Published: December 3, 2019
Review and Onsite Photos by Rick Russack, Additional Photos Courtesy of Grogan & Company
BOSTON – On November 8, the Grogan & Company sale of 486 lots began with 193 lots of fine art, followed by 226 lots of jewelry, then by silver, Chinese Export porcelain, tall case clocks and American furniture and more. Grogan’s gallery is located in the historic and affluent Beacon Hill section of Boston. The firm has been marketing to that demographic with success, and the salesroom was standing room only, as it was for Grogan’s last sale. Much is sold to retail trade. More than 50 lots sold in the five-figure price range and the sale grossed $2,576,000. Thirty-five percent of the lots sold above estimate. Internet bidders, absentee bidders and phone bidders engaged in strong competition with the crowd in the room. A couple of weeks before the sale, Michael Grogan and each of the department heads, Lucy Grogan Edwards and Georgina Winthrop, separately sent out emails calling attention to about a dozen items that they particularly liked, with brief comments stating why they chose those items.
Leading the day, selling for $146,400, was a platinum and diamond ring with an Asscher-cut diamond weighing 4.59 carats, flanked by 12 fancy-cut diamonds. It was accompanied by a GIA certificate, which graded the diamond as D, VVS1/Potential, no fluorescence. Two diamond rings, each finishing among the top ten lots for the day, sold for $48,800 each. One was 14K gold and platinum, centering a round brilliant-cut diamond weighing 3.03 carats flanked by two pear-shaped diamonds weighing 1.03 carats and 1.02 carats. The other ring selling for that price was a signed Tiffany & Co 18K gold and diamond ring centering an old European-cut yellow diamond weighing approximately 1.75 carats flanked by two old European-cut diamonds weighing approximately 2.50 total carat weight.
Lucy Grogan Edwards, vice president and jewelry director, after the sale commented that a woman who bought a particularly nice diamond ring said to her that she had two daughters but only one engagement ring of her own. Her purchase would allow her to leave a fine diamond to each, “creating a sense of legacy.” Edwards also commented that one result of drawing so many buyers to the salesroom was that there was a substantial amount of “cross-over” buying. Someone might have come to the sale intending to bid on jewelry and then see a painting that would go nicely in their home, and bid on that as well.
Several pieces of jewelry had impressive provenance, including the Rockefeller family and the Aga Khan IV. The provenance of the piece from the Aga Khan, a signed and numbered Cartier platinum, diamond, sapphire, emerald and mother-of-pearl “Fauna and Flora” brooch in the form of a diamond-encrusted parrot, was particularly interesting. The catalog stated, “A gift from the Aga Khan IV, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, to a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital in gratitude for her care, 2008.” It had remained in that nurse’s family and it sold for $24,400. There may be a moral in that story somewhere. When asked about the importance of provenance of the Rockefeller family, Edwards said, “I think that’s of more interest to trade buyers than it is to the retail buyers.”
One of the rings that Edwards liked was a platinum ring centering an old European-cut diamond weighing approximately 2.50 carats flanked by eight old full-cut diamonds. It sold for $14,640, and she said, “I have a soft spot for chunky facets of old diamonds.” Her email two weeks prior to the sale, “Lucy’s Jewelry Picks,” pictured and described a dozen of her choices in varying price ranges and this was one of her top choices. Another of her choices was a Patek Phillipe 14K gold wristwatch with Arabic numerals and a manual-wind movement. Her email stated, “I don’t wear a watch, but if I did, it could be this classic.” It sold for $4,270. A few days after the sale, Edwards said her active Instagram postings accounted for the sale of at “least four pieces of jewelry.”
The first 200 lots of the day were paintings, many of which sold over estimate. Two sold for $97,600 each. One was a watercolor by John Marin (1870-1953), “Stonington Harbor, Deer Isle, Maine,” signed and dated 1924, selling well over its estimate. It had been included in exhibitions of Marin’s works and is included in the artist’s 1970 catalogue raisonné. The other was a large oil on canvas, “Fog Bank,” by Wolf Kahn, signed and dated 1997-2006. It had been included in a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Brattleboro, Vt., in 2006. There were additional works by both of these artists in the sale. One of the other Marins, “Boat and Gull” was a watercolor painted in 1945, which quickly sold to a phone bidder for $79,300. The catalog entry for this one stated: “The work was painted in 1945, by which time Marin had developed his mature style and was at the peak of his artistic career. It aptly demonstrates why Marin is considered one of the foremost American Modernist painters.” This painting was included in the email that Georgina Winthrop, Grogan’s fine art director, sent out prior to the sale, commenting to clients about the dozen or so art works she liked best.
