Published: November 22, 2011
It was a an exciting day at Clarke Auctioneers on Sunday, October 23, as lot after lot handily surpassed presale expectations and brought premium prices. The day started off with a bang, with some Asian antiques selling for as much as 20 times the estimates, but it was late in the afternoon when the real fireworks went off as a fresh-to-the-market painting nearly tripled the $60,000 estimate.
The gallery filled slowly as the morning progressed, and by 2 pm a full house of bidders was on hand. More than a half-dozen phone lines were being staffed by Clarke’s personnel, and it was quickly apparent that the Internet would play an active role throughout the day.
The Asian materials were first off the block, with the opening lot consisting of six netsuke, three of which were ivory and described as “very old.” Bidding on the lot was tepid, and it quickly hammered down to an Internet bidder well below estimates at $176. The next lot consisted of several bone and ivory pieces, including a silver and ivory snuffer marked Tiffany. Quick bids from several in the gallery saw the lot go out at $335.
It was not long before things got serious; a 14-inch-tall figural carved ivory bodhisattva that had come from a Stamford, Conn., home opened for bidding at $2,000 and sold moments later well above estimate at $5,581. Another lot to take off consisted of a carved jade-handled letter opener, a carved elephant and a carved snuff bottle. Estimated at $400/600, the lot opened with an Internet bid of $5,500, prompting gallery owner and auctioneer Ronan Clarke to hesitate and comment that he had almost put the lot in his Crazy Paddy auction of unadvertised box lots. The lot advanced rapidly, with bids coming from the Internet and the gallery all the way to a selling price of $15,275.
Midcentury items also did well, with a Nakashima spindle-backed settee bringing $2,937. A neat industrial tripod lamp with counterbalanced fixture attracted attention on its way to a selling price of $1,880. A pair of Mont wood and upholstered chairs went out at $1,997, and an Eames yew wood and chrome desk brought $1,410.
As the afternoon wore on, buyers came and went; however, several in the crowd that arrived midsale were there for business. New Jersey-based art dealer Dean Borghi made his way into the gallery after more than 200 lots had already been sold. He found a seat near the front, in plain view of the auctioneer. Several other art dealers filtered into the gallery as well as the afternoon progressed.
It was apparent what they had come for: a freshly picked painting that was being offered publicly for the first time. The rare oil on panel by Maurice Prendergast of a veiled woman was not only the object of interest, but a dream come true for a local picker.
The picker had dropped off the unassuming and dirty painting among the contents of a box lot at the auction house, according to Clarke. Nelia Moore, art specialist and co-auctioneer at Clarke’s, “spied a beautifully executed but very dirty painting on panel of a woman in a veil. After dusting it off and studying the painting, she spotted the Prendergast signature on the lower right of the panel,” said Clarke. The Impressionistic-style painting was executed while the artist was in Paris.
Impressed with the painting, Clarke loaded the painting and his art specialist in to the car and both were sent to the Williams College Museum where the painting was authenticated by Dr Nancy Mowll Mathews. A note accompanied the lot that said it had been titled “Woman in a Veil” and would be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on Prendergast.
Clarke stated that the painting was being sold in “as is condition because it has not been touched in 100 years. It is a very important painting,” he added, “I think it has got to rank up there with one of the most important finds in American art in a long time, and for it to have been found by us, a small gallery in Larchmont, that’s great.”
Estimated at $40/60,000, the painting opened for bidding at $20,000 and advanced rapidly between Borghi and a private buyer in the rear of the gallery. The action slowed as the painting hit $100,000, with Borghi taking his time between advances, while the private buyer continued to bid quickly, until it finally went her way, climbing to $164,500, including premium. “I hit it a couple more times than I had planned on,” stated a disappointed Borghi.
The following lot also proved exciting, with three telephone bidders vigorously competing for a Heywood Hardy oil on canvas depicting a beach scene. Estimated at $10/15,000, the painting opened for bidding at $4,000 and sold moments later for $25,850.
Prices include the buyer’s premium charged.
For additional information, www.clarkeNY.com or 914-833-8336.
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