Published: March 26, 2018
BEDFORD VILLAGE, N.Y. — Brendan Ryan of Butterscotch Auction knew the firm had a great object of historical Americana in the lineup heading across the block on March 25 in its estate auction staged inside Historical Hall. That certainty was borne out by the $48,800, inclusive of premium, attained for Alfred Jacob Miller’s (American, 1810-1874), “Caravan en route [Stewart’s caravan],” a pen, pencil and ink wash on paper, circa 1837. The 12½-by-18¾ work was won on a phone bid against two other competitors and is going to a Midwest institution.
Catalog notes outline the genesis of the trailside sketch, describing Miller’s invitation from the retired British army captain Sir William Drummond Stewart to accompany him on a six-month expedition to the Rocky Mountains where they would witness the rendezvous of fur trappers and traders on what would become the Oregon Trail. Ryan said that this particular sketch is related to at least seven others by Miller. Six of those show Stewart seated on his white horse in the center of the caravan. He is noticeably absent in this sketch, suggesting an early date of 1837 and the likelihood that it was a quickly executed study as a basis for Miller’s later oil of the same subject completed around 1850.
The work came from the artist by descent to Louisa Whyte Norton; Old Print Shop, New York (1947); purchased from the above by the consignor’s grandfather. The Old Print Shop was an under bidder on the lot.
In addition to the Miller sketch, the sale was packed with midcentury modern material and a trove from the multi-talented John Allison, songwriter, arranger and historian of American folk music. A full report on the sale will follow.
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