Published: December 11, 2012
A two-piece Nineteenth Century cupboard from a Southbury, Conn., estate was the marquee lot at Brookfield Auction’s December 1 antiques and estates auction at the Litchfield Firehouse. The cupboard with glazed upper doors gracefully showed its age with some cracks in the glass, some replaced hardware and one of its bracket feet a bit compromised, but that did not deter a phone bidder from taking the piece that was estimated $400/600 to the final price of $2,875. The bottom section comprised three short drawers over two doors and the cupboard overall reached to 84 inches in height.
Having a piece of furniture be the top lot was a pleasantly surprising change for auction house owners Diana and Andy Onyshkewych, whose last few sales have been led by artwork and smaller decorative arts items like carriage clocks and candlesticks. And while it does not presage any sea change in the world of antiques auctions, co-owner Andy Onyshkewych said, “I’m happy for the piece of furniture.”
Having run a string of strong auctions since its May 2009 debut, Brookfield Auction this time witnessed one that was affordable for everyone, an interesting and eclectic lineup of items ranging from country to Modern, many paintings and estate decorative arts. According the its owners, there were 70 bidding in house, 50 absentee bidders and 20 on the phones.
The sale kicked off at 3 pm with an early bird session of box lots and uncataloged items out in the chilly vestibule of the firehouse. with Mike Murray taking bids. Then auctioneer Diana Onyshkewych got down to brass tacks and took to the podium and efficiently but with good humor reviewed the house rules. “This isn’t Macy’s,” she reminded bidders in pointing out one of the key conditions †all sales are final.
Another highlight of the sale was a cleanout find. An enameled steel “Capricorn” chaise longue and pair of chairs by Vladimir Kagan (German American, b 1927) were discovered under a pile of leaves near a shed at a New Milford, Conn., home, according to Diana. “The woman would have thrown the set away had it not been for her seeing a recent design magazine advertisement for reproductions of the original,” said the auctioneer. The circa 1952 set drew a winning bid of $1,323.
From the same estate came an item that received a good amount of presale interest †an antique carved wood and polychrome figure, Italian or Spanish, described as “Jesus on the World.” With some age-appropriate paint loss on the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century piece, the 13-by-5½-by-17-inch figure went to a phone bidder for $920. A nine-piece, large-scale carved wooden crèche from the same household did not fare as well, perhaps because the wood used to create the magi, Mary and Joseph, shepherd, lamb, dove and baby Jesus was very light, like balsa, so the figures did not have much heft. The set brought a little more than half of its low estimate, going out at $575 on a left bid.
Possibly the oldest item in the sale was a Seventeenth Century oil painting of a nun consigned by a German couple from Danbury, Conn. The date on the back of the frame was 1649, and the 13-by-9½ -inch portrait bested its $600 high estimate to change hands at $690, going to a phone bidder. Another antique painting, this one an Old Master oil on canvas after Raphael’s “The Grand Duke’s Madonna,” 27 by 19 inches and presented in a decorative gilt frame, took $920.
The sale’s Modernist element came in the form of a large mural by Peter Ostuni (American, 1908‱992), a 7-by-14-foot, 11-panel work that once graced the barroom of New York’s Savoy Plaza Hotel. The impressive mural was executed by Ostuni in the late 1950s, and the artist used a technique of layering and painting Plexiglas to create a Modern piece that resembles Old World-style stained glass windows. Depicted are King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, seven of the armored knights on horseback. In the mid-1960s, the hotel was slated for demolition and the mural was purchased at auction by writer Joseph Hayes, author of The Desperate Hours , and moved to his English Tudor mansion, Arundel, in Brookfield. “Unbelievably, for nearly 50 years, two of the panels were installed in the wrong positions and one was upside down,” said Diana.
Things were set aright for its appearance at the auction. Andy had positioned it against the back wall inside the firehouse and ingeniously rigged spotlamps behind the panels to give the piece a softly glowing presence. Indeed, as it crossed the clock, the house lights were dimmed so that those in the hall could appreciate its full effect. “A bargain beyond bargains,” according to Andy, the mural is heading to Boston, having been won by a phone bidder at $575.
Proving that one does not have to be a listed artist in order to find a following, a quirky Twentieth Century Expressionist-style painting of women as trees secured the most hits on the auction house’s online catalog. It was done by a Swedish artist, Madeleine Quist-Odgren, and although estimated at only $50/75, went out at $230 to a phone bidder.
Additional highlights included a Seth Thomas gilt metal Art Nouveau mantel clock with a porcelain face that sold for $260, a carved wood and painted decoy with glass eyes bringing $288, a collection of black Americana fabric dolls, two of which were reversible, for $288 and a lot comprising 56 Nineteenth Century encaustic subway tiles in the guilloche pattern, each marked “Minton & Co Patent Stoke Upon Trent,” which found a buyer in the room at $375.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
For additional information, www.brookfieldauction.com or 203-448-8652.
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