Published: August 25, 2020
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Alderfer Auction
HATFIELD, PENN. – Alderfer Auction hosted its two-day online Collector’s Auction with selections of museum-exhibited fine art, jewelry and silver, automobiles, couture, furnishings and rugs from the collections of Edward W. Driscoll, Dr James T. Demopolous, Thomas Bateman and Wesley Emmons, among many others. The two-day total was $723,700 and, according to Christian Answini, the firm’s senior specialist for fine and decorative arts, a total of 3,018 registered bidders lined up on the phones, left absentee bids or participated via two online platforms, including Alderfer’s app. Represented among them were 23 countries – United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Saudi Arabia, France, Israel, China, Japan, Thailand, Egypt, Columbia, South Korea and Brazil. A total of 95 percent sold online and 5 percent sold to the phone/absentee bidders.
Day two kicked off with vintage and sporty automobiles, but the top money was on several examples of works by coveted Pennsylvania Impressionists previously exhibited at the James Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Penn. George Sotter’s (1879-1953) oil on board “Gloucester,” a winter evening landscape of the fishing village on a quiet, starry night was one of those, and the 16-by-20-inch painting rose to $60,000 after 19 bids. Sotter was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Penn., but eventually made his name in Philadelphia. He studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy with artist and teacher Edward Redfield (1869-1965), a member of the regional New Hope group.
In 2017, the Michener Art Museum presented a 75-work retrospective of the little-known artist from the early Twentieth Century, his first museum retrospective in more than 60 years. After he left Pittsburgh for Gloucester, Mass., on the Atlantic Coast, Sotter painted townscapes and sailboats, and when he ultimately settled in Bucks County, Penn., he painted his best-known works of nocturnal winter landscapes, which “Gloucester” presages.
Another Sotter oil on board, “Fishing Village by Moonlight,” an evening landscape of a fishing village, with the central focus being a dry docked sailing ship under repair among the other trappings of the village, went out at $33,000. It, too, had provenance to the Michener Art Museum exhibition and measured 22 by 26 inches.
Walter Emerson Baum (1884-1956) was represented by “Spring,” an oil on canvas of a country landscape in spring with a stream leading to an arched bridge and homestead. Signed and measuring 20 by 24 inches, it was bid to $4,200.
There was another wintry scene with Michener exhibition provenance that bidders liked. There were 11 bids for Charles Hargens’ (1893-1997) painting that combined a winter scene with history, and his “Washington Crossing, 1776” found a buyer at $7,200. The 21-by-40-inch oil on canvas, signed lower left, featured George Washington on the evening of his famous crossing.
A more summery scene, Laurence A. Campbell’s (b 1939) “Flower Garden in Carversville,” an Impressionist painting of a large home with woman tending a colorful garden, 16 by 20 inches, achieved $6,600.
“The top fine art went to collectors in New York and Bucks County, Penn.,” said Answini. “They came to us from a family member of the estate that loaned them to the Michener.”
Orientalists chased a Far East photograph album from the 1870s to $9,000. Measuring 12 by 15½ by 2½ inches, inside its lacquered covers with gilt decorative scenes on front and back were 74 mounted albumen photographs with subject matter ranging from buildings and foreign settlement regions in Canton, areas of Hong Kong, and areas of Japan, as well as images showing damage to Canton after a tornado struck in the 1870s. The album included several folded panoramic photographs of Amoy (now known as Xiamen) China and Hong Kong. There were several images of Western businessmen and their families during leisure time and at parties, as well as numerous portraits of Japanese men, women, musicians, modes of travel, Sumo wrestlers, execution scenes and other images.
Jewelry, on day one of the auction, covered the color spectrum from the neutral palette of diamonds to the subtle and brilliant shades of aquamarine and amethyst. Nearly 100 pieces of silver followed, with a monumental sterling silver jeweled chess set commanding attention from bidders. Not surprisingly given the current panache of vintage men’s wristware, a trio of Rolex watches took top honors for the day. They were led by a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Pepsi GMT Master wristwatch, Serial Number 5282807, Model 1675, which realized $19,200. The circa 1978 model derives its moniker from the round blue and red bezel. It was noted as currently running but not tested or guaranteed and included Rolex boxes and paperwork. Fetching $15,600 was a circa 1947 or 1960 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner, officially certified to 660 feet and sporting a black bezel on a stainless steel body. A Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer Albino wristwatch took $14,400. It came fitted with a black leather band and bore Serial Number 36036, Model 6610, circa 1954.
