Published: May 22, 2018
Review and Onsite Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
STURBRIDGE, MASS. – Augusta Auction Company’s annual spring sale of vintage and historic fashion, comprising more than 900 lots, was conducted over two days to correspond with the Brimfield markets and took place May 8-9. More than 400 lots were offered on the first day, comprising vintage clothing and accessories. Selling on the second day were slightly more than 200 cataloged lots of quilts, textiles and lace, with approximately 300 additional uncataloged lots selling in a “discovery” sale afterwards. With online and absentee bidding available, as well as in-person bidding, all but two lots sold. Commenting after the sale, Bob Ross of Augusta Auctions said that both days had active live-bidding crowds of between 60 and 80 bidders, and about 1,000 buyers had registered before the sale. Approximately 25 percent of the catalog lots sold internationally, with about a third of the lots selling to internet bidders. Approximately ten percent of the lots went to museum or institutional collections.
Augusta’s sales are primarily sourced from institutions. This sale was no exception, with many lots being deaccessioned from the recently closed American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Mass., the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska, in Lincoln, and the Goldstein Museum of Design in St Paul, Minn. Consignments from private collectors and estates adds to the mix of offerings, including items from estates in Washington, DC and Santa Fe.
It is always a good sign when initial lots bring strong prices, and a high bar was set early in the sale with the third lot, a circa 1865 three-piece purple silk taffeta visiting dress with train, gold bee brocade and silk fringe. The lot, which had an estimate of $4/600, had received a lot of interest before the sale and closed at $5,100, selling to an undisclosed institution. One of the earliest wedding dresses in the sale was an example in pale beige silk damask dating to the 1835. Apparently in excellent condition, it easily surpassed its $5/700 estimate to end at $1,560.
Another early dress was an 1820s Empire cream silk and tulle gown with decorative cream satin bands, the hem and bodice with lace and embroidery. It sold for $3,300 against an estimate of $5/800. An early Nineteenth Century man’s military jacket in navy wool broadcloth with navy and white tails with bugle emblems, a high stand collar, gold braid trims and domed brass buttons with spread-wing eagles realized four times its estimate ($4/600) to finish at $1,620. Two late Nineteenth Century garnet velvet and gold sleeveless coats from Albania with exquisite detailing both surpassed expectations, with the two selling in separate lots for a combined total of $3,960.
The sale featured several lots of garments made in China. The top seller among these was a lot of two late Nineteenth or early Twentieth Century silk gauze summer robes, one in a chestnut-brown, the other in blue. The lot easily surpassed the $4/600 estimate to close at $4,800. Finishing closely behind it was a slightly earlier robe in blue silk featuring dragons and Chinese symbols and trimmed with woven black and gold neckbands that realized four times its estimate ($8-$1,200) to end at $3,300. Two lots of four Chinese skirts sold on the second day for a combined total of $3,420.
Ross said he had seen particularly strong interest in things from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as in things from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. He said they try to balance their sales evenly by eras, a strategy that gives the sale a varied look and appeals to the greatest spectrum of buyers.
Particularly unusual lots included a group of four Native American beaded accessories from the mid-Nineteenth Century. Comprising two hats and two small purses, the lot was explained as the work of Native Americans who added beadwork to European-made articles. The brown velvet Glengarry hat featured the now extinct Carolina parakeet and was attributed to the Iroquois, while a black velvet smoking cap with floral beading was thought to have been done by the Wabanaki tribe. Modestly estimated at $2/300, interest pushed bidding well beyond expectations to close at $450.
Also receiving presale interest was a mid-Nineteenth Century corset in surprisingly good and original condition. Paired with another mid-Nineteenth Century corset with an estimate of $3/500, it brought $2,160. A fun lot of three ladies’ wool knit swimsuits from the 1930s made a splash with bidders, bringing $1,440 against $2/300 expectations.
Good style is always popular, as proved by a lot of three evening dresses that crossed the block early in the sale. The dresses, dating to the 1950s-80s, realized $1,200, nearly six times their estimate ($2/300)
Late Twentieth Century garments were also popular. A fun group of three Adolfo feathered evening jackets from the 1980s realized $1,080, well above their estimate ($2/300). A pieced asymmetrical Stephen Burrows maxi-dress was grouped with two other color-blocked garments from the 1970s; the estimate of $3/400 made for inspired bidding and the group ended at $1,920.
Crossing the block on the second day of the sale, a collection of approximately 30 quilts were being deaccessioned from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, Neb. The top sellers of this group included an 1860 Star of Bethlehem masterpiece quilt from Pennsylvania that sold for $720 ($600-$1,000), and a Nineteenth Century “flower pot and feathered star” quilt, which more than quadrupled its estimate ($3/400) to realize $1,320.
Highlights of the second day included a large Fortuny panel with obelisk pattern that brought $1,560 ($4/500) and a turn-of-the-century group of three net and lace skirts that ended at $2,700 ($800-$1,000). Other Fortuny lots in the sale did well, including a group of four “Orsini” lined panels from 1957, which quadrupled their low estimate to finish at $2,640.
Works with interesting provenance typically do well. A lot of hosiery previously belonging to Empress Eugenie of France brought more than five times its estimate ($3/500) to finish at $1,920. Perhaps one of the sleepers in the sale was a large lot of gold brocade fabric panels that had been designed by Royal Loom Weavers for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The lot, which was being deaccessioned by the Smithsonian Institutions, was estimated at $4/500 but only sold for $270.
The sale included a large volume of trim, which Ross said was unusual and came from a private collection. A surprisingly high result was seen in a lot of early Twentieth Century ribbon-work trim, which brought six times its low estimate when it closed at $1,800 ($3/400). A noteworthy result of $1,320 was for a large lot of undersleeves and cuffs that included Boderie Anglaise and Valenceinnes lace.
Ethnographic works were offered in both sessions. The lot with the highest expectations was a circa 1850s rare Mapuche chieftans poncho from Chile or Argentina. Estimated at $3/4,000, it failed to find a buyer during the sale but sold afterwards.
Prices quoted include buyer’s premium. Internet surcharge, where applicable, not included. The fall sale is still in the planning stages, details to be announced later.
Augusta Auction is at 33 Gage Street, Bellows Falls, Vt. For information, 802-463-3333 or www.augusta-auctions.com.
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