Published: August 17, 2012
It is impossible to say if “Paint, Pattern & People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725‱850,” which closed at Winterthur Museum earlier this year, stimulated the market for the decorative arts of Pennsylvania. What is abundantly clear is that the meticulously researched exhibition and accompanying catalog prepared by Wendy Cooper and Lisa Minardi have heightened awareness and expanded knowledge of the field.
Minardi, who is embarking on doctoral studies at University of Delaware, wrote the foreword to the catalog for Northeast Auction’s superbly handled single-owner sale of Rick and Terry Ciccotelli’s folk art collection, which tallied about $1,071,000, including premium, on August 4. The various owners’ sale bracketing the Ciccotelli material brought total receipts for the weekend to about $2,975,000.
The Ciccotellis’ love of folk art began with fraktur and broadened to include paint. “Painted boxes of every shape and size began to enter the collection,” writes Minardi, noting, “Rick and Terry’s friendliness and enthusiasm were heartwarming to me as a young scholar, and I fondly remember many conversations with them about the latest research and discoveries.”
The Ciccotellis bought at auction and from most of the major specialists in the field. They worked closely with Woodbury, Conn., dealers David Schorsch and Eileen Smiles. Schorsch was on hand at Northeast to buy back pieces that he has handled as many as three times. He bid for eight different collectors and bought five items for stock, he said.
An inveterate collector, Rick Ciccotelli died prematurely in August 2011.
Despite the high-profile and recent sales history of many of the pieces, the Ciccotelli collection was received enthusiastically by bidders. Buyers seemed reassured by thorough histories and detailed condition reports. Overall, the selection exceeded its high estimate by 50 percent.
“These were beautiful, well-documented pieces with excellent provenance. Those are the important things. I fell in love with the collection. It reminded me of Nina Little’s book Neat and Tidy: Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early America. I was prepared to get down on my knees and beg to bring this consignment in,” said a pleased Ron Bourgeault, Northeast Auctions’ owner, appraiser and auctioneer, afterward.
Schorsch’s purchases ranged from the best piece of decorated tin in the auction, a crooked-neck coffee pot, $40,120, attributed to the Filley Tin Shop of Philadelphia, to a miniature fanback Windsor side chair, $17,110, and a paint-decorated oval storage box, $68,440, by Jacob Barb Jr of Shenandoah County, Va.
“Some pieces brought exactly the same price, some sold for less, some for multiples more,” said Schorsch, recalling the child’s lift top green blanket chest inscribed to Granville H. Pool of Virginia that made $4,000, plus premium, at Brunk Auctions in 2010 and resold at Northeast for $28,320.
“It was a test of quality. It also helped that very little is coming on the market right now,” added the dealer, who recalled meeting Rick Ciccotelli, who began collecting in the mid- to late 1990s, at the Winter Antiques Show. “He bought the ‘Hudson the Tailor’ sign from me and we became friends. We shared an interest in genealogy.”
The sale’s other major buyer was Philip Bradley of Downingtown, Penn., whose purchases, on behalf of multiple parties, included the weekend’s top lot, a red Bucks County slide-lid box, $83,780, decorated with yellow tulips and attributed to John Drissell; a Centre County presentation drawing attributed to Samuel Gottschall, $41,300; and a Montgomery County bookplate attributed to David Kriebel, $36,580.
“Rick was a careful, cautious buyer who made every effort to be discerning. Northeast put together a beautiful catalog, which caught the interest of buyers,” said Bradley, characterizing the session.
The various owners’ sale, which began on August 3 at the Center of New Hampshire and wrapped up on August 5, was less predictable. Friday’s session featured 300 uncataloged lots. Most sold for under $1,000. The exception was the Baltimore, a Marklin sidewheel paddleboat in attic condition.
“We knew it was valuable but not how valuable,” said Bourgeault, who got the word out to toy collectors before the auction. The unestimated property soared to $40,120, selling to the trade.
“There may be half a dozen of these, and this one is particularly desirable. It’s missing its mast and two life boats but otherwise is in excellent condition,” said Steven Weiss of Gemini Antiques.
The other big surprise occurred early on Saturday, when a 47/8-inch cream jug, or pitcher, of pale blue free-blown glass with a 1794 one-cent US coin enclosed in its base blew past its $5/7,000 estimate to sell for $82,600. The buyers, Gary and Diana Stradling, quickly resold the jug to the Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York. Another glass specialist, David Good of Ohio, was the underbidder.
In a follow-up call with Gary Stradling at his summer retreat in the Adirondacks, the Manhattan dealer said that the jug is the most important example of early American free-blown glass to surface at auction in many years. The pitcher was found in New Hampshire in a mahogany box on which someone years ago scrawled the words “very valuable.” By process of deduction, Stradling dates the jug to between 1797 or 1798 and 1820, but believes that it was most likely made around 1815. Evidence suggests that the pitcher is from the Philadelphia area.
“The black light indicated lead content. The glass is very syrupy with bits of striae in it. It has some imperfections in the mix that tell you that it is very early and probably not English. In porcelain, the form, typically English, is called a sparrow-beak creamer. The form of the handle is not typically English. It has two raised ribs rather than a medial rib. So you are looking at something that is American but combines English and Germanic elements. That leaves you with Philadelphia. Additionally, 1794 seems to be a year when glassmakers were coming to the Philadelphia area,” said Stradling.
Prices reported include buyer’s premium. For information, 603-433-8400 or www.northeastauctions.com .
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