Published: March 29, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Cottone Auctions
GENESEO, N.Y. – Fine art and antiques crossed the block at Cottone Auctions on March 19, including more than 275 lots and featuring the collections of the estate of Elizabeth Strasenburgh, Rochester, N.Y.; Randy and Bette Swift, Fernandina Beach, Fla.; the David K. Anderson Grandchildren’s Trust, Buffalo, N.Y.; various Upstate New York museums and institutions, as well as items from various estates and individuals. Overall, there were more than 5,000 bidders participating in the sale, and its sell-through rate was 99 percent.
A private collector prevailed over other collectors and institutions to win the sale’s top lot, a rare oak hall chair by Charles Rohlfs (1853-1936) from the estate of Jane Wolcott Steinhausen of Rochester. Eclipsing its $50/80,000 estimate to finish at $306,000 and measuring a height of 58 inches, the chair possessed unusual carved feet and was signed with the artist monogram and dated 1901.
At the turn of the century, the Buffalo region was an innovative hub of US industry and at the center of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Western New York boasted the lion’s share of the most influential figures such as Rohlfs, Frank Lloyd Wright and Gustav Stickley. Although considered part of the Arts and Crafts Movement, Rohlfs’ masterfully pierced carved and ornamental furniture has wide ranging influences. From British Arts and Crafts to French Art Nouveau, to East Asian furniture, making his artistic style difficult to categorize.
In the January 1900 issue of House Beautiful, Rohlfs wrote, “My designs are my own. I evolve them. They are like those of no other period nor people…I do not read Ruskin nor anybody nor anything that might influence my ideas. I never get them from books…They are mine and into their execution I put all my heart and force and that is why they appeal.”
Son of a cabinetmaker in Brooklyn, N.Y., and trained in design at the Cooper Union in New York City, Rohlfs in 1884 married the popular novelist Anna Katharine Green (1846-1935) and by 1897 began pursuing a career as a furniture maker. He quickly had developed an international reputation for his work, earning entry into the Royal Society of Arts in London. Marshall Field’s department store promoted his work around 1900; in 1901 he exhibited at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo; and in 1902, Rohlfs’ designs were featured in the Exposition of International Design in Turin, Italy.
Rohlfs furniture would be described as “artistic furniture” or “the Rohlfs style,” and truly in a world of its own. His work is included in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, High Museum of Art, Huntington Art Collections and many more.
Totaling $566,730, more than 30 lots of estate jewelry crossed the block in the sale that totaled $2.9 million, including a 9-carat pear-shaped diamond ring that jumped its $150,000 high estimate to land at $246,000.
Works on offer included a stainless steel kinetic sculpture by George Rickey (1907-2002), titled “Four W’s,” which realized $132,000. Standing at more than 8 feet high with a rotating diameter of 5 feet 6 inches, dated 1986-93, it was the third of an edition of three. The kinetic sculpture was acquired directly from the artist in 1994 and had remained in the family of the original owners.
A rare, early carved ebony sculpture by Alexander Calder (1898-1976), “Femme Assise,” circa 1928, measuring 16½ inches was bid to $96,000 This was previously published and illustrated in Edouard Raymond, Paris Montparnasse, Sandy Calder ou le Fil de Ser Devient Statue, June 15, 1929, pg. 39.
Upon arrival in 1926, in the Montparnasse district of Paris, Calder met Picasso, Brancusi, Zadkine and Pascin. At that time, the young Calder sculpted the nude in wood, a material that he borrowed from several of his artist friends such as Brancusi (1914-1917) or Zadkine (1912-1914).
There were many lamps by Tiffany Studios, an impressive lineup that is a hallmark at Cottone and in this sale totaled $658,250. Highlights included a Peony table lamp with an 18-inch shade that left the gallery at $126,000.
Fine art offerings featured a rare oil painting by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923) titled “Playa de Valencia.” It was likely painted in 1904, the summer in which Sorolla spent painting on the El Cabanal beach in Valencia. Here he produced numerous small-scale beach scenes, painted on the spot. The work was published and exhibited by the Hispanic Society of America in 1909. It earned $54,000.
Fetching $30,600, twice its high estimate, was Pablo Picasso’s (Spanish, 1881-1973) “Visage de Femme” plate, with stamps for Madoura Plein Feu and Edition Picasso on its underside, measuring 15 by 12¼ inches.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Cottone’s next sale is May 6. For information, 585-243-1000 or www.cottoneauctions.com.
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