Published: May 14, 2019
Review and Photos By Greg Smith, Additional Photos Courtesy of Freeman’s
PHILADELPHIA – Freeman’s April 30 American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction, held every year on the heels of the Philadelphia Antiques and Art Show, was a trove of deaccessions. Four institutions opened up and let Lynda Cain, vice president and department head of the division, bring to sale the items that no longer fit their collecting goals. The 365-lot sale grossed between estimate at $648,562 and was 81 percent sold.
While deaccessioning can be a sensitive action, the works found in this sale did not fit the type of mold that causes uproar. Many of them, Cain explained, were duplicates or lower grade examples within the collections or even accessioned in an earlier time when the very best was hard to determine and institutions had a sincerely held “open arms” philosophy. Other examples had been worked on and did not fit the criterial standard that some collections maintain today.
Among the institutions were the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Historical Society and an unnamed Mid-Atlantic institution.
Speaking after the sale, Cain said, “I think it did well, there was a lot of interest and many things brought what they should have.”
She mentioned her disappointment that the sale’s expected top lot, the Tilghman Family Chippendale carved mahogany and marble top pier table, went unsold on an $80/100,000 estimate. “There was a lot of interest,” she said, “But I think the estimate was a bit strong for this market.”
“It’s a very choosy market,” she continued. “And they’re looking for not only the form of the piece, but the condition is so key and if something has been done, that will still determine what something will bring. “
At the top of the sale came a marble bust of George Washington attributed to American Italian sculptor Horatio Greenough (1805-1852) that sold for $43,750 above a $15,000 high estimate. Greenough studied at Harvard and would go on to live most of his life in Italy until he passed away at 47 years old. Greenough produced a full-size Carrara marble sculpture of Washington that was commissioned by the United States Congress in 1832 for the Centennial of Washington’s birth, which now resides in the National Museum of American History in Washington DC. The bust that sold in Freeman’s sale was presented to the Long Island Historical Society, now the Brooklyn Historical Society, in 1915 by Reverend Lea Luquer (1833-1919) and his brother Nicholas Luquer (1837-1932). A 1916 issue of The Munsey magazine noted the presence of this bust in the front office of the Long Island Historical Society as part of a survey of portraits and sculpture of the first president.
“Greenough almost never comes up at auction,” Cain told us. “It was a very strong and good price for the bust.” She said that the work had been purchased by a broker.
Another lot in the sale, a 14-3/8-by-21¼-inch watercolor and ink on laid paper, also had direct ties to Harvard. “The East Perspective From The Church in Cambridge” by Samuel Griffin (1762-1812), Harvard class of 1784, is the earliest hand drawn view of Harvard College known. It sold beneath estimate at $18,750. The work and accompanying portrait miniature of Griffin, circa 1785 and attributed to William Lovett (1773-1801), descended directly in the Griffin family. The catalog noted that The Colonial North America Collection at Harvard Library holds Samuel Griffin’s leather bound 148-page student mathematical manuscript as well as two of Griffin’s hand drawn and colored views of Harvard and Cambridge: “A northerly perspective view from a window in Massachusetts Hall,” and “A westerly perspective view of part of the town of Cambridge” that are similar in style to the drawing sold in the sale. Cain told Antiques and the Arts Weekly that the drawing will be joining the others in Harvard’s collection.
Other notable pieces of furniture included a shaped-front eastern Massachusetts Chippendale mahogany knee-hole desk, circa 1760, that sold for $21,250. The piece sold at the top end of its estimate, though the same example had surpassed estimate in a Freeman’s 2012 sale when it sold for $32,500. An Aesthetic period inlaid rosewood multitiered table from the Philadelphia-based A&H Lejambre workshop, circa 1880, sold over high estimate to fetch $15,000. The table was done in the firm’s Anglo-Japanesque style and featured carved dragon brackets, spiral supports and a top inlaid with a spider, its web and a fly in mixed metals and mother of pearl. A Simon Willard Federal inlaid mahogany and brass-mounted tall case clock sold above the $8,000 high estimate to bring $13,750. It was for some time displayed in the East Orange General Hospital in New Jersey.
Lots from the estate of Long Island, N.Y., artist, historian and preservationist Richard Gachot and his wife Irene were found desirable.
“I think they had a delight in small and charming things – and they were both artists in their own right,” Cain remarked on the Gachot’s collecting sensibilities. “The sons remembered being taken to antiques stores and early morning treks to antiques fairs and things like that, so there was a delight in the chase also, but I think it was the sheer delight in the objects.”
The collection’s top lot was a painted poplar dome top box decorated with red and yellow leafage above a green background. The piece measured 5 inches high by 10-1/8 inches long and sold for $11,250, over double the high estimate. Also from the estate was a 9¼-by-13-1/8-inch watercolor and ink on paper featuring Noah’s Ark and attributed to Nineteenth Century Lancaster, Penn., artist John Landis. It brought $9,750. A wonderful Nineteenth Century oil on canvas American School still life centered on a watermelon with additional fruit was signed “W.L. Keeler 1887” and brought above estimate at $5,938.
A collection of portraits consigned by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) were bequests of John Frederick Lewis (American, 1860-1932), who, according to the Frick’s archives, was a Philadelphia-based collector and patron who served on the board of PAFA, among other institutions, and was particularly interested in portraits of George Washington.
Cain said, “He was a great philanthropist and he primarily liked portraits of important historical, political and military men, as well as the work of great artists.”
The collection was led by a 30-by-24-7/16-inch oil on panel portrait of Andrew Jackson in uniform, which sold for $5,000. A Nineteenth Century American School portrait of Marquis de Lafayette went out at $4,688; a portrait of Isaac Hazlehurst by Thomas Sully (1783-1872) took $4,688; and a portrait of General Ulysses S. Grant attributed to Edward D. Marchant (1806-1887) brought $4,063.
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