Published: April 12, 2022
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy W.A. Smith, Inc.
PLAINFIELD, N.H. – Bill Smith’s live midwinter sale on March 30 drew about 60 bidders to the gallery and saw strong online, absentee and telephone bidding, as well. In the “old days,” the gallery would probably have had a crowd of between 200 and 300, but that was before Smith started accepting internet bidding, which he, and most other auctioneers, now accepts as a fact-of-life. The sale included an assortment of Twentieth Century material, early American and English furniture, jewelry from a discerning collector, along with material as varied as a signed Babe Ruth photograph, a Northwest Coast totem pole, a Civil War-era drum and lithographs by major names such as Lichtenstein, Chagall, Picasso, Calder and others.
The highest price of the day, $23,600, was earned by a Twentieth Century, 8-foot-tall, carved cedar Northwest Coast totem pole that had been collected in Alaska around 1950-60. It retained traces of old paint and had several figural effigies running its length. Tlingit and Haida tribes, along with others, inhabited southeast Alaska. The final price was a surprise, as it had been estimated at a lower number.
Smith, ever since the company was founded by his father in 1962, has been known for selling regionally sourced early American furniture and decorative arts. Recently, international Twentieth Century decorative arts have been significant in the firm’s sales. For this sale, there was an abundance of lithographs by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Marc Chagall, Picasso and Dali. There were also works by Twenty-First Century artists that were popular with bidders. There’s been another change. Until recently, bidders usually competed with others from the area, who, in most cases, had examined the items they were about to bid on. The internet has changed that. In 2021, Smith sold items to bidders in 35 countries and all 50 states in the United States, significantly altering the market.
The second and third highest priced items in the sale were lithographs by Chagall and Lichtenstein. Marc Chagall’s 1967 pencil signed lithograph, “Couple Et Poisson” (Couple and Fish), from the “Nice and the Cote D’Azur” series, realized $16,520. It was number 77 of an edition of 150. An artist’s proof of Roy Lichtenstein’s “Haystacks #3” earned $15,340. It was signed and dated 1969 and was one of ten artist’s proofs set aside from an edition of 100. According to the catalog, the “Haystack” series was the first of a number of works directly influenced by the works of Claude Monet. A pencil-signed Salvatore Dali color etching,” La Petite Chouette,” reached $5,310. It was dated 1968 and was #114/200. A signed Picasso drypoint etching, a nude female model in garden with figurative sculpture, earned $6,490. There were several more.
There were also two ceramic works by Picasso. A 10-inch plate, decorated with engobe and enamel, #129/150, marked on the reverse “N 28 Edition Picasso 129/150 Madoura” sold for $8,260. Made by the Madoura workshops, each was designed by Picasso and usually actually produced by Madoura ceramists, sometimes over a period of years. A terracotta tile, 8 by 8 inches, by Picasso, “Cavalier et Chevalier” realized $3,835. It was marked on the reverse “Empriente Originale de Picasso, Madoura” and numbered 20/200. Over a period of more than 20 years, Picasso designed hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces for Madoura.
Hermann Herzog (1831-1932) was a well-known landscape painter in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, living in Philadelphia and making several trips to Maine. Titled on stretcher “On the Maine Coast,” his oil on canvas earned $11,800.
Much of the jewelry came from one collection, and Bill Smith later referred to that part of the sale, “it was like a frenzy. Everyone was waiting.” Topping the selection was an Edwardian platinum ring set with multicolored diamonds. The central stone was a 1.3-carat, orangish yellow brown Old European cut diamond flanked by a slightly greenish diamond and a bluish gray diamond. All were surrounded by single cut and full cut round colorless diamonds approximately .50 carat weight, accented by hand engraving and milgrain. The ring brought $11,800. Bringing just slightly less, $11,210, was a 14K gold necklace featuring a quatrefoil design in the center, accented by green enamel, pear and oval shaped dark purple amethysts as well as white pearls and amethyst bead drops, and with an Old European cut diamond in the center. A rectangular Edwardian diamond brooch with more than 4½-carat weight of diamonds realized $5,605. There were numerous other pieces of gold and diamond jewelry by makers such as Van Cleef & Arpels and others.
The selection of early American furniture included a two-door, mahogany classical New York press cupboard, circa 1815-20. It was cataloged as “likely the workshop of either Charles Honore Lannuier or Duncan Phyfe” and it brought one of the higher prices of the furniture selection, $12,980. It was more than 7 feet tall. An unusual step-down Windsor bench with canted sides, in old black paint, earned $4,130. Two Eighteenth Century Queen Anne highboys each sold for $3,835. One was a cherry Connecticut River Valley piece with a full bonnet top and carved fan. The other was a flat-top tiger-maple example with a high arched apron and replaced brass. English furniture included a small, two-part English burl walnut Georgian secretary, only 26 inches wide. Above the slant-front desk was a beveled mirrored glass door, and below were four graduated drawers. It sold for $5,310. An Eighteenth Century tall case clock with Dutch marquetry inlay, signed on the works and face Thomas Tronse, had some condition issues and sold for $5,015.
After the sale, Bill Smith said that interest was strong across the board. “Many buyers were really waiting for the jewelry – it was a choice collection. Some of the things, like the totem pole, the Civil War drum and the Herzog paintings, surprised us. I know the Herzog went to retail buyers who were just delighted to have been able to purchase it. There was a good retail crowd in the audience, so, all in all, we did about what we expected. And, as always, there were bargains to be had.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.wsmithauction.com or 603-675-2549.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm