Published: December 13, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Carlsen Gallery
FREEHOLD, N.Y. – A life-size cast iron deer attributed to J.W. Fiske and in old red paint more than tripled its $3,000 high estimate to sell for $10,800 at Carlsen Gallery’s December 4 antiques and fine art auction. The sale, which closed out the year for owners Abby and Russ Carlsen, was a diverse offering of just over 350 lots and totaled $300,000, passing just six lots out of 358 offered.
“We gave out 50 buyer numbers in the gallery the day of the auction,” said Abby Carlsen. “More than 100 absentee and phone bidders participated and in excess of 1,000 bidders were on the internet.”
Standing 63 inches tall, 20 inches wide and 50 inches long, the full-size standing figure of a buck with eight-point antlers was signed “J.W. Fiske, NY.” It was purchased by a woman who plans to give it to her collector-husband as a Christmas present. “She just needs to find a way to hide it until then,” joked Russ Carlsen.
The stag was one of a variety of garden sculptures produced by the New York City iron works, including cast iron fountains, terrariums and other garden decor. The self-standing cast iron deer form was a favorite garden figure in the mid-to-late-Nineteenth Century in America, due to its association with the romantic, pastoral gardens popularized after the 1840s by Andrew Jackson Downing. Many antlered versions were often referred to as “Fiske” deer because of an assumed association with J.W. Fiske. The popular stag figure was, in fact, cast by a variety of makers, including Robert Wood & Co. of Philadelphia and J.L. Mott Iron Works of New York.
About 100 lots in the sale had been drawn from the collection of the late Norman Rice, the Albany museum giant who passed away in October 2021 at the age of 95. At the Albany Institute of History & Art, Rice enjoyed a nearly 70-year association, starting as curator in 1953. “He was a good friend and had an encyclopedic mind,” said Russ Carlsen. “I will miss him. We were so honored to be able to offer items from his collection.”
Notable lots within the sale’s top performers demonstrated the diversity that is the hallmark of the gallery. Everything from Asian material, Grand Tour items, jewelry, antiquities, fine art and furniture found favor with bidders,
A pair of Chinese vases with provenance to Tolland, Mass., high-end dealer Marie Whitney Antiques featured scenic decoration with figures and animals. Each was 14¼ inches tall on its base and the pair went out at $10,625, a surprising premium over the $1/3,000 valuation they had been assigned.
Jewelry in the sale was highlighted by a 10-carat diamond necklace that earned $9,000. Set in 18K white gold with diamonds of VS1 clarity, I-J color, the necklace was 16 inches long.
From the Seventeenth to early Nineteenth Century, it was an educational rite of passage for upper-class young European men (typically accompanied by a tutor or family member) to travel through Europe, with Italy as a key destination, often acquiring choice items to be brought back home as souvenirs. In this sale, a Sienna marble Grand Tour souvenir evoking Roman ruins stood 19 inches tall and found a new home at $8,125.
Egyptian antiquities were also featured, with four pieces – two bronze and two faience or clay ushabti figures, the largest measuring 6 inches tall, combining for $8,125.
William Aiken Walker (1839-1921) was an American artist best known for genre paintings of Black sharecroppers, as well as documenting the American Civil War era during his service in the Confederate Army. His paintings often come up at auction, and in this sale an oil on board cabin scene, signed lower left and measuring 9 by 11½ inches sight size, was bid to $6,875.
Presidential White House china always commands interest, especially when provenance reveals a family connection to a historical inhabitant and in this case, two places that were consigned by a direct descendant of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), sixth US president from 1825 to 1829, American statesman, diplomat, lawyer and diarist. With a 9¼-inch diameter, the two plates served up $6,000.
Highlighting furniture in the sale was an early Eighteenth Century Kings County kas. The red gumwood case piece was in three sections with an interior drawer. Front feet appeared to be original, and the kas, 76½ inches tall, 58 inches wide and 20 inches deep, finished at $5,700.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The firm’s next sale will be in February, date to be announced, featuring a central New York collection of a historic home board member. For information, www.carlsengallery.com or 518-634-2466.
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