Published: April 10, 2012
A wide range of quality materials ranging from Tiffany, Steuben and contemporary glass to paintings to folk art and rare Native American items attracted a large crowd for an action-packed sale at Cottone Auction on March 24.
Comprising more than 500 lots, the auction featured items from the estate of Thomas Buechner, a former director of the Brooklyn Museum and the founding director of the Corning Museum of Glass, as well as items deaccessioned from the Strong Museum, the Rochester Historical Society and items from the former collection of the Campbell-Whittlesey House Museum. Naturally, a complement of freshly picked quality merchandise from local homes was also presented.
Preview for the auction was packed in the days leading up to the sale, with a great deal of interest expressed in the paintings, many of which had come directly from local families. The list of works was impressive, including artists such as William Bradford, Thomas Buttersworth, Frederick Judd Waugh, William Aiken Walker, Ogden Pleissner, John James Audubon, Charles Sprague Pierce and Jules Joseph Lefebvre.
Other categories within the auction included an assortment of Asian materials consigned from a private collection, silver, bronzes, Native American items and advertising items.
Come sale time on Saturday morning, every one of the 250-plus seats in the spacious gallery was filled, and a good-sized crowd lined the walls of the room. Auctioneer Sam Cottone got things rolling right off the bat, and maintained a brisk and steady pace throughout the day. The sale kicked off with close to 30 lots of sterling, beginning with a Tiffany bowl with foliate decorated edge that sold above estimate at $1,150. Sterling flatware sets included a Tiffany Audubon pattern service, 54 pieces total, that opened for bidding at $3,000 and sold moments later for $6,095, a Gorham set in the Old Medici pattern at $5,060, and a Towle service that for 12 sold at $2,875.
The action heated up when a small silver spout cup by colonial Boston maker John Coney (1655/56‱722) was offered. The rare piece listed a single family provenance descending from Martin Brimmer (1697‱760), a politician and prominent businessman, member of the House of Representatives, the mayor of Boston and the first president of the Boston Museum of Art. Lineage continued through the family, with ties to Harriet Wadsworth by marriage in the early Nineteenth Century, and on down through the family to the present day.
Coney was considered one of the most important Boston silversmiths of his day, an engraver of the plates used for paper money in 1702. Coney’s apprentice at the time of his death was Paul Revere’s father. The classic spouted cup, fitted with an elegant handle and lid, carried an estimate of $30/50,000; it opened in the room at $30,000. A bid of $35,000 came from one of several telephone bidders, and then another at $40,000. A moment later, a phone bidder claimed the rare and important piece of colonial silver at $74,750. A similar example of the cup is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The top lot of the auction came as an untouched, original condition painting by William Bradford was offered. Consigned from a Buffalo, N.Y., family, the painting depicted several sailing vessels amid icebergs towering above a land mass. “It’s untouched,” said Cottone of the painting during preview. “It has the original stretcher and there has been no in-painting or restoration at all.”
Measuring 18 by 30 inches, the painting attracted the interest of all of the major dealers, with at least six ready for action on the telephones. Bidding came primarily from two of the phones, with the painting opening below the $60/80,000 estimate at $50,000. Moving in $5,000 advances the whole way, the rare Bradford more than doubled expectations when it sold moments later to a telephone bidder for $166,750.
Another painting in the auction that attracted a great deal of attention had come from the Buechner estate, an oil depicting Diana, the goddess of hunt, perched on a rock with a bow in her hand and a crescent moon on her head. Cataloged as an “original condition” work, the painting by Jules Joseph Lefebvre listed a provenance of Schweitzer Gallery in New York City and was estimated at $20/40,000.
“There has been a lot of interest in this painting,” commented Cottone prior to the auction. “It is going to do really well.” The auctioneer’s notion came true as the painting crossed the block with an immediate bid of $15,000 coming from the room, and continued action coming from the Internet and the telephones. In the end, it was a phone bidder who claimed the lot at $97,750.
Other paintings that did well included a Charles Sprague Pierce oil titled “The Peasant Girl,” deaccessioned by the Rochester Historical Society, in original condition and retaining the original fancy gilt frame. Estimated at $15/25,000, the work lined up ten phone bidders to compete for it, and it sold at $63,250.
