Alumna’s company to auction Cronin ceramics collection

| September 12, 2012

The Potomack Company, an Alexandria, Va., auction gallery owned and run by Sweet Briar graduates, will donate to the College a portion of its commission on the sale of items belonging to Professor Emeritus Paul D. Cronin and his late wife. The sale of antique Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics and other works of art will be held Saturday, Sept. 29 at the gallery in Old Town Alexandria.

Potomack Company owner Elizabeth Wainstein ’86 (left) and Lucie Stephens Holland ’82 with Cronin items in the background.

The Potomack Company will donate 30 percent of the buyer’s premium from the sale of Cronin items purchased by Sweet Briar students, alumnae or faculty, says founder Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein ’86. The contribution is in honor of Cronin, the former director of Sweet Briar’s riding program, and his wife Elizabeth Ann Swift.

“I am pleased to be able to support Sweet Briar by giving back to the school in this way,” Wainstein said.

Swift collected the porcelains during a Foreign Service career that included serving as a U.S. diplomat in Iran in 1979, when followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini held 52 Americans captive for 444 days. She was one of two women hostages.

While stationed in the Philippines and Indonesia, Swift developed an interest in antique Asian porcelain and acquired an expansive Chinese and pan-Asian ceramics collection. A portion of the set has been donated in her memory for display in the Department of State’s diplomatic reception rooms and the United States Diplomacy Center.

“This is really a panoramic collection reflective of scholarly taste,” said Pamela Cole, Asian arts specialist at the Potomack Company.

Chinese famille rose wedding plates, 18th century, Qing Dynasty

Cole dates the majority of the porcelain and stoneware to the 14th to 18th centuries. Among the items to be sold are two Chinese Ming Dynasty blue and white shallow bowls, a collection of early celadon, a pair of Qianlong famille rose plates and a group of cobalt and amethyst Beijing glass.

Since Wainstein founded the Potomack Company as an antiques and fine arts auction gallery in 2006, she has made a point of hiring Sweet Briar graduates to help make it a success. So far Tresy Robinson Hillyer ’83, Martha Loftin ’09, Lucie Stephens Holland ’82 and Julie Weyand Watson ’86 are part of its story. The company’s high-profile sales include Dorothy Draper furnishings from the Greenbrier resort, retiring U.S. Sen. John Warner’s Senate office appointments and designer furnishings from Patricia Kluge’s Charlottesville estate. The gallery also has set world record sales prices for Chinese porcelain and jade works of art.

Information about the Elizabeth Ann Swift Asian ceramics auction and the Potomack Company is available at or (703) 684-4550.

Wainstein invites Sweet Briar alumnae visiting Old Town Alexandria to stop by the gallery, located at 526 N. Fayette St.

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