut from those having a large figure of a deity atop or in front of a round mandala to lotus-form mandalas that open up their petals to reveal images of deities within a celestial abode. This polychromed copper alloy mandala, representing a lotus mandala that symbolizes the celestial environment of the deity Chakrasamvara with his consort Vajravarahi, sold for $325,000 at Bonhams New York in December 2019. Noting that most mandalas in Tantric Buddhist art are painted or ephemeral sand creations, the auction catalog says, “Rare sculptural mandalas, such as the present lot, are perhaps the most fascinating kind, constructed with a mechanism to open and close the lotus petals around the central deity.”

These bronze lotus mandalas probably originate to the Pala period in Northeastern India (8th-12th century). Sculptural lotus mandalas had a resurgence in China in the 15th century, catering to Ming imperial styles. The British Museum has a mandala in the form of an articulated pomegranate made in China during the Qing Dynasty. At its center, the mandala has a tutelary deity embracing his prajna (wisdom party) surrounded by 20 lesser deities.

A Qing kong hai mother pure silver wire inlay mandala sold for $210,000 + the buyer’s premium in December 2016 at HK BGTJ International Art Auctions Co. in Hong Kong. Photo courtesy of HK BGTJ International Art Auctions Co. and LiveAuctioneers

Sanjay Kapoor, owner of Kapoor Galleries in New York City, said, as with most antiques, the earlier examples are more desirable than later ones as they are harder to find. “There is no hard-and-fast rule [of what collectors look for in mandalas] but the general rule is age, condition, provenance and quality.” he said, adding that it’s very important right now, especially for Indian objects, to be able to show provenance that the object left its country of origin prior to 1972.

Most of these mandals were made by anonymous artists whose names have been lost to history. The few names known today usually come from having a signature on a bronze and being able to attribute a mandala, based on stylistic motifs. What Kapoor admires most about lotus mandalas, for example, is the attention to detail and their realism. “And you have to bear in mind that these guys are carving these in the negative, into wax, so it’s not like they can do it directly on the sculpture. These are all lost wax casts.”

A 17th century bronze lotus-form mandala from Nepal that opens. Photo courtesy of Kapoor Galleries

Laura Weinstein, a Himalayan and Indian art scholar and provenance specialist, said new collectors should know that figures often go missing on these mandalas or petals/parts can get damaged, so sometimes a mandala might be restored using parts from other pieces. “It’s important when you are looking at these things to not only look at the sculpture as a whole but to pay attention to the iconography,” she said, noting that even museums like New York’s Rubin Museum, where she formerly worked as a cataloger, has a lotus mandala with the original figure missing. “You want to make sure when you are buying these things that the figures all make sense together. It’s often helpful to look at two-dimensional mandalas in order to verify the iconography makes sense.” When figures become separated, having a knowledge of the figures can help one understand that a particular deity would likely not have been cast in bronze alone and was likely part of a mandala.

This Tibetan silver-gilt lotus mandala opens to reveal gilt bronze figures with the ten-armed Cakrasamvara at the center. It realized $11,000 + the buyer’s premium in June 2015 at California Asian Art Auction Gallery USA. Photo courtesy of California Asian Art Auction Gallery USA and LiveAuctioneers

Kapoor said seeing a full mandala in sculpture form is rare and harder to find the older it is. Often you will see them in the form of retinues with figures forming the mandala. “Over time, a lot of the sculpture that you see as individual objects are actually broken pieces of what was once a huge mandala.”

Collectors new to the market should work with experts as mandalas are a complex subject. “It’s not like other fields where you have a signature and a certificate of authenticity,” he said. There are a large number of deities depicted in mandalas and even the figures’ moods from peaceful to wrathful to powerful (with different levels of each) can change its meaning and the setting depicted. Mandalas also are categorized by their shapes, colors and adornments. Collectors need to beware too of a plethora of fakes on the market, made thanks to scanning of authentic museum examples, 3D printing and fake patination.

A cast gilt bronze Chakrasamvara mandala earned $60,000 + the buyer’s premium in March 2020 at Madison Square Gallery Inc. The piece has a figure of Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi surrounded by eight dancing dakinis, atop a double lotus pedestal base. Photo courtesy of Madison Square Gallery Inc. and LiveAuctioneers.

Asked what a good entry point for new collectors is, Kapoor said, “You probably are going to want to start with 18th century gilt bronzes and then go backwards timewise from there to earlier and earlier pieces. You will get a sense of the subjects, the different bodhisattvas, a little bit of the style and then you will learn to appreciate the earlier pieces and have an idea for where the later pieces’ influence came from.”

