FAIRFIELD, MAINE — James D. Julia’s August auctions used to be known for Americana, but if his recent edition, the four-day marathon auction that ran August 20–23, is any indication, perhaps they will come to be known as Asian arts sales with Americana sprinkled in.
Plenty of fine art, Americana and antiques crossed the block, but the wow factor came late in the sale on the final day, when stunning examples of Asian arts consistently drew high prices, several achieving six-figure prices, and the Asian arts category alone totaled $2.5 million in sales. Overall, the sale exceeded $5.8 million, setting a new record for Julia.
The action was good right from the start. The first session began Tuesday with one of many fine paintings offered: a Waldo Peirce (American, 1884–1970) oil on canvas, “The Osgood Nickerson Family Home, Castine, Me,” which fetched a respectable $4,147, within estimate. The next 11 lots across the block were also Peirce works (paintings and watercolors) and all 12 lots, save one, had provenance to the Nickerson family, who were friends with Robert Weston, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. The watercolors all sold right around estimate, and the final Peirce work, without Nickerson provenance but having a Farnsworth Museum exhibition label from 1984, fetched the most at $10,072.
Paintings dominated the offerings during this first session, particularly works with a Maine connection. A highlight was Boston and Kennebunkport painter Abbott Fuller Graves’ “Yankee Peddler,” an oil on canvas that sold within estimate for $17,004. About an hour into the session, William Trost Richards’ “Thunderheads Over Beach With Breaking Waves” crossed the block. The lovely, golden-hued ocean scene was unframed as it had been inset above the fireplace mantel in the Augusta, Maine, home from which it came. It was a good buy at $44,437.
From the same Augusta estate came, a few lots later, Rembrandt Peale’s oil on canvas portrait of George Washington, painted in 1857 from an original 1795 portrait. The work realized $130,350.
This estate also provided two oil on canvas paintings by Ivan Fedorovich Choultse (Russian, 1877–1932), who was well known for his subtle and skillful depictions of light on snow. “Shimmering Trees in Winter” brought $47,400, and “Sunlit Mountain Snow” went out at $35,550.
A sleeper in the session was the Italian painting “Naples Harbor with Vesuvius in The Background,” an unsigned oil on canvas, Nineteenth Century or earlier, that sailed past its $2/3,000 estimate to dock at $23,700. A pair of Christopher Blossom (American, b 1956) works also went above the $5/10,000 estimates. “Arthur James Departing from Gloucester Harbor” realized $21,330 and “Helen G. Wells Leaving Gloucester Harbor” took $14,812. Near the end of the first session, a Berthe Morisot watercolor on paper, “Mother and Child In Landscape,” went past its $2/3,000 estimate to bring $17,010.
Selling above its high estimate was Hermann Ottomar Herzog’s oil on canvas “Snoqualmie Falls,” which appears to be in its original gesso decorated frame. It went out at $36,142.
New Hampshire-related lots also proved popular with buyers. Jasper Francis Cropsey’s “North Conway, N.H.,” an oil on wood panel in a period gesso gilt frame, dated 1877, sold for $26,070, and selling for $21,330 was Charles Woodbury’s “Monadnock,” an oil on canvas in a fine carved and gilt modern frame. Woodbury made this first impression of Monadnock in 1907, and kept it until he died in 1940. A larger version of this work painted in 1912 is in the permanent collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Also crossing the block were Syed Haider Raza’s (Indian, b 1922) “Naga,” an acrylic on canvas going out above estimate for $29,625, and Edouard Leon Cortes’ (French, 1882–1969) oil on canvas “Flower Vendor On A Paris Street,” in fine partial gilt decorated frame for $35,550. Another Cortes oil, “Evening Paris Street,” made $24,885.
Rounding out the paintings were Anthony Thieme’s harbor scene titled “Motif #1,” which fetched $17,775, and William Lester Stevens’ “Boats at Anchor,” an oil on canvas that was exhibited at Syracuse Museum of Fine Arts in 1928, and brought $13,035 here.
