Published: January 23, 2001
Buyers Spend $2.4 Million
NEW YORK CITY – “Allan Daniel mentioned to me about a year ago that he might be selling a good number of things from his collection,” Susan Kleckner, head of the American Folk Art Department of Christie’s, said last Saturday, January 20.
At that point Kleckner had just seen a successful finish to what turned out to be one of the most talked about sales of American folk art in a long time. “We had about four months to pick up the objects, photograph them, and reference them for the catalog,” she added.
When all was said and done, 541 lots came to the auction block on January 20, adding to the excrdf_Descriptionent of the start of Americana Week in New York City. The sale grossed a total of $2,408,299, a figure that includes all buyer premiums, and was 92 percent sold.
Allan Daniel, who has long been a familiar face in the world of folk art, was visible during the sale in the dimly lit room that overlooks the auction room at Christie’s. From the gallery his wife Kenrda could be seen in the window to the left. Both were taking notes, commenting on the various objects as they crossed the block, and every so often Allan could be seen shaking his head, apparently reacting to the drop of the hammer.
A couple of months before the sale Allan and Kendra told Antiques and The Arts Weekly that the time had come to make life less complicated. “One way is to open the warehouse and sell the many things which have been bought over the years,” Allan said. He noted that the time had come to let others enjoys these things, and “we are opening the floodgates.”
Word of the sale brought out the folk art world, collectors and dealers alike, and it was obvious upon entering the gallery that Saturday morning that Christie’s had underestimated the interest in the sale. The seats filled rapidly and soon stacks of chairs were wheeled into place to accommodate the bidders. Allan Katz, a dealer in American folk art, who left his wife Penny to watch their booth at Antiques at the Other Armory Show, was an active bidder. “There is great dealer support here for this sale,” he noted. “It is an extremely mixed bag and has brought out a good audience.”
Katz went home with a carousel dog, a trade sign “which I really love,” and a couple of other things.
John Hays, International Director of Christie’s, conducted the morning session of the sale, starting with a portrait of a girl in a green dress holding a rose, Prior-Hamblen School, dating from the second quarter of the Nineteenth Century. This work, some 14 by 10 inches, oil on board, carried a pre-sale estimate of $12/18,000 and sold to dealer Marguerite Riordan of Stonington, Conn., for $35,000.
“Guess we are off to a good start,” John Hays quickly said, and for the most part he was right. A portion of the bottom line, $60,000, will be donated to the library fund of the Museum of American Folk Art, and a like amount will be given to the Humane Society of New York.
The quest for gameboards continued at this sale, with two selling in the $4,500 range, while a Nineteenth Century example, cream colored ground, alternating black and cream squares, each with gold painted number and red outline, broke free of its $2,5/3,500 estimate and was hammered down at $17,000 to a phone bidder.
It must be noted that the bids mentioned in this review are the hammer bids and do not include the premium charged by the gallery. Christie’s policy is 17 and a half percent of the final bid up to and including $80,000, and 10 percent of the amount above $80,000.
Among the glazed redware animal figures, a bear dating from the Nineteenth Century, Pennsylvania, 4 and a half inches tall, did well, selling for $6,500, better than twice the high estimate. A painted and decorated toleware coffeepot from Pennsylvania, 10 and a half inches tall, sold for $3,800; a carved stone bust of George Washington, 22 inches high, signed “S. Woro…,” dated 1830, went for $12,000, within the estimate; and large painted white rooster mill weight, American, Twentieth Century, Mogul form, 23 inches tall, sold for well over the $3,500 estimate at $7,500.
Allan Daniel has been known as an aggressive and constant buyer; thus there is no reason to wonder why he has collected things in great numbers and sizes. Take for instance his cast iron eagle counterweights from the Columbia Printing Press, Philadelphia. He had three different sizes, the smallest of which was 14 and a half tall and sold for $1,700 to a Philadelphia collector. The 18 and a quarter inch tall example went for $1,200, and the same bid won the largest of the three, 21 inches tall. All sold within estimate.
Jeffery Paul of California and Essex, Conn., and one of the owners of the Griswold Inn in Essex, stood at the back of the gallery and kept his paddle moving until he had purchased the only Jacobsen in the sale, a portrait of the May McWilliams. This work is signed A. Jacobsen and dated 1895, an oil on canvas which measures 22 by 36 inches. “My brother has the companion picture to this, the Charles McWilliams, and now they will both hang in his dining room,” he said.
