Published: September 11, 2018
Review And Onsite Photos By Rick Russack
THOMASTON, MAINE – A couple of weeks before his August 25-26 auction, Kaja Veillieux predicted that it would be a very strong sale at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries. On the first day, he sold two Chinese pieces, a blanc de chine figure and a Chinese bronze for $1,404,000, along with a Jasper Cropsey painting for $175,500. On the second day, he sold seven Milton Avery works for a combined $428,000 and an Andrew Weyth for more than $87,000. Both days included hundreds of other paintings, antiquities, jewelry, furniture, marine items, other Asian ceramics and bronzes and more. The two-day sale grossed $4.6 million may go higher as selling of lots that had been passed continued after the sale ended. There were numerous items that brought five-figure prices.
“It was the most expensive piece I’ve ever sold,” Veillieux said of the Seventeenth Century blanc de chine seated Dehua guanyin figure that sold for $760,500. The goddess is modeled with her hands in repose, eyes downcast, and she is seated on a lotus throne. Impressed on the back was the double gourd seal of the early Seventeenth Century Chinese potter He Chaozong, who is best known for his blanc de chine figures such as this one. To complement the most expensive piece he ever sold, three lots later, Veillieux sold a Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century gilt-bronze Kylin, a mythical creature, mounted with white jade, agate, lapis and carnelian, which realized $643,500. It was well-detailed with a censer on the back, a rearing dragon’s head, spread wings, scaled body and tail, and it had overall inlays of white jade, agate, lapis and carnelian. As many as 14 phone bidders competed with a bidder in the room for each of these two pieces. The guanyin figure went to one of the phone bidders, while the bidder in the gallery – to much applause – was successful on the bronze. Both pieces came from a collection in Cumberland Foreside, a short distance north of Portland, Maine. Watching Veillieux sell these pieces, one would never know that the action was in any way unusual; he made it appear that “it was just another day at the office.”
Other Asian items also did well. A Tibetan Buddhist parcel-gilt-bronze altar figure, cataloged as an Eighteenth-Nineteenth Century enthroned bodhisattva Avolokitesvara, was inlaid with turquoise and red coral and sold for $19,890. A four-fold Qing dynasty screen inlaid with 12 porcelain panels by Wang Shao Tang (1885-1924) sold for $10,530. Surprising most people, selling well over the estimate at $40,950, was a multicolored Japanese Meji period cloisonnÃ© charger, more than 36 inches in diameter, decorated with a flying crane above waves, smaller birds, cherry blossoms and more. Another pleasant surprise in the Asian category was a set of Ming or Qing dynasty cinnabar stacking boxes with elaborately carved dragons, floral carvings and more. In spite of restorations and some minor defects, it, too, sold well over the estimate, finishing at $23,400. Cinnabar, which is mercury sulphide, is considered one of the most dangerous chemicals and may give off toxic fumes if burned.
Both days of the sale included numerous fine paintings. The most expensive painting, sold after the sale, was Jamie Wyeth’s “Fog,” an oil on linen depicting purple iris against fog-bound pines on Monhegan. Included with the painting was a handwritten letter describing his inspiration for the work. It sold for $199,500. Not far behind, finishing at $175,500, was an 1883 work by Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) titled “Gray’s Elegy at Stokes Poges, Kent,” after the 1851 poem by Thomas Gray. A paper label on the back indicates that its original price was $400. This painting appears in the second volume of the catalogue raisonnÃ© recently published by the Newington-Cropsey Foundation of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. There were two paintings by Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955). Selling for $61,425 was “Rue Tournant a Gauche,” an oil on canvas, signed and dated ’25, with Utrillo’s stamp on the back of the canvas. It had been purchased by the consignor’s grandmother, February 20, 1939, from the exhibition “Maurice Utrillo: Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings from 1909 to 1938” at the Valentine Gallery of New York. The second Utrillo, “Montmartre Paris Cul de Sac,” earned $29,250.
An important 1942 mixed media work by Andrew Newell Wyeth (1917-2009) sold for $87,750. It was a study of the back of the Olson House, the iconic house Wyeth illustrated in “Christina’s World.” It was a gift from the Wyeths to Christina Olson and her brother, Alvaro, and is inscribed at the lower right: “To Christina and Alvaro, from Betsy and Andy,” with a tag on the back that reads “Property of Mrs Betty Olson, Cushing, Me.” It was consigned by family member John W. Olson Sr, who is quoted in the catalog as saying, “My wife and I walked up to the house shortly after Christina passed [January 1968]. She had never been through the house, so I gave her a tour and showed her the room where I was born. My father came shortly after we got there to start cleaning things out. My wife found this painting on the floor of the studio in Alvaro’s bedroom and said, ‘I’d like to have this,’ and my father said, ‘Sure.'” Thomaston Place has uploaded a video of an interview with John Olson, in the Olson house, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVEGpeqYRKc.
Several of the paintings in the sale came from the estate of Dr Arthur and Ruth Sokoloff, Coral Gables, Fla., and were sold without reserve. Included were seven works by Milton Clark Avery (1885-1965) from the Sokoloff estate, two of which sold for more than $100,000 each. The artist was a family friend and these paintings came directly from the artist. Topping the group was “Eight Birds Resting,” signed and dated 1962 and also signed, titled and dated in the artist’s hand on a paper label on the back of the painting. It sold for $163,800. “Owl” also by Avery, signed and dated 1953, realized $140,400. An oil pastel ink on paper, a figure of a nude woman, signed and dated 1959, finished at $10,530.
Also from the Sokoloff estate, came several pieces of jewelry, most with GIA certifications. A custom-designed platinum lady’s ring with a blue Ceylon sapphire and diamonds reached $25,740. The sapphire weighed 10.27 carats and was surrounded by diamonds weighing 3.93 carats, clarity VS1-SI1, color F-G. The accompanying appraisal placed an estimated replacement value on the ring of $62,000. An Art Deco-style man’s gold and platinum diamond ring, set with a 3.47-carat round brilliant old European cut diamond brought $11,115, and a pair of gold dangle earrings, each with an AAA quality natural Colombrian emerald, finished at $8,190.
A not very secret fact of life concerning internet bidding is that auctioneers sometimes have problems collecting payment, especially for high-ticket items. To minimize this problem, Thomaston Place does not permit internet bidding on items expected to sell for $25,000 or more. That fact is clearly stated in the catalog, along with the description of the item. That allows the company to establish financial responsibility with those seeking to bid by phone and agree on accepted forms of payment.
A few days after the sale, Veillieux said, “It was our best sale ever, and it may have been the highest grossing summer decorative arts sale ever held in Maine. I don’t remember any that were higher. Everything worked. We had great merchandise, much of it without reserves, and we had a full house both days. It took us 17 hours of selling over the two days. But it was worth it – we took in nearly $5 million. [Divide the gross by the time it took and you’ll get an average hourly sales figure of more than $280,000.] I’ve spoken with all the consignors and every one of them was more than satisfied with the prices. Personally, it’s a good feeling. It was my best sale and included the most expensive object that I’ve ever sold. We’ve been making a lot of changes in the company and I feel good about everything we’re doing.”
All prices given include the buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For information, www.thomastonauction.com or 207-354-8141.
February 7, 2023
February 7, 2023
February 7, 2023
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