Several dozen fine bronzes were led by Robert Farrington Elwell’s “Indian Paddling a Canoe,” on wood base in a fine brown patina, that nearly doubled its high estimate to bring $18,960. Anton Chotka’s “Large Lamp With Two Arabs in Tent,” a cold painted polychromed bronze, signed, realized $15,405 and contemporary British artist Geoffrey Dashwood’s “Cormorant,” in a nice bluish green patina, brought $11,850. It was one of a dozen works by the artist in the sale.
The Nineteenth–Twentieth Century Austrian artist Franz Berman and his foundry were well represented in the sale. Bergman’s cold-painted polychromed bronze, “Arab Man With Rifle Under Tent Lamp,” fetched $7,290. Many cold-painted polychromed bronzes by the Bergman Foundry also did well, selling above estimate, including “Two Arabs in Tent Lamp,” at $5,332, “The Arms Merchant,” at $4,740, and “Arab with Rifle and Sable Antelope,” for $6.075. An unsigned Austrian bronze, “Elephant with Howdah and Parsee,” nearly doubled its high estimate to go out at $8,887.
French bronzes also did well, led by Alfred Dubucand’s “Cavalier et Femme Arabe a la Fontaine,” 26 inches tall with a brown to light brown patina, fetching $13,035, and Charles Valton’s “Elephant Encounter,” 12 inches tall, with a great brown patina, at $7,110.
Audubon works are always popular here at Julia’s auctions and this sale was no exception, featuring two hand-colored lithographs from the double elephant folio edition of Birds of America: “Great Auk, Plate CCCXLI,” and “Four Alcids: Black-Throated Guillemot, Nobbed-Billed Auk, Curled-Crested Auk, and Horn-Billed Guillemot, Plate CCCCII,” each going out just above estimate at $5,332.
The action began anew Wednesday morning with maritime paintings, scrimshaw and nautical items, and early on, a full-bodied codfish weathervane (one of several select vanes in this sale that performed well) from a Waterville, Maine, home went over estimate to bring $5,332. A whimsical full-body sperm whale vane fetched $6,813, while a rare Nantucket sleigh ride folky vane, late Nineteenth–early Twentieth Century, went out at $8,295.
The auction featured many items from Linda and the late Vito Peri, owners of the Blue Dolphin Antique Shop in Northport, Maine. Leading the offerings was a rare Chippendale walnut Jacob Maus tall case clock with bonnet having swan’s neck pediment terminals with carved floral rosettes, 8 feet 3 inches tall, going out above estimate for $15,405. Other standouts included an unusual camphor campaign chest with desk, first half Nineteenth Century, that sold for $4,443 and a George III decorated Pembroke table, late Eighteenth Century, for $2,370
A handful of scrimshaw teeth were offered early on, with most ranging in price from $1,000 to $2,600. Standouts were an important scrimshaw tooth with a polychromed decorated portrait of the female pirate Alwilda at $4,443 and the stars of the day: two rare intaglio carved whale’s teeth on stands, circa 1860, England. The first to sell was the tooth carved in exceptional detail of a woman in period dress wearing a large, plumed bonnet.
Calling for bids, Julia described the piece as a great rarity and said, “You’re almost never going to see these.” With four phones chasing the lot, the lady opened at $3,000 and quickly sold for $7,998. The second tooth, this one depicting a sailor with Jack Tar hat jauntily standing with an anchor at his right and holding a union jack in his left hand, opened at $5,000 and also sold to the phones, for $9,480.
Narwhal tusks really got bidders sitting up in their seats, however. A large and important narwhal tusk on stand, the tusk measuring 61½ inches tall, started it off when it fetched $4,443, followed immediately by a rare narwhal tusk on stand, noteworthy for its pale color and patina as well as a lack of damage. The 59-inch tusk (with stand) sold over estimate at $10,935.
Several Antonio Jacobsen ship portraits were a good buy here. His oil on board portraits of the steamship Madison fetched $5,925, the USS Minnesota in 1864 took $5,332 and Apache fetched $6,517. Bidding was robust on his portrait of the tugboat Lewis Pulver, though, and this painting sold just over its estimate at $31,995. Leading ship portraits, however, was James Edward Buttersworth (American British, 1817–1894) whose “America’s Cup race Vigilant and Valkyre 3rd Race, October 9, 1892,” led the offerings at $35,550.
