Review and Onsite Photos by W.A. Demers
BEDFORD VILLAGE, N.Y. – “It was a great sale with a lot of ‘sleepers,'” said Butterscotch appraiser Brendan Ryan the day after a marathon, 875-lot auction that began at 11 am on July 22 and ended 10 hours later at 9 pm. The “sleepers” did not refer to bidders, however, as the action proved lively throughout the event, both on the internet and on the phones as well as about 30 in-house bidders seated inside Historical Hall. The early start time – usually the firm’s auctioneer Paul D. Marinucci gets the gavel going at noon – was due to the sale’s large inventory, which included the estate of Mimi Kayden, a well-known children’s book marketing director, Stamford, Conn.; the estate of Marie D. Schwartz, noted philanthropist and former White House correspondent for the Washington Post, Greenwich, Conn., and New York City; as well as the estates of New York City attorney Christine Beshar and venture capitalist Elizabeth Gale.
Featured in this sale was a robust selection of American and European paintings, prints and sculptures, American and European silver, furniture and decorative arts, designer and diamond jewelry, watches, books, manuscripts and more.
A rare Fairfield Porter (American, 1907-1975) 1962 painting, “Bushes,” was the top lot of the day, chased by five phone bidders and realizing $97,600. That result may seem pale next to the record $1.93 million achieved by Porter’s “The Schooner II” in this year’s landmark Rockefeller sale at Christie’s where American art went gangbusters.
Butterscotch gave the work a conservative $5/7,000 estimate, but it was a rarity due to the fact that the medium was casein on canvas. Casein paint is derived from milk protein, which resembles oil paint but is fast-drying and water-soluble. It also means that it cannot be overcoated with varnish, making it vulnerable to the elements. The 24-by-22-inch painting, a summery view of vegetation and buildings, was signed lower right and dated 1962, titled on verso and dated on the Tibor De Nagy Gallery label on verso. It had been purchased from the gallery and descended through the family.
A nice example of the “sleepers” that Ryan mentioned was a piece cataloged as “in the manner of Antoine Watteau, Seventeenth-Eighteenth Century.” Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) is credited with shifting the waning baroque style into a freer, more naturalistic, less formal rococo. Here, “Study of young girls,” backed by a study of “Madonna,” chalk on paper, overall 17 by 21 inches, was assigned a modest $1/2,500 estimate but was taken to $23,180 despite some worm-eaten areas in the upper left corner of the girls and some other minor holes.
Interest in European fine art continued with a nude female watercolor on paper by Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917) finishing at $21,960 on an $8/12,000 estimate. Mounted on board, the 10½-by-8-inch work had been purchased at Christie’s by the consignor. On the back of its frame was a typewritten sheet stating “Mr Tarnopol called to say that the Rodin drawing comes from the collection of Mrs Vera Trachtenberg, Paris.”
There were five phone bidders vying to win a view of Venice, 1960, by French post-Cubist and still life painter Claude Venard (1913-1999). The 29½-by-29½-inch oil on canvas ultimately went to an online bidder at its high estimate of $12,200.
Fetching $7,930 from a phone bidder was an etching with drypoint by Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669) titled “Old Man Shading his Eyes with his Hand,” circa 1638, 5-3/8 by 4¼ inches. It featured a collector’s mark of Martin Folkes (British, 1690-1754), and provenance also listed Associated American Artists, New York City, where the consignor had purchased it in 1972.
Another American highlight in the sale was won by a woman in a pink sweater seated on the right hand side of the gallery. It was a sylvan composition titled “The Oaks” by Henry Pember Smith (1854-1907), an American painter best known for his depictions of country cottages and river scenes around Lyme and East Lyme, Conn., and paintings of the sea and shore in New Jersey, Rhode Island and Cape Ann to Maine. It more than doubled its high estimate to gavel at $5,856.
During preview, appraiser Ryan said he had good expectations for a set of four Chinese porcelain plaques by Zou Ling, which were attracting a lot of presale interest. Republic period, early Twentieth Century, they comprised three lakeside landscapes and one snowy view. All were beautifully executed in enamels on porcelain and each one, measuring 15 by 10 inches, was in a handsome matching wood frame. Three phones were active on the lot, which was bid to $9,760.
Gems and jewelry always do well at Butterscotch and this sale was no exception. Leading the jewelry category, as expected, was a 4.08-carat round brilliant diamond, G color, VVS2, sold without its setting that brought $79,300. Accompanied by a GIA report, the stone went to an online bidder.
Diamonds may be a routine draw at Butterscotch, but an early Twentieth Century 13-piece Tiffany & Company 18K gold dresser set that crossed the block caused auctioneer Marinucci to say that it was only the third set that he’s sold at auction in 30 years at the podium. Its condition was excellent and it comprised a round lidded box, two round lidded pill boxes, a shoehorn, a rectangular dish, a nail buffer and tray, rectangular brush, oval brush, button hook, nail file, comb and hand mirror, all pieces marked “Tiffany & Co./ Makers/ 18K gold/ M.” A phone bidder took the set at $28,060.
Six phone bidders ganged up on a monumental Persian engraved silver tray, driving it from a $3,000 opening bid to a selling price of $12,200 to one of the phone bidders. With a diameter of 30¼ inches and weight of 248 troy ounces, the tray with foliate rim and lobed interior featured a center finely engraved with scholars, priests and servants engaged in various activities, surrounded by cartouches and eight scenes in reserves.
Prices are given with buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For more information, www.butterscotchauction.com or 914-764-4609