Published: January 12, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Photos Courtesy Copake Auctions
COPAKE, N.Y. – “It was a different vibe this year,” said Seth Fallon, co-owner of Copake Auctions, on the firm’s 41st edition of its annual New Year’s Day sale January 1. Bidders have made the sale an annual pilgrimage, an event that in normal times would have seen a packed crowd of at least 200 people in the gallery. A trumpeter would have rang in Auld Lang Syne before the sale started and the bidders would have stuck around for much of the day as they talked between friends and acquaintances.
That the vibe was a different frequency did not deter bidders from participating. “At one point, we had over 1,000 people watching the auction online,” Fallon said.
The firm registered more than 3,500 absentee bids online from 22 states and four countries, with 400 bidders coming away successful. There were an additional 240 phone bidders to the auction, which grossed just under $500,000. The sale went 94 percent sold.
Preview was by appointment only for five days straight, with Fallon saying, “It was the kind of material that had to be seen by people.” Since restrictions took place in March, the auctioneer had run seven previous sales without preview. The firm was aided in open space by its newly constructed warehouse just up the street from the gallery, which adds 7,500 square feet to its operation. Previewers spent time between the two locations to view the entirety of the offerings.
The sale’s top lot at $11,210 was an oil on canvas painting by Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971) depicting a pair of white peacocks. It measured 24 by 30½ inches and sold to the trade. Fallon said he estimated the work conservatively as it had some imperfections, though bidders did not seem to mind as it garnered 41 bids before closing. The work was consigned from a gentleman in Hartford, Conn. Botke was a regular exhibitor from 1911 to 1935 in the varying locales she moved between with her family, including New York City, Chicago and California, the latter her home of record for the last 50 years of her life. Her body of work focuses largely on images of birds, peacocks a popular subject among them. In the earliest points of her career, Botke worked with Albert Herter and Herter Looms, where she honed her eye for design and created commissioned murals for interiors. During her time, she was known as one of the greatest decorative painters of the West.
Copake’s New Years Day auctions always include a large assortment of weathervanes, this sale tallying 21 examples. Best among them was a copper goat with gilt finish that sold for $10,030 to a Pennsylvania collector. “For every ten horses you get, there’s one goat,” Fallon said. “That did way beyond my expectations.” Behind at $7,380 was a leaping stag with gilt finish, 30½ inches long. A pig would sell for $5,843.
Fallon said that he saw enthusiasm among bidders for the sale’s early American furniture, which was estimated conservatively but accounted for five of the auction’s top ten lots.
“There was interest in the furniture,” Fallon said. “We probably did more condition reports than we’ve ever done in a sale. Just hundreds, and many of them on furniture. We sent out so many pictures where we flipped things upside down and got all the details.”
A few of the pieces were consigned by a Colebrook, Conn., collection with material acquired over generations by the family that had roots in Boston.
From that collection was a set of six Nineteenth Century shield-back Hepplewhite chairs with cotton flower inlay that rose above the $3,000 high estimate to bring $9,440. An Eighteenth Century Chippendale mahogany highboy from Boston with a bonnet top, broken arch and three shaped flame finials scored $5,900. The collection supplied other offerings, including a 1776 Continental Army enlistment document signed by Jonathan Trumbull, then Captain-General and Commander in Chief of the English Colony of Connecticut. It brought $2,832. A harborscape oil on canvas by John Weis (1892-1962), 16¼ by 18¼ inches, sold for $4,425.
A number of the sale’s notable lots were from the collection of a retired Albany collector/dealer who imported furniture. Among them was a full-sized English pub bar with etched and stained glass, about 8 feet wide, that sold for $4,130 to a Rhinebeck, N.Y., collector. From the same collection was a pair of earthenware dogs, 44 inches high, that originally stood in Dublin’s Westbury Hotel. They brought $4,425.
Statuary found good interest as a pair of Eighteenth Century carved stone foo dogs went out at $5,310. A pair of reclining lions in bronze, 43 inches long, sold for $4,425.
When speaking of a tin and wood trade sign that read “Matinee To-Day” in a patriotic painted frame, Fallon noted that there are always certain lots that universally appeal to the bidding pool in every sale. This was one of them as the 46½-by-41½ sign, signed Lambert, sold for $3,835.
A regular client of the auction house consigned a cast iron bank by Smith & Egge featuring the religious revivalists Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey. Moody established a major evangelical center in Chicago and engaged in a partnership with Sankey, a gospel singer renowned for his original hymns and style. The duo engaged a traveling tour, which reportedly drew large crowds on its stops throughout the United States and Great Britain. The pastor/singer partners reportedly pulled major figures into their sphere, including President Lincoln and Grant, and both have left legacies and traditions that are still repeated in their religion today. The bank’s form resembles J&E Stevens’ Crown bank and its possible that they are related, given that the companies were separated by about 50 miles in their time. It is known to appear with two slogans underneath the figures’ portraits, including “Hold The Fort,” as seen in the present example, as well as “Ninety And Nine” – both of these are Sankey hymns. The example, in fine paint, went on to bring $3,304.
From that same consignor was a tabletop baseball trade figure that the auction house dated to the 1870s-80s. The figure features a player holding a bat upright to his shoulder wearing an early uniform and measures 30 inches high. It sold for $3,835.
Arts and Crafts oak furniture drew in trade buyers on two lots that hailed from different estates. A double seated chair featured a one-piece curvilinear armrest that divided the two seats, with a back rest featuring a pierced diamond design. They sold for $3,186. Selling just under that at $2,950 was a sharp-angled slant front desk and chair, also in oak, that a California buyer snapped up. Both pieces had through tenons and the desk featured studio-made copper hardware on the hinges and escutcheons.
Attributed to Richard Morell Staigg (1817-1881, RMS) was an oil on canvas portrait of William Calvert, a member of the early and prominent Baltimore family. Staigg’s portraits can be found in many public collections, including the National Portrait Gallery. The painting sold for $885 to a Calvert descendant bearing the surname, who plans to donate it to a Baltimore museum.
Among the 15 Shaker items in the sale were chairs, boxes, work benches and cupboards. Fallon said many of the chairs came from a collector’s estate in Boston. Selling for $1,770 was a miniature three-finger oval box, about 3½ inches long, lotted together with a miniature pin cushion basket, that brought $1,770. To the bottom of the oval box’s lid was a pencil inscription with four names, including Father Job Bishop, and a date of February 1906. Fallon said that it was bought by a Shaker museum in Maine where one of the inscribed names was affiliated. Two case pieces came after, a built-in pine cupboard from the Nineteenth Century in red paint that took $1,416 and a standing cupboard with a single door over three drawers that sold for $1,180. A Nineteenth Century work bench from New Lebanon would sell for $1,062.
“We do most of our business online the past couple years,” Fallon said, reflecting on the past year. “We’re pretty accustomed to it, so transitioning to full online has not been difficult to us. Still – our 41st annual sale. Not a lot of people can say that, we’re happy to still be around… and thriving.”
For additional information, www.copakeauctions.com or 518-329-1142.
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