Published: September 21, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Brunk Auctions
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – With 93 percent of the 1,220 lots offered in the span of three days, Brunk Auctions garnered in excess of $3.7 million. The tally included nearly 500 lots offered successfully in an Emporium Auction on September 9, and a two-day Premier Auction September 10-11.
“We had tremendous response from the market,” company president Andrew Brunk said. “There was near-record registration and very active bidding; it was exciting to have that much energy in the sale. We worked hard to leave no stone unturned with buyers across categories and saw remarkably strong results throughout the sale. We could not be happier with how well the sale did.”
Among the identified collections were deaccessions from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and works from the collection of Dudley and Constance Godfrey, which Brunk has been selling throughout several recent sales.
American paintings were the hands-down dominant category, a result that thrilled Nan Zander, Brunk’s American paintings specialist. “Everything is still very much alive and well in the market for American paintings,” she said. “The sale was like a microcosm of the history of American art. It was gratifying that we had interest and active competitive bidding from not just institutions and some of the top galleries in New York but also from private collectors around the country.
The sale was led by two paintings that were sold to benefit future acquisitions at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Jasper F. Cropsey’s (American, 1823-1900) “Autumn Landscape with Cattle,” brought $196,800 from Questroyal Gallery, which is planning to include the painting in an upcoming exhibition on American masters. Following on its heels was “A Quiet Valley,” which Albert Bierstadt (American, 1830-1902) painted in Germany in 1855 when he was traveling abroad. The landscape was of exceptionally large size in its original carved giltwood and composition frame that measured 45½ by 54½ inches and had been exhibited in numerous American museums, as well as featured in two works on the artist. It sold to a private collector for $159,900.
A selection of more than a dozen vintage shotguns from a private Virginia collection got Brunk’s bidders all fired up, with a 1984 Boss & Co., “Best” double barrel shotgun firing on all cylinders and blowing its estimate apart to sell to an American collector for $116,850. Corey Jones, Brunk’s firearms expert, explained that nothing about Boss’ “best” guns could be improved on, that they were made from the finest materials using the most highly skilled craftsmanship possible.
For purity of provenance, it would be hard to beat an American Pilgrim Century chest that was attributed to the Mason-Messenger shop in Boston, circa 1680, and had descended in the family of Peter Weare of York, Maine. Brunk said it helped that it had been examined by antiques consultant Alan Miller and retained its original top and turned feet. Competition on the chest, which measured 36 by 39 by 22¾ inches, was fierce, with an institution and online bidders competing against private collectors. In the end, an advanced private collector in the American South prevailed and took it for $86,100.
A large collection of more than 80 lots from the Litchfield County, Conn., collection of Ann and Joel Finn crossed Brunk’s block, led by a Chippendale bonnet-top high chest that been made in Woodbury, Conn. The high chest had descended in the Stiles family. It had been illustrated in Edward S. Cooke Jr’s 1996 book, Making Furniture in Pre-Industrial America: The Social Economy of Newtown and Woodbury, Connecticut, as well as Jeffrey Tillou Antiques’ catalog of the Finn Collection. An anonymous buyer, bidding on the phone, took it to $46,740.
Among the sale’s offerings of Southern furniture, a mahogany dressing table from Charleston, S.C., circa 1735-50, hit the high note at $49,200. While the catalog identified similar tables, Brunk said that the piece was singular in the details of its design, namely its compact form, use of dense, heavy mahogany with cypress wood secondary. A private collector, bidding through an agent, won the lot.
The European ceramics from the collection of Dudley and Constance Godfrey included more than 60 lots with several pieces bringing among the top prices in the sale. A London delft blue and white heart-shaped pill or apothecary tile that featured the arms of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, sold to an English trade buyer for $51,660; a shield-form example for the same society brought $49,200. Other rare and unusual pieces included a Nottingham carved double walled stoneware mug at $23,370, and a Elers Brothers silver mounted redware teapot that bidders topped off at $19,680.
“I was overwhelmed at the response to the European ceramics,” said Elizabeth Cohen, from Brunk’s decorative arts department. “We knew they would do well, but it far exceeded my expectations. The Godfreys were well-known advanced collectors and their collection provided an opportunity to acquire some very rare examples.”
Brunk Auctions’ next sale is scheduled for October 21-23.
The buyer’s premium is included in the prices quoted. For information, 828-254-6846 or www.brunkauctions.com.
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