“It is funny how some things go,” Allan Daniel said after the sale, referring to the pair of stable vents of cast iron. Each measured 18 inches in diameter and had raised portraits of facing horses. They were attributed to J.W. Fiske and dated 1865. The high estimate was $2,500, and the hammer bid was $6,500. In keeping with Allan’s interest in iron objects, a large collection of hitching posts was in the sale. Among the pairs were horse heads, attributed to Fiske, 48 inches tall, which sold for $3,800 to a phone bidder; a pair with lopped swan’s heads, 52 and a half inches tall, at $1,800; and a pair of eagle head posts, 46 and a half inches tall, which brought $3,800.
An American School sandpaper drawing of Niagara Falls, Nineteenth Century, went for the low estimate, $1,000, causing John Hays to comment that “it is cheaper than going there.” There were a good number of Priors in the sale, a good percentage of them falling below estimate. An exception was a portrait of a young man in beige vest with floral decoration, signed and dated 1842, oil on board, 21 by 15 inches. It went over the high estimate of $7,000, selling for $8,000.
John Hays mentioned, “Collecting weathervanes is popular right now and Allan has long been known for his interest in them.” Over the year he built up a large collection, but noted after the sale, “Possibly we had too many horse vanes in the auction.” For the most part they were well received; witness lot 482, a leaping horse by A.L. Jewell, the cover lot, which was bought by Stephen Score for $110,000, better than twice the high estimate. The following lot, a molded and gilded copper steeplechase horse vane, another Jewell, 37 inches long, left the high estimate of $30,000 well behind, selling for $80,000. The next lot was the molded gilt copper hackney horse weathervane, attributed to Cushing and White, late Nineteenth Century, 32 and a quarter inches long, which pulled down $85,000 against a high estimate of $30,000. A J. Howard horse and sulky vane, 37 inches long, sold for $20,000; a copper and zinc horse and rider vane attributed to Fiske, 33 inches long, went for $16,000 to a phone bidder; a molded and painted copper rooster vane stamped J.W. Fiske and Company, 33 inches high, almost doubled the high estimate at $28,000; and a cast zinc and copper cow vane by J. Howard, 28 and three-quarter inches long, went slightly over the high estimate, selling for $16,000. A leaping stag vane by Cushing and White, 30 inches long, sold for $26,000 against a high estimate of $18,000. At least 20 other weathervanes were in the sale, making it a golden opportunity to form an instant collection.
A family group of three pictures, Mr and Mrs Chase and their son, oil on canvas, Aaron Dean Fletcher, did not make the reserve and failed to sell. After the auction Allan Daniel noted, “I was really surprised they did not sell.” The provenance for the pictures lists Nina Fletcher Little and Roger Bacon. The estimate was $20/30,000.
One of the carved wood figures was a painted figure of an eagle, attributed to Wilhelm Schimmel, Pennsylvania, late Nineteenth Century. The estimate was $10/15,000, and the hammer bid went only to $5,000. Sanford Smith, who was attending the sale, said, “I bought that eagle many years ago for about $3,000 and sold it to Allan some time later for $5,500.” It was bought back by the same person who sold it to Sandy in the first place.
A silk on linen family register needlework, wrought by E.L. Kelso and dated 1825, 19 by 21 and a quarter inches, went for $5,000; an American School watercolor and ink on paper Livermore family record, signed and dated, sold for $800; and a calligraphy drawing, “Our Father Who Art in Heaven,” showing an eagle with bible, pencil on paper, some 15 by 19 inches, went into the collection of Marilyn Gould for $1,200, half the low estimate.
About two dozen decoys were in the sale, including a group of three carved and painted Eskimo curlews, Nantucket, late Nineteenth Century, for $6,000; a carved and painted yellowlegs, probably Massachusetts, early Twentieth Century, 13 and seven-eighths inches high, $800; and a group of three cast iron sink ducks sold for $1,400.
There was not much furniture in the sale, but a healthy $9,000 was paid for a painted and stenciled dressing table in yellow. This piece, probably from Maine, dated from the Nineteenth Century and brought $9,000, three times the high estimate. A paint decorated six-board blanket box, Mohawn River valley, New York, circa Nineteenth Century, red and white decoration, trestle feet, sold for $3,800, in the middle of the estimate.
Much interest drove the final bid to $13,000 from a Philadelphia collector for a painted chalkware figure of a fireman, American, Nineteenth Century, 14 inches tall. The figure was on a molded yellow base and the fireman was leaning on a trumpet. The high estimate was $7,000. Twenty hitching post finials in the form of horses were offered, with the top lot bringing $1,300 and the lowest $400.
