Published: October 19, 2010
“We don’t know what we want, but we are ready to bite somebody to get it,” Will Rogers (1879‱935) waggishly said.
At Fairfield Auction’s September 26 sale, a dealer in the auction room knew exactly what he wanted, and bit off $40,250 to acquire a Norman Rockwell study of Rogers, the American humorist and showman. The 16-by-12-inch oil on canvas that was signed on the lower right opened at $6,000, according to auction house principal Jack DeStories, and rose to its selling price as it was chased by the in-house bidder competing against the phones.
The 500-lot sale, which included the contents of the estate of Thomas Johnson, a family that lived in Newtown for generations, grossed more than $600,000 and posted a 99 percent sell-through rate. “We were pleased with attendance,” said DeStories, noting that registered bidders in the gallery numbered about 315 and Internet participation added another 800 or so bidders.
DeStories said he was also pleased with the results of a new feature added for the first time at this sale, an uncataloged walk-around sale of some 95 lots that got underway at 10 am on auction day. “We found this to be a nice feature that added some interest and got things going,” said DeStories, adding that the experiment will probably be repeated. The walk-around sale was not all box lots. Indeed, a heavily worn Anatolian carpet measuring a mere 2 by 3 feet brought more than $2,000 and a tray lot realized $850. At preview, these uncataloged lots were identified by yellow tags.
In the cataloged auction, a collector from the Midwest on the phone acquired a 22-inch-high late Nineteenth Century bronze by the Russian sculptor Evgeny Lanceray (1848‱886) for $25,300. It had opened low, about $2,000, and was chased mostly by phone bidders, according to DeStories. Affecting its price somewhat was the fact that the sculpture, titled “A Wealthy Arab Merchant,” had the merchant’s rifle broken off, although the rifle accompanied the lot. DeStories said the sculpture had been found on a house call to a residence on Long Island, a beachside bungalow, where it had just been sitting on the floor.
The sale’s cover lot, a small European oil of a Parisian flower seller by Louis De Schryver, was estimated at $4/6,000, but easily bested that by realizing $19,550.
Another art lot to do well was a Western sunset by Albert Bierstadt. Measuring 7 by 11½ inches, the oil on board in its original frame was signed “A Bierstadt” lower left. DeStories said it sold for $18,400 to a dealer on the floor and was underbid on the phone.
A grand Louis XV-style Model A Steinway piano in mahogany, circa 1901, had once graced the parlor of a New Canaan, Conn., home, but its owner, getting along in years, believed it should now go to home in which it could be played and enjoyed. The 6-foot 2-inch piano brought $16,100 from a dealer on the West Coast bidding on the phone.
While casting a less conspicuous footprint than the Steinway, an American School landscape with cattle hanging in an out-of-the-way corner of the auction gallery nevertheless attracted much interest during preview and at the sale itself, where it leapt from its $400/600 estimate to go out at $27,600 to a member of the trade bidding in the room. Measuring 16½ by 30½ inches, the oil on canvas was signed “DW” lower right.
Other highlights in the sale included a Minton pate-sur-pate tray, probably by Louis Solon, and a 36-inch Art Nouveau Sevres urn, both coming from the same Long Island estate as the Lanceray bronze. The Minton tray sold for $5,175 and the urn did $6,900.
A 1961 Jaguar Mark 2 sedan with a 3.8 liter straight six engine, converted to a manual transmission, gave DeStories a pleasurable ride back and forth from home to the auction gallery preceding the sale, where it drove off at $9,200.
Rounding out the sale’s notable lots were a late Nineteenth Century Caucasian prayer rug, 3 feet 8 inches by 5 feet 3 inches at $8,625; a Tiffany Studios bronze stand with onyx top for $5,405; and a watercolor by Francis A. Silva, “On Shrewsbury River,” 9½ by 18¾ inches, at $8,050.
A pair of late Nineteenth Century French empire-style porcelain potpourris with bronze mounts and bearing the mark of Sevres sold for $7,188, while an American federal tall clock went to a Southern dealer for $9,200 and a giltwood convex mirror with an eagle crest, circa 1810, finished at $5,175, as did a sterling tea set with matching tray, circa 1920 by Lebkueker & Co., Newark, N.J.
Prices reported include the 15 percent buyer’s premium. For information, 203-364-1555 or www.fairfieldauction.com .
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