Published: January 29, 2002
By R. Scudder Smith
NEW YORK CITY – “We are delighted and thrilled with the auction and it is certain to go down as one of the strongest sales of American folk art,” said Nancy Druckman, head of Sotheby’s folk art department, after the last lot from the collection of Sandy and Julie Palley had been sold.
When it was all over, and a contemporary needlepoint-upholstered sofa with two needlepoint pillows had been sold for $2,700, the grand total for the sale came in at $3,640,325, including the buyer’s premium.
Julie and Sandy Palley died in a tragic airplane accident over Cape Cod Bay in September 2000, cutting short their remarkable zest for collecting American folk art. Gerard Wertkin, director of the American Museum of Folk Art, noted in the front of the catalog that they were “discerning, knowledgeable and dedicated collectors with an eye for the exceptional and the beautiful.” Such praise was echoed by many in the salesroom and the strength of the collection was truly shown not only in the strong prices paid for the objects, but also by the respected and knowledgeable dealers and collectors who kept their paddles high.
The first lot in the sale, a fine carved and painted pine whirligig of two Indians in a canoe, New England, late Nineteenth to early Twentieth Century, 21¼ inches long, sold for $9,600, above the high estimate of $8,000. This piece was only the first of many that left the high estimate well behind.
A hollow-form painted and molded chalkware squirrel, mid-Nineteenth Century, 7 inches tall, found lots of interest and the high estimate of $300 was a bit of a joke. The piece went to Olde Hope Antiques for $7,800. It was followed by a glazed wallpaper-covered hat box, circa 1830, inscribed “H. Hall, Cheshire,” with pairs of squirrels and Independence hall on the fitted lid. The final bid was $13,200, against a high estimate of $4,000. Another squirrel, a popular form in the Palley collection, was of carved limestone and showed the creature eating a nut. It was 13½ inches tall, American, Nineteenth Century, and sold for $9,600, well over the estimate of $1,500.
From a selection of decorated tole, a red-painted tea caddy with matching lid, Pennsylvania, Nineteenth Century, went for $3,600, and a swell-bodied molded copper and zinc rooster weathervane, probably New England, third quarter of the Nineteenth Century, 22 inches high, sold for $22,600. A bid of $26,050 more than doubled the high estimate for a calligraphic lover’s knot initialed “GD and MJ,” probably Pennsylvania, early Nineteenth Century, 13 inches high and 12¾ inches wide. It was drawn with pinwheels, stars, hearts and romantic verses. The buyer was Olde Hope Antiques.
Sandy Palley was a collector of fire-related rdf_Descriptions and included in this portion of the sale was a paint-decorated leather ceremonial fire parade hat, American, Nineteenth Century, initialed “N.L./ Northn Libert Hose Co.” with a figure of Lady Liberty with flags and a shield on the front. It sold to Marguerite Riordan of Stonington, Conn., for $20,300. The provenance listed David Wheatcroft. The next lot went the same way, a paint-decorated leather fire bucket, American, Nineteenth century, inscribed “T. Endicott/Hamilton Fire Club/ 1810.” It measures 18¼ inches tall and was decorated with an eagle holding a shield. It sold for $27,200 and dealers Stephen/Douglas are listed in the provenance.
Courcier and Wilkins are listed in the provenance for an architectural paint-decorated pine corner cupboard, York County, Penn., circa 1810. It is in a strong red paint with yellow trim, 7 feet, 8 inches tall, and the shelves are fitted for cutlery. The high presale estimate was $25,000, and the piece sold for $34,100.
Among the paintings in the sale were a view of York Hill Farm, American School, Nineteenth Century, 18 by 21¾ inches, oil on canvas, that lists Harold Cole in the provenance. It was estimated at a high of $6,000, and sold for $19,150. A turned cherrywood Windsor candlestand, Connecticut, last quarter of the Eighteenth Century, dark brown color with old dry surface, 29 inches tall and 14-inch diameter top, sold for $28,350 against a high estimate of $18,000. A red-painted carved pine and popular tall chest of drawers, Pennsylvania, first half of the Nineteenth Century, 4 feet, 3 inches tall, with carved columns in the front, sold for $19,150, just over the high estimate.
An unusual carved cherrywood slaw board, probably Pennsylvania, early Nineteenth Century, with a handle in the shape of a man’s head, had a high estimate of $3,000 and sold for $14,400. The provenance listed Samuel Herrup. As this rdf_Description was being sold, auctioneer William Stahl noted that “you will never find another one” to which Carl Crossman mentioned to the people around him “I could carve one like it.”