AAAWT’s First! auction to debut online Sept. 2

Over the past 38 years, Antique Associates at W. Townsend Inc., 473 Main St., West Townsend, Mass., has developed into one of America’s leading brokers of high-quality antiques, art and antique arms, serving as a premier supply source for major museums, advanced collectors, exemplary dealers and collectors at all levels. On Wednesday, Sept. 2, Jasper52 will host AAAWT’s First!: Shelf, Closet and Attic Items online auction, which is steeped in Americana.

English standing lion figures on plinth, molded redware, Rockingham glaze, 11 3/8 x 4 7/8 height 8½in, circa 1850. Eatimate: $1,000-$1,500. AAAWT image

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Damascus steel knives comprise Jasper52 auction Aug. 26

A Jasper52 online auction that will be conducted on Wednesday, Aug. 26, consists of more than 40 fine knives made of Damascus steel and various materials that complement the high-quality metal. These knives make fantastic gifts and brilliant showcase pieces.

Damascus steel karambit with an orangewood handle and leather sheath, 4in blade. Estimate: $600-$900. Jasper52 image

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Inkwells: vintage reservoirs of the written word

NEW YORK – “Ink was black, in inkwells and bottles, in the past. It would get all over your fingers because it would run and flow relentlessly,” wrote Alain Badiou in Black: The Brilliance of a Non-Color.

Not if you were an Egyptian scribe. These highly trained court members, penning bills and magic spells with pointed river reeds, moistened their mineral-based, powdered pigments in small, hollowed-out stone mortars. Millennia later, Chinese calligraphers moistened ground gum-and-soot inksticks on similar, exquisitely carved soapstone, onyx, porcelain, jade or marble creations.

Jade Dragon ink-stone depicting two sinuous, horned, clawed, horned dragons amid swirling cloud patterns, 18th century. Realized $24,000 + buyer’s premium in 2013. Image courtesy of Imperial Auctioneers and LiveAuctioneers

During the Middle Ages, when writing was deemed a lowly craft, European scribes and scriveners copied texts with quill pens fashioned from goose, eagle, hawk or swan wing-feathers. Because their flexible, sharpened nibs offered unmatched ease and precision, they particularly suited parchment and vellum work. Their brownish iron-gall, black “India ink” and bright naturally dyed inks were stored in inkhorns or practical pots deep enough to accommodate these quills.

As more people became literate, writing became not only socially acceptable but also a source of pride. Though simpler folks might keep their inks in unadorned pots, affluent writers adorned their fine-wood writing desks with finely crafted silver, pewter, jade, bronze, brass, cut crystal or pressed glass models. Some, like an Italian bronze cylindrical well, featuring a body supported by three, massive legs shaped like eagles and an outsized, seated putti finial holding an open book, were extravagant.

Footed silver tray featuring ink and pounce jars with engraved, monogrammed bell stand, 29 x 21cm, mid-18th century. Realized €20,000 ($22,360) + buyer’s premium in 2015. Image courtesy Cambi Casa D’Aste and LiveAuctioneers

Small wells, which held several ounces of ink, were generally square, rectangular or faceted. Larger ones were domed or shaped like capstans, mechanical devices used aboard ship to move heavyweights. Other sizeable wells featured sloping sides and flat, stable, wide-bottom bases. All, large or small, were lidded to prevent contamination, evaporation and spillage.

The wealthy, instead of inkwells, often acquired lavish desk standishes, known today as inkstands. These shallow rectangular, circular or oval trays, crafted in silver, gilt-bronze, onyx, brass, inlaid wood or porcelain, were the ultimate in writing luxury. In addition to matching wells, many featured grooves to store writing instruments and perforated “sand” shakers or pounce pots. Their fine- ground cuttlefish-bone powder, when sprinkled, not only smoothed rough, “unsized” paper. It also prevented ink from smearing.

Bronze-mounted Chinese porcelain double inkwell on cartouche coromandel lacquered panel with pen rest on raised feet, 14in wide. Realized $3,000 + buyer’s premium in 2016. Image courtesy of Abell Auction and LiveAuctioneers

Travelers in coach or on horseback, if wont to write en route, tucked tiny, hinged glass inkwells – snug in small, protective cases – into their pockets or luggage. Others toted plain or plush sloped, wooden travel-writing desks. Besides ink bottles, these often contained quills, quill knives, parchment, ponce pots, slate pencils and sealing wax.

