Published: April 2, 2002
A $1.5 Million Record High for Dennis Auction Service Is Fueled by Yeats Painting
By Carole Deutsch
STEWARTSVILLE, N.J. – High expectations for the Dennis Auction Service’s March auction were realized when the sale broke the prior year’s auction record at $1.5 million. Dennis’ spring auctions have become widely known for their quality consignments, which offer everything from fine early American to Louis XVI.
The depth of this particular sale was impressive. Exceptional examples of Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Century American, English and Continental furniture, Oriental rugs, paintings, porcelain, art glass, pottery, Native American, and folk art were offered in 718 lots.
Brothers Frank and Steve Dennis are third generation auctioneers who have taken the family business from their grandfather’s country auction right into cyberspace. This year’s March auction displayed more than 600 photos of key lots on the Dennis Web site. Dennis begins building the March auction from spring to spring and this year’s sale set a Dennis record with more registered house, phone, and absentee bidders than ever before by a wide margin.
The auction house was filled to capacity with 428 registered bidders who were undaunted by the nine-hour auction, in which prices remained strong right to the last lot. Phone and absentee bids were accepted from all over the globe.
Prices on paintings skyrocketed and art glass commanded prices beyond retail. Strong prices were achieved on French furniture, and American folk art went well beyond presale estimates. A group of “dream team” phone bidders were surprised to be given a run for their money on many rdf_Descriptions that simply went through the roof.
One important dealer who flew in from Chicago for the preview stated the he “could not get a bid in edgewise” on his phone bids, as prices of Daum Nancy went “well beyond anything that he had ever seen.”
The crown jewel of the sale was an important tempera of a red-shirted coach driver painted by Jack Butler Yeats in 1893. A personal friend of Yeats originally purchased the painting in 1915 and it remained in her keeping until her recent death. The Yeats opened up at $10,000 from a phone bidder and galloped to $130,000 when bidders who never expected to have to pay more struggled to win the lot.
Auctioneer Frank Dennis called the bid at $140,000, going once, going twice, when a last minute bid of $150,000 won the prize ($165,000 after buyer’s premium). The audience erupted in applause with hoots and hoorays for the winning house bidder Sean Crean. Crean, an Irish art dealer and proprietor of Celtic Arts, has studios in Long Island City, N.Y. and Roscommon, Ireland. Crean stated that he was intrigued by the fact that the painting had been out of circulation for such a long time. Auction previewers were simply impressed by the undeniable appeal of the painting.
Another painting that generated a great deal of interest was a small 7 1/2- by 10-inch framed oil on board by Bill Gollings, 1922, which depicted a cowboy on a horse in a snowstorm. This rdf_Description hammered down at $27,000, representing an actual realized price of $29,700.
The painting was brought to Frank Dennis for an outright sale by a gentleman who told him that he could buy it for $25. Dennis, who had recently read a featured article on Gollings in Antiques and The Arts Weekly, recognized the value of the piece and advised the customer that he would do better to put it in the spring auction. “I owe it to my customers to protect them,” stated Dennis. Needless to say, the customer was staggered by the selling price of his “$25” painting.
Several other paintings realized strong prices, among them was a 12 by 18-inch framed oil on canvas by J.G. Brown, entitled “Dilettante,” that brought $14,300; an oil on canvas titled “Leaving Port” by Edwin Hayes opened at $5,000 and hammered down to a London art dealer for $13, 750 and an oil on canvas of a Venetian canal scene, signed Abel Truchet, realized $12,000.
An important group of French furniture, signed by Francois Linke and Paul Sormani, representing classic examples of their work generated a great deal of interest from New York dealers. Active bidding on an exceptional signed F. Linke, Paris, marble top drawing room table with bronze figural supports and a bronze flower basket mounted on the stretcher resulted in a final price of $35,750.
An exquisite Linke mahogany cylinder desk with a vitrine over-mount and bronze gallery brought $14,300. A signed Paul Sormani Nineteenth Century French ormolu-mounted kingwood vitrine having a central glazed panel door with two side glazed panels on cabriole legs yielded $23,100, and a signed Sormani mahogany and burl wood vitrine console with a hand painted mythological scene sold for $17,600.
Daum Nancy rose to the top of the art glass section of the sale when Daum Nancy outsold Galle by a wide margin. Members of the trade were unable to outbid collectors when prices climbed beyond retail value. One dealer canceled his phone bids before the end of the sale stating that he could not compete with the prices and would be sending the auction house his inventory for a future auction.
An unusual ewer form Daum Nancy wall pocket with a morning glory motif and applied dewdrops on the neck occupied several phone lines before it hammered down to the floor for $6,050. Another attractive 7-inch high Daum Nancy cameo pillow vase decorated with blackberries realized $3,410, and a long neck cameo vase with lilies standing 8 1/4 inches high brought $3,080.
American folk art rdf_Descriptions were exceptional. One of the darlings of the sale was an unusual painted wood duck decoy situated in a faux pond, measuring 18 inches long by 11 1/2 inches wide, with seven baby ducks in tow, all of which were painted with individual markings.
Mamma duck captivated auction previewers and since nobody had ever seen a decoy to equal it, and since it was unsigned and of no known origin, speculation began to circulate among collectors as to what the piece might bring. The general consensus was that it would bring “at least $3,000”. In fact, the duck charmed her way to a hammer price of $6,600 when an avid collector outbid a Philadelphia dealer.
An rdf_Description that received almost as much attention was an 1860 life-sized cigar store Indian that came from a Philadelphia smoke shop. This piece had been professionally restored and remounted and brought $13,200 from an ecstatic house bidder. A Nineteenth Century folk art wood carved and decorated eagle with a waving American flag and crossed arrows in his talons that had been repainted realized $6,050.
One of the most appealing aspects of the sale were the many one-of-a kind, or rarely seen, rdf_Descriptions. Ranking high in this category was a 1780-1820 30-hour cherry tall-case clock signed by the maker, George W. Bush, Easton, Penn. The clock, a plain straightforward piece with strong character, sold for $7,700.
A unique French ladies dressing box fitted with a series of secret compartments and 27 mini drawers, all of which had intricately hand-painted porcelain enamel panels with bronze mounts, and finished with a tiny bronze urn finial commanded a price of $8,250.
Two phone bidders battled it out over a handsome Carrys celestial globe on a regency mahogany base that hammered down at $4,125, and an enjoyable toy mechanical fire truck with a clockwork spring ladder realized $1,320.
Collectors of Native American appreciated a fine collection of museum quality rdf_Descriptions that included exceptional Apache baskets, pottery, chief’s robes, beadwork clothing, and moccasins from an important private collection.
Among them was a Nineteenth Century multi-colored chief’s robe that realized $4,675 and an 8 ½ -inch decorated pottery bowl that sold for $1,375. Beaded rdf_Descriptions of note included a beaded saddle blanket that realized $2,200 and an early beadwork vest that brought $2,420. An outstanding 13-inch high southwestern decorated basket hammered down under active bidding at $2,090.
An earlier session of the auction featured a superior group of Russian silver, which included a nine-piece silver and enamel tea set. Three floor bidders battled for this exquisite rdf_Description, which resulted in a final price of $11,550.
An elite Austrian mechanical coach intricately made of silver and enamel brought $3,575 and a circa 1883-88 Russian enamel kovsh sold to a private collector for $3,570.
Prices reflect a 10 percent buyer’s premium.
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