Published: November 30, 2021
Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers, Additional Photos Courtesy Butterscotch Auction
BEDFORD VILLAGE, N.Y. – More than 800 lots from local estates crossed the block at Butterscotch Auction on November 21. Headlined by a painting now believed to be a lifetime portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, which sold to a buyer in the room at Historic Hall for $158,661; the sale also ran the gamut of Arnoldo Pomodoro’s architectonic “Asse Del Movimento 1”; an Alexander Calder tapestry; and fine art by Hunt Slonum, Rene Seyssaud, Reynolds Beal, William Scott, Marcos Grigorian, Benjamin Lira and many others.
With bidding from several English institutions, dealers and collectors, one bidding from Belgium and an online underbidder, the QE1 portrait, which shows a very high level of artistry and execution – suggesting that Elizabeth may have actually sat for the portrait – is thought to be the prototype of a group of known portraits of Elizabeth I, including the Chawton portrait (Hever Castle, Kent, United Kingdom), and the Gardner Soule portrait (private collection).
The portrait, originally cataloged as “Anglo-Dutch, Seventeenth Century,” brought many times over its $5/10,000 estimate. It once belonged in the illustrious collections of J. Piermont Morgan and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which owned it for more than 40 years before it was deaccessioned in 1956. It then changed hands a few times before being purchased by the grandparents of the consignor at Berry-Hill Galleries, New York, around 1961.
Butterscotch appraiser Brendan B. Ryan said there was much institutional interest in the portrait prior to the sale. Over the years a number of experts, gallerists and academics have voiced their opinion as to the identity of the sitter. These include Sir Roy Strong, an early authority on the iconography of Queen Elizabeth I, who in his 1963 foundational study, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I, noted that “the full frontal image [of the work] is entirely consistent with the early Elizabeth iconography.” Other academics have suggested that the sitter may be Lady Jane Grey or Lady Katherine Grey, but modern consensus, reinforced by Dr John Stephan Edwards, who assisted Butterscotch in cataloging the work and wrote a summary of his opinion on it, is that the sitter is indeed Queen Elizabeth I, painted between 1558 and 1562. If this is the case, it would have been painted during the first four years of her reign, when the queen was in her mid to late twenties.
The sale total was $1,066,618, with 82 percent sold online, 6.6 percent sold on the phone and the remainder sold in the room or absentee. The sell-through rate was 76 percent on 837 lots.
Fine art dominated the early hours of the auction, “Blue & Red Nails,” a tapestry by Alexander Calder (1898-1976), realized $97,600 from a bidder on the phone, far above its $25,000 high estimate. Titled on a Tapisserie D’Aubusson label on verso, “Tissee par Les Ateliers Pinton,” the 62-by-91-inch work came from a Rye, N.Y., collector of contemporary and post-modern art.
The sale’s cover lot, “Asse Del Movimento 1,” one of Arnaldo Pomodoro’s (b 1926) gilded bronze pyramids from the same Rye, N.Y., collection sold to an online bidder for $69,850. Incised with artist’s signature, dated ’83 and numbered 9/9; with a conforming black metal stand, it had been purchased from Ruth and Jerome Siegel, Mamaroneck, N.Y., founders of Art Latitude Gallery and Ruth Siegel Gallery and came with an extensive exhibition and publication history.
The firm’s appraiser, Brendan Ryan pointed out a rare Gustav Stickley bookcase just before the sale got underway, saying that it was receiving a lot of interest, with about ten people already lined up on the phones to vie for it. Having descended through a Pleasantville, N.Y., estate, the circa 1901 piece featured a glazed door revealing three inner cabinet shelves over an open cabinet shelf, all topped by an open shelf with slatted back. Measuring 60 by 29 by 11½ inches, it realized $61,000, selling to a bidder on the phone.
Fetching $19,520 from a bidder on the phone was “Native Boats, Bermuda,” an oil on canvas by Reynolds Beal (American, 1866-1951) that had descended through the consignor’s family. It was signed lower right, Reynolds Beal, and titled and dated 1940 on verso with a Reynolds Beal estate stamp and measured 20 by 24 inches minus the frame.
The continuing popularity of vintage Louis Vuitton steamer trunks at auction was made manifest by the price realized – $19,050 – for a monumental wardrobe version that looked like it had seen plenty of use. Brass bound and with brass hardware, with allover Louis Vuitton print and painted monogram “Mme G.A.K,” the 55-by-22-by-22½-inch luggage came from an important Putnam Valley, N.Y., homestead.
Benjamin Lira, a Chilean painter born in Santiago in 1950, specializes in collage art that is halfway between abstract art and figurative art, developing most of his career in the United States. A diptych, which Butterscotch auctioneer Paul Marinucci characterized as the better of two Lira works in the sale, sold online for a final price of $17,780. Untitled, the oil on canvas depicted a seated figure and comprised two canvases (48 by 16 inches and 66 by 48 inches.), and was signed lower right. It came from the same Rye, N.Y., collection as the Pomodoro sculpture and Calder tapestry. The second Lira diptypch, “Conquering Territories,” acrylic and gold leaf on paper comprised two panels (20 by 15 inches and 19¼ by 18-5/8 inches) showing a figure in an abstract landscape. On handmade paper, it had a Ruth Siegel Gallery label on verso, was signed and dated 88 lower right. It brought $8,890 from an online bidder.
There were two colorful plates by Pablo Picasso in the sale, and both sold to the same phone bidder and for the same price, $10,980.
There were also two works by Iranian-Armenian artist Marcos Grigorian (1925-2007) that outperformed their estimates. An oil and straw compound on canvas, “Midsummer night, #8,” 1991, signed, dated and titled on verso, 20 inches square sold for $10,980 to a phone bidder. The same bidder was successful at $9,760 for Grigorian’s “#2,” 1968, an assemblage of mud, straw, glue, pistachios on burlap. Signed numbered and dated on verso, it measured 24 by 22 inches. Both Grigorians came from a Scarsdale, N.Y., collection
“The best nude I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed Marinucci as William Scott’s (Irish, 1913-1989) minimalist charcoal on paper crossed the block. Signed “W. Scott” and dated 1956 lower right and framed, the 18¾-by-24¾-inch work from a Scarsdale, N.Y., collection was won by an online bidder for $8,255.
Fetching the same price was a 14K yellow gold coin bracelet with three $20 gold coins, including an 1892 Liberty Head, an 1899 Liberty Head and a 1927 Walking Liberty, also going to an online bidder.
Additional highlights included a Seventeenth Century Audenarde tapestry showing a hunting scene with various figures and dogs in a landscape with trees within a border of figures and fruit and flower motifs, which realized $6,985 online, and an early Eighteenth Century William and Mary highboy with walnut-veneered cross-banded drawer fronts and cock-beaded drawer openings, which went to a buyer on the phone for $6,710.
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, 914-764-4609 or www.butterscotchauction.com.
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