Published: June 7, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Fontaine’s Auction Gallery
PITTSFIELD, MASS. – Featuring a selection of 700 items equally divided over two sessions that were conducted on consecutive weekends, May 22 and May 29, Fontaine’s Auction Gallery sent its spring season off with a bang – and then some – posting a $2 million result from the first session and following up with a $1 million sale on May 29. “It was a great weekend for an auction,” quipped owner John Fontaine, referring to the second session, occurring over a wet and chilly Memorial Day weekend. The dismal weather in the Northeast may have kept many out of their backyards, the beach and hiking trails and more inclined to hop online for auction bidding.
The first session included Nineteenth and Twentieth Century lighting, art glass, leaded glass windows, timepieces, marble and bronze statuary and American and European furniture. It drew a total of 9,300 registered bidders over the online platforms, phones and in house. Tiffany Studios items are always a solid performer at Fontaine’s, and with the exception of a couple of tall clocks and some other items, the day’s leading lots pretty much belonged to Tiffany. The sale was led by a Tiffany Studios “Sunset and Evening Star” leaded and stained glass window, circa 1910, measuring 49¾ by 30½ inches. It blew away its $40/60,000 estimate to take $139,150, going to an out-of-state collector.
A Tiffany Studios Moorish chandelier, circa 1905, with 16 shades, measuring 34½ by 24 inches, sold for $48,400, while an early Twentieth Century 12-light Lily table lamp, 21 inches tall, gilt bronze and favrile glass, its base impressed “Tiffany Studios, New York, 382,” brought $40,950.
And even small Tiffany objects, like an Aquamarine paperweight, circa 1918, 6 by 6 inches, commanded a big price of $50,820.
Other Tiffany highlights in the first session included a “Daffodil” table lamp, circa 1910, that made $36,300 and another Moorish chandelier, also circa 1910, with a pulled feather shade engraved “S194″ and four tulip shades engraved “L.C.T.,” 37 by 19 inches, that was also bid to $37,800.
Also doing well in Fontaine’s first session was a monumental English carved oak tall case clock, which was bid to $127,050. The 11-foot-10-inch-high clock featured a pair of 3-foot-tall putti at the base flanking a central medallion of Sir William Whittington and a date of 1793, the main door with a 4-foot-tall carving of a young Whittington flanked by Father Time and Lady Justice. The back panel depicted musical instruments, and its bonnet had full standing winged angels and a carved three-dimensional bust of Whittington at the crest.
An R.J. Horner & Co. mahogany grandfather clock, circa 1890, was also notable, selling for $63,525. The dial was signed “Joseph Jennens, Skinner Street, Clerkenwell London,” and its movement featured eight tubes and a cathedral gong, signed “Made in England.” The case was decorated with winged griffins, female caryatids, scrollwork, filigree and a crest with two maidens flanking a cartouche shield.
The second session on May 29 offered paintings, silver, porcelain, gold and diamond jewelry, American and European wood carvings and art pottery. But it was a Black Forest carved dog umbrella stand that won the hearts of bidders, taken by 58 bids from its $10/15,000 estimate to finish at $51,425 and becoming the day’s top lot. The Twentieth Century stand depicting a seated dog with glass eyes was signed “Willi Staehli, Brienz” and measured 33 by 31 by 17 inches.
Folks may be in a traveling nostalgia mood based on the results of two Louis Vuitton trunks that were among the top sellers. Fetching $28,435 against a $6/8,000 estimate was an early Twentieth Century Vuitton monogram steamer trunk. Marked “Louis Vuitton,” its interior had two covered compartments, a slide-out writing desk and two drawers and it measured 36 by 22 by 20 inches. A similar example having an interior with two deep upper compartments and three drawers, 28 by 23 inches, commanded about half the price of the first.
Among unusual and striking items in the sale was a Lithgow family silver hilted sword, circa 1730, 33 inches long, made by Andrew Tyler Bastin. Its cross-guard was inscribed “Capt. Wm. Lithgow/R.L. 1701,” and it was accompanied by a letter from the Massachusetts Historical Society noting its research. It should have found a buyer but was passed, despite having extensive cataloging noting its history and provenance. “It’s one of the few pieces that got passed,” said Fontaine.
Every estate auction it seems has a high-value jewelry lot and this sale was no exception. Going out at $22,680 was a 14K white gold 3.93-carat marquise diamond ring flanked with tapered baguette stones weighing a total 0.32 carats. The marquise-shaped diamond had M color, SI2 clarity, good polish and symmetry, and faint blue fluorescence.
Attributed to the Tucker Factory (Philadelphia, 1826-1838), a pair of porcelain urns, circa 1830, sold for $23,310. Unmarked, they stood 22 inches high.
Things got a little crazy when a German porcelain plaque of three women came to the podium. John Fontaine said he was surprised when the late Nineteenth Century plaque depicting three semi-nude women, one with a star on her head, leapt from its $800-$1,200 estimate on 76 bids to realize $21,175. Artist signed “Wagner,” it measured 7¾ by 5¾ inches framed.
Rounding out the sale’s highlights was a German carved boxwood shadow box depicting a battle scene with rolling hills and a castle town in the background that doubled its high estimate to earn $20,160 and an Elie Nadelman (Polish/American, 1882-1946) cherry wood sculpture of a female head, 18¼ inches high, that took $16,380.
The firm’s next sales are August 17, which will be coins, jewelry and art, an August 21 session of estate items and interiors and a September 25 cataloged sale. Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For more information, www.fontainesauction.com or 413-448-8922.
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