Published: November 1, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy New England Auctions
BRANFORD, CONN. – Fred Giampietro’s New England Auctions presented two days of sales on October 22-23, selling nearly 400 lots in the firm’s second installment of works from the collection of Steve & Pat Center, followed by more than 400 lots of antiques from area estates and collections, the property of various owners. With only four lots passed of the combined 794 offered, an impressive 99.4 percent sell-through rate was achieved. With $555,000 earned from the Centers’ collection and the various owner’s sale bringing in an additional $360,000, the weekend saw a total of $915,000.
The hands-down star of the Centers’ collection was Frank Finney (Virginia, b 1947), a contemporary folk art carver who was represented in the sale with 41 lots, more than 10 percent of the auction. The Centers had been pioneering collectors of his work, recognizing his carving talents well before others did. Not only were all five top lots in the Centers’ sale by Finney but also accounted for 11 of the top 15 lots in their sale.
“I’m not surprised at how well the Finneys did, it’s long overdue,” Giampietro said when we called him after the sale. “He is easily identifiable and prolific, and he’s still working. And the Centers have more of them!”
Giampietro said both sales saw new bidders and buyers, now registering more than 8,000 for the weekend’s event; it is a trend he has noticed among recent years where each sale sees an increase of about seven or eight percent from sale to sale.
The combined estimates of the Finney lots on offer had a low-high spread of $39,900/76,400; Giampietro said the group realized a combined $173,000. Prices ranged from $438 to $21,250, which was not only the high water mark for the Finney and Center offerings, but the top price achieved during the weekend. Achieving that result was a Frank Finney bird tree with 13 carved and painted birds that stood 17¾ inches tall and was in excellent original condition; it sold to a collector bidding online.
Just one or two bidding increments below the bird tree was a drummer boy whirligig that depicted a Civil War-era soldier with a drum with patriotic eagle decoration; according to Giampietro, the Centers had commissioned it directly from Finney. A trade buyer, bidding online, took it to $20,000, double its high estimate. Executed in carved wood, paint and metal, it stood 28¼ inches tall and was in excellent original condition.
Cat owners may not be delighted when their pets bring them a dead mouse, but the mouser carved by Finney charmed bidders, who took it to $16,250; a private collector prevailed. The life-size seated cat was signed under the base and in excellent original condition.
Another of the Finney lots, one which Giampietro deemed “an incredible piece,” was a tree carved with four peacocks and a pineapple finial. Purportedly the only one known, and described in the catalog as a “masterpiece,” it sold to an online collector for $11,875.
A paint-decorated shelf, made for a light or candle that retained its original red and black paint decoration featured a nicely carved molded edged and forged nail construction. Thought to have been made in Maine, circa 1830, the 16¾-inch-tall shelf lit up its $250/500 estimate and sold to an online buyer for $8,750. The same price was achieved for a circa 1875 molded copper rooster weathervane with a historic surface of verdigris, yellow sizing and red paint. It also sold to an online buyer.
An impressive provenance accompanied an oil on panel picture by Thomas Ware (Vermont, 1803-1836), which depicted a young girl holding a bird. Previously in the Cannondale, Conn., collection of Horace Davis, it had also crossed the block at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1946 and Richard W. Oliver in Kennebunk, Maine in 1982, and had been handled by New York City dealers Bernard & S. Dean Levy. A trade buyer paid $6,250 for it.
Various Owners auction
Earning the fourth highest price of the weekend but the lead lot in the various owners sale on October 23 was a carved countertop Native American trade figure, cataloged as by Samuel Robb (1852-1928) in New York City, circa 1880. While it was on a modern base, it was considered in very good condition with imperfections, with over-paint removed to reveal traces of an earlier painted surface. An online collector won it for $12,500.
A circa 1865 horse weathervane from the Rochester Iron Works was made from cast and sheet iron with a historic gold leaf and paint surface. Deemed to have no structural restoration – resoldering to seams or filled pellet holes – it rode to $10,000it rode to $10,000, which was high enough to give it a second place finish on the second day.
Rounding out the various owners leaderboard was a framed paper cutout work that bore the name and date “Eliza Page 1832” in the center. Deemed in excellent original condition, it also achieved $10,000, from a private collector bidding online.
While the majority of buyers in the sale were from the United States, a collector in France, bidding online, paid $7,500 for an oil pastel on canvas portrait of a woman, by Jean Fautrier (French, 1898-1964) that was dated 1936.
Other highlights of the various owners sale included an early Twentieth Century sheet iron squirrel weathervane holding a nut, which scampered to $3,750, more than ten times its low estimate. A large group of approximately 50 Native American stereoviews depicted several tribes and individuals and closed at $3,500, a significant advance over the lot’s $250/500 estimate.
New England Auctions will conduct a timed online-only sale before the holidays – date still to be announced, with the firm’s two-day January auctions featuring the collection of Pat and Rich Garthoeffner the day before another various owners sale of Americana.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information, www.neauction.com or 475-234-5120.
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