Published: January 24, 2012
Five auction houses this year vied for the attention of buyers in town for New York’s Americana Week. When the dust settled on Sunday, January 22, the total take surpassed $47 million on more than 2,000 lots offered. Some of the highlights are arrayed here. Prices include the buyer’s premium.
Copley Fine Arts Auction
Boston-based dealer and auctioneer Stephen O’Brien Jr brings his all-star New England crew to the Wallace Hall on Park Avenue for his annual Manhattan sale of decoys and sporting art. Advised by decoy experts Jim Parker and Colin McNair, the Copley crew also includes auctioneers Michael Grogan and Peter Coccoluto at the podium and dealer Hercules Pappachristos and appraiser Anne Rogers Haley, among others, on the phones.
O’Brien switched up the sequence this year, starting with decoys and other folk art on Monday morning, January 16. Predictably, carvings by A. Elmer Crowell of Cape Cod, Mass, carried the session, with a black bellied plover and a Hudsonian curlew each achieving $69,000. Less typical was an Indiana pintail hen made around 1895 by Herman R. Trinosky. It sold to the phone for $63,250.
The afternoon session of sporting paintings and prints saw several notable successes, including a winning bid of $241,500 for Carl Rungius’s “In The Cedar Swamp” and $86,250 for Louis Agassiz Fuertes’s “Wild Turkey,” an oil on canvas of 1924. But there were disappointments, too. Two cover lots †Alexander Pope’s oil on canvas “Waiting for Master,” estimated $100/200,000, and a large Charles Birch swan decoy with an estimate of $90/$120,000 †were passed.
Buyers put a premium on fresh material in untouched condition at Keno’s $2,626,000 various owners’ sale of Important Americana on January 17. Auctioneer Leigh Keno led with a Seventeenth Century carved and joined chest attributed to the Deacon John Moore of Windsor, Conn. Remarkably, the piece, which sold on the phone for $632,400, far exceeding the $100/150,000 estimate, descended in one family to the consignor, a neighbor of the auctioneer’s father, Ron Keno, in upstate New York.
Keno also had enormous interest in a fancy painted and gilt card table, sold to a New England collector for $347,200, and a Prior-Hamblin School portrait of a child in a cradle, $142,600. Close inspection of the painting, a new find, revealed the name of the sitter, Eleanor Maria Doane, and the date 1841.
Keno devoted his afternoon session to an elegant collection of Woodlands Indian carved wood bowls and ladles, some ornamented with minimalist effigy figures. Collector Peter Brams worked closely with dealers Ted Trotta and Anna Bono, Steve Powers and Don Ellis to build this remarkable assemblage, which garnered $889,900.
Bonhams conducted sales of fine American and European furniture and decorative arts on January 19 and important maritime paintings and decorative arts on January 20 at its 57th Street showrooms. The sales grossed $1,744,231 and $717,438, respectively. Of major interest was a newly discovered North Carolina Moravian owl bottle, one of five known.
Estimated at $60/80,000, it fetched $50,000. A selection of Audubon prints brought up to $60,000 each, while a Georg Jensen silver soup tureen and lid achieved $74,500. In the maritime arts sale the next day, James Buttersworth’s oil on canvas depiction of an 1875 race between the yachts Dauntless and Mohawk achieved $170,500.
Christie’s various owners sale on January 19 and 20 generated $8,720,500. There was keen interest in a signed John Townsend of Newport, R.I., block and shell carved mahogany documents cabinet. Deaccessioned by the Chipstone Foundation, it was knocked down to dealer G.W. Samaha for $3,442,500.
With carving attributed to Nicholas Bernard, a circa 1750 Philadelphia chair deaccessioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art went to Pennsylvania dealer Todd Prickett for $902,500 ($600/800,000). Prickett set a record at auction for a William and Mary turned easy chair, paying $542,500 against an estimate of $80/120,000.
A dealer bidding by phone claimed a Matteson-style painted Vermont blanket chest for $266,500 ($60/90,00) against competition in the room from Massachusetts dealer Sam Herrup.
Christie’s published a standalone, hardbound catalog for a complete edition of John James Audubon’s The Birds of America . Bound in crimson morocco with gilt tooling, the 435 hand colored engravings were acquired after 1838 by the Duke of Portland as a complete set. The works sold at the low end of their estimate to an absentee bidder for $7,922,500.
The Rockefeller Center auction house followed with a single-owner session of property acquired by the late Joseph K. Ott, a dedicated scholar and collector of Rhode Island decorative arts, and his wife. The session garnered $3,748,750 on 27 lots sold. Highlights included the Captain Anthony Low Queen Anne mahogany slab table, documented to John Goddard and sold for $2,098,500 ($2/3 million); an open-talon dining table attributed to John Goddard sold to Todd Prickett for $542,500 ($250/350,000); and a Newport Queen Anne open armchair realized $362,500 ($250/350,000).
Sotheby’s began its various owners sale on Thursday, January 20, with silver. There was intense interest in 18 lots of silver made between 1678 and 1855 and presented to the First Parish in Dorchester, Mass. Heading the group was a pair of elaborately decorated standing cups by Boston silversmith Jeremiah Dummer that made $1.082,500. The group in all fetched $1,721,313. William Stoughton, a colonial Massachusetts governor, presented the cups to the church.
On Friday, January 21, Sotheby’s set a new record at auction for a high chest of drawers when a Newport, R.I., case piece sold in the room to dealer G.W. Samaha bidding on behalf of a collector for $3,554,500 ($2/3 million). The piece is documented by a 1756 bill of sale from maker John Townsend.
Fourteen lots later, the firm hammered down a gold-inlaid Colt presentation revolver for $1,142,500 ($800,000․1.2 million), a new auction record for a firearm. Other successes included an oil on canvas girl in red with a dog at her feet and a bird perched on her finger. The appealing portrait attributed to Ammi Phillips fetched $806,500 ($300/500,000) from a collector.
On behalf of a collector, dealer G.W. Samaha dueled a phone bidder for a painted overmantel depicting the John Hancock house on Boston’s Beacon Hill. On loan to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston since 1977, the mid-Eighteenth Century work went out at $614,500 ($150/250,000).
The York Avenue auction house rounded out the week on Sunday, January 22, with important American schoolgirl embroideries from the collection of scholar and collector Betty Ring. Highlights of the sale, a resounding success at $4,389,503, are reported elsewhere in this issue.
More to Come
As Antiques and The Arts Weekly went to press, Christie’s was wrapping up its series with a various owners sale of Chinese export art on January 23 and Chinese export porcelain from the collection of Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen on January 24. Watch for complete reviews of Americana Week’s shows and sales in upcoming editions of Antiques and The Arts Weekly .
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