“The Rolexes were from two estates in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Rolexes and other fine timepieces are a very strong commodity with collectors among varying demographics,” said Answini.
Diamond bling came in the form of a 14K diamond solitaire of 2.22 carats, which was bid to $13,800, and a Tiffany and Co. platinum aquamarine diamond ring, which went out at $9,600.
Further jewelry highlights on the first day included a Tiffany and Co. 18K yellow gold nautical watch chain bringing $3,600 and a 22K yellow gold opal and diamond double Dragon pin finding a new wearer at $2,040. The latter featured an 18-by-13mm oval bezel set opal flanked by two dragons, each with a roundish rose cut diamond eye. Twin dragons in Chinese lore usually signify a doubling of positive attributes in one’s life, but in this case it meant more than quadruple the piece’s estimate of $500/800.
The previously mentioned German sterling silver chess set was a tour de force of gaming artistry, with knights and ladies detailed with hand carved bone faces and hands, gemstones, sterling and gilt details. Hallmarks read “I.F. & Son” (Israel Freeman), sterling, 925 and Germany. Totaling approximately 196.6 troy ounces, the set included a complementing 25¼-inch-square board and its bidding endgame was $12,000.
Two other silver lots of note were an International sterling flatware service that earned $4,200 and a Wang Hing Chinese Export silver bowl that left the gallery at $1,920. The flatware service comprised 106 pieces in the “Empress Eugenie” pattern and included cocktail, salad and dinner forks, gumbo, table, demitasse, iced tea and tea spoons, and hollow handled luncheon and dinner knives with both old and new French blades. The bowl presented scalloped edges and sat upon three dragon feet, its panels decorated with perched song birds.
One of the featured collections in this sale was that of the late Edward and Nancy Driscoll. A nationally known builder and construction manager, Driscoll was the retired chairman and chief executive officer of the L.F. Driscoll Co., where he worked for more than 50 years. L.F. Driscoll has built some of the most iconic buildings in Philadelphia, including the three tallest skyscrapers – One Liberty Place, the Comcast Center and the Comcast Technology Center. Other notable landmarks include sports arenas such as the Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park; as well as cultural landmarks such as the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Museum.
The collection came to Alderfer’s from the family home Driscoll had built in Chestnut Hill. The Driscolls amassed a large collection of American furniture and Chinese export porcelain, which they purchased primarily from prominent New York and Philadelphia area dealers. Highlights of their collection in this sale included a set of Philadelphia late Federal tiger maple side chairs finishing at $7,800. The six chairs had molded crests with medial open circular chain link backs on acanthus carved, reeded, tapered front legs and swept back legs. Each was 34 by 19 by 19 inches. Also from the Driscolls was a carved walnut Chippendale side chair that raced past its $600/900 expectation to bring $7,200 after 38 competing bids. Those contending for it liked its serpentine shell carved crest rail with beaded stiles, pierced carved splat and gold damask upholstered slip seat. With shell carved apron and knees, it sat on cabriole legs with ball and claw feet, 40 by 22 by 20 inches. A Serapi room-size carpet, also from the Driscoll estate, had a northwest Persia origin and featured a jagged edge and geometric main border in a trellised ivory field with blue-green spandrels and a scarlet main border. Measuring 12 feet long and 9 feet wide, it rolled out at $5,100.
A furniture highlight not from the Driscoll collection was a French marquetry and ormolu mounted writing table that presented an ornate classical figural and foliate marquetry top and stood upon fluted tapered legs. It garnered $10,200.
“We welcomed an increase in attention to the ‘brown’ furniture and rugs as shown in the results of the Chippendale and Federal chairs,” said Answini. “Precious metals were also strong, highlighted by antique and Chinese export selling well above the ‘scrap’ value.”
Answini said that Alderfer launched the Collectors/Fine Art branding in 2017. “Collectors was launched to appeal to a broader and more diverse audience,” he explained. “Collectors is a quarterly auction that is also paired with our fine and decorative arts catalog sales in June and December. Our next two-day Collectors/Fine Art auction is slated for December 2-3, with consignment deadlines ending in late October.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, www.alderferauction.com or 215-393-3000.
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