Published: January 11, 2022
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Copake Auction Inc.
COPAKE, N.Y. – “It was a good sale, about as strong a sale as any I’ve had,” Seth Fallon of Copake Auction said in a phone call after his annual New Year’s Day sale, which is now in its 42nd year. “It was hyperactive. We had lots of bidding interest, with almost 15,000 people signed up online and over 5,000 absentee bids before the sale. Our New Year’s Day sales have always been very popular; this was the second year we’ve made it an online-only sale, but we had a five-day preview that was very well attended.”
Only six of the nearly 750 lots on offer passed for a sell-through rate of more than 99 percent; a total of about $510,000 was reported, a number Fallon was pleased with.
The top lot of the sale was a surprise for the firm, realizing $18,450, a factor of more than 25 times its high estimate. The result was for unsigned nighttime landscape in oil on canvas that the seller thought was by Albert Nemethy Sr (Hungarian American, 1920-1998). The house kept the attribution on and put an estimate of $500/700 on it.
“A couple of people went after it, both online. I don’t know who it was by, it was quite a surprise,” Fallon said. He noted that it sold to a regular customer.
The same buyer snapped up the second highest lot as well, a painting of two hunters with a possum that had been painted by Mattie Crawley Lee (American, b 1856), which sold for $13,530. It came from the estate of a folk art collector and while it was not fresh to the market, the result represented a significant improvement in the $875 price it had realized in May 2021 when it was offered at an Atlanta, Ga., auction.
A painting in a similar vein to the Lee piece was an oil on panel painting titled “Bahamas” by Elmer Read (American, b 1862), that also surprised Fallon when it sold for $3,567. He had discovered it in a Cape Cod estate and estimated it at $150/250; an online buyer bought it.
“We had a lot of weathervanes; those did very well. The ones that always tend to do better are not the average forms,” Fallon said.
He was right. The sale offered a baker’s dozen examples, including a goat, stag, whale and two pigs, as well as a Harley Davidson motorcycle model. All exceeded their high estimates with the exception of a Rochester horse weathervane, which sold within expectations. Leading the group, and proving his statement, was a goat weathervane that a private collector, bidding online, took home for $11,378. A stag weathervane leaped to $7,688, and a carved and painted whale weathervane swam to $3,835. Two pig weathervanes – offered separately – charmed bidders, with a 36-inch-long copper example making $2,952 and the 21½-inch-long carved and painted wooden porker, carved by Gil Russel, realizing $461. The latter came from the Lakeville, Conn., estate of Myron & Carolyn Neugeboren, who collected antique and contemporary American furniture and folk art.
The Neugeborens’ estate comprised approximately one-quarter of the sale and saw several lots among the top prices of the day. Leading the group was a set of eight Shaker-style ladderback chairs – two armchairs and six side chairs – that sold to a Brooklyn, N.Y., collector for $2,832, nearly ten times the high estimate. Carvings by contemporary folk art carver William Kautz appealed to bidders, who bid a carving of Lady Liberty to $2,596, $2,360 for a carving of a woman in a blue dress, and $1,534 for a carved figure of a soldier in a tricorn hat.
Period antiques from the Neugeborens also sold, many within or below expectations. An Eighteenth Century Chippendale mahogany slant-lid desk attributed to the Goddard-Townsend school of Newport that had been acquired from Nathan Liverant and Son in 1980 was a good buy at $2,714. Other inexpensive purchases included an Eighteenth Century Pennsylvania highboy at $2,124 and a flat-top highboy made in Eighteenth Century Connecticut and signed by Elijah Booth of Woodbury that went out at $2,006.
Given the often unpredictable market for folk portraits, Fallon tried to be conservative in his estimates on two large consignments of examples by such boldface names as William Matthew Prior (1806-1873), Ammi Phillips (1788-1865), Frederick Spencer (1806-1875) and Erastus Salisbury Field (1805-1900). Two portrait lots – each featuring portraits of a husband and wife – shared the top price of $5,900, and both were from the same estate of a long-time Copake client and collector who lived in the area.
Crossing the block first were portraits of Otis and Margaret Kimball, painted, signed and dated by William Matthew Prior in Bath, Maine, in 1838. Each measured 34 by 28 inches and the pair had provenance to Berry-Hill Galleries in New York City. The second pair of portraits were by Ammi Phillips and had provenance not only to Israel Sack, but auctions at Sotheby’s New York (2002) and Skinner (2013).
The sale featured four additional lots by Phillips, including a pair of portraits of Theron and Moriah Bronson ($2,124), a portrait of Dr David R. Arnell ($5,310), and two portraits of unidentified gentleman. Of those, the younger sitter had provenance to Ross Levett and the collection of Gail and Don Piatt and made $2,596, while the older gentleman had a Skinner sticker and sold for $1,416.
“We did well with American furniture; a couple of pieces really took off,” Fallon said. He attributed the uptick in the market to new homeowners in the area who are looking to furnish their homes. Examples of the trend could be seen in a Nineteenth Century Empire mahogany tilt-top breakfast table that sold for $4,720, more than ten times its high estimate. A Classical secretaire abbatant attributed to the early Nineteenth Century New York City cabinetmakers Deming and Bulkley that sold to a trade buyer on an absentee bid, for $4,425.
Another small category that performed well was American quilts, a market that Fallon said has been strong in recent years, most likely because of the internet exposure. Ten quilts from a local collection joined another four examples, with a circa 1860 album quilt bringing $2,950 the highest price of the category. A blue and white feathered stars example, circa 1880, made $1,180, while a blue and white flying geese quilt of similar vintage flew to $944. All the quilts in the sale sold, all within or exceeding expectations.
For those who like quilts, Fallon said the firm’s next sale, which will take place on February 12, will include “40 good ones.”
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium. For more information, www.copakeauction.com or 518-329-1142.
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