Published: June 29, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Clarke Auction Gallery
LARCHMONT, N.Y. – “It is a very, very strong sale throughout,” Ronan Clarke wrote in an email to Antiques and The Arts Weekly before Clarke Auction Gallery’s June 20 Important Estate Auction had even concluded. Once the dust settled and he had had a chance to gain some perspective, we asked him to reflect on the sale of more than 650 lots which was more than 94 percent sold.
“It brought well over a million dollars,” Clarke said. “We were expecting a good sale and it was. We’ve been running very strong sales since Covid. We were fortunate to have two particularly good collections, and the market always responds well to great things.”
One of the two collections Clarke referred to was from a Park Avenue home of a Swedish couple who are downsizing and moving to Florida; Clarke previously sold things from their upstate New York home. The other was an estate collection of a world traveler and gemologist from New Rochelle, N.Y. Even though each collection had between 60 and 70 lots in the sale, works from both collections punctuated the leaderboard.
If one looked at the auction based on prices, it was evident that Asian works of art and paintings were the two dominant categories, amounting to about one-third of the lots on offer. As it turned out, the top price of $50,000 was realized by one from each category.
The first lot to hit that mark was a portrait of Luke Gardiner, the first Viscount Mountjoy, painted by Francis Cotes (British, 1726-1770) in 1763. The oil on canvas was of standard portrait size – 35½ by 28 inches – and had come from the Park Avenue collection. The painting had extensive documentation, which William Schweller, Clarke’s fine art specialist, said drove the interest in the work. It saw competition on both the phones and online, with an American buyer in New York City paying the top price.
The other work to make that money was from the New Rochelle estate and was a large carved jade figural group of two carp swimming among sea foliage. It had been estimated at just $2/3,000. Clarke’s jewelry and silver appraiser Whitney Bria, said that interest in the New Rochelle estate attracted global interest, with many pieces selling to overseas buyers.
“I knew the jades would do better than our estimates but not as well as they did, which was a nice surprise,” Bria said.
From those two high flying lots, results ping-ponged between works of fine art and Asian objects.
Bruno Liljefors’ painting of marine raptors in “Seeadlernest” from 1914 achieved $43,750, within expectations. The back of the painting was adorned with two exhibition labels, the first in Berlin in 1926, the second from a 1938 exhibition in Budapest. Like the portrait of Viscount Mountjoy, it was also from the Park Avenue collection.
A carved jade mythical beast with diamond eyes from the New Rochelle estate sold for $40,000. It had a gold bezel set with Old European cut diamonds and the catalog had attributed it as possibly having a Russian origin.
A large carved amber water coupe on a lush foliage-carved wooden base brought $25,000 and an unusual jade bowl with a sterling silver mount stamped “Edward I Farmer, New York” rounded out the top results for jades and finished at $20,000.
Three lots of vibrant carved coral figures offered a pop of color halfway through the auction, with two of the lots each bringing $12,500 and the third selling for $10,625.
A scene of ships in New York City harbor by James Buttersworth (American, 1817-1894) came from a Long Island, N.Y., collection and sailed past its high estimate to finish at $27,500. Other works from the same collection included a marble figural group by Giuseppe Gambogi (Italian, 1862-1938) that more than quadrupled its low estimate to sell for $8,125, a still life painting by French painter Charles Levier (1920-2003) estimated at $600/900 that topped off at $5,000, the same result achieved by a Nineteenth Century Orientalist landscape of a market scene.
Clarke’s valuation was right on the money for Jan Van Chelminski’s (Polish, 1851-1925) wintry scene of a troika with two men followed – or pursued – by soldiers on horseback. It finished at $20,000, squarely within its $15/25,000 estimate. A buyer in Europe was the top bidder.
About one fifth of the sale were jewelry lots and two Rolex watches, unsurprisingly, ticked off to strong results that led the category. A Daytona Cosmograph in 18K yellow gold and stainless steel finished at $17,500, while a Submariner 18K yellow gold and stainless steel with a blue dial made $12,500. A men’s Datejust watch in 14K yellow gold and stainless steel with a silver dial made $4,750. All three were from a Larchmont, N.Y., estate.
Provenance to Catherine the Great likely helped the result of an Austrian silver and enamel clock tower by Hermann Bohm of Vienna. The hexagonal clock was liberally decorated with small figures and a finial in the form of a standing knight while the six faces of the clock depicted scenes of amorini in landscapes. It sold for $17,500, safely clear of its $10/15,000 estimate.
Furniture was the single largest category with respectable prices. A marble top console table with carved gilded griffin supports more than doubled its high estimate and sold for $12,500. It was cataloged as Swedish Empire, perhaps unsurprising since it came from the Swedish couple who lived on Park Avenue. The couple’s collection also featured an antique carved and paint-decorated Gustavian console with mirror and dolphin decoration; bidders pushed it to $5,500. More than doubling its low estimate and bringing $4,750 was a Swedish empire marble top console table with gilt frame.
Other lots of furniture that exceeded expectations were a set of 12 leather upholstered side chairs with cow-horn shaped backs from an Eastchester, N.Y., estate that finished at $8,125, and, particularly surprising to Clarke was a Georgian mahogany serpentine front four-drawer chest that realized $5,000, five times its low estimate.
Modern and vintage furniture continued to bring high prices, as demonstrated by a three-piece Donghia “Block Island” sofa set that made $5,250, the same price paid for a Niels Moller Danish rosewood table with two expanding leaves and six chairs. Though they were just reproductions, a pair of Paul Evans style patinated metal and upholstered chairs with round-about crests went out for $4,750.
One of the biggest surprises of the day came early on, when an illegibly signed Cubist painting from a Rockland County, N.Y., collection that had been estimated at $300-500 brought $12,500 from an American buyer.
“We weren’t sure who the artist was, but the painting was a true beauty and had strong Cubist elements,” Schweller said. “It had nice musical notes and a lot of interest.”
Clarke himself was particularly pleased with the result for an Orientalist slave trader, done in bronze with two white marble slaves. It sold to a Long Island buyer for $16,250.
The next sale at Clarke Auction Gallery will be July 18.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For more information, 914-833-8336 or www.clarkeny.com.
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