Published: March 15, 2022
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Weschler’s
ROCKVILLE, MD. – At Weschler’s Capitol Collections sale on March 4, an Alma Woodsey Thomas (American, 1891-1978), acrylic on canvas, “Pale Yellow Autumn Leaves,” 12¼ by 16¼ inches, tripled expectations and then some, going to the trade at $183,500 on the internet against a $30/50,000 estimate. Signed A.W. Thomas, the painting was dated ’77 and titled “Pale Yellow Autumn/ Leaves” on verso. Painted in the fall of 1977, this would have been one of the last works she painted before passing away in February 1978. Thomas was an African American painter and art educator, born in Columbus, Ga. In 1907 she moved with her family to Washington, where she would later become the first graduate of Howard University’s art department in 1924. She received a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University in 1934 – the first African American woman to do so. Her early paintings were realistic but became geometrically abstract and abstract expressionistic as she matured. Lois Mailou Jones and James V. Herring (both were her professors) influenced her career in art. She was the first female African American to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The 186-lot sale, heavy in diamonds and fine art, surpassed $1.1 million and was 96 percent sold. It hosted 282 registered bidders with potential buyers lining up on three online platforms, phones an left bids. So heavy in diamonds was the sale that eight of the sale’s top dozen lots were sparklers, led by an unmounted 5.79-carat square cushion-cut diamond that bested its $18/24,000 estimate to sell for $30,000. “Nothing specific to note about the diamonds,” said the firm’s specialist. We infer that a lack of inventory and market availability may have been why they did so well.”
Unusual for its monumental size, a 1975 etching and aquatint in color on Arches paper by Joan Miro (Spanish, 1893-1983) sold within its estimate for $36,000 to the internet. “Le Bagnard et sa Compagne (Dupin 749),” was signed Miro in white pencil lower right and numbered 35/50 in graphite lower left, 47½ by 62¾ inches. It is going to the overseas trade.
Aggressive phone bidder competition for a Dresden porcelain plaque of “Saint Mary Magdalene” pushed it from its $2/3,000 estimate to a final price of $13,420, won by an international phone bidder. The late Nineteenth Century Meissen plaque was previously sold through Weschler’s in 1985. “A beautifully executed plaque in excellent condition,” said the specialist, who noted the surprising results as interest in the plaque had been passive until immediately prior to sale.
Lowell Blair Nesbitt (American, 1933-1993) was an American painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor, perhaps best known as the official artist for the NASA Apollo 9 and Apollo 13 space missions. In 1980, the US Postal Service honored him by issuing four postage stamps depicting his paintings. In this sale, a pristine example of his exploration of treating flowers monumentally, “Daffodil and Tulip,” oil on canvas, 54 by 90 inches, sold on the internet for $10,370. Nesbitt once said, “As for me, I’ve been trying to treat the flower monumentally, to get beyond its prettiness. It’s difficult in art to treat the flower seriously.”
A continental furniture highlight was a Nineteenth Century Louis XIV-style giltwood marble top console table that blew past its expected $1/2,000 presale estimate to get snapped up by an internet buyer for $11,070. The piece was of very simple joinery, yet elaborately carved. Again, bidding interest was moderate at first, succumbing to aggressive absentee and online bidding.
Nor did a Chippendale carved walnut armchair take a back seat, achieving $9,760 against a $1,5/2,000 estimate. The Philadelphia chair, circa 1760-80, featured similar elements of other chairs in collections of the US State Department and sold through Christie’s from the Rosebrook collection. Having had seat and period-appropriate restorations, the auction house saw active interest in it from just after the sale catalog was first published and was curious to consider how it would sell. An online bidder brought that curiosity to a close.
Rounding out the sale’s top highlights were an Austrian porcelain allegorical roundel plaque of “Innocence” and a Haida carved argillite figural totem pole model from coastal Pacific Northwest. Late Nineteenth-early Twentieth Century, the roundel was won by a local phone bidder willing to pay $9,150, three times its high estimate. Leaving the gallery at $8,540, having been purchased by an international phone bidder, the totem exhibited a design far more complicated and varied than the examples that are more typically seen at market without being terribly impacted by its condition, according to the specialist.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Weschler’s next sale will again cover all the categories and is scheduled for Sunday, May 15.
For information, 202-628-1281 or www.weschlers.com.
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