Published: December 5, 2017
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – On November 9-11, Brunk Auctions auctioned more than 1,600 lots of fine and decorative arts, maps, jewelry and more. Hundreds of bidders participated in what was the largest auction by lot count for the firm. In total, the auction achieved more than $3.2 million during the three sessions, with 91.4 percent of lots sold. Several exceptional results were achieved, including numerous auction records for maps, which were duplicates from the collection of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and sold to benefit the acquisitions fund.
Leading the sale was a rare New England Pilgrim Century carved oak chest from the collection of Diane and Bob Ruggiero of North Carolina. The chest is thought to have been made in Guilford, along the Connecticut shoreline, circa 1670-1710. Yale University Art Gallery curator Patricia Kane, who has done extensive research on early furniture from New Haven County and who looked at numerous photographs of the chest, believes it to have been made in the same shop as two cupboards in the collection of Yale University Art Gallery (1887.6 and 1930.2192).
It is believed that there are only a handful of these chests known to be in existence and its rarity contributed to its appeal. This one offered at Brunk Auctions was purchased privately decades ago and was fresh to the market. Arthur Liverant noted, “The carving is great, and the feet are whole height. It’s a wonderful specimen, truly superior. I just wish it were in the inventory of Nathan Liverant and Son.”
The market for Pilgrim Century furniture being what it is, Brunk was smart to estimate it conservatively at $12/18,000. Numerous bidders pursued it aggressively and after a flurry of bidding in the gallery and on the phones, an anonymous private phone bidder won the chest for $168,000, nearly ten times the high estimate.
The high lot from Colonial Williamsburg Foundation was an extremely rare copy of a privately published journal by John Graves Simcoe titled A Journal of the Operations of the Queen’s Rangers From the End of the Year 1777, to the Conclusion of the Late American War By Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe Commander of that Corps. It brought $168,000, as well. The journal included all ten engraved fold-out battle plans, and provides one of the most complete firsthand accounts of the Revolutionary War. Published in 1787, this work was unknown to the public until 1844, as it was initially circulated only to Simcoe’s closest friends and family.
John Graves Simcoe was perhaps the most successful British officer in the Revolutionary War, and is known for his fervent abolitionist beliefs. Before his command of the Queen’s Rangers, he sought to lead a company of free blacks against the colonists. In 1793, as lieutenant governor of what is now Ontario, he pushed the ratification of the Act Against Slavery, making his colony the first in the British Empire to abolish slavery.
In astonishingly good condition for its age, the 184-page leather-bound journal brought serious interest from several bidders. Phone bidders battled it out to $168,000, a record price for the extremely rare journal at auction.
Other notable maps sold by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation include the “Map of the Middle British Colonies” by Lewis Evans that sold for $102,000 and “The Posts of York and Gloucester” by Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, which brought the same price. Auction records were set by the catalog’s cover lot, “The Battle of Yorktown” by Esnauts & Rapilly that sold for $78,000; “A Plan of Yorktown and Gloucester” by Lieutenant John Hills that realized $45,600; and a “Map of Virginia” by Ralph Hall based upon John Smith’s model that reached $26,400. Two maps, both later editions, achieved record prices for their specific state at auction: A Chorographical Map of the Province of New York in North America by Claude Joseph Sauthier from 1779 brought $16,800, and L’Amerique by Nicolas de Fer from 1739 realized $26,400. Of the 62 maps deaccessioned by Colonial Williamsburg in this sale, all but four sold, with interest from trade, private and institutional buyers alike.
Some of the other exceptional lots in the auction include an 8.15-carat fancy yellow diamond ring set in platinum selling for $90,000, a painting of a Bay horse from Franklin Brooke Voss that made $31,200 and a landscape by Charles Fraser bringing $28,800.
The next catalog auction at Brunk Auctions will be the weekend of January 27.
Brunk Auctions is at 117 Tunnel Road.
For additional information, www.brunkauctions.com or 828-254-6846.
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