Traveling 12-gore Globe ink wells, 4/5cm high. Realized £320 ($538) + buyer’s premium in 2014. Image courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions and LiveAuctioneers

Innovative dip-pens, featuring small capillary-like channels and interchangeable mounted-metal nibs, replaced quills in the early 1800s. Every few words – for want of a reservoir, they had to be re-dipped in wells. Each dip could prove perilous. Nibs, falling off, could sink in the ink.

As European steamship and train travel increased, dressing cases (hand luggage) in addition to toiletries and writing implements, were often fitted with glass or rubbery, non-breakable gutta-percha ink wells. On the other hand, wells resembling the Liberty Bell, the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower, made enviable souvenirs.

Limited edition Baccarat ‘Zola’ lead crystal inkwell, marked and numbered, 6in high. Realized $600 + buyer’s premium in 2019. Image courtesy of Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery and LiveAuctioneers

Well-off Victorians often sought gilt-mounted silver, cut-crystal, or ornate porcelains ink wells. Others decked their desks with ceramic tortoise, owl, camel, or elephant-shaped charmers. In time, sensuous Art Nouveau wells gave way to dramatic Art Deco models. Tiffany’s mother-of-pearl, pattern-stamped, patinated bronze, favrile glass and crab-shaped wells were particularly popular.

Tiffany Studios ‘Byzantine’ inkwell featuring glass cabochons, with glass insert for ink, 4³⁄₈in diameter, 1920s. Realized $2,900 + buyer’s premium in 2011. Image courtesy Bruce Kodner Galleries and LiveAuctioneers

The advent of the Waterman fountain pen, which prevented ink-reservoir overflow, eventually spelled the end of decorative ink wells. Though ink no longer runs and flows relentlessly, collectible wells embody art, fashion and a world of literature. Each also evokes those intimate moments when writers put pen to paper.

British recording artists star in online book auction Aug. 18

Fans of British pop music will be tuning into a Jasper52 rare book auction that will be held Tuesday, Aug. 18. Books relating to David Sylvian and the new wave band Japan, and singers-songwriters Kate Bush and Marc Almond are featured.

Page 50 of ‘Japan – A Foreign Place – The Biography (1974-1984),’ by Anthony Reynolds, published by Burning Shed, 2009. The book, which is in like-new condition, has a $250-$300 estimate. Jasper52 image

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Jasper52 unveils exquisite relics from ancient cultures Aug. 18

Jasper 52 will offer a collection of antiquities and ancient art from around the Mediterranean in an online auction on Tuesday, Aug. 18, starting at 2 p.m. The selection is composed of sculptures, amulets, figures, idols and jewelry reflecting the art and cultures of the ancient world. All 55 lots have been thoroughly checked and come with a certificate of authenticity.

Roman gold and garnet filigree pendant with the head of a man, Roman, circa first century A.D. Estimate: $1,500-$2,500. Jasper52 image

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Remembering the suffragettes

NEW YORK – The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex – 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing women the right to vote, Aug. 26, 1920.

“All men are created equal,” says the Declaration of Independence, except when it came to voting rights. Without property, (white) men couldn’t vote and it left out women entirely. It would take the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in August 1920 to finally guarantee women the right to vote (owning property as a qualification was discontinued by 1856). It was a long struggle that would take 144 years from the founding of the United States before half of its population could participate in its democratic principles through the simple act of voting.

Three ways to show support for women suffrage are these different lapel pins, one in felt and two in distinctive lithographed color prominently supporting ‘Votes for Women’ that sold collectively for $248 + plus the buyer’s premium in 2019. Image courtesy Hake’s Auction and

The struggle known as the women’s suffrage movement began soon after the Constitution went into effect in 1789. While women in many Colonies were allowed to vote before its adoption, the Constitution left it up to the states to determine voting rights. And none immediately granted that right to women, except New Jersey, which then rescinded the right in 1807.

Popular opinion was changing, though. The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 was the first women’s rights convention that demanded the right of women to vote in its Declaration of Sentiments. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others emerged as leaders of an activist movement intending to secure that right across the country, instead of state by state. Adoption of a federal statute, though, was slow. Wyoming Territory was the first to grant full voting rights to women in 1869, with Colorado, Utah and Idaho granting women the right to vote in the 1890s, mostly to attract more women into these mostly desolate regions. No other state would comply.

A framed advertising broadside highlights the four states that allowed women to vote; Wyoming in 1869 and Colorado, Utah, and Idaho in the 1890s – but not yet in New York – that sold for $1,400 in 2010 plus the buyer’s premium. Image courtesy Skinner and

World War I was the catalyst for the suffragette movement both in the United States and the United Kingdom. With men on the battlefields in Europe, women were granted the right to work in factories and other wartime occupations not normally available to them before the war. This led to an increase in popular opinion that women can contribute more to society than just as housewives and schoolteachers. “Votes for Women” became less of a slogan and more of a genuine movement, especially with the increased cooperation of men.

And it was a tortuous movement. Labor and hunger strikes, parades, editorials, court cases, legal arguments, large demonstrations, abuse, legal torture and jail time were the norm. Demonstrations in front of the White House were unheard of before a “picket” of women from the National Women’s Party in 1917 camped out day and night to bring the cause directly to the president. They wore sashes and pins, held up banners, carried flags and waved signs with the ubiquitous “Votes for Women” specifically directed at President Woodrow Wilson. All the while, they were routinely carted off to jail, where they were often abused and sometimes beaten while in custody. Yet the pickets continued.

One of the key factors in ‘Votes for Women’ was the ‘picket,’ a demonstration such as this one in front of the White House in 1917. The sashes, banners and protest signs were the hallmark of the movement since the 1848 Seneca Falls convention, which began the women’s suffrage movement. Image courtesy: Harris & Ewing and the Library of Congress

The focused picket worked. President Wilson, at first reluctant, finally supported the adoption of a constitutional amendment. The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally adopted on Aug. 18, 1920 with the vote of Tennessee and certified eight days later on Aug. 26 guaranteeing women the right to vote. Their first federal election was for president that same year.

One of the last images of Susan B. Anthony along with other prominent women’s rights pioneers taken at a suffrage convention in Los Angeles in August 1905. The photograph sold for $1,300 + the buyer’s premium in 2018. Anthony died almost one month after turning 86 in March 1906. Image courtesy Jasper52 and

Throughout the struggle for women’s right to vote, getting the message out without social media was a difficult, time consuming and a constant process. Yet, after World War I, suffragettes in the United States and the United Kingdom were creative in the use of visual items to keep “Votes for Women” in the public eye. Of all the protest movements throughout the history of the United States, auction values for women suffrage items are increasing because so many types of buttons, flags, playing cards, sheet music, posters, broadsides, clothing, sashes, signs, banners, salt shakers, currency, coins, jewelry, ceramics and other items exist that were made in relatively small batches. The book Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study by Kenneth Florey highlights the sheer number of collectibles the movement produced.

This bright yellow and black button and ribbon (colors of the suffrage movement) supported the 1920 election of Republican Warren G. Harding, who won in a landslide over Democrats James Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The button and ribbon combination in such great condition sold for $340 in 2018 + the buyer’s premium. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions and

Another reason for suffrage collectibility is in the branding. The slogan “Votes for Women” carried well throughout the movement in the United States and the United Kingdom for its clear and concise message.

Part of the movement’s branding was the adoption of official colors. Buttons, ribbons, sashes and banners are usually yellow and black because the colors simply stood out well (although yellow may have been adopted because the Kansas cornflower was favored by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton). Purple, white and green were UK movement colors while U.S. suffragette colors were purple, white and yellow.

Most clothing worn by suffragettes was mostly white, especially in parades and demonstrations to contrast with the darker clothing normally worn by spectators. Their white attire was also intended as a subtle sign of nonaggression signaling that the votes of women would help keep politics “clean.” In fact, wearing all white outfits by women in power today is a tribute to the women’s suffrage movement. All the women members of Congress did just that during the State of the Union address of President Donald Trump in 2019 when all 126 women of both Houses of Congress – only 26% of the total elected members – wore all white outfits to show the under-representation of women in Congress.

So it seems that even with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, issues of representation and electability still persist. Electing a woman as president of the United States still hasn’t been achieved while the UK has had only two women prime ministers since they gained the right to vote there in 1928.

At times, women could vote on a special issue that men thought women would have an interest in, such as children’s education, according to the auction description of this metal japanned ballot box intended only for women votes. It sold for $2,600 in 2010. Image courtesy Heritage Auctions and

As a protest movement, ‘Votes for Women’ has come a long way, but much still needs to be done. Women have voted in higher numbers, around 55% or so, since the first election of 1920 when only 34% voted. Women legislators have steadily increased since the 1960s from the courthouse to Congress and continue to make a difference with their votes overall. However, women are still in the minority in economics, housing, finance, careers, education, as business CEOs and as major power brokers overall.

Perhaps just collecting and displaying women suffrage memorabilia will serve to underscore that no man is created equal until women are, too.

Jasper52 presents classic comic book auction Aug. 9

Superheroes and arch-villains abound in a no-holds-barred comic book auction that will be conducted on Sunday, Aug. 9, by Jasper52. This no-reserve online auction of 273 vintage comic books features several #1 issues and a few first appearances by notable characters.

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