A well-executed Frederick Judd Waugh rocky seacoast oil with heavy surf, “Great Manan Coast,” from the Buechner estate did well, handily exceeding the $7/10,000 estimate as it realized $28,750, and an Ogden Pleissner watercolor titled “The Visitors” and depicting sharecroppers sold at $25,300. An interesting Middle Eastern street vendor scene by Spanish artist Justo Luna soared past the $2/4,000 estimate, selling to a phone bidder at $25,875.
Several Audubon hand colored etchings from the Rochester Historical Society were consigned, with a Havell etching of “Whooping Crane,” 37 by 24 inches, tripling estimate at $43,125. Another hand colored etching and aquatint Havell edition Audubon, “White-headed Eagle,” realized $10,350.
Other items from the Buechner estate included a selection of contemporary glass, with two Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtová glass sculptures leading the group. “The Kiss,” a 6-inch-square piece of molded ruby-colored glass with a relief face formed from the verso, sold at $17,250, while “The Teeth” brought $16,675.
Asian items fared well, with the vast majority of the offering coming from a private collection. Leading the way was an early Chinese bronze figure of a seated Buddha that attracted attention from around the globe. With traces of gilt and old paint, the Buddha, from the Buechner estate, carried a modest estimate of $3/5,000. Cottone reported that the phone started ringing off the hook once the ads hit, and it quickly became apparent that it would do much better. Bidding was fast and furious for the lot, opening at $5,000 and selling to an Internet bidder at $40,800.
A large multipanel carved screen with blue and white armorial plaques was another lot to attract considerable attention. Opening at $8,500, Internet action came quickly, with the bid immediately jumping to $23,500, causing Cottone to comment, “That’s the spirit.” The auctioneer relaxed for a moment to see what was going to happen next when a telephone bidder hit the lot at $24,000; another phone bidder hit it at $25,000 and the lot was claimed on the next advance, selling at $29,900. An early ritual spinach-colored carved jade censer also did well, bringing $25,300.
“Valkyrie Into The Unknown,” a bronze and ivory sculpture by Claire Jeanne Roberte Colinet, fresh from an estate, did well, selling at $31,050, as did a carved period marble bust of George Washington.
The auction had its fair share of Americana highlights as well, with a Native American bowl topping the group. The pristine effigy feast bowl, Algonquin or Woodlands Indians, was carved with the extremely rare feature of two carved bear head handles. In wonderful condition with the pristine original nut-color and untouched patina, the burl bowl was consigned from a local museum where it had remained in the collection since the 1800s.
Thought by auctioneer Cottone to have been made circa 1650‱700, the rare effigy bowl opened to the floor just below estimate at $15,000, and action bounced back and forth between two telephone bidders. At $50,000 a third phone bidder jumped into the fray, and actively competed for the lot until it sold to the original phone bidder for $74,750.
Three Germantown weavings were also offered, with a colorful small piece selling at $3,220, a worn early weaving at $2,960, and a third colorful example brought $1,380.
Having hung in a local restaurant, The Tenderloin in Elmira, for many years, a rare Forester’s Whiskey advertising sign eventually made its way off the wall and into a local private collection. Depicting a mustachioed gentleman in a sombrero with six-shooter in hand and his arm around a bottle of Forester, the tin litho sign proclaimed, “Guarding a Good Thing in Arizona.” It was in excellent original condition. Cottone commented that the auction house was unable to find reference for this particular Forester sign. “It is unlisted,” stated the auctioneer. “As far as we know, it is the only one known.”
Bright and colorful, the sign opened for bidding at $3,000, hit by a bidder seated near the front of the gallery. The pace was quick, with multiple phone bidders trying to get in on the lot. As the piece cleared the $20,000 mark, the action slowed as the bidder in the room hesitated before advancing the bid. The telephone came right back and the bidder in the room said no. Just prior to the lot hammering down, however, he jumped back in at $23,000. The phone bidder was determined, and hit the lot once again and all seemed to be done, until another telephone bidder jumped into the action, claiming the rare advertising sign for a meaty price of $32,775.
All prices include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.cottoneauctions.com or 585-243-1000.
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