Published: January 26, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery
ATLANTA, GA. – Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery’s annual New Year’s Signature Estates Auction on January 16-17 was this year preceded by two single-owner sales. The first, selling the morning of January 15, was a 94-lot collection of objects salvaged from the 1918 shipwreck of the RMS Carpathia, which was the first ship on the scene at the 1912 shipwreck of the RMS Titanic and helped rescue passengers. It was followed that afternoon by more than 100 lots of items from the estate of Jack Warner and the Warner Foundation. In the course of the three days of sales, nearly 1,100 lots crossed the block with almost 95 percent selling for a combined total of $2.01 million.
RMS Carpathia Collection
The collection of items that had been salvaged from the Carpathia shipwreck were consigned by the widow of a man who had been connected with the Premier Exhibitions group, who launch global tours of Titanic and Carpathia artifacts. Though the seller wished to remain anonymous, Ahlers & Ogletree director, Elizabeth Rickenbaker, said that their firm had handled her husband’s estate. “We’ve had a couple of individual shipwreck items over the years but are not at all on the map for this kind of thing,” Rickenbaker said. “It was an honor for us to handle the collection and we are thrilled with the result, which blew the estimates out of the water.” That’s not hyperbole when one considers that the sale netted almost $180,000 from a low/high estimate range of $19,825/33,425.
Rickenbaker said that the sale generated global intrigue, though principal interest came from the United States, England, Ireland and Canada. Though the number of bidders for the sale was relatively low as befits a niche collection, it generated many new bidders for the sale. Bidding was not permitted in the room but phone and absentee bidding supported online bidding on three platforms. “We had very active phone bidding activity and all three platforms were very strong. One phone bidder was on every lot in the sale and we had other phone bidders peppered throughout,” Rickenbaker said.
As a general rule, lots that could be verified to have been on the Carpathia when it rescued Titanic passengers saw a boost in value over those where a connection to Titanic passengers was unconfirmed. These include the three top lots of the sale, all of which sold to bidders in the United States. A salvaged porthole partly retaining its wooden surround achieved the top price of $15,730 against an estimate of $700/900. Rickenbaker said the wooden surround suggested this had been on the interior of the ship rather than on the exterior, where it would have been ensconced in metal. She speculated that the wooden surround and interior placement made it more valuable to collectors, pointing to the sale price of $8,470 achieved by a porthole that had been externally mounted.
The sale’s second highest price of $14,520 was achieved by a deck light that retained a large fragment of its original glass shade. Given that the Carpathia had sunk after being torpedoed by German submarines in 1918, it is an astonishing survivor. The same price of $14,520 was achieved by two telegraphs, one of which was on its base and sold to an American collector, the other a brass ship’s bridge engine order telegraph.
Porcelain that was used on board the Carpathia saw considerable interest with a Mintons Ormond pattern blue and white floral pottery mug and a dinner plate from the same pattern. The mug sold to a collector in the United States for $3,933 while a bowl or soup plate finished at $3,025. Both had been used in Carpathia’s first class cabins and were marked with the Cunard Line logo; they were part of eight lots from the same service in the sale and brought prices down to $666.
Estate of Jack Warner / Warner Foundation
The dust had barely settled when the company pivoted to offer 103 lots from the estate of local philanthropist and art collector, Jack Warner, as well as items from the Warner Foundation. Warner had been a prominent figure at high-profile auctions over the years and works in the sale demonstrated his keen eye and aesthetic taste. More than 92 percent of the lots that crossed the board sold for a total of $385,371, achieving the mid-point of the estimate range of $305,400/428,600.
Fine art was a touchstone of Warner’s collection, which featured works by many prominent artists. A painting titled “Horses and Goat Eating Turnips and Carrots” by John Frederick Herring Sr (British, 1795-1865) that Warner had acquired at Sotheby’s in the 1970s from the sale of the collection of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, brought the top price of the sale. It sold to a phone bidder for $60,500 who outbid online competition. Rickenbaker described the work as “a sensational painting with amazing provenance.”
Hudson River School painter Jasper Cropsey’s “A Roadside in England,” done in 1879, sold below expectations, bringing $27,225 from a buyer bidding online. The painting had provenance to the New Britain Museum of American Art and The Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. Rickenbaker attributed the result to a general preference towards Cropsey’s American scenes over his English ones.
