Published: August 25, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Freeman’s Auction
PHILADELPHIA & ONLINE – On Thursday, August 10, Freeman’s Auctions closed bidding on a boutique online-only quilt sale titled “Quilts from a New York Collection” that featured 60 lots from the Grant Collection. Several clients made appointments to preview the sale in person but bidding online was the only option available to bidders, who had three platforms available: Freeman’s Live, Invaluable and LiveAuctioneers. Private bidders registered from 15 states while trade bidders came from five states. One institution registered to bid and international interest came from London, Canada and Taiwan. The sale totaled $33,296 and was nearly 94 percent sold by lot.
The quilts are part of the Grant Collection – an all-encompassing collection that Freeman’s has been selling over the last two years – and which was headlined by a pieced and appliqued Baltimore quilt that brought $31,250 in November 2018. Lynda Cain, Freeman’s vice president and head of the Americana department, described the Grants as being extremely passionate collectors who also collected modern and contemporary art and who saw quilts as very modern in their own way. After the sale, Cain received an email from the seller, which included some of his thoughts on the collection that she was able to share:
“It is hard seeing these examples of ‘women’s work’ that my wife and I collected over the years dispersed. I have always been an advocate for the ignored creativity of females, seeing in their utilitarian handiwork all the tenets of ‘modern American art.’ I can but hope their new owners appreciate the innovation in their vision. If the picture makers, musicians and other accepted avenues of creativity were scorned and shunned, imagine what a lowly housewife must have endured while exploring conceptual pursuits. And they kept you warm.”
This selection of quilts had initially been slated to cross the block earlier in the year, before the pandemic disrupted auction calendars worldwide. The decision was made to offer them in an online format once in-person previewing was possible. Cain has confirmed there are still more quilts in the Grant Collection that are likely to come up for auction, though a date for selling them has yet to be determined.
After the sale, Cain was enthusiastic about the state of quilt market. “Interest in quilts has been constant and occasionally intense with some collectors and dealers, but recently we have witnessed a revival with institutions, private buyers and the trade. The art of women is a very contemporary and important collecting area. A quilt is a profound object. It can stand as an object of art -making a powerful aesthetic statement, as well as a historical artifact – illuminating the time, place and talent of its maker.”
The highest price in the sale came with the very last lot, when a lot of two appliqued cotton quilts brought $1,950 from a broker or agent bidding on behalf of a client. Both quilts were worked in solid cotton pieces and dated to the second half of the Nineteenth Century. One worked in the “Great Star” pattern with 42 appliqued red stars from Orange County, N.Y., was heightened with diagonal and running shell quilting. Cain thought that the simplicity of the red stars on the white ground was “really striking.” The other quilt in the lot was worked in the “Eagle with Shield” pattern and heightened with conforming feather quilting.
A vibrant circa 1925 Masonic quilt, worked in solid cotton orange, pink, blue and yellow patches with Masonic devices and the name “John Sisk,” brought $1,300, the highest price for a single quilt offered in the sale. “It was really great,” Cain said of the piece, which included some machine stitching and sold to a trade buyer.
The sale featured another quilt with fraternal order connections. An embroidered presentation bedspread inscribed in ink, “Rev. G.G. Hamilton by Everett Encampment 19/ Everett Lodge 36/ Ione Rebekah Lodge, 129,” sold to a private collector for $813. The bedspread was also dated 1905 and featured red-embroidered flowers, crossed American flags, birds, ribbons and a ruffled border as well as ink signatures and embellishments. According to the catalog note for the lot, “George Granville Hamilton (1853-1913) served as a Universalist pastor in Everett, Mass., for 20 years and was an active member of many community associations.”
A trade buyer in the United Kingdom bagged a pieced “Turkey Tracks” pattern quilt that strutted across the block late in the sale for $1,125. Worked with various printed cotton patches within a printed cotton border, the quilt had been heightened with flowerhead, diagonal line and feather quilting. It had a hand-inscribed label that read “Mr L.S. Gilbert” and was from the second half of the Nineteenth Century.
The sale featured four crazy quilts, all from the late Nineteenth Century, which were offered in two consecutive lots. The first lot of two to cross the block featured one signed “Virginia A. Judd;” both were worked in various silks and velvets, with the second also including woven brocades. It sold to a private collector for $1,125. The next lot to cross the block also sold to a private collector, this time for $813. One of the quilts in that lot bore a label inscribed “Made by my great- grandmother Dickey around 1860, Indiana” and was worked in large geometric blocks of striped silk and taffeta. The other quilt in that lot also featured silks and satins but was heightened by embroidery and had a fan-patterned border.
The eye-catching combination of red and white attracted a lot of attention to a circa 1900 red and white pieced and appliqued “Sunburst” variation quilt that brought a strong result early in the sale when it sold for $1,105 to a private collector. It had been heightened with conforming and diamond quilting and further distinguished by a scalloped border.
Bidders responded to both small and big patterns. A pieced “Eight-pointed Star” pattern quilt exhibited a field of 12 rows of 11 small stars in green, red, gold, brown and beige cotton on a white ground; a trade bidder won the lot for $1,000, well ahead of its estimate. A trade buyer also won an appliqued “Basket of Flowers” quilt from the early Twentieth Century, for $938. It was machine-quilted and was worked with yellow, red and green cotton patches.
Popular patterns were well-represented in the sale and reflect continued interest. A circa 1880 pieced “Windmill Blades” pattern worked in polychrome printed cotton and wool and pencil-signed on the back “Mr Lacklin” brought $813 from a private buyer, while an Amish “Log Cabin” quilt, worked in Pennsylvania in the late Nineteenth Century in solid blue and purple cotton pieces, realized $750 from a private collector. Worked in blue and white, an appliqued “Princess Feather” quilt made $688, the same price paid for a red and white pieced and appliqued “Double X and Sawtooth” quilt that featured tulips, circles, crosses and hearts. A vibrant geometric Nineteenth Century “Star of Bethlehem” quilt had wide-reaching appeal and sold to a trade buyer in the United Kingdom for $625.
Four album quilts were offered in separate lots; the best price achieved was for a late Nineteenth Century example that had been worked with various star, shamrock, and geometric devices and heightened by embroidery. It brought $780 from a private collector.
Freeman’s Auctions will offer a number of quilts, including Amish examples, when it sells the Collection of a Connecticut Gentleman on September 15.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
Freeman’s Auctions is at 2400 Market Street. For information, www.freemansauction.com or 215-563-9275.
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