Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Dragon Double-Gourd Form Vase. Estimate: $2,000 / 3,000 | April 17 | Gallery Auction featuring property from the Richard I. Stone Estate
When A Passion Turns A Home into A Living Museum
Penned by Eric W. Stone, Pop’s son
-on behalf of Wendy E. Johnson, his daughter, and all of Pop Stone’s Family
What started with a small heartfelt gift in 1992 followed by some copious research, thereafter, birthed a 25-year collection spanning every Chinese dynasty with more than 1100 specimens. A 5” Ming statue led to a passionate transformation of our family home into a sacred space of Chinese history, stories, and joy. I watched his home become a museum, beginning more noticeably in 1997. Richard “Pop” Stone loved and lived amongst his collections. We used to joke how we needed to charge admission when coming to Pop’s Piedmont Home, and he would respond, “If you have $5 and four or so hours, I can give you a personalized tour.” I did not really ‘fully grasp’ the vastness Pop’s collection until he and I were on travel around China in 2007. Witnessing the massive, unearthed Terracotta Army outside Xi’an and seeing the farmer who first discovered them in 1974 was amazing – always the storyteller, Pop snuck a photo of the farmer to record the moment. Giving my father and I the gift of this experience was so important to me. He did not enjoy travel, but when offered to see the origins of his passions ‘up close and personal,’ he did not even blink, but just asked when we were going. I can recall the smiles (and tears) on his face as we entered the Forbidden City through the traditional red Chinese doors at Tian’anmen Square, where he said, “You see how they are shiny, the brass door knobs, it is because people rub them for good luck. Can you image how many people have done this before us?” and I responded, “And now it’s your turn to rub them for luck,” which I remember like it was yesterday. Being able to check many items off our ’bucket lists’ on this trip was a MasterCard moment, and truly priceless for us both.
But the real value for me was coming into a fuller understanding my father’s drive to study, learn, collect, and share with whomever was interested in the history behind each of his artifacts. When visiting the museums in Beijing, Xi’an, and Shanghai, all the dynastic pieces were behind layers of glass, with motion detectors, double-alarmed where one was only able to see from a distance. But, when at Richard Stone’s Living Home of Chinese Antiquities (and so much more), you were able to hear the history while you saw the burial piece, etc. often holding it within inches of your face, while Pop would tell you what he had learned about its origin. No glass casing with alarms, no motion detectors, nor hired security; just about eight rooms, or really his two-story home with treasures acquired over the years, where everywhere you looked, including the bathrooms, held his passion for the Empirical Dynasties. One could hold them, turn them over, and listen in awe as my father would speak about each piece. He did not believe they needed to be locked down like in a museum, for then he could not enjoy them. Holding them, examining them, and touching them was ‘why’ he built his collection. I would ask him if there was anything new when I would come to visit; and over the years, he began to share his collection with my family, and we have started our own. My children would talk to their Poppie about his favorites, and they too grew to appreciate his collection and his passion. He was so knowledgeable and was always willing to share it all with us.
In March 2020, we may have lost Richard I Stone – aka Pop, “Poppie,” The Mayor of Piedmont Avenue, that little old man wearing his ties, who would walk his cat each day around 4:30 and then call her in at night with a harmonica (and he was known for so much more), but he instilled in each of us his passions and joy for what is important. Whatever he did, he did 150%, and thus whatever he collected, it was going to be vast and genuine and from his heart.
Over the first few years of collecting, there was more research than anything else, but by 1997, his collection was expanding, rapidly, till it had amassed to more than 1000 pieces over the years. He began buying through local auction houses as well as the internationally. His research rewarded him with others seeking him out to discuss the authenticity of various works, which made him very happy to be so reputable. The details around their values were not his focus, it was in the work itself. For him, each bowl, vessel, textile, bronze, painting, burial piece, etc. was priceless and invaluable, BECAUSE they brought him joy.
Pop might be gone, but his legacy lives on in each of us. His smile seen in these pictures, his laugh, his hugs, and for those that knew him, his kisses. He was a man of faith, commitment, and put his full heart into all that he did. When asked what he did for a living, he would say of his 50 years as a hearing specialist, “I take the frowns out of foreheads!” Today, he is no longer with us, but I hear him every day, see him, and know he is still taking frowns out of foreheads. On this day, we share his collection, his pride, with you…Thank you.