After the grouping of nautical items, this session was rich in Americana and weathervanes were choice here. Leading the category was a full-body molded copper grasshopper, last quarter Nineteenth Century, possibly W.A. Snow & Company, Boston. The 15-by-38-inch vane nearly doubled its high estimate to fetch $26,730. Jumping over its high estimate was a rare circus horse copper vane, showing the horse jumping through a large iron hoop, attributed to A.L. Jewell & Co., second half Nineteenth Century. It landed at $26,070.
“This is just wonderful,” Julia said of the circus horse vane during preview. “It’s the form plus the surface.”
Other vane standouts included a large and important molded copper pig, late quarter Nineteenth Century, attributed to L.W. Cushing & Son, with original worn and weathered gilt surface, that attained $23,700; a full-bodied copper, four-wheel sulky with rider, late Nineteenth–early Twentieth Century, probably New York, that went just over high estimate at $20,145; a full-bodied gilt-copper Indian, late Nineteenth Century, showing the stylized figure of Mashamoquet, Sachem of the Nipmuck tribe, going within estimate for $13,035, and a rare, full-body leaping stag, late Nineteenth Century, attributed to E.G. Washburne & Co., for $14,220.
A top lot in this session was an important, carved Lincoln commemorative floor screen, late Nineteenth Century that fetched $29,625. The rectangular-shaped frame was relief carved with Lincoln’s bust in profile within a frame of four crossed American flags. Underneath were carvings of a log cabin and the White House.
Among Oriental rugs was a choice Serapi carpet, last quarter Nineteenth Century, with a central arabesque medallion set in madder red with pale jade lobes, 12 feet 3 inches by 9 feet 5 inches, that attained $10,935.
Leading a group of church silver from First Congregational Church, Woburn, Mass., was a rare early American two-handled silver cup ($8/10,000), circa 1726, by George Hanners Sr (1696–1740), Boston, in tapered cylindrical form, that achieved $24,885. The piece is engraved “The Gift of Coll. Eleazer Flegg / to the First Church in Woburn 1726” and was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 1911.
Also from this collection — all made by Boston silversmiths — were a rare and early American silver beaker, circa 1740, by Jacob Hurd (1702/3–1758), in cylindrical form with flaring rim, that also went well over estimate to bring $20,145; a circa 1769 silver beaker by Josiah Austin with everted rim at $10,072 and a silver beaker, circa 1771, by Benjamin Burt, that made $8,295.
Other silver standouts came from an Augusta estate and included an early American coin silver porringer by Samuel Vernon, Newport, R.I.; a bombe bowl with a pierced geometric handle, which soared above estimate to achieve $7,110; and a pair of sterling George IV covered sauce dishes, London, 1820–21, two-handled dishes with oval bodies over scrolled feet, that doubled their high estimate to bring $3,948.
Among furniture and woodenware were a fine Queen Anne walnut bonnet top highboy, second half Eighteenth Century, New England that sold within estimate at $10,665; a set of six Chippendale cherry side chairs, late Eighteenth Century, Salem, Mass., bringing the same price; and a fine Pennsylvania Chippendale walnut spice cabinet, late Eighteenth Century, from a Southern Maine collection that ended at $8,887. An early American chimney cupboard in salmon paint was recently de-accessioned from a Connecticut museum and sold for $4,740.
Rounding out the day were a lot of two Middlesex Canal historical documents by John Adams and John Quincy Adams that sold together for $26,070 and a George Waldron powder horn, circa 1759, New York, that was lavishly decorated with a map showing forts and various towns, 16 inches long, that took $10,665.
Thursday’s session began with a wonderful grouping of Louis Vuitton trunks that put Julia’s phone bank to hard work chasing these lots. Setting the tone for the day was the first lot across the block — a wardrobe steamer trunk, serial #784622 (located between the leather Louis Vuitton label and the B. Altman label), was a rare example and came from an Augusta estate. With six phone bids, the trunk went over its $4/6,000 estimate to finish $10,935, followed immediately by another steamer trunk that fetched the same price, with five phones in hot pursuit.
