MORRISTOWN, N.J. — Posing in their auction advertisements as “Mark and Michael Vicious,” presumed distant relatives of Sid Vicious, the Millea brothers announce their auction with screams of “Auction Time” — and — Hey, Ho — Let’s Go.” Displaying the humorous side of their personalities, Mark and Michael Millea had once again designed advertisements featuring images of their faces overlaid onto an item highlighted in the auction. For last year’s advertisement, the pair appeared as Bacchanalian children (putti), this year they superimposed their faces onto a painting of punk rock band member “Sid Vicious in Baton Rouge...” by Stephen Sprouse.
Originally scheduled for November 17 and 18, the auction was postponed due to Superstorm Sandy. And although the roads were clear in the aftermath of the storm, the Morristown Armory, the facility where the auction takes place, was being utilized as housing for the National Guardsmen that had been activated to deal with the tremendous amount of storm damage inflicted on coastal New Jersey. “We surveyed the damage throughout the area and thought we could go ahead with the auction,” stated Mark Millea, “but when we called the armory, they told us it was unavailable because the troops were housed there.”
Originally skeptical of the December dates, the auction took place on the December 15and 16; it all turned out for the best, as the Millea Brothers could not have been happier with the results. “We did much better than we ever expected,” stated Mark Millea after the auction, rattling off a final gross figure of $1.3 million, well above the high estimated $700/900,000. “It wasn’t any one thing that exploded,” he said. “There was solid interest across the board, $10,000 here and $10,000 there, everything seemed to do well. We definitely did it the hard way.”
The fresh-to-the-market merchandise provided for prime feeding grounds for dealers and collectors, with property consigned from the Ciba Geigy art collection and numerous estates, including fashion icon Lyn Revson, Casey Ribicoff, art collector Georges Bemberg, historian Leo Steinberg, Susan Kahn-Rosenkranz and entertainers Bobby Short, Cliff Robertson and Steven Greenberg.
As with most Millea Bros. auctions, the sale is segmented, and this most recent auction began with nearly 200 lots of quality Orientalia, followed by classic American, English and European antiques and then a selection of Midcentury furniture and accessories. Day two of the auction offered another 400 lots of formal high-style European furniture and accessories.
Orientalia was popular, with many of the items consigned from descendants of the Otto Huber Brewing Company. The opening lot of the auction drew smiles from both of the Millea brothers, as a carved green seal stone with a dragon from the Qing dynasty soared past the $250/350 estimate to bring $3,300. A small pair of Chinese porcelain jardinieres was up next, and it more than tripled the high estimate on the way to a selling price of $1,920. “That is a good way to start the day,” commented Mark Millea from the rear of the gallery.
The action would continue with a small snuff bottle up next from the Otto Huber Brewing collection. Bidders were slow to open the lot at $200, estimated at $200/300, but a buyer in the room ultimately claimed the lot at $1,460.
The top lot of the Otto Huber snuffs would come later as a carved jade pomegranate-form snuff bottle sold for $16,800. The rare piece was covered overall in a leafy decoration, and a bat was carved into a contrasting dark portion of the bottle.
A Chinese footed porcelain bowl in a light green glaze with an imperial inscription went out above estimates at $15,600; the same price was realized for a Qing dynasty Chinese painted silk and carved hardwood table screen. Another Chinese painting on silk, this one much larger and mounted under glass as the top to a table, fetched $7,200.
A small and delicate Qing dynasty porcelain bowl with yellow and floral decoration attracted quite a bit of attention from the crowd. The lot, opening at double the low estimate at $2,250, was immediately jumped by an Internet bidder to $3,250. It was then that competition from the room took over, with it selling to a buyer seated in the rear for $10,200. A rare red lacquer scalloped dish with inscribed imperial poem from the Qing dynasty followed a similar path, with it also selling in the room for $18,000.
Other highlights from the Orientalia included a small Chinese pierced iron box that hammered down at $9,000, a small painting of a Chinese horseman on silk thought to have been executed in the Thirteenth Century realized $12,000, and a large Chinese jade double carved daffodil measuring 12 inches tall brought $9,660.
The top lot of the auction came as a surprise to everyone in the auction gallery, including the auctioneers, as a rare Ottoman Balkan gilt-silver mounted flintlock was offered. Crossing the auction block late on Sunday afternoon, the gun, with elaborate decoration and chased and engraved mounts, carried a presale estimate of $300/500. In overall good condition with a nicely oxidized surface, the mechanism of the gun was not functioning properly, according to the catalog. Despite the need for a repair, the lot shot past the presale estimates almost instantly, and then it was off to the races with telephone and Internet action setting the pace. The action never slowed until the final bid for the rare Eighteenth Century flintlock brought $32,400.
A good selection of paintings included two Alice Trumbull Mason abstract oils, “Tangerine Trajectory,” and “Trinity #5,” with each of the works selling at $13,200.
Bright and small, an oil on wood Impressionistic landscape, measuring approximately 5 by 7 inches, by John Marshall Gamble brought $7,800. Another small work was a John Young Johnstone painting of a homestead that hammered down at $7,200. Also diminutive, three Reginald Marsh paintings did well, selling at $4,320, $3,240 and $2,880.
A group of nautical paintings was highlighted by a signed “T. Buttersworth” ship at sea portrait that went out at $3,600.
Furniture in the auction included an Empire bronze, gueridon with a green malachite top, signed Thomire, that sold for $20,400. A Restauration gilt-bronze surtout de table also attracted a great deal of attention, selling at $15,600.
A stately Louis XVI-style bronze mounted mahogany dining table was the subject of active bidding, with it hammering down at $9,000, and a matching set of eight chairs brought $5,100.
Other items of interest included a Tiffany Studios seven-light lily lamp that sold for $16,800; a Ferdinand Preiss bronze and ivory, $10,800; and a Louis XV ormolu and boulle marquetry bracket clock left the block at an impressive $20,400.
And the painting that “the Bros.” superimposed their faces onto, the Stephen Sprouse acrylic and silkscreen on canvas depicting Sid Vicious in an unusual pose (actually a familiar pose for the late rock star). sold above estimates at $2,700.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, 973-605-1265 or www.milleabros.com.