A Queen Anne “Spanish” brown-painted carved maple armchair, Connecticut, circa 1720, probably with the original finish, 4 feet, 1 inch tall, sold for $98,500 to Arthur Liverant of Nathan Liverant & Son, Colchester, Conn. The high estimate was $18,000 and the provenance listed Grace and Elliott Snyder. The Liverant firm also bought the Queen Anne turned maple tavern table, Connecticut, circa 1750, for $52,500. The high estimate was $18,000 and the provenance listed Lillian Blankley Cogan and Nathan Liverant & Son.
A black paper cut-out silhouettes mounted on lithographed ground, two young girls at play, observed by their father, Auguste Edouart, dated 1843, sold for $15,600 against a high presale estimate of $2,500. It measures 12 by 14 inches. A polychrome and decorated pine blanket chest, New England, possibly Vermont, circa 1770, with till inside, sold for $38,125, under the high estimate. It measures 24 inches high, 42 inches wide and 17¾ inches deep.
Two of the pieces of furniture that failed to sell were a Federal grain painted pine chest of drawers, probably New York, circa 1830, and a polychrome and paint-decorated pine blanket chest attributed to Johannes Rank of Lebanon County, Penn., dated 1789. It was blue, with three drawers at the bottom of the chest and three painted vases of flowers on the front. Two painted stars decorated the lid of the chest.
“I have been waiting all week to sell this piece,” William Stahl said as lot 916, a full-bodied turkey resting on a log base, came in view. This piece of Twentieth Century folk art, carved and brightly painted pine, was by Felipe Archuleta, American, 1910-1991, and was sold by Jay John Gallery, New York City. It measures 35 inches tall and 22 inches deep and sold for $32,950 against a high estimate of $5,000. “This turkey sat in the corner of the dining room and was appreciated only by my parents,” Alix Palley Grossberg said after the sale. The final bid was “not what we expected,” she added.
The residence of Mrs George N. Pickard, Perth, Fulton County, N.Y., dated August 18, 1897, as depicted in colored pencil and graphite on paper by Fritz G. Vogt, sold for $46,750 with a high estimate of $18,000. This work measures 19½ by 16¼ inches and is signed and dated by the artist. Philip Bradley of Downingtown, Penn., was the buyer of lot 924, a Chippendale highly-figured maple slant-front desk, Pennsylvania, circa 1790. It sold for $24,900, just under the low estimate and the Bradley firm is listed in the provenance.
A bid of $170,750, $50,000 over the high estimate, was registered for a polychrome and paint-decorated popular blanket chest, Pennsylvania, dated 1795. It appears to retain the original cast brass and wrought iron hardware, and measures 28 inches high, 4 feet, 2½ inches wide and 25 inches deep. The front three panels are decorated with black and red tulips in a vase, and there are three short drawers in the lower base. The chest rests on bracket feet and there are iron handles at each end.
Eagles came into play with lots 928 and 929, the first an eagle standing on a shield, the center decoration of a carved, gilded and polychromed wall plaque, probably New England, and dated 1851. The eagle is carved in high relief and the plaque measures 21½ inches high and 33 inches wide. The provenance lists Samuel Herrup and the final bid was $26,050, just over the high estimate. The second wall plaque sold for $192,750.
Another Pennsylvania popu-lar blanket chest, a miniature example from Berks County, Penn., was polychrome and paint-decorated and measures 18½ inches high, 24 inches wide and 12 inches deep. The provenance lists Nathan Liverant & Son and the piece sold for $159,750. The high estimate was $60,000. The catalog notes that “this chest appears to be the only miniature chest with distinctive calligraphic painted by an unidentified decorator known to have painted other noteworthy chests.”
An Empire figured mahogany and eglomise banjo clock, Massachusetts, second quarter of the Nineteenth Century, 40 inches high with a horse-drawn pumper depicted on the bottom portion, went well over the high estimate of $2,500, selling for $22,600. Rugs made up the final portion of the sale and the top lot was a Heriz carpet, Northwest Persia, circa 1900, 15 feet, 2 inches by 11 feet, 5 inches. It sold for $27,500.
Alix Palley Grossberg said that her parents “would be amazed by all that has happened, the room filled with bidders and the strong bids.” And while thinking over some of the particular lots sold, she said “We didn’t expect the fireman to go so high.” Another person in the room said that this sale was “a great expression of their quiet pursuit of things.”
It was a sale that will long be remembered by the folk art world.
All prices quoted in this review include the premium that is figured according to the following: 20 percent for up to and including $15,000; 15 percent on the next $85,000 up to and including $100,000; and 10 percent on any amount in excess of $100,000.
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