Published: November 7, 2006
A good assortment of fresh-to-the-market Americana consigned from numerous local homes and estates captured the attention of collectors and dealers from throughout the country at Nadeau’s annual Fall Auction. The sale, Saturday, October 21, combined with an Asian auction conducted the following day, saw a total sales in excess of $1 million posted for the weekend.
The 480-lot auction was filled to the brim with a good assortment of merchandise ranging from a large collection of early treen to a watercolor by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and, as always, there were a couple treasures sprinkled in that created quite a stir. Local estates yielded several of the surprise lots, including some of the highest priced pieces sold throughout the day.
Leading the sale was a pair of folky oil on canvas depictions of the main road through Grafton, N.Y., and the farms that occupied the area in the mid Nineteenth Century. The paintings, measuring 16 by 34 inches each, had been executed by Carl W. Knudsen, an accomplished artist that accurately captured the scene, yet also achieved a pleasing folk art quality. The pair represented one of several lots of paintings that had been consigned from the West Hartford estate of Thomas Green.
One of the paintings depicted a couple strolling down a dirt road, now the modern-day Route 2 and the major thoroughfare in Grafton, with a horse-drawn wagon passing in the opposite direction. A hotel, long since demolished, farms and a Baptist church that is still standing occupy the background. The second painting depicted a homestead scene with quite a bit of activity including ladies playing ring-toss, other shooting archery and a couple of gentlemen with oars. A wagon marked with the local merchant name, “Hake’s,” appeared in the center of the fenced yard.
“Hake was the town father,” commented Gunny Gundrum, a representative of the Grafton Historical Society who traveled to the auction to try and purchase the paintings for the society. “We just heard about them yesterday,” stated Gundrum of the paintings, who recognized the scenes depicted, of which a portion has been preserved as a state park. With the limited time afforded to Gundrum, he was able to raise what he hoped would be enough to purchase the paintings. “We’re going to bid on them,” he stated with confidence, although it was a feeling that proved to be short-lived.
With five phone lines ready to roar, bidding on the lot opened at $10,000 with a phone getting in on the action early, another phone bidder hit the lot right away at $12,500 and the paintings were off and running and the hopes of the Grafton Historical Society had been all but dashed. Bids moved quickly to the $20,000 mark where Nadeau upped the ante to $5,000 advances, and the price still continued to escalate with Americana dealer David Wheatcroft countering every bid made by the telephones. At $50,000 the lot was still going strong and it marched quickly to $90,000 where it took Wheatcroft a moment or two to respond. The telephone countered quickly at $95,000 and all appeared to be over until Wheatcroft hit the lot just before the hammer fell at $100,000. The telephones once again immediately countered and the lot went their way at $126,000.
Gundrum left his front-row seat as the lot was hammered down with a bewildered look on his face, although it was later reported that he has been in contact with the successful bidder and that his hopes of the paintings, or facsimiles of them, becoming available for a short-term loan may not be unrealistic.
Another of the top lots came as a Gustav Dentzel carousel figure of a cat with upswept tail and holding a bird in its mouth was offered. In great worn paint, the piece was capturing the attention of numerous in the gallery. “The people that consigned the cat to us thought it was in all original condition,” stated Nadeau during preview, “and so did we when we first got it and catalogued it. But when we started looking it over closely, we noted that the tail was a replacement.”
Bidding on the lot opened at $50,000 with one of several telephone bidders jumping into the fray right from the start. Moving in $5,000 increments, the piece moved quickly with two telephones chasing the lot until it stalled at $85,000. A bid from the rear of the gallery came at $90,000, where Manhattan Americana dealer Sidney Gecker claimed the lot for $103,500. “I bought it for stock,” Gecker stated, “I’m planning on putting it away for the January shows.”
The lot that Nadeau expected to take top honors fell slightly short of expectations, yet it still realized a premium price. The cover lot of the sale, a watercolor depicting a woman and two children in a colorful garden, had been executed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Consigned from a local home, the painting was said to have depicted Tiffany’s second wife, face hidden, with a basket of flowers and walking down a garden path. She was followed by a girl, believed to be Tiffany’s daughter from his first marriage, who was holding a young girl, believed to be one of the twins he fathered with his second wife.
Estimated at $40/70,000, the colorful watercolor opened for bidding at $35,000 and was hammered down to a telephone bidder for $74,750.
A large gilt copper three-dimensional cod weathervane measuring more than 5 feet in length was another lot to attract attention. Having been in a collection for at least the past 30 years and having been known for another 50, the vane had age, but the auctioneer was not sure exactly how much. “We thought it was going to bring $3/5,000,” said Nadeau after the auction. “But after it brought $37,375, I am starting to wonder if it was a lot older than we thought it was.” All of the players on the lot were serious contenders with Woodbury dealer Harold Cole hitting on the lot initially and with it selling to David Wheatcroft, underbid by Sidney Gecker.
A large collection of treen attracted interest from the moment that preview began right up until the last lot was sold. “These people had the stuff in a two-bay garage and we suspect that they had collected most of it during the 1940s and 50s,” stated Nadeau. Hundreds of pieces comprised the collection with the majority of the lots offered containing several pieces. The lot that attracted the most interest was one that the auction house had deemed unassuming, that is until it began to attract major attention early on during the weeklong preview. After repeatedly hearing customers comment “No matter what I bid, I’m probably not going to get this lot,” and “There is gonna be a battle for this one,” the auctioneer moved the four boxes of treenware bowls and plates into the cases.
“I never really did figure out which piece in the lot that they were all looking at,” stated Nadeau, “but, I suspect it was one of the chargers or the deep dish bowls.”
Those that had been grumbled during inspection and as they executed their left bids proved to be correct as a bidding war erupted as lot 285 was offered. Cataloged as “Four boxes, assorted woodenware to include plates and bowls,” the lot contained about 50 large plates, deep dish plates and bowls. As bidding opened it was hit hard and often by several in the gallery with it selling to Grace and Elliott Snyder, seated in the rear of the gallery, for $14,950.
Other treenware lots included a small burl bowl that was hammered down at $3,737, two turned cylindrical covered boxes in a green paint, $4,312, another box lot of 22 scoops and ladles, $3,450, and a nice urn-shaped covered box in green paint brought $1,265.
Furniture included an Eighteenth Century William and Mary chest with two over three-drawer configuration and remnants of the original red stain showing through what the gallery termed an old refinish. The rare chest retained the original ball feet and brasses and sold to Harold Cole for $7,187. Also purchased by Cole was a circa 1780 Connecticut cherry Chippendale four-drawer chest in a pleasing old finish that brought $3,105.
A large Connecticut Chippendale circular tiptop table with carved ball and claw feet and a birdcage mechanism did well, selling at $5,750 to Nathan Liverant and Son. Also sold was a nice paint decorated lift top one-drawer blanket in grain paint that brought $2,300 from Wheatcroft.
Other paintings in the sale included two R.A. Blakelock oils that had been discovered in a storage unit housing some of the Thomas Green estate materials. The first of the paintings, a scene depicting a mountainous region with waterfall, soared past the $3/5,000 presale estimates as it sold for $33,350; a small waterfall scene also did well, bringing $14,950.
A Southwestern landscape scene with an adobe ranch in the foreground, signed by Phillips Bert Greer, sold between estimates at $14,375, while a Clara Fairfield Perry oil depicting an Asian garden brought $9,775.
Prices include the buyer’s premium charged. For further information contact Nadeau’s, 25 Meadow Road, Windsor CT 06095, 860-244-2444 or www.nadeausauction.com.
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