Arts of the West Week in San Francisco Ropes a $2.2 Million Total for Butterfields
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF. – Arts of the West Week at Butterfields brought more than $2.2 million, with world record prices achieved. Strong results were reported for fine arts and ephemera. Competitive bidding via the Internet, telephones and in the San Francisco salesroom was also noted.
More than 1,200 lots were offered over three days of auctions involving multiple specialty departments, including Antique Arms and Armor, Arts of the West and Native American, Pre-Columbian, and Tribal Arts departments.
Geoff Iddison, the firm’s CEO, sees the first-time event, a week of previews and auctions, as a successful endeavor. “The inaugural Arts of the West week produced sales of over $2.2 million. The sell-through rate of material was appreciably strong, giving us a good feeling about continuing this theme going forward.”
Arts of the West Week at Butterfields opened on March 22 with previews of the three specialty department’s lots on exhibition. Specialists hosted special walk-throughs as collectors, dealers and aficionados of Western memorabilia previewed the property.
Results of the three sales included auction records for multiple lots and strong prices for historical letters and photographs relating to General George A. Custer.
The first auction took place on Monday, March 25. Native American, pre-Columbian and tribal lots opened with African and pre-Columbian material, a strong-selling area for the department. From the Dylan Graeme Collection came examples of the work of master Meso-American artists circa 550-950 AD. Previously within the Collection of Wally and Brenda Zollman and illustrated in the book The Face of Ancient America, a remarkable nearly-life-sized Veracruz double-face head sold for a record $74,375. Another stone mask, carved a bit earlier – circa 250-650 AD – a Teotihuacan pale grey stone mask finely polished and sensitively rendered – sold for $46,375, within estimate.
Native American offerings included baskets, beadwork, pottery and jewelry. A bidder paid $10,575 for an Apache olla, unusual in its bottleneck style with wide flaring sides, high shoulder and straight-raised rim. A pair of Tlingit rattles offered separately sold within their estimates. A red, black and blue rattle carved in the form of a raven was comprised of two separate sections lashed together and featured a humanoid figure and frog atop the main body, as well, a carved depiction of a hawk. It sold for $10,575. The same amount was paid for a Tlingit rattle, carved in the form of an oystercatcher bird, which featured a mythological beast figure and shaman figure seated on its back gripping the arms of a witch. Yet another rattle saw collector interest, as a sum of $11,750 was paid for a Salish sheep horn rattle decorated with deep incisions depicting a bear face and adorned with braids of twisted mountain sheep wool suspended from its sides (est. $10/15,000).
A Sioux fully-beaded cradle cover, originally a gift in the 1880s to a minister in the vicinity of Sioux Falls, ND, sold above estimate for $9,400. The cradle cover’s reverse included a depiction of “Canhotdan, the Tree Dweller,” possibly applied as a talismanic protection for the child. Moccasins, clothing rdf_Descriptions, bags and pouches sold and a Blackfoot parfleche medicine case of painted rawhide with lengthy buffalo hide fringe tripled its estimate to bring $9,987.50.
The first of the Arts of the West Week sales closed with weavings and pottery. A San Ildefonso polychrome effigy jar attributed to Martina Vigil and Florentino Montoya featured a well-painted depiction of birds and a birdhead protruding from one side in bold relief. The jar sold for $11,750 (est. $10/15,000). A price of $5,287.50 was fetched for a nearly square Navajo sandpainting rug by Vera Begay, her tapestry weave depicting the “Water Chant.”
Fine art from the Arts of the West Department opened bidding on Tuesday, March 26, and included watercolors, oils, acrylics and bronzes. A bidder paid $90,875 for a Maynard Dixon oil on canvas on board, “Saguaro Cactus,” signed by the artist and dated 1925 (est. $80/100,000). Multiple paintings sold above estimate including a serene mountainscape, “Long Lake (near Grey Eagle) High Sierra,” an oil on canvas by Paul Lauritz stemming from a private Southern California collection. The painting brought $15,275.
This day’s session also offered collectibles and a braided four-color bosal made by and stemming from the collection of Luis B. Ortega, which sold for $4,700. A pair of single-mounted stainless steel parade-style spurs by Crockett brought $1,410 and a silver-mounted parade saddle by Marshall Fields & Company featuring an intricate floral and foliate motif tooled into the black leather sold above estimate for $6,462.50.
Western photography was offered, several lots stemming from the collection of James U. Blanchard III. Included within that collection was a grouping of cowboy photography comprising 15 tintypes, mainly studio portraits depicting gentlemen proudly sporting their sidearms, posing before the camera between 1870 and 1900. This lot brought $2,937.50, selling above estimate. A group of 12 photos of various Native American tribes including the Crow, Ute, Moki and Apache featured an image of Sitting Bull’s cabin. Photographed circa 1870, several images were attributed to D.B. Chase, W.E. Hook, P.H. Kellogg and others. The lot brought twice the estimate, selling for $1,292.50.
A collection of Western-related documents and photographs featured 40 rdf_Descriptions: Katherine Gibson Fougera’s 177-page typed and annotated manuscript draft of her book With Custer’s Cavalry, photographs and portraits of 7th Cavalry members, autograph letters dated 1920-1938 from the author’s family members and news clippings of the General’s last battle. The archive brought $5,287.50, selling within estimate.
A series of lots of Zane Grey material stemming from the collection of Betty Zane Grosso sold well. Zane Grey’s wide-brimmed nutria hat with woven horsehair band tripled its estimate to bring $3,231.25. The author and sportsman had signed the hat in white ink. Grey’s wool Pendleton coat with red and black geometric designs sold for $881.25 while his fishing lure, reel and line doubled its estimate to fetch $2,643.75. A group of four baskets collected by Grey during his Western sojourns sold for $1,762.50 (est. $1/1,500) and a pair of Zane Grey’s percussion pistols brought $2,937.50. Betty Zane Grosso is the daughter of Zane Grey.
The auctions concluded on March 27 with the offering of 640-lots of antique arms. A collector paid $18,400 for an historic engraved Moore No. 1 derringer belonging to Mary Doubleday, wife of General Abner Doubleday (est. $10/15,000). Flintlock rifles including a rare circa 1740 Bohemian fowling gun sold, this example by Johann Haetischweiler, bringing $19,550, while a full-stocked Pennsylvania flintlock by Samuel Baum, dated 1826, with silver inlays and brass furniture, sold for $18,400.
Winchesters attracted collector interest as a Winchester Second Model 1873 deluxe sporting rifle offered with its original shipping documents sold for $18,400. A fine full-stocked American percussion rifle by Nathan T. Jarvis, constructed in Ohio circa 1860, sold for $10,925 and included a tag with its original selling price of $30. A pair of historic presentation custom-engraved Smith & Wesson hand-ejector double action revolvers belonging to Texas Ranger Tommy Cook was offered with a letter of authentication and affidavits. The Texas Ranger’s pistols sold for $10,350 (est. $8/12,000).
Of great interest, particularly from bidders competing via telephone, were lots from the Captain George W. Yates Collection. Yates, recognized for bravery and exemplary service in the field, had been assigned to the US 7th Cavalry under the command of General George A. Custer and the two men became close friends during their service, both dying at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in June of 1876. The collection comprised undiscovered material descended through the Yates family including official and personal letters and photographs, several taken by O.S. Goff at Fort Abraham Lincoln.
A bidder paid $19,550 for an important autograph letter from Custer to Yates dated 1871 in which the General requested that Yates assist in buying horses for the regiment and warned the Captain to be wary of inferior Indiana horses being sold as Kentucky steeds (est. $8/12,000). A mounted albumen print of Custer with 7th Cavalry officers and wives on picnic sold after a spirited bidding battle.
The previously published image is considered one of the most personal associated with Custer and his men. It brought $16,100, bidding having opened at $2,000. Another photo, a Matthew Brady carte-de-visite portrait of a dapper George Custer was signed by the General “Yours truly, GACuster, USA,” framed in walnut and given to Yates. Estimated at $2,000/2,500, the personal gift brought $11,500.
An interesting lot comprising a photographic print of Custer with family friend Miss Agnes Bates, both individuals dressed in Native American garb, was shot circa 1875 at Ft. Abraham Lincoln either before or after one of the many recreational events involving the soldiers’ wives and friends. Some historians speculate that Miss Bates and the General were intimate friends around this time. The photograph sold for $10,925, more than three times its estimate. A poignant communication, the original copy of a condolence telegram from Lt. General Phil Sheridan to Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon Custer upon the death of her husband and 7th Cavalry officers, brought $9,775. In all, the Yates Collection totaled more than $215,000.