The leader of the grouping came next, a rare Louis Vuitton cabin trunk from the late Nineteenth–early Twentieth Century. A small example at 21 by 36 by 15 inches, the trunk had an interior fitted with a lift-out tray with compartments above a second, larger wardrobe tray that had three compartments. It nearly doubled its high estimate to bring $23,107.
Next up were several lots of Warren McArthur outdoor furniture. McArthur (American, 1885–1961) began making metal furniture in Los Angeles in 1929, and his pieces embody the glamour of the 1930s and Deco styling.
The first lot offered led the pack. The rare chaise lounge, 1930–33, was made of stainless, chromed and enameled steel tubing with a sloped back having three slats. The lounge retained its original paper labels and was structurally sound. The framed cushions were intact but need recovering.
The phones were heavy on this, as was the case with all the McArthur lots. A handful of phone bidders were on this lot, but by $12,000 it came down to a bidding war between two of Julia’s staffers, Tony and Jan, and their clients. As soon as one bid came, the other bidder hit back just as quickly and so it went until $20,00 when it was all over, going to Tony’s bidder at $23,700, factoring in the buyer’s premium.
The same phone bidder won all but one of the five Warren McArthur pieces offered: a rare double back settee, circa 1930–33, measuring 31½ by 47½ inches, that realized $5,332; a pair of early armchairs, circa 1930, representing McArthur’s first armchair design where arms do not continue to be attached to the front legs, at $3,555; and a bridge table with two side chairs, circa 1930–33, for $3,555. Another phone bidder won a McArthur armchair sold with a pair of triangular side tables, circa 1930–33 for $7,110.
Another standout in the sale was a terrific set of 12 Lenox portrait plates that were sold by Tiffany & Co., Twentieth Century and artist signed Bruno Geyer, with raised gold foliage, that realized $13,627.
Art pottery highlights included a collection of 62 pieces of Moorcroft pottery that drew six phone bidders and went at $9,480. While calling bids, Julia described this grouping as acquiring a whole collection at once. A large Rookwood signed by artist Albert Valentien, circa 1898, with standard glaze and hydrangea, 20½ inches tall, garnered $4,740.
Rounding out the session were a Russian silver and enamel cross and brocade coin purse from the Schaffer collection that took $7,347, and an Anglo Indian carved ebony and inlaid presentation box for $5,771, dated 1869. A four-piece rosewood, laminated and carved parlor set, attributed to Joseph Meeks, finished at $4,860.
The highlight of the four-session sale would came Friday, but Asian arts began crossing the block Thursday afternoon and highlights included a large bronze censer, Eighteenth Century, China, that brought $10,072. It had lion mask handles, a four-character seal mark under the footed base, and was fitted with a pierced dome lid cast with dragons and celestial pearls.
Other Chinese pieces performing well were a rare pair of beaded floral arrangements, Eighteenth Century, 10 inches overall, for $6,813, and a jade belt plaque, Ming period (1368–1644) for $8,887.
Friday’s session was all Asian arts, and within 15 minutes of its opening, a Suchou School handscroll. Eighteenth Century, China, crossed the block. The “green and blue”-style ink scroll measured about 11 feet and realized $13,035.
The top-selling scroll in this session came later, in the form of a hanging scroll by China’s Fu Baoshi (1904–1965), which climbed to $77,025. The ink and color on paper work depicts a recluse crossing a bridge amid a landscape with waterfall and plum trees.
Jade items were eagerly snapped up by bidders, and in most cases, far above their estimates. Standouts were an important jade bowl, Nineteenth Century, in a translucent and bright green hue with emerald markings that sold for $34,365, and a jade archer’s ring, Eighteenth Century, China, intricately carved with archaic scrolling in characters of Ch’ien Lung and Yu Chih, that attained $29,625.
