Published: October 8, 2019
CINCINNATI, OHIO – For the fourth time in 11 months, Cowan’s sold an Andrew Clemens sand bottle for $100,000 or more. The sand bottle was the top lot of Cowan’s fall fine and decorative art auction conducted on September 28.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw an Andrew Clemens sand bottle,” said Wes Cowan, Cowan’s founder and principal auctioneer. “I was on Antiques Roadshow at the folk art table with representatives from Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and in comes a man with this incredible piece of folk art that none of us had ever seen before. A few years later, we were the first auction house to bring his work to market, selling a bottle for more than $12,000. It’s been a real treat to watch this genius’ work go from obscurity to six-figures in such a short time frame and to get to play a small role in that.”
Clemens was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1857 before his family moved to McGregor, Iowa, where he would spend the bulk of his life. At five years old, he suffered from encephalitis, an inflation of the brain, that caused permanent hearing loss and left him mute for the rest of his life. From a young age, Clemens began honing his craft, gathering different colored grains of sand from Pikes Peak State Park for his art. His early works were fairly simple – mostly focused on geometric shapes and patterns. As his process evolved, he was able to make far more complex patterns, including landscapes, American flags, floral arrangements and steamboats. Clemens is believed to have produced several hundred bottles before his death at the age of 37, but no complete record of his work has ever been found. It is believed that only a small percentage have survived to this day.
In its history, Cowan’s has sold 31 sand bottles by or attributed to Clemens.
The bottle sold at Cowan’s on September 28 was large for Clemens, standing 8¾ inches tall. One side of the bottle featured a spreadwing eagle beneath a 36-star flag. The reverse side depicted an urn of flowers beneath the name “Miss Kate Moore,” all within layered, colored sands in geometric patterns. The bottle sold to a longtime Cowan’s buyer and Clemens enthusiast for $100,000.
The auction also proved to be a good day for fine art by American artists. An oil on canvas by George Inness (1825-1894) titled “The Watering Hole” was the top lot in the category, selling for $45,000. The painting, which depicts cattle drinking from a stream at sunset, is featured in the landscape artist’s catalogue raisonné.
Other highlights from the American fine art category included a Birger Sandzen (1871-1954) oil on masonite depicting a landscape near Santa Barbara, Calif., that sold for $30,000; a Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971) oil on board of a pair of cockatoos for $17,500; and a William McKendree Snyder (1848-1930) oil on canvas depicting one of the most iconic views at Hanover College in Indiana overlooking the Ohio River for $8,320.
The antique furniture market continues to show signs of rebounding as several lots soared past their estimates. The top lot of the category was a massive Italian baroque walnut and marquetry cabinet that sold for $11,520, more than double its high estimate. A Seventeenth Century two-piece cabinet with fruitwood marquetry, the upper case featured molded cornice and Italianate dentil molded frieze, punctuated by engaged inlaid columns. The central open niche featured Greek key inlay and elaborate marquetry work, flanked by diminutive shell-carved cupboard doors, over a conforming base with fitted drawers and cupboards.
Other furniture highlights on the day included an American federal period Sheraton mahogany sideboard attributed to Thomas Seymour that sold for $8,960; a pair of rare Philadelphia Chippendale side chairs attributed to Daniel Trotter for $8,750; an American federal dressing chest attributed to Thomas Seymour for $8,750; a Regina auto changer 15½-inch disc music box for $8,125; and a massive Georgian drop leaf dining table that measured 87 inches wide for $5,938.
Miscellaneous highlights from the auction included a John Frederick Herring Sr (1795-1865) oil on canvas of a winter scene with horses that sold for $18,750, a Lalique red Poissons vase for $16,640, a rare Victorian child’s coffin for $11,250, a portrait of Christ carrying the cross after Titian for $8,960, a 119-piece Royal Crown Derby porcelain service in the Gold Aves pattern for $6,875 and a Grand Tour model of the Temple Of Vespasian ruins carved from marble for $5,440.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium, as stated by the auction house. For information, 513-871-1670 or www.cowans.com.
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