Published: August 8, 2000
Not Just Another ‘Ronnie Sale’
MANCHESTER, N.H. – It was shortly after 7 pm on Saturday, August 5, and Ron Bourgeault was receiving a big hug in the armory of the Center of New Hampshire Holiday Inn. In fact, he was receiving several of them, all from Virginia Ramsey-Pope Cave, and for good reason.
Bourgeault had just sold, non-stop and in under four hours, Cave’s Americana Collection, which realized a total of $2,454,870, including the fifteen percent buyer’s premium. One could easily say “Well, ho hum, it’s just another Ronnie sale.”
But it was not just another Ronnie sale, so to speak. It was the sale of an important collection of Americana assembled over the past thirty years – auctioned without a hitch…at least none we have been made aware of by Northeast Auctions.
Until recently this collection, consisting of 408 lots and offered from a separate catalog, was displayed in the Cave home and barn in Dorset, Vt.
After the property was sold, Virginia decided that it was time the collection went also. She stated, “I talked to the four top auction houses and settled on Northeast.”
At the start of the sale Ron Bourgeault said that after he had toured the property in Dorset and had realized the scope and importance of the collection, he told Virginia, “We will do this together,” and the rest is history. The sale drew a full house; every chair was taken and many stood at both the back and the sides of the armory, and everyone you would expect to be there was present. Dealers rubbed shoulders with collectors, and a bank of phones was in operation all during the sale.
One often wonders, when an important collection comes to market, via an auction, if the consignor has held back a few of the best things that will surface at a later date. “With the exception of three things, my entire collection is here today,” Virginia said at the sale.
The rdf_Descriptions not sold included a small painted box decorated with the initials of her daughter, a small watercolor which had great sentimental value but the subject of which still remains a mystery, and a room size hooked rug which she intends to use. “I gathered all my resources when this rug came up at a Dick Withington sale,” Virginia said. “I did not have enough money at the time to buy it there.” Later the rug came back onto the market at a Sotheby’s auction when she was able to purchase it. Dogs are pictured in four places in the rug and “I just had to keep it,” she said.
One lady came rushing into the armory about 20 minutes prior to the start of the sale and asked in a general way, “Am I going to be able to touch anything here today?”
New York dealer Blanch Greenstein happened to be within earshot of this comment and answered, “Yes, you can touch all of it as the preview is still in session.” For a more serious answer to that question, the reply could still be in the affirmative, but you had to be willing to keep your paddle up for the cream of the collection. And that is just what happened.
Just over $500,000 of this sale, not counting the premium, was realized from just two categories – gameboards and hooked rugs. A total of 46 gameboards were in the sale, realizing $223,000, while the 52 hooked rugs brought in $289,800. Each of those categories had a star lot.
Among gameboards the star was number 70, a board which measured 12½ by 21 inches and was decorated with draped flags at each end. The board went for $40,000, plus the $6,000 premium, setting an auction record and causing Ron Bourgeault to comment, “It’s the best.”
The same final bid was needed to take home the catalog cover lot, a hooked rug in the stars and stripes pattern of red, white, and blue. A determined Stephen Score, who is listed in the provenance of this lot, kept flipping his number one bidding card until the rug was his. A number of lots earlier he had underbid a hooked rug, 27½ by 39½ inches, which depicted a dog and also had his provenance on it. He noted, “It was on the floor in our house at one time and I really wanted it back.”
Lot one of the sale was an unusual painted and decorated Parcheesi gameboard with drawer, 16 inches square, in red, blue, green, and yellow with zigzag border. The bidding opened at $2,000 and the final bid was $32,000, plus premium, giving a solid hint towards the direction the sale would be taking.
Two document boxes were among the first five lots, one dated 1848, 14 inches long and 7 inches high, teal ground with oval medallion with red rose in center, which sold for $5,000, and lot four, a painted and floral decorated document box, rose-red blossoms with leafage, 9 inches high and 18 inches long, ex Lipman collection, sold for $17,000. It was followed by a Pennsylvania bird-in-hand walking stick, pictured, which opened at $6,000 and ended at $21,000. By the time lot six had been sold, a hooked rug with urn of flowers and fronds, at $9,000, $87,000 had been spent.
“This ark is in such good shape that it reinforces the story I have always heard about them,” Ron said as he put up for sale a carved and painted Noah’s ark, 12 by 23 inches, complete with about 200 animals. He went on to mention that this type of toy was a Sunday plaything, reserved for one day a week, and thus many of the arks have survived the trials of time in good shape. $25,000 took this lot.
Among the interesting pictures in the sale were two pastels by Edward Bowers, one a still life with grapes, orange, apple, strawberries, and raspberries in a fluted bowl, signed lower right, for $12,000, while $10,000 was bid for the other still life, a sliced watermelon and bone handled knife on a blue feather edge platter. It too was signed lower right and measures 16¾ by 19¾ inches.
Gameboards surfaced again early in the sale with a paint decorated folding Parcheesi example in red, orange, blue, and green on a cream ground, pumpkin border, selling for $15,000, while the next five lots, all gameboards, brought a total of $27,750.
Two sheet iron upper case letters, 33 inches high, N.Y., with serif embellishments, went for $8,000; a collection of colorful fabric sewing balls or pin cushions, about twenty, sold for $2,000; and an American hooked rug depicting two roosters face to face, “Talk to me,” 32½ by 44 inches, worked in colorful yarns, went for $5,000.
An American painted and decorated rocking horse marked “Converse,” Winchendon, Mass., leather saddle and bridle, on red painted base, went for only $500, causing Ron to say, “Snooze and you loose.” An American pieced and appliqued floral pattern crib quilt with trapunto wreaths and leafage, 45 inches square, sold within the pre-sale estimate at $2,500, while an American step-back cupboard with paneled doors, slanted upper section with two shelves, 76 inches tall, went for $22,000.
