Published: February 19, 2019
This week in ‘Across The Block,’ we see a historic and well-traveled sledge that sparked heated competition in the gallery, on the phones and online before selling for $185,000 at Bonhams’ $1.1 million Travel and Exploration sale. Turn the page and imagine offering up a piece of furniture valued at $200/300, only to walk away from the sale with $33,000 – that is what happened at Michaan’s in February. Read on for other, equally notable lots.
LONDON – A sledge from the first expedition to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton sold for $185,000 in Bonhams travel and exploration on February 6. The sale made a total of $1.1 million. The sledge was the subject of fierce competition from bidders in the room, on the phone and on the internet. It was used on the 1907-09 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition by Eric Marshall – one of the four men, with Shackleton, Jameson Adams and Frank Wild, to undertake the sledge march to the South Pole. Although they had to abandon the attempt, they reached within 100 geographical miles of the South Pole – at the time, the furthest south ever traveled. For information, +44 20 7447 7447 or www.bonhams.com.
RENO, NEV. – A Thomas Edison-Joseph Swan British patent archive for incandescent lighting from the 1880s sold for $5,000 (shown), and a group of three silver ingots highlighted by one made at the US Mint in San Francisco brought $6,800 at an auction conducted January 24-28 by Holabird Western Americana Collections. The Edison-Swan patent archive (circa 1880-1883), which pertained to one of the most important modern inventions – incandescent lighting – consisted of original British patents issued to men working for Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan as part of the Edison-Swan Company at the onset of the invention and manufacture of a product that changed the way people lived and worked. For information, 775-851-1859, 844-492-2766 or www.fhwac.com.
LONDON – The January 31 sale of the Olive collection at Bonhams made $1.2 million with 82 percent of the lots sold and a sale by value rate of 87 percent. The vast majority of the pieces were sold to private buyers. The highest selling lots included a Henry VIII joined oak and walnut livery cupboard that sold for $98,500 and a 1650 early London delftware drinking cup in the shape of a postillion’s boot (pictured), which sold for $27,500. Popular in their day, very few of these boots survived and indeed this is the only known example of its type. An inscription around the top of the boot reads “Oh. My. Head.” For more information, +44 20 7447 7447 or www.bonhams.com.
CHICAGO – Despite record-breaking cold and extreme winter conditions, Potter & Potter Auctions’ February 2 books and manuscripts sale delivered without a hitch. The 800-lot event included robust selections of publications of all types, as well as ephemera, archives, documents, fine prints, photos and posters. Comic books featuring some of the Twentieth Century’s most popular superheroes turned in strong results. A CGC-graded and encapsulated Marvel Comics X-Men No. 1 realized $3,500. This 1963 edition by Stan Lee with artwork by Jack Kirby featured the debut appearance and origin of the X-Men (Professor X, Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast, and Marvel Girl) and Magneto. For information, 773-472-1442 or www.potterauctions.com.
BEACON, N.Y. – Hudson Valley Auctioneers’ two-session unreserved estate auction on February 4 included several partial estates from New York and New Jersey. Noteworthy was an Alessandro Pianon “Pulcini” art glass bird sculpture (shown) that sold for $5,938. Also interesting was a carved marble bust by Salvatore Albano, that hammered for $3,625. For additional information, www.hudsonvalleyauctioneers.com, 845-480-2381 or 914-489-2399.
RANDOLPH, MAINE – Farrin’s Country Auctions presented items from the estate of Hugh McCulloch (1808-1895) of Kennebunk, Maine, in a February 6 sale. McCulloch served as a secretary under three different US presidents, including Abraham Lincoln. The sale featured early portraits of the McCullochs, period furniture, fancy silver and silverplate, china and many personal mementos. Fittingly, the family’s paterfamilias led the sale, with the portrait of Hugh McCulloch going out at $3,565. Opposed to the National Banking Act of 1864, McCulloch attempted to bring the United States back to the gold standard throughout his career. For information, 207-582-1455 or www.farrinsauctions.com.
ALAMEDA, CALIF. – A Queen Anne high chest of drawers modestly valued at just $200/300 was the sleeper at Michaan’s February 9 gallery sale when it finished at $33,000, the top lot of the day. The piece, which a representative for Michaan’s later confirmed, was a Rhode Island high chest that had been consigned from a collector on the Pacific Northwest coast. The chest had not been heavily advertised but nonetheless, eagle-eyed buyers spotted the piece and it attracted considerable presale interest. The chest drew competition from bidders in the room, on the phone and online, eventually going to an East Coast trade buyer bidding in the room. For information, 510-740-0220 or www.michaans.com.
NEW HAMBURG, ONTARIO, CANADA – A Morton & Company stoneware water cooler from the early 1850s, made by Justus Morton in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, soared to $23,150 (converted to US dollars at time of editing) to take top lot honors in Miller & Miller Auctions’ 499-lot Canadiana and historic objects auction, conducted February 9. The water cooler easily surpassed its $15/18,000 estimate and was elaborately decorated with applied figures, including a man wrestling with lions with fish-like heads, a man smoking a pipe, a woman taking snuff and others, with Greek, Roman or biblical origins, rare for utilitarian pottery. Morton left Lyons, N.Y., in 1849 to establish Canada’s first stoneware pottery factory. For information, www.millerandmillerauctions.com or 519-573-3710.
NEW YORK CITY – Rare because so many have been broken up to sell individual plates, a complete portfolio with 72 plates of Alphonse Mucha’s (1860-1939) “Documents Decoratifs,” 1902, sold for $18,750 at Swann Auction Galleries’ February 7 sale of vintage posters. In this portfolio, Mucha shows examples of jewelry, furniture and silverware, and illustrates how to draw women and flowers (the two main motifs of Art Nouveau), in all cases brilliantly demonstrating his stylistic prowess. Each of the 72 plates measures approximately 18 by 13 inches and is a masterpiece of Art Nouveau design. For information, 212-254-4710 or www.swanngalleries.com.
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