Also highlighting the jade category was a jade paperweight, Eighteenth–Nineteenth Century, celadon-colored nephrite, carved in the form of a mythical animal with a jui-i scepter and scrolling. One phone bidder and several bidders in the gallery vied for the lot, with the winner claiming it at $22,515. The same price was paid for a jade box with cover, Eighteenth Century,. Chinese, that had an icy green hue.
Other Chinese jade standouts included a pair of spinach green jade plaques ($800–$1,200), Nineteenth Century carved in relief with water birds and lotus plants and reverse carved with birds and butterflies, set on rosewood stands that realized $13,035 after eight phone bidders duked it out, as well as a jade vase, Eighteenth–Nineteenth Century, in highly translucent white nephrite with russet areas that sold for $15,405. A group of 18 Chinese jade carvings, Nineteenth–Twentieth Century, in tones ranging from white to celadon green, attained $14,220.
Several jadeite bracelets also commanded attention, led by a richly colored green example, at 58mm, that brought $43,845 and a light and dark mottled green example that had been strung as a pendant, which far surpassed its $500–$1,500 estimate to bring $22,515.
Highlighting Chinese porcelain were a Nineteenth Century hu-form vase, sea green celadon color, with lion mask jump rings that sold for $13,035; a purplish-red vase in Langyao glaze that brought $14,220 and a porcelain moon flask with Ch’ien Lung mark at $24,885.
Several Sino-Tibetan gilt-bronze images crossed the block at varying prices, mostly under $5,000, but the best of the best came midmorning Friday, sending the gallery into a near frenzy.
As lot 4132 was but a few lots away, the auction gallery began filling up and Julia’s entire phone bank staff was called into action, plus a few extra staffers on cellphones. The sense of excitement in the air was palpable.
Opening at $5,000, the bronze figure of Shadakshari Avalokiteshvara, which had been conservatively estimated at $4/6,000, was hit hard by bidders on the phone and from several Asian buyers present at the auction. With bids flying fast and from every direction, Jim Julia came down from his podium and stood in the middle of the crowd, loudly calling bids above the din. One Chinese buyer in the back of the room did the same, yelling out $65,000, then $75,000. And still the bidding went higher with barely a pause in the action.
When the dust settled, a phone bidder won the Hsuan Te period bronze, 8 inches tall, for $438,450, and the room burst into applause. The bronze capped off not just this session, which was the auction’s strongest day with $2.5 million in sales, but the auction overall.
Chinese cloisonné star lots included a fine double vase, Nineteenth Century, in bottle form joined to a baluster vase that was symbolically wrapped in gilt brocade. It took $35,550 and was immediately followed by a cloisonné ruyi, Nineteenth Century, festooned with polychrome peonies and chrysanthemums for $23,700 and a pair of cloisonné censers, possibly Nineteenth Century, with lotus scrolls and pineapple finials going out at $26,070. A bit later in the sale, a pair of cloisonné vases, Ch’ien Lung period, in a flattened double gourd shape fetched $77,025.
After the gilt-bronze, the next highest grossing lot — at $154,050 — was a historic, imperial gilt-bronze seal that was dated the third year of the Ch’ien Lung (1738–1739), China. This rare and important seal was made for the plain white banner (one of the eight banners of the Manchu military system). A few lots later, another standout was an important porcelain bowl from the early Ming period with underglaze blue decoration that trumped its $800–$1,200 estimate to bring $124,425.
This square seal cast is carved, and chased in very deep and detailed relief with a central crouching dragon chasing a pearl and accompanied by eight other dragons. This 2½-inch-tall piece was cast in an alloy of copper, silver, gold and tin and was repeatedly fire gilded. The nephew of Rear Admiral William A. Sullivan of the US Navy, consigned the item.
Rounding out this final session were a large agarwood brush pot, Nineteenth Century, 6¼ inches tall, for $33,180; a blanc de chine seated figure holding a silver ingot, Eighteenth Century, China for $20,655; and a loose painting, attributed to Qi Baishi, of chrysanthemum flower pot with a dragonfly and cicada that finished at $19,440.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.jamesdjulia.com or 207-453-7125.