Published: July 13, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – Jeffrey S. Evans was able to enjoy his Fourth of July holiday, having the two days prior sold more than 99 percent of lots in his 40th Semi-Annual Premier Americana sale. The first day of the sale, on July 2, featured 554 lots from the Oley, Penn., estate collection of the late Theodore “Ted” and Alvina Breckel. Offerings on July 3 were from a variety of estates and collections, including that of Dr James and Sheri Swinhart of Cincinnati, Ohio, Diane and Dr Robert Marsh, Lawrenceville, Ga., the Layton, N.J., collection of Fred and Lorraine Ayers, James Dunn of Springfield, Vt., and works deaccessioned by the Valentine Museum in Richmond, Va., among others.
Will Kimbrough, vice president and head of Americana and fine art, was well rested when we caught up with him after the Monday holiday closure. “It was an outstanding sale and exceeded all of our expectations. In retrospect, I’m not surprised; we had a lot of good material that was fresh to the market and had known provenance, which people like.”
All but one of the lots from the Breckel collection found new homes and the sale was led by a folk art paint-decorated trinket or dresser box, made in Lancaster County, Penn., by Jonas or Jacob Weber that depicted a landscape with two-story farmhouse and trees on the front, and stylized floral decoration on the lid and sides. The Breckels had acquired it from David L. Good at the 2011 Fairhaven Antiques Festival in Ohio, and it also included an old show card from the 1976 New Oxford (Penn.,) Flea Market and Arts and Crafts show. An East Coast dealer, bidding on behalf of a client, won the lot for $44,813.
“It was pretty fantastic. It had good provenance and the condition was untouched; the colors were still very strong. There are a number of [Weber] boxes out there, but for a small one, this was about as top shelf as you’d get. One with a house on the front is what people really want. We got four times what Ted paid for it; I think he would have been really pleased and surprised at how well their things did,” Kimbrough said.
An eagerly anticipated highlight from the Breckel collection was a painting of a hen and chicks by Berks County, Penn., artist Ben Austrian (1870-1921). Offered early in the day, the oil on canvas work dated to 1910 and measured 21½ by 25½ inches in a Nineteenth Century molded giltwood frame. Bidders were enticed by the $6/9,000 estimate and chased it to $28,680, where it sold to an online bidder.
A stoneware jug attributed to the Fulper Brothers pottery in Flemington, N.J., featured a cobalt slip-trailed poem on the front that read “Billy Bryan he likes his wine, / And Sewell likes his Gin, / So all the Loyal Democrats, / Don’t want the cusses in.” It had been made around 1896, referencing presidential and vice-presidential running mates William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) and Arthur Sewall (1835-1900), who lost their bid for election to Republican candidate William McKinley. As Bryan was a known prohibitionist, the poetic inscription on the jug is ironic but may have contributed to its success at auction, where two private collectors, bidding in the room, took it to $21,510 from a $300/500 estimate.
The first lot offered from the Breckel’s collection was an American folk art molded copper full-bodied rooster weathervane that had been attributed to J.W. Fiske of New York City. The Breckels had acquired it from Michael Whittemore at the 2009 New Hampshire Antiques Show in Manchester, N.H. The catalog referenced a similar example, also attributed to Fiske, that Christie’s sold for $7,500 in January 2011. Evans found a new home for it with a private collector in the room, who acquired it for $13,145.
Folk painting in the Breckel’s collection saw considerable interest, with a portrait of a gentleman, seated on a yellow-painted chair in an interior by the Reading Artist (Berks County, Penn., active 1828-1845) leading the category. Inscribed in the margin as “Jonas Follweiler,” with an inscription on the back “Grandpa Follweiler Bro Edith Follweiler Stafford,” the picture had provenance to Eugene and Dorothy Elgin of East Berlin, Penn., and had previously been offered at Pook & Pook in 2011. It finished ahead of expectations, selling to a trade buyer for $8,963. A full-length profile watercolor on paper portrait of a woman in a blue dress that was attributed to Jacob Maental also had Elgin and Pook & Pook provenance; a trade buyer took it to $5,378.
