CLEVELAND, OHIO — On September 21, Rachel Davis Fine Arts offered at auction the storied collection of antique maps, fine art, illustration art and decorations from the Akron, Ohio, headquarters of Goodyear. There was much to admire and pursue among map dealers, cartography collectors, fans of American illustration and anyone associated with the company that pioneered the rubber industry.
The auction house’s owner, Rachel Davis, said she was very pleased with the results of the sale. “It was much better than we had anticipated, grossing more than $1 million,” she reported, adding that there were about 60 people in the gallery and a combined 1,150 participating via the Internet.
The quality of the Goodyear map collection, which Davis said she got to see hanging in situ at the company’s “Executive Row,” is attributed to the late Janet Schirn of Chicago, who curated the trove by traveling herself in search of the finest examples in antique cartography, both in terms of artistry and content. With the help of researchers from the British Museum, the University of Leyden and the Bibliothèque Nationale, she went all over the world collecting documents that portrayed the ever-changing views of the world during the age of discovery and into the industrial age, from the Seventeenth through the Twentieth Centuries.
Many corporate collections support a company’s vision, and such was the case with maps, as Goodyear purposefully acquired each example to express its place in the global market. So the collection formed not only to capture some of the finest examples of a map-maker’s skill, but also to document the company’s history, its presence and impact on regions worldwide.
The top lot among the myriad views of the world assembled for this sale was a rare 1544 woodcut map of Greece by Nicholaos Sophianos, the first of its kind in the modern era, which sold for $138,000. Opening at about $50,000, the lot was hunted by phones and a map dealer in the gallery, ultimately won by a phone bidder from New York City.
Nicholas de Fer’s wall map (on two sheets) of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is the only known copy outside of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Davis said Goodyear paid roughly $34,000, and at auction bidding pushed it to $69,000.
The Visschers, a family of art and map dealers in Amsterdam during the Seventeenth Century, created a rare view of Flanders on 12 joined sheets totaling 65 by 85 inches; this lot realized $29,900 and is going back to Belgium.
Additional map highlights included John Speed’s A New and Accurat Map of the World Drawne According to ye Truest Descriptions Latest Discoveries & Best Observations yt have beene Made by English or Strangers, 1651, which brought $20,700; de Wit’s rare set of four continents and world map, circa 1660–70, which finished at $8,050, and Gerard Mercator’s Septentrionalium Terrarum, 1595, the first separate, printed map of the Arctic and Canada, a polar projection that combined medieval concepts with some of the most advanced cartography of the day. Shown on the map was the Fourteenth Century notion of the oceans of the world flowing into a polar sea between four huge islands — mostly fantasy, although the idea of an open polar sea was essentially correct. This map sold for $9,200.
Some of the little maps drew surprising results, said Davis, citing Theodore de Bry’s 1590 map of Virginia, the earliest to include the name of Chesapeake Bay, and which shows the location of the lost Roanoke Colony, which rang up $14,950.
Goodyear augmented its collection of maps with fine art that similarly reflected its presence wherever it had a major plant. A work by Bedri Rahmi Eyuboglu of Turkey, “Woman and Goat,” an oil on canvas from 1964, 39 by 27 inches, went out at $18,400, and a work by Moroccan artist Farid Belkahia (b 1934), “Femme Berber,” embossed copper, 31 by 26 inches, fetched $4,600.
While the maps may have been the main event, they were complemented in the sale by Goodyear’s corporate collection of examples of American illustration art. The work of Dean Cornwell (1892–1960), appropriately nicknamed the “dean” of American illustration, graced the covers of major magazines, such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Harper’s Bazaar. The Goodyear collection boasted four oils by Cornwell. Topping this category was his “Parachuter with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington,” an oil on canvas, circa 1940. The work had been exhibited at the 22nd Annual Exhibition of Advertising Art, and was used in magazine advertisements and promotional calendars. Measuring 40 by 36½ inches, it sold to a private collector for $29,900. Another Cornwell work also used in ads and promotional items was his portrait of Betsy Ross, circa 1950, 43 by 38 inches, which fetched $16,100.
One of two oils by John Clymer (American 1907–1989) done for advertisements in the Saturday Evening Post portrayed “Route 1, Bridgewater, Conn.,” an oil on panel scene of railroad commuters returning to their cars after a heavy snowstorm, no doubt thankful for their foresight in buying Goodyear tires. The 20-by-40-inch painting took $9,775.
Ohio art glass in the collection featured a selection of the work of Dominick Labino (American, 1910–1987) with a hot glass sculpture from 1981 titled “Emergence Polychrome” and created with iridescent veils and blue core, 7¼ inches high, going out at $2,875.
The Goodyear collection also included memorabilia and unique decorations. Persian rugs with the company logo and sculpted displays featuring the famed Goodyear blimp were among the lots attracting attention.
Perhaps the most intriguing lots, though, were a series of four Nineteenth Century shadow boxes by William Hart & Sons of boxing squirrels, circa 1850s, each containing a round in a boxing match between two genuinely furred animals, appropriately attired in trunks and with gloves, with one ultimately pummeling his bloodied rival into the ground.
Davis said she believes there were five boxes originally, but one was lost — and, in fact, all four of the surviving vignettes mysteriously disappeared for a time, having literally been “squirreled” away atop a shelf in a closet at the corporate headquarters. The difficulty in estimating such exotica, conceded Davis, was reflected in their presale estimates of $300/500 each. Starting with a left bid opening of $850 as the first box crossed the block, however, it was soon evident that contenders valued the artifacts at much more.
The boxing squirrels cumulatively realized $69,000, all going to the same buyer, a gentleman in the room from Lake Placid, N.Y. A Texas woman was the underbidder, according to Davis.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.racheldavisfinearts.com or 216-939-1190.