Four children’s Staffordshire transfer printed mugs and three ABC plates brought $2,000; a Maine Federal faux painted and decorated one-drawer stand, square tapering lags, 30 inches high with 20 by 24 inch top, sold for $3,750; and a New England chair table with trompe l’oeil decoration including cats, gameboards, and flowers sold over the phone for $19,000. The table first surfaced at the Hildene Flea Market and, “Virginia made a run for it, beating off a number of dealers to get it,” Ron Bourgeault said.
A colorful embroidered picture, “Games in the Garden,” on an indigo linen ground, 23 by 54 inches, went for $9,500; a New England Federal style two-drawer stand with bird’s eye maple drawer fronts, 16 inch square top and 29 inches high, sold for $7,000; and a Boston Federal giltwood and eglomise mirror depicting Liberty with American flag and a ship at sea in the background, 40 inches tall, sold for $29,000.
A set of eight Sheraton fancy chairs, thumb-back and painted mustard, two armchairs and six sides, brought $6,500; a Chinese checkers painted circular gameboard, 24 inches in diameter and in wonderful paint, $7,000; six Leeds green feather-edge dinner plates with peafowl decoration and thumb-print leafage, 9¾ inches in diameter, $7,500; and a country blue painted stepback cupboard, flat crest above three open shelves, red painted, case fitted with two doors, 76 inches tall, sold for $14,000.
A checkerboard design with birds was the subject of one of the hooked rugs, a popular lot which measured 28½ by 43 inches and was mounted on a stretcher. It sold, after much bidding, for $16,000. A rare Grenfell mat with leaping stag and floral elements, 26 by 39½ inches, original label and tag on the reverse, went to $15,000, while a Star of Bethlehem pieced and appliqued crib quilt, mounted with plexiglass, 46 by 47 inches, sold for only $2,750.
A Wethersfield, Vt., sampler by Drusilla Upham, Sept. 13, 1827, featuring a large basket of flowers in the center, original glass and frame, 21¾ inches square, sold for $20,000; a New England shirred rug with floral urn and dated 1844 AD, the initials “HE” monogrammed in the piece, 32 by 65 inches, went for $27,000; and a grouping of four golf related doorstops, original paint, brought $9,000.
An American three-board hutch table with circular top, shoe feet, 50 inches in diameter, sold for $11,000; a Pennsylvania painted cast iron flowering tree, 14½ inches tall, five flowers on branches, sold for the same price; an American painted and decorated miniature two drawer blanket chest, mustard ground with green and black stripes, 14 inches long, realized heavy bidding and went for $24,000; and an oil on canvas depicting an exotic tropical view with palm trees, river and rising sun, 20 by 26 inches, sold for $12,000.
Among the case pieces of furniture was an American country mustard painted architectural secretary bookcase, possibly Moravian, 84 inches tall, peaked pediment above a case with two doors opening to three shelves, fitted interior, which sold for $13,000. Facing rabbits were depicted on a hooked rug, along with a bouquet of flowers, dated 1892, 28 by 48 inches, which went for $12,000, and a latticework wire basket filled with stone fruit sold for $3,000.
A watercolor on paper by Clementine Hunter, basket of zinnias, 12 by 16 inches, brought $13,000; a Massachusetts Federal open armchair in figured maple, serpentine crest and upholstered back with outcurved armrests, square tapering legs joined by a recessed box stretcher, sold for $14,000; and an American folk art carved and painted figure of a dove, 9½ inches tall, yellow with black markings, ex Little collection, went for $10,000.
A large blue painted splint basket with side handles, 8½ inches high, brought $2,250, and a grained and painted glazed door cupboard or secretary top, twin doors each with six panes, sold for $9,000. A collection of children’s blocks included an American flag set with red, white, and blue blocks, original box, for $2,500; a birds and beasts by Lyman & Whitney, original box, 9 by 9 inches, $700; and two sets of alphabet blocks with animals, $600.
It usually pays to stay until the end of the sale and this time a lucky bidder took home a classical architectural façade with dentil molded cornice above four fluted columns, white painted, 8 feet high and just over 9 feet wide, for only $500. It is probably a good guess that the winner of this lot came with a truck or extra long van.
As it stands, a percentage of the proceeds from the sale will go to the Museum of American Folk Art earmarked for the library which is to be a part of the new building in New York City. Ron Bourgeault is making a $30,000 donation to the museum as well, along with the proceeds from the sale of the catalog.
While she was assured by both the auction house and her friends that she had nothing to fear about selling the collection and that it would do very well, she admitted that she was “a little scared.” When the final count was in, and the hammer had fallen on the last lot, she said, “I was stunned.” And it was very easy to tell that she was happily stunned.
The two-day Americana auction concluded on August 6, when a rare Brooklyn, N.Y. kas was sold by Northeast for $101,500 against an estimate of $9/12,000. A phone bidder won the lot. The kas was a monumental piece of furniture (80 by 74 inches) with a bold architectural design that conveyed a stately presence.
Typically, kas sell in the estimated range, and predictably this impressive example edged beyond the top estimate. However the final selling price shocked the audience. After the auction, Bourgeault explained, “A professor told me that the kas had features that definitely indicated that it was made in a known section of Brooklyn, New York. I think that link with a location and culture made all the difference.”
The second day’s earnings bumped up the total for the weekend to $6.7 million, a new auction record for the firm.
The prices noted in this review are the hammer bids and DO NOT include the 15 percent buyer’s premium unless noted.
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