The top price of the sale would be realized on the second day when a folk art painted diminutive or child’s blanket chest attributed to either Jacob Stirewalt (1805-1869) or John N. Stirewalt (1802-1836), and had provenance to a private collection in Texas, sold to Colonial Williamsburg for $77,675, nearly doubling its low estimate. The piece was not unknown, having been included in an article by Roderick Moore and Marshall Goodman titled “Painted Boxes and Miniature Chests from Shenandoah County, Virginia: The Stirewalt Group,” which appeared in the September 2007 issue of The Magazine Antiques.
Full-sized examples of Virginia furniture figured prominently in the top results on the second day. Two pie safes – both from Valley of Virginia – topped expectations. One with punched tin panels attributed to Moses Alexander (1815-1901) and William Alexander (1820-1901) of Waynesboro, Va., was in a tiger maple case attributed to Augusta or Rockbridge Counties, Va., from a Staunton Va., estate. It finished at $27,485 from a Shenandoah, Va., private collector bidding in the room. It was followed closely by a large walnut and cherry sideboard safe that sold for $25,095.
Kimbrough said he was surprised at the result realized by a six-volume set of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories, which had been published in Philadelphia by J.B. Chevalier between 1840 and 1844. The octavo volumes had originally been purchased from Audubon by Edward Thornton Tayloe, the son of John Tayloe III of Mount Airy who the catalog says was arguably the wealthiest plantation owner of his time in the United States. It was one of three lots deaccessioned by the Valentine Museum of Richmond, Va., and sold for $26,290 to a private collector bidding online.
A mixed media folk art historical Shenandoah Valley farmstead diorama by Abner Zook (Pennsylvania, 1921-2010) was relatively late – 1971 – but it had wide appeal from collectors. Bearing the title “Thrashing in the Shenandoah Valley,” was one of several mixed media scenes made by Abner and his twin brother, Aaron Zook (1921-2003), most of which depicted the Amish region around Lancaster County, Penn. The Virginia subject matter of this picture was rare and desirable, and it sold for $14,340.
A half-dozen tall case clocks peppered the various owners’ sale, with a Federal Montgomery (now Pulaski) County, Va., inlaid cherry example bringing the most, $23,900. Making $10,158 and more than doubling its high estimate, a Chippendale carved walnut example that had an engraved brass dial marked with the name of Henry Hahn of Reading, Penn. It had been in the collection of Dr James and Sheri Swinehart. Another clock from the Swinehart’s collection – a Montgomery County, Penn., Chippendale clock by John Solliday – topped off at $7,768.
For a fresh-to-market discovery it would be hard to beat a Civil War spyglass or telescope that was engraved “Negretti & Zambra / Instrument Makers / to Her Majesty, / London.” and “Signal Corps / C.S.A. / NO. 3.” According to the catalog, the only other known comparable example is at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. A Shenandoah, Va., private collector, who Kimbrough said came in a couple of times to examine it, won it for $6,573.
The sale featured a baker’s dozen lots that had descended in the family of Jedidiah “Jed” Hotchkiss, who was born in Windsor, N.Y., in 1828. He moved to Augusta County, Va., in 1847, later establishing the Mossy Creek Academy outside Staunton, Va. He was the cartographer for Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, later becoming one of the most important cartographers of the Nineteenth Century. His Civil War-era leather cartographer’s roll up case was among the offerings, bringing $8,963 from a Virginia institution.
After the auction, company president and principal auctioneer Jeffrey S. Evans commented, “This sale, the strongest of its type for us in the past five years, generated robust interest across the board, from bidders near and far. The Breckel Collection was a big draw, and the caliber of the material offered across all categories was very appealing to a broad swath of collectors. Levels of online participation in our auctions continue to expand dramatically – a real indication that there is increased market demand for a diverse range of Americana and folk art. The overall excitement and strong sales results reflect the freshness and high quality of the merchandise offered.” Evans added, “Looking forward, we will be featuring an important collection of American folk art in our November Premier Americana sale, so we are excited about the fall line-up at JSE & Associates.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction.
For additional information, www.jeffreysevans.com or 540-434-3939.
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