There seemed to be an endless supply of banner weathervanes and bidders almost got to the point that if this one did not come their way, then there were more down the line. One of molded zinc and copper, attributed to J. Howard, 42 inches long, brought $8,000 against a high estimate of $5,000, while a few lots later Judith Milne of New York City bought a nice example, cut sheet copper lyre-form body, tulip form tail, for $1,900, below the low estimate.
The afternoon session, under the direction of Barbara Strongin, director of salesrooms and auctions, started with a relief-carved and painted portrait of Abraham Lincoln, signed Robert Kriner, Pennsylvania, circa 1887. It measured some 11 by 8 inches and brought $4,000. About 20 painted cast iron building still banks were sold, generally in lots of three or four, with an average price of about $300.
Textiles, for the most part, did not make reserve, but $3,000 was paid for a pieced and appliqued cotton quilted coverlet with red, green, and orange sunbursts, Princess quilting, third quarter of the Nineteenth Century. A pair of cast iron black-painted dog garden ornaments, J.W. Fiske and Company, 21 inches high and 42 inches long, outstretched front paws, went to $22,000, over the high estimate of $18,000.
Carved marble lambs filled one page of the catalogue and the reclining figures were sold in groups of four or five. They averaged about $100 each, except for the last lot of five, which brought $2,200. Daniel noted that he generally paid anywhere from $200 to $400 each for them in the past. A molded copper and iron pawnbroker’s sign, Nineteenth Century, sold for $4,200; a painted barber shop trade sign went for $6,500; and a carved and painted wood zodiac sundial, American, was hammered down at $4,000, the low estimate.
During the afternoon session John Hays sat at the bank of phones at the side of the gallery registering bids for those who could not attend the sale. He became active when lot 758 came up, a cast zinc and copper codfish weathervane, J. Howard, 33 inches long with good patination. The high estimate was $25,000, and the hammer bid was $30,000 to a person in the room. “I was calling the bids for a person who was on a cel phone and fly fishing at the time,” John said. While he underbid this lot, his client did get the painted wood cooper’s trade sign in the form of a barrel with blue stays and red lettering. It measures some 30 by 14 inches and brought the high estimate of $6,000.
“Meat Market,” spelled out in black on a white ground, was the subject of the last trade sign in the sale, an American piece, Twentieth Century, 43 inches long, which came close to doubling the high estimate at $3,800. Shooting gallery targets were popular, with a painted cast iron clown constructed in three parts, 23 and one quarter inches high, American, Twentieth Century, taking top honors. A phone bidder won the piece for $15,000, under bid by a Philadelphia collector. The high estimate was $3,500. A figure with an articulated hat, 16 inches high on base, sold for $1,600, while a grouping of 36 cast iron bird targets, arranged in six rows of six, went in the middle of the estimate at $5,500.
Five carousel figures were in the sale, including a carved wood and painted Charles Looff outside stander. This figure, 53 inches tall and 56 inches long, had good patina and sold just under the high estimate at $28,000. The only jumper in the sale was another Looff carving, white painted with green harness and brown saddle. It proved to be the most popular horse in the sale, going for $38,000 to Steven and Helen Kellogg. “This horse is going to be perfect in a building we are restoring,” Helen said, “as it will be up in the air and appear to be floating.” The high estimate was $15,000.
Towards the end of the sale, six more banner weathervanes were sold, a collection of 26 cast iron mortars brought $2,200, 28 cast iron snow eagles were sold in two lots bringing $800 and $1,000 respectively, and a Cushing and White ram weathervane, zinc and copper, sold within estimate at $13,000.
A white painted sheet iron rooster weathervane, 22 inches high, sold for $3,000; a molded copper bull vane, attributed to Cushing and White, 30 inches long, brought $7,000; a collection of seven cast iron tassel ornaments, early Twentieth Century, went for $1,100; while a pair of cast iron and painted cornucopia plaques, with a high estimate of $2,000, sold to a Philadelphia collector for $9,000.
The last rdf_Description sold brought down the curtain on the sale when a hand painted window shade was hammered down at $1,600. It pictured a portion of an ironworks plant, American Works, and highlighted two men rolling a large cast iron wheel across a wharf.
Susan Kleckner commented, “Sculpture went well, better than the flat objects, and collectors are buying smartly, not going overboard, but keeping aware of the market.” The day after the sale Allan and Kendra were still going over the catalogue and noted, “We are very satisfied with the sale.” Allan spoke positively of the hard work put into the sale by Susan Kleckner and was pleased with the dealer and collector support at the sale.
What’s next for a person who has been collecting as vigorously and as long as Allan Daniel? He had an easy answer: “I am still buying.”
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