Published: May 16, 2023
Animal art was the apple of bidders’ eyes this past week at auction. Dutch artist Sal Meijer’s portrait of a black and white cat, a Frank Fleming sculpture of a frog supporting a bird and an Eighteenth Century Chinese vase decorated with crickets were all adopted at the block. Technological innovations also found favor, including a rare early sewing machine, an Edison Electric Pen and an almost pristine 1989 copy of The Legend of Zelda. Read on for more top lots.
NEW YORK CITY – William Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) King Lear; Othello; [and] Anthony & Cleopatra, extracted from the First Folio, nearly doubled its high estimate, reaching $150,000 at Swann Galleries’ timed auction of early printed books on May 4. Published by Isaac Jaggard & Edward Blount, London, 1623, the folio, consisting of pages 283 through 368, contained the complete text of all three plays and came with a modern photocopy of the title page tipped in. Along with representation by Shakespeare, the sale featured the third installment from Ken Rapoport’s collection, showcasing a large group of pre-Restoration quarto plays. For information, 212-254-4710 or www.swanngalleries.com.
VERO BEACH, FLA. — A rare Nineteenth Century sewing machine by William F. Thomas, one of the founders of the British sewing machine industry, beat its $200/400 estimate at Vero Beach Auction’s May 6 sale, selling for $950. “It’s funny, this item sold really well and isn’t the most exciting thing, but it’s supposed to be a really rare early machine,” said the firm’s auctioneer David Kratzer. Thomas purchased the rights to Elias Howes’ patent and employed Howe for several years. The machine measured 16 by 10½ by 9 inches and included a custom wood removable tray. For information, 772-978-5955 or www.verobeachauction.com.
PLAINVILLE, CONN. — A Chinese rosewood altar table, Ming style but of a later, simple form, was a breakout lot at Winter Associates’ May 8 sale. It surpassed an expectation of $100/200 to finish at $19,200. Measuring 33 by 54½ by 22 inches, it had been purchased in Beijing in 1948, and was shipped to Tsingtao, more than 400 miles, by oxcart. The lot included a book, Chinese Domestic Furniture, by Gustav Ecke that featured a similar table. Originally made to come apart and pack flat for travel, it was glued once in 1960 by a conservator, along with a second restoration, with a receipt, from 2014. For information, 860-793-0288 or www.auctionsappraisers.com.
BERKELEY, CALIF. — A rare, inscribed copy of Jack Smith’s important artist’s book, The Beautiful Book, led PBA Galleries’ May 4 sale, Fine Literature with Beats, Bukowski & the Counterculture, Rock Posters. Going out at $17,500, the book is the only collection of Smith’s photographs published in his lifetime, featuring images of New York artists. Inscribed to poet/publisher Kirby Congdon, this copy included 18 photographs by Smith and a portrait of Smith. Smith was a filmmaker, actor and pioneer of underground cinema. He is generally acclaimed as a founding father of American performance art and has been critically recognized as a master photographer. For information, 415-989-2665 or www.pbagalleries.com.
NEW MILFORD, CONN. — One of the top sellers in The Auction Barn’s online estate auction on May 1 was a bronze sculpture of a frog, cornucopia and nesting bird by southern sculptor, Frank Fleming (1940-2018), which earned $2,500 against an estimate of $100-$1,000. It stood 10 inches tall and outranked another 379 lots of furniture, fine art, estate jewelry, Asian works of art and collectibles. For information, 860-799-0608 or www.theauctionbarnct.com.
BLOOMFIELD, N.J. — Nye & Company offered its third ever Edison electric pen, number 8263, for auction on April 27, as part of its late April Estate Treasures Auction, in which nearly 700 lots crossed the block. The pen, which is one of 52 pens included in the current listing of the Edison Electric Pen registry and relates to examples in several institutions, descended in the family of the original owner and sold to a buyer in California for $12,800. For information, 973-984-6900 or www.nyeandcompany.com.
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. — A portrait of a black and white cat seated on a parquet floor, delightfully rendered in oil on canvas by Dutch artist Sal Meijer (1878-1965), achieved $19,125 to lead Bonhams Skinner’s Spring Americana sale, which was online from April 30 to May 10. Measuring 15¼ by 11½ inches, it was the top lot of approximately 400 on offer. For information, 508-970-3000 or www.skinner.bonhams.com.
CRANSTON, R.I. — Of the more than 150 lots Bruneau & Co offered in its May 6 Graded Showcase: Comics, Toys, & Video Games auction was a sealed 1989 Nintendo Entertainment Systems copy of The Legend of Zelda, which had a CGC grade of 9.2 A+. The vintage game, which had been estimated at $1/2,000, sold for $7,188, to a buyer from Florida. For information, 401-533-9980 or www.bruneauandco.com.
NEW YORK CITY — The sale of the Chinese porcelain and art collection of Dr Guillermo Rico, MD, featuring a rare Eighteenth Century famille rose cricket vase as well as the contents of Rico’s New York City apartment drew enthusiastic bidders on May 7 at David Killen Gallery. The collection included the cricket vase with decoration of floral enamels and several large crickets among the fauna (shown). In China, crickets are a symbol of prosperity and abundance. They are considered good luck, since they are a good omen for farmers for a plentiful season’s crop. True to form, the vase leapt to $12,000. Highest price in the sale, $16,800, went to a Chinese bed or sofa with red lacquer reserves, circa 1900. For information, www.davidkillengallery.com or 646-590-2788.
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