Published: February 28, 2023
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Freeman’s
PHILADELPHIA – For those whose tastes lean towards the traditional and antique, two sales recently conducted by Freeman’s met the bill. On February 14, 77 lots of paintings, works on paper and sculpture were offered in the firm’s European Art and Old Masters sale; with more than 85 percent of the lots selling, the sale realized $1,129,653.
The following day, the firm presented the first of what promises to be several single-owner sales of Wedgwood from the collection of Dr Ellis F. Rubin and Suzanne Borow Rubin. Achieving $381,119, the 249-lot sale was 92 percent sold, with 72 percent of buyers being new to Freeman’s.
European Art and Old Masters
David Weiss, Freeman’s head of its European art and Old Master department said, “We had some very fine successes in our auction this past week. When we offer very good quality works by good names that have been authenticated, are fresh to the market and are sensibly priced, we achieve strong results. There are still plenty of collectors who are willing to step up and participate in our auctions.”
The lot at the head of the sale checked all of those boxes. Bringing $403,200 and selling within estimate was William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s (French, 1825-1905) “La Fleur Préférée” / “L’Odorat” (“The Favorite Flower” / “The Smell”) was, as the catalog described, a “textbook” example of the artist’s oeuvre, which was comprised largely of “elegant female sitters…caught in a moment of grace, lightness and sensuality.” Measuring 62-3/8 by 36 inches, the work, which was resurfacing after more than 50 years in a private North Carolina collection, had a fully documented provenance that could be traced back to its direct acquisition from the artist and included four sales, one exhibition and no fewer than five published works, including the artist’s 2010 catalogue raisonné.
The same North Carolina collector also included in the sale “Deux Mères de Famille, (Two Mothers)” a 39½-by-29¼-inch oil on canvas by Bouguereau’s wife, Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau (American, 1837-1922), who was a noted painter in her own right. Distinguished by exhibitions in both the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, and appearing in a few publications, the painting depicted a mother and child with chickens. Estimated at $40/60,000, it finished at $75,600 and was considered by Weiss to be a very nice example of the artist’s work.
A third painting from the North Carolina collector that performed well was Daniel Ridgway Knight’s (American, 1839-1924) “The Signal,” a painting cataloged as “a fine example of maybe his most popular subject: peasant women.” Once in the collection of William C. Sproul, the painting had passed through two sales at Parke-Bernet galleries, once in 1949, then again in 1975. It topped off at $50,400.
Another fresh-to-the-market painting that also surpassed expectations was Gustave Loiseau’s (French, 1865-1935) “Pont-Aven,” which inspired a small bidding battle, ultimately closing at $94,500, well above its high estimate and enough to warrant a second place finish in the sale. A location the artist visited on a number of occasions, the work denotes the artist’s faithfulness to the principles of Impressionism a full 50 years after the first Impressionist exhibition.
The sale featured an even dozen drawings, three of which achieved prices high enough to place them in the top ten lots. At $35,280 was the studio of Paolo Veronese’s (Italian, 1528-1588) “Head of a Woman, Looking Up,” which bore the artist’s signature bottom right and was executed in black, white and yellow chalk on heavy laid paper. According to the catalog, it may be related to the head of Europa, in Veronese’s “Rape of Europa,” which is in the collection of the Palazzo Ducale in Venice.
Closing at $18,900 was “Ma Chère Morte (My Dear Dead)” by James Ensor (Belgian, 1860-1949), a colored pencil and gouache on paper portrait, small at 7-1/8 by 9-7/8 inches, which depicted the final moments of Ensor’s aunt, Marie-Louise Haegheman. It may have been a study for a similarly composed oil, done the same year, that was offered at Sotheby’s Amsterdam in December 1996.
