Published: November 22, 2021
Review by W.A, Demers, Photos Courtesy of Freeman’s
PHILADELPHIA – Freeman’s November 10 American furniture, folk and decorative arts auction was characterized by competitive bidding over American national flags, rare silver, early American furniture and Nineteenth Century paintings. The sale achieved an impressive $1.64 million with a sell-through rate of 80 percent and a total of 330 registered bidders.
“The auction was a panoply of rare and historic Americana that appealed to a broad range of collectors and dealers,” said Lynda Cain, head of sale. “From extraordinary folk art and American flags to a fine selection of Eighteenth Century silver by renowned makers, to historic Philadelphia landscapes, portraits and furniture, fine representative examples garnered considerable attention and achieved strong prices. We are delighted with the results.”
Key to Freeman’s successes in the auction and beyond is a market return to regionalism; as the firm witnesses a growing appreciation for American-made objects, quintessentially American items are maintaining and growing strength in the market. Positioned in the birthplace of America, Freeman’s consistently delivers strong results for significant American items. “It was a good sale,” said Cain. “We had a lot of things from families that hadn’t surfaced before. We had institutional interest and we had very active bidding. We had a lot of things go back to family, including the William and Mary Hadley chest.”
The auction featured a strong grouping of American silver throughout the ages, from Pilgrim-era items to classical presentation pieces and late Nineteenth Century tea and flatware services. “It was the nicest collection of early American silver we’ve had in a long time,” said Cain. Silver pieces made in Philadelphia elicited much buyer interest, including a silver coffeepot made by William Hollingshead (1728-1808), circa 1770, which achieved $37,800 against a $20/30,000 estimate, and a silver covered tankard by Philip Syng Jr, circa 1750, which sold for $30,240, nearly double expectations. The Hollingshead silver coffeepot was of baluster form on a footed base with gadrooning, domed lid with gadrooned rim and urn-form finial and spout issuing from a rocaille join. It had a scrolled wood handle, its body engraved with rococo cartouche containing monogram “LP,” marked three times to underside.
A silver caudle cup and a silver covered tankard both achieved $27,720.
Dillsburg, Penn., Americana specialist Jeff Bridgman saw the single-owner offering of the American national flag collection of Jeffrey Kenneth Kohn, MD, as a great opportunity to do some shopping for stock. Kohn, a foremost expert and dealer of the American national flag, had been amassing his collection for more than 35 years, sometimes co-mingling the flags with Bridgman’s inventory. So, well familiar with the collection, Bridgman purchased a dozen choice examples among the approximately 40 that were on offer, telling Antiques and The Arts Weekly that they “were the best flags in the sale. A couple of others that were high level passed due to high reserves. There were two or three other flags outside the exceptional category that did well. I was thrilled with what I bought,” he said.
In particular, said Bridgman, a rare 13-star American national flag with 21 “Scattered Stars,” circa 1824, and updated later, was notable as it was ex-Dr Whitney Smith (1940-2016). “He was the man who coined the term ‘vexillology’ – the study of flags,” explained the dealer. “He had an extensive collection. This was the best of his early Stars & Stripes and served as the keystone of what he possessed within that very important category. It wasn’t the most expensive in this auction – having been narrowly passed by the 44-star ‘U.S.,’ but it was the best flag in the sale.” The flag, with 13 hand-sewn single appliqued cotton stars arranged in an oval on early wool bunting canton, with the later addition of 21 smaller cotton hand-sewn stars, 13 hand-sewn wool bunting stripes, the linen header with two whip-sewn grommets and the inscription, “C.C. Hodgkins,” finished at $59,850.
Rare examples amassed by Kohn, a preeminent national flag expert, included the 44-star flag commemorating Wyoming statehood, which more than doubled its high estimate to achieve $63,000.
Civil War-era flags performed well, including a 34-star “Union and Liberty Forever” flag commemorating Kansas statehood, which far exceeded its estimates to achieve $35,280; overall, the results confirmed Freeman’s pride of place in presenting fine, focused single-owner collections at auction.
Passed during the auction, a 43-star American ceremonial flag commemorating Idaho statehood, circa 1890, was an after-auction private sale, according to Cain, selling for $25,200. It featured 43 polychrome-painted stars arranged in a double medallion pattern on a corn blue fine wool canton, with machine-sewn fine wool stripes. “More is coming up from this collection,” said Cain.
Several results in the American furniture, folk and decorative arts categories confirmed the market strength for stellar examples of early American furniture making. Two pieces from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century in Philadelphia shattered estimates: a Chippendale carved mahogany side chair, which exceeded its high estimate of $5,000 by nearly 13 times to achieve $63,000, and a Federal inlaid and figured mahogany pier table, which doubled its high estimate to sell for $50,400. From a New Jersey estate, the Chippendale chair was a tour de force of carving with a carved and pierced splat, curved crest with ears terminating in volutes and centered with prominent shell, front seat rail with carved shell, cabriole legs with acanthus-carved knees, returns with volutes, ball-and-claw feet and slip seat with needlework upholstery. What was behind its stellar performance? Cain speculated that the sale may have been made to create a pair.
Two New England works sparked competitive bidding, both a William and Mary carved oak Hadley chest with drawer, which achieved $20,160, and the Kellogg/Belden Family Queen Anne carved cherry high chest, which sold for $18,900. As previously mentioned, the Hadley chest went back to family. Attributed to Ichabod Allis (1675-1747), according to the history associated with the piece, the chest was made for Lydia Allis (1702-1737), daughter of Ichabod and Mary Belding Allis (1679-1724) of Hatfield, Mass. “It was purchased by the eighth or ninth generation descendants of Ichabod Allis through Lydia’s sister,” said Cain. “So, it’s back in the family.”
Topping the sale was a historic Philadelphia landscape, “View of Fairmount Water-Works with Schuylkill in Distance,” circa 1840, which achieved $69,300. “That was just wonderful,” said Cain. “It was loaded with detail, and we usually see Fairmont from the other side so it’s an interesting perspective. At the last minute, someone came in to see it and just had to have it, so it, too, went to a private bidder.”
Thomas Sully’s “Portrait of a Young Girl Holding Pet Terrier” outperformed its high estimate by nearly 12 times to achieve $59,850. The framed oil on canvas was initialed with the cipher “TS” lower left and retained old label verso. It is heading South. Cain said, “There was vigorous bidding on it, at least three phone lines and vigorous internet. It was a very attractive painting, and both the dog and the child were wonderful. She had a very contemporary face.”
Measuring 26½ by 21 inches, it had been recorded in The Life and Works of Thomas Sully (1783-1872) (Biddle, Edward and Fielding, Mantle) and had been in the collection of Mrs Theodore Linke and J.C. NcNerney.
Historic American works generated much buyer interest, from the 1833 Eagle Map of the United States Engraved for the Rudiments of National Knowledge that achieved $44,100 and is going to an institution to a copper-plate printed handkerchief, “First Built Line of Battle Ship in the Western World,” circa 1814, that surpassed its estimate by nearly 14 times to sell for $40,950.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. The next Americana sale is slated for April 27 in the 2400 Market Street location. For additional information, www.freemansauction.com or 215-563-9275
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm