Published: March 10, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Wiederseim Associates, Inc.
PHOENIXVILLE, PENN. – Wiederseim Associates, Inc, has had a sale in February for more than two decades but the Saturday, February 29, Mid-Winter Leap Day Auction was the first one the firm has ever conducted on Leap Day. The sale of 603 lots realized approximately $250,000 and was more than 96 percent sold. More than 2,000 bidders were registered online, with about 60 bidders attending the saleroom in person.
“That’s a lot by today’s standards, and it was more spirited than normal,” said Theodore “Ted” Wiederseim after the sale, acknowledging that he saw “a bit of an uptick” in the action. After holding sales at local schools and firehouses for years, he saw the benefit of the increase of internet buyers and now conducts five to six comparably sized auctions annually at his gallery, after a 4,000-square-foot expansion of his warehouse. He attributed the high sell-through rate to his practice of selling as much as possible without reserves.
A collection of Chinese artwork and objects “out of a local barn” led the sale and was the source of many of the top-selling lots, including the three highest. When asked if there was more from the collection to sell, Wiedersiem said, “I’m not sure if there’s more. I’m going there with a check and truck soon; we’ll see!”
The top lot was an example of Chinese calligraphy, in a 19-by-19-inch frame, that brought $8,125. It was followed by a Chinese watercolor of mountains that realized $6,875, well ahead of its $200/300 estimate. In third place was a Chinese watercolor that depicted Quan Yin with a poem; it made $5,313. All three lots were purchased by the same buyer from New Jersey who attended the sale and spent about $35,000; Wiederseim thought he was buying for someone overseas. Other notable framed works from the collection included a Chinese watercolor horse painting that made $4,375, a watercolor of a general that sold for $2,625; and a Chinese painting of ducks that charmed bidders to $2,000.
Chinese paintings were not the only desirable lots; objects also outperformed expectations. A Chinese famille rose vase that had been converted to a lamp finished at $3,125, two Chinese celadon deep dishes made $3,000; a bamboo altar table went out at $2,500 and Chinese wood prayer beads in a round silk-lined box sold for $1,625.
“Paintings were very good,” Wiederseim said, referring to the Western fine art that was included in the sale. To illustrate the point, he pointed to an oil on canvas landscape by Walter Emerson Baum that depicted Point Pleasant overlooking the Delaware River. Estimated at $2/3,000, it sold for $4,687. A collecting couple from Ontario, Canada, came the farthest -and bought for $2,500 – a watercolor picture of a man and wife that Wiederseim had cataloged as being from New England. Bringing $1,187 – nearly double its low estimate – was a Chester Springs, Penn., landscape by Albert Van Nesse Greene (American, 1887-1971); the same price was paid for a folk art watercolor of three cats. An oval portrait of a mother and child had a partial tag from the National Gallery of Art that indicated the work had at one time been owned by the Garbisch family; it sold for $812. One of the paintings lots with the highest estimates – a painting titled “The Prairie Hunter” in the manner of Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait – did not find a buyer at $8/10,000.
The highest selling lot of furniture was a Paul Evans Cityscape table that more than tripled its low estimate to finish at $3,125. It narrowly surpassed an Edwardian-style needlepoint sofa that, in Wiederseim’s words, “was quite beautiful” and easily surpassed its $300/500 estimate to bring $2,750. Wiederseim described a Baltimore Neoclassical sideboard as “a cool thing,” and admitting that while it had some problems, it would have been a $20,000 piece “in the old days.” It sold for $1,750, the same price achieved by a miniature Southern mahogany rolltop desk. As if to underscore his point that the market for traditional furniture was still soft, a pair of Paul McCobb nightstands nearly quadrupled the low estimate when they realized $1,187. Other pieces by McCobb all sold, ranging in price from $187 to $812.
Unusual items were sprinkled throughout the sale and saw a mixture of results. Early in the sale, a late Nineteenth Century carousel carved running stag by Deer achieved $1,250, four times its low estimate. A bronze sculpture in the manner of Harry Bertoia achieved $1,062, and a group of six black Americana advertising lithographs from the American Tobacco Company finished at $875.
The sale also featured a sizeable selection of taxidermy lots, which came from a local sporting goods store that had gone out of business. Despite reasonable estimates, the highest price paid was $625 for a diorama group that included an Alaskan brown bear and Alaskan coyote that had been estimated at $1/1,500. All of the lots sold to several different buyers, with the least expensive price being $62.50.
Eight small bronze works by German American contemporary sculptor, Klaus Ihlenfeld (b 1934) were offered throughout the sale, all priced modestly but all finding buyers, ranging in price from $281 to $750. Ihlenfeld was a studio assistant to Harry Bertoia, whose work was an influence.
“It was a good save.” Wiederseim literally rescued an Austrian terracotta bulldog pup from going to Goodwill when he saw it put aside in a garage. Priced at $300/400, it was one of the more popular lots if you look at how many bids it received. It found a new home for $1,875.
Wiederseim’s next sale is anticipated to be in late April, though a specific date has not yet been set. When asked what he’d acquired for it, he said he had a Main Line estate that included an Elmer Stennes clock in a Roxbury case, some Asian porcelains and a scroll, a collection of Windsor chairs, a Pennsylvania blanket box, a Pennsylvania walnut tavern table and a Chippendale chest of drawers, Asian chairs, some carpets and portrait miniatures.
Prices cited include buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Wiederseim Associates, Inc, is at 1041 West Bridge Street. For information, 610-827-1910 or www.wiederseim.com.
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