Published: July 6, 2022
Review by Z.G. Burnett, Photos Courtesy New Haven Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. — It was a showcase of Americana at New Haven Auctions on June 25 and 26, representing all categories of fine and decorative American art from the Seventeenth Century to the mid-Twentieth Century. The two-session auction included objects from multiple esteemed estates and collections, including that of Luis Arroyo on the first day of the sale. Arroyo is a Salisbury, Conn., collector who largely stopped buying decades ago, therefore many of the lots had not been seen on the market for ages. The total for both sales was $950,000 with an almost 100 percent buy-through rate.
“It was a strong sale, which is a testament to the strength of the marketplace right now,” Fred Giampetro, owner of New Haven Auctions said. The variety of lots offered and finely tuned marketing of the sales drew in an unprecedented 9,000 bidders: mostly American on the first day and then bidders from almost 15 countries on the next. The buyers were roughly 70 percent private and 30 percent trade.
The top lots of the first day were mostly a combination of figural art, portraiture and antique gaming boards. Carousel animals occupied the top two lots, with a goat pulling ahead of a tiger. The goat in question was once used on a carousel built by Gustav Dentzel (1846-1909), a German immigrant who created some of the earliest American merry-go-rounds. Dentzel is also credited by some with bringing the first carousel into the United States upon his arrival in 1846, as well as introducing steam power and menageries of exotic and whimsical animals to his carousel arrangements instead of using horses exclusively. Only 14 of his carousels survive today and seven of those are located in the United States. Although Dentzel trained as a wood carver and made many of the animals on his earlier carousels, this goat had 99 percent of its original paint, is attributed to Salvatore Cernigliaro (Philadelphia, 1879-1974) and sold for $23,560.
Prowling close behind was a rare carousel tiger in outstanding original condition, bearing a “Princeton” saddle blanket and snarling with one forepaw raised. Made circa 1910, the tiger is attributed to Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. The company has been in operation since 1904, when it produced carousels and many other fairground rides, and still manufactures wooden rollercoasters today from its Hatfield, Penn., factory location. The tiger stalked away for $21,080.
Another four-legged friend was to be found in the top lots, a rare, molded copper weathervane in the shape of a lady riding side-saddle. Cantering or prancing horses are far more common motifs for antique weathervanes, and a circa 1855-60 example of a man riding horse attributed to A.J. Jewell and Company (1852-1867) was recently sold by Jeffery Tillou Antiques. Another weathervane sold in the second session; a signed Harris & Co circa 1975 example with a jockey that crossed the finish line at $4,650. The weathervane with a lady rider is later, circa 1910, and its gold surface was restored in the late Twentieth Century. The pair trotted away for $14,880.
Portraiture stood out in this sale, and the best surfaced in its top listings on the first day. An arresting likeness of a man from Fort Henry, N.Y., by Sheldon Peck (1797-1868) was the third highest lot in the first sale and achieved the most paid for a portrait that weekend. The sitter is a young man with striking blue eyes and brown hair, dressed in a fashionably dark jacket for the early Nineteenth Century with a colorfully embroidered waistcoat and golden, bejeweled cornucopia-shaped pin to hold down his starched, white cravat. From his New York period (1828-1836), The portrait sold for $18,600, exceeding its high estimate.
Close behind this single man was a pair of portraits by Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), circa 1830. Phillips was a prolific portraitist active circa 1810-60, traveling between Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Soberly dressed in black, the couple’s portraits hint at their refinement in the details of their outfits and attributes. The gentleman reclines on a carved wooden armchair with gilt paint, holding a “History” book; the lady’s portrait features even more books, unmarked, with fine white lace standing out against her dark dress. The handsome pair sold for $13,640.
Gameboards ranked high in the first session, with two colorful examples in the top lots. At the same price as the pair of portraits was a Nineteenth Century Parcheesi board with original red, white and blue paint for $13,640. Parcheesi was adapted from the cross and circle board game Pachisi that originated in ancient India. The second board also had a red, green and yellow Parcheesi board on one side, with a black and white checkerboard on the other. It sold for $9,920.
The only piece of furniture in the first day of the sale was a diminutive Northeastern chimney cupboard, circa 1830-40. These were designed specifically to fit within the narrow spaces beside fireplaces, and this example must have been a tight squeeze. It had square nail construction with chamfered backboards with five interior shelves. The small size of the cupboard was rare, as was its unusual cherry red paint. The cupboard sold for $7,440.
The second session was led by two still lifes of fruit by Severin Roesen (Prussian American, 1815-1872) from the same Virginia collector. During his lifetime, Roesen painted more than 300 still lifes but only about 24 known paintings of his are dated. Both of these were in excellent original condition with no restoration noted under UV light. The still lifes sold for $18,600 and $14,880.
Third in the second day’s sale was also an oil on canvas from around a century after Roesen, “Pantry House” by Bill Sawyer (American, 1936-2020). Active mostly in Nashville, Tenn., Sawyer was a self-trained artist who begin painting while overseas in the US Army Corps of Engineers. Although he had a few shows in San Diego and New York City, Sawyer mysteriously stopped painting in the early 1980s. His work is known for its bleak depictions of contemporary American life, such as this tiny little girl playing alone outside of a brick house with the shades almost fully drawn. The painting sold for triple its high estimate at $13,640.
The rest of the second session’s top lots were eclectic, attracting more overseas visitors than the previous day. Louis Vuitton made an appearance with an antique trunk. Despite its losses and imperfections, as well as some interior staining, the trunk retained its tray and was in functional condition. The price it achieved was exponential compared to its estimate at $8,060, which testifies to the enduring quality and collectability of the brand’s products. Next was a Steinway & Sons grand piano with a mahogany case, Steinway Model O 6/8 K 322. Also in need of some restoration, the piano still achieved $6,820.
The last two top lots were squarely in the Americana category, unassuming but of great value to those in the know. Selling for almost 12 times its high estimate, a circa 1865 American key board racked up $5,890. With a framed tombstone top and original apple green paint and mustard trim, the board would have been used to organized keys at a hotel.
Last was a textile canvas with crochet panels stitched onto linen, titled “Crochet Cows and Tree” by Kate Clayton “Granny” Donaldson (North Carolina, 1870-1960). Newspaper clippings about Donaldson were attached to the rear of the canvas. Her work is part of the American Folk Art Museum’s permanent collection and was featured in Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands by Allen Eaton (1937). The canvas sold for about $5,270.
Prices quoted include buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.newhavenauctions.com or 475-234-5120.
December 5, 2023
December 5, 2023
December 5, 2023
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