“Tardy,” by Edward Lamson Henry (American/South Carolina/New York, 1841-1919) appealed to several people and prompted the most phone bidders in the sale of Warner’s collection, with a phone bidder from the United States taking it beyond its high estimate to close at $22,990. Likely contributing interest in the work was its subject matter, which depicted a Black boy entering a schoolroom. It had provenance to both Berry Hill and the Charleston Renaissance Galleries and had been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the New Britain Museum of American Art. Of similar subject matter was William Aiken Walker’s (American/South Carolina, 1838-1921) “Two Cotton Pickers,” which was picked up for $11,495.
According to Rickenbaker, Warner’s estate in Tuscaloosa, Ala., had been extensively landscaped and was the site of a modern palatial bronze by Dave McGary titled “Bear Tracks” that achieved the sale’s second highest price of $54,450. The figural sculpture depicted a Great Plains Mandan Native American man named Four Bears and stood more than 10 feet tall.
Two Northwest Coast totem poles stood tall and attracted collectors of Northwest Coast artifacts who battled it out on the phone. The older of the two – an 82-inch-tall Nineteenth Century example from the Haida of British Columbia – depicted a raven, frog, human and bear and brought $15,730. The other, a Twentieth Century example of identical height with raven, human and killer whale iconography finished at $10,285; both poles had been estimated at $3/5,000.
New Year’s Signature Estates Auction
With two single-owner collections handily dispensed with, Ahlers & Ogletree could proceed with its New Year’s Signature Estates Auction, during which time 1,086 lots were offered over two days with almost 95 percent selling for a combined total of $1.44 million. The aggregate low/high estimates for the two-day sale were $857,500/1,471,100.
The first day got underway with Asian works of art and set the high point for the week, with a Chinese buyer, bidding online, acquiring for $81,250 a Chinese Ming dynasty carved cinnabar lidded box. The box, which came from an Atlanta collection, depicted a dragon chasing a flaming pearl and had been estimated at $8/12,000. It marked a trend in the sale. “Chinese in general did exceptionally well,” said Rickenbaker.
A one-of-a-kind lot, if ever there was one, was the personal shag/range bag owned by Atlanta native golfer Robert Tyre “Bobbie” Jones. It had been given as a gift to the consignor who chose to remain anonymous but from the entry in the auction catalog, he received it from Jones in 1953 after watching Jones play what would be his last practice. Upon completing his practice, Jones handed him the bag saying “I will not need this anymore. I want you to have it.” The unassuming canvas bag with brown lettering was accompanied by three golf balls and a copy of a photograph of Jones, all in a display case. Carrying an estimate of $25/50,000, the bag was purchased by a collector in the United States for $27,225.
One of the hands-down surprises of the first day came with an oil on canvas landscape titled “Irish Landscape” by Peter Ellenshaw (British/California, 1913-2007). An estimate of $3/5,000, that Rickenbaker said was in line with the artist’s current market rates, was eclipsed when an online buyer bought it for $27,225.
Two large local collections were the source of many of the top prices realized on the second day of sales. The top lot of the day came from local collectors who are downsizing their Atlanta home. Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of Miss Kent was not included in the catalogue raisonné for the artist but it had provenance to a Nineteenth Century London collector, an American Art Association Sale in New York in 1895, and another American Art Association sale in 1913, a lineage of ownership that Rickenbaker described as “impeccable.” An estimate of $8/12,000 generated considerable interest in the portrait, which a buyer in the United States acquired for $24,200.
The other predominant consignor for the session was the source of a Seventeenth Century black lacquered japanned cabinet on later stand; a buyer in Europe won it for $20,570. An Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century Italian Mediterranean port scene in oil on canvas sailed to $19,360 from a buyer in the United States, more than three times its high estimate; and a French Regence-style ormolu mounted bureau plat, also from the same collection, brought $13,310 from an American buyer, more than ten times its high estimate.
A buyer in the United Kingdom paid $13,310 for an Italian or Swiss complete suit of armor that was probably mostly Nineteenth Century with some earlier elements. The sellers had acquired it from a Birmingham, England, antiques store in 1984 and the suit was accompanied by an Arms and Armour Museum appraisal 1984, a Christie’s arms and armor catalog, and a book titled Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight.
Ahlers & Ogletree Auction Gallery’s next sale is scheduled for March 27-28 and will feature antique, modern and contemporary fine and decorative arts and Asian works of art.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, 404-869-2478, www.aandoauctions.com.
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