The Deer Isle Marin mentioned above was part of a collection of more than 30 paintings that were cataloged and described as ” A Maine Perspective: the Collection of a Maine Gentleman.” Winthrop’s catalog description for this collection states: “This group of works was carefully collected over the past several decades by a gentleman with a lifelong connection to the Maine coast. This love for the coast of Maine is the current that runs through the collection, unifying works across centuries, styles and mediums.” The collector stated, “The weather and hence the landscapes of coastal Maine are in constant flux. The same subject – a pier, a gull, a breaking wave – inspires unpredictable opportunities.” This collection included three of the John Marin watercolors in the sale, each from a different decade, allowing for a comparison of how the artist’s style developed and changed over time. In addition to the Deer Isle scene, Marin’s “Sea Movement, Maine,” a watercolor done in 1937, earned $36,600. Marin’s 1917 watercolor, “Sea and Rocks, Small Point, Maine,” realized $39,650. A buyer in the room paid $61,000 for “Mount Desert VI,” an oil on wood from that collection by Richard Estes, one of Winthrop’s favorites about which she said, “Having grown up spending summers on Mount Desert Island, this is a view close to my heart.” The Maine seacoast collection included works by Martin Johnson Heade, William Zorach, Alfred Thomas Bricher and Charles Henry Gifford.
There were several pleasant surprises among other paintings. “The Crucifixion,” cataloged as “in the manner of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), an oil on canvas laid on panel,” brought $30,500 against an estimate of $2,500. Also selling well over the estimate was a work by Frank Shapleigh (1842-1906), signed and dated F.H. Shapleigh 1878, titled and signed, on the verso “Mote (sic) Mountain From Jackson, New Hampshire,” which reached $27,450. Another Shapleigh White Mountains oil realized $4,880.
Nine works by Anne Packard (b 1933) also did well. “Solitude III,” a moody scene of clouds, surf and beach, reached $21,960. Two other works by Packard each sold for just under $20,000. An oil on canvas by Robert Swain Gifford (1840-1905) “The Citadel of Cairo, Evening,” signed and dated R. Swain Gifford ’71, realized $17,080. Winthrop’s comment was, “This painting is a fascinating departure from Gifford’s more typical seascapes.”
The sale included more than jewelry and paintings. A Tiffany flatware service for 18 in the English King pattern, earned $13,420, and a Georg Jensen silver rose bonbonniere, No. 262, earned $7,930. A Jensen Cactus pattern silver flatware service brought $8,450. There were also five early American tall case clocks.
The highest price, $16,640, was obtained for a Federal period inlaid mahogany “Rocking Ship” example from the Roxbury maker William Cummins (1768-1834). Pasted inside the door was an interesting contemporary newspaper article from the Newport Daily News, November 25, 1809, reading, “The directors of the Aquidneck National Bank have purchased of George E. Vernon & Co. a hall clock for the lobby of the banking room. It was made for Nathaniel Gladding of Warren, R.I., in 1800, and is a fine instrument in a mahogany-inlaid case, in perfect condition. A figure of a ship rolling in a heavy sea is shown above the dial, an interesting feature that is unusual.” It had an old refinish and the feet and fretwork were believed to be original.
The very last lot of the day, an early Nineteenth Century Federal carved and inlaid mahogany lift top games table, closed on a positive note as it sold for $6,100, four times the estimate.
After the sale, Michael Grogan, the company president, summed it up, “We finished up at 8 pm. It was a long day, and we had the crowd with us most of the day. Those interested in the paintings pretty much left after they were sold, and they were replaced by the jewelry crowd. So we had a full house most of the sale. Anytime we can sell over $2.5 million worth of material, with the 91 percent sell-through rate we achieved, we’re all happy with the day’s work.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
For information, 617-720-2020 or www.groganco.com.
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