A few paintings had crossover interest with marine and maritime collectors. A view of a canal by Frits Thaulow (Norwegian, 1847-1906), titled “Canal in Spring” had a detailed provenance and sold within estimate, for $30,240. A comparatively modern work titled “The Navy Takes a Chance (April 19, 1944)” by Montague Dawson (British, 1890-1973) fired bidders up and went from an estimate of $8/12,000 to a final price of $17,640.
All the Variety and Perfection: The Wedgwood Collection of Dr Ellis F. Rubin & Suzanne Borow Rubin
“We’re feeling great. I’m really happy to see the Wedgwood market is alive and well. We had active collectors and institutions and various ceramics organizations and enthusiasts who reached out before and participated in the sale,” said Tim Andreadis, Freeman’s division head for decorative arts. He noted that the Rubin’s collection was “right up there and one of the very best collections, with thousands of pieces Freeman’s will be selling over a series of sales. [For this first sale,] we wanted to show the true range of what is represented in the Rubins’ collection.”
Fairyland lustre has long charmed collectors, so it was fitting that there were several examples among the highest selling pieces in the auction. Bringing the sale’s top price of $20,160 was a Fairyland lustre “Bubbles II” malfrey pot, designed by Daisy Makeig-Jones (1881-1945), circa 1920s, which the Rubins had acquired from Skinner in 2005. Many of the Fairyland Lustre pieces in the sale related to examples illustrated in Una Des Fontaines,’ Wedgwood Fairyland Lustre (Born-Hawes, New York, 1975).
A second malfrey pot, which had an “Elves and Bell branch” design by Makeig-Jones had a lid in the “Woodland Elves IV” design. Estimated at $3/5,000, the 3½-inch-tall pot finished above expectations, bringing $6,930.
Another Fairyland lustre piece, a “Torches” plaque, also designed by Makeig-Jones, circa 1920s, had provenance to the David Newborn collection. It attracted both phone and online competition and sold, just below the high estimate, for $6,930.
“More of the modern limited edition Wedgwood outperformed expectations. For those, sage green jasper is a very rare color and was the driving force behind the result,” Andreadis said, when we asked about a pair of green jasperware water and wine ewers that dated to the 1990s and topped off at $17,640, the second highest price in the sale and a result more than seven times the lot’s high estimate. According to Andreadis, a private collector outside of Philadelphia, who was bidding on the phone, beat out competition online.
A blue dip stoneware jasperware campana wine cooler cataloged as having an “exceptional, rich and heavy floral ornament to the body” rose to $6,300 and surpassed expectations. It had been exhibited in “Wedgwood: 250 Years of Innovation and Artistry” at the Daughters of the American Revolution museum in 2009-2010, published in two books and provenance to the Jeffrey Milkins Collection as well as a 2019 Skinner auction of European furniture and decorative arts.
Pieces designed by Christopher Dresser (British, 1834-1904) – of which the sale included five examples – were also popular with bidders. Leading the group and selling for $12,600, was a chocolate stoneware fish vase, circa 1870, that the Rubins had also purchased from an auction at Skinner, in 2015. Andreadis said it was a rare example of one of Dresser’s designs.
Wedgwood’s basalt dry-bodied stoneware is one of the firm’s most iconic designs and the sale featured several exceptional examples, led at $6,300 by an encaustic decorated black basalt two-handled urn that had been in the collection of JD and Louis Trabue and acquired by the Rubins at a Sotheby’s New York auction of Chinese export porcelain and English pottery in 1988. It was purchased by ceramics expert, editor and consultant, Rob Hunter, who said he was “thrilled to have it.” He also purchased a transfer-printed Queensware mug dating to the 1760s and decorated by Sadler and Green with the arms of the Honourable Society of Bucks.
Freeman’s will sell European Paintings in July, date TBA; the next installment of Wedgwood from the Rubin Collection is scheduled to sell on July 12, to coincide with Josiah Wedgwood’s 293rd birthday.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house. For information www.freemansauction.com or 267-414-1261.
September 26, 2023
September 26, 2023
September 26, 2023
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