Published: January 27, 2016
By Laura Beach
NEW YORK CITY — As illustrated in this article, the Americana Week sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s produced a slew of memorable results. Sotheby’s kicked off events on Wednesday, January 20, with property from the estate of longtime collectors Irvin and Anita Schorsch and continued on Saturday, January 23, with high-impact American folk sculpture gathered by Florida collectors Stephen and Petra Levin. In between, Christie’s brought to market a choice and previously unknown Hadley chest, a handsome collection of formal furniture and accessories assembled by Mr and Mrs Max R. Zaitz and Outsider art.
The marathon Schorsch sale realized $10,262,129 over three days and five sessions. Studded with treasures, this richly varied sale featured a Salem, Mass., bombe secretary desk of 1770, $970,000; a carved mahogany Philadelphia easy chair, $322,000; and a pair of Ralph Earl portraits of the Litchfield County, Conn., couple Jared and Apphia Ruggles Lane, $274,000.
The Levin folk art collection generated $5,104,500. Though some lots were passed due to high reserves, the sale’s many successes included an Angel Gabriel weathervane that brought $1.33 million, the top price of the session and for the week overall. Also of note was a cigar store figure of Lord Dundreary by Samuel Robb, $322,000, and a racetrack tout by Charles Dowler, $454,000.
The various owners sale at Sotheby’s was interrupted by Saturday’s blizzard. With the final session postponed by a day, Sotheby’s wrapped its week up on Sunday, January 23, with its $3,569,439 sale of property from various owners. Highlights included a monumental bronze painted cast zinc and iron elk by J.W. Fiske, $225,000, and James Bard’s oil on canvas portrait of the schooner Norma, $200,000.
In all, Sotheby’s Americana Week sales tallied $18.9 million.
With the Schorsch sale ongoing at Sotheby’s, Christie’s started Americana Week on Thursday, January 21, with Chinese export art. The 160-lot selection realized $2,183,625 and was topped by a porcelain punch bowl, $87,500, decorated in grisaille with a panoramic view of the hongs of Canton.
Christie’s returned on Friday, January 22, with Liberation Through Expression, a dedicated session of Outsider and vernacular art marketed with its own catalog. The sale, which generated $1,549,375, saw William Edmondson’s circa 1936 sculpture “Boxer” reach $785,000, an auction record.
Important American furniture, folk art and silver at Christie’s garnered $4,490,875 on January 22. Crowning the presentation were two choice, early pieces, both of which sold to Atlanta dealer Deanne Levison on behalf of a client. Effusively painted with flowers, vines and pinwheels, a joined oak and pine chest in the Hadley tradition hit $1,025,000. A flourish of baroque curves, a Philadelphia William and Mary dressing table of 1700–1730 reached $665,000.
Off the market for many years and distinguished by its formal elegance, Philadelphia Splendor: The Collection of Mr and Mrs Max R. Zaitz was a success for Christie’s, bringing in $2,633,750. Heading the selection was a Philadelphia card table and two side chairs with Deshler Family provenance. The card table made $509,000; the chairs $149,000 and $173,000, all going to consultant Luke Beckerdite.
A detailed analysis of the Americana Week auctions will appear in a later issue.
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