Published: November 24, 2020
Review by Rick Russack, Photos Courtesy Grogan & Company
BOSTON – Previews for Grogan & Company’s November 15 sale were held during one of the nicest late fall weeks in recent memory. It was a strong sale throughout, with choice items often substantially exceeding estimates. The auction included 140 lots of fine jewelry and watches, more than 40 lots of quality decorative arts and started off with 200 lots of fine art. That group included numerous works on paper, including a collection of 12 lithographs by Robert Motherwell, as well as examples by Picasso, Frank Stella, Roy Lichtenstein and others. There were several works by black artists and works by Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, Frederick Childe Hassam, Anne Packard, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mose Tolliver, Frederic Remington and many more.
Fine jewelry included numerous diamond rings and pins, gold necklaces and bracelets, designer pins and brooches, and a pair of diamond and Kashmir sapphire dress clips that ended up bringing the third highest price of the sale. The auction grossed $2,764,000 and included more than 60 items that brought five-figure prices. More than 2,500 prospective bidders were watching the sale on the online platforms. More than 93 percent of the items were sold and 46 percent of the items exceeded their estimates.
Topping the sale was a tempera work by Czech artist Jan Zrzavy (1890-1977), which realized $162,500, more than three times the estimate. Signed and dated 1937, “Street in Locronan” was an example of the street scenes in Britany the artist was known for. As stated in the catalog, “the village of Locronan, with its medieval buildings, was a favorite location of his, and this painting was a good example of the melancholy village scenes for which Zrzavy is known. His renderings of the trees and natural surroundings compliment well the stone walls and village huts which were already centuries old when he painted them in 1937.” Examples of his work hang in the British Museum and other European museums. When Georgina Winthrop, the company’s fine art director, was asked after the sale what drove the interest in this painting, she said, “As I was talking to prospective bidders before the sale, and when I was on the phone with a bidder during the sale, I kept hearing that this was an exceptional example of the artist’s work. It had everything going for it and the competition was strong.”
A few days before the sale, Winthrop was enthusiastic about the selection of 13 works by black artists. She said that during the BLM protests in June, the front door of Grogan’s gallery was spray painted “Do Better Art World.” In response, Grogan decided to donate five percent of its proceeds from the sale of the 13 art works to Boston’s “Artists for Humanity.” The sale catalog notes this and states, “Our donation is meant to encourage others in the art world to take the challenge to “Do Better.” The selection of works by black artists included works by Romare Bearden, Robert Louis Thompson and others. “In The Garden,” an acrylic, cloth and paper collage on board signed by Bearden (1911-1988), which the collector had acquired from the artist in 1978, was the second highest priced item in the sale, bringing $93,750. Winthrop’s favorite item in the sale was a lithograph and collage by Bearden, “Roots,” which the same collector had acquired in 1978. It was a striking, colorful, work and according to Winthrop’s research, it was numbered 4 of 15 artists proofs. The gallery representing Bearden had asked the artist to collage two of the lithographs, and the gallery stated “no other ‘Roots’ lithographs have been collaged.” The work brought $8,750.
Works on paper included a very large lithograph, woodcut, and screenprint in colors, “Composition IV,” numbered 14/60, signed “Roy Lichtenstein” and dated 1985. Framed, it was 47¼ by 62 inches and finished at $75,000. The group of 12 lithographs and etchings by Robert Motherwell, all of which had been gifted by the artist to his friend and Provincetown neighbor, Dorothy Zinberg, sold between $6,875 and $1,875.
The selection of bronzes included “Francoise with Pigtails” by Spanish/Puerto Rican sculptor Ángel Botello (1913-1986). It was 36 inches tall, numbered 2 of an edition of 6 and realized $40,625.
Grogan’s sales always include a small, select grouping of silver, furniture and decorative objects. A Cartier humidor in .950 silver with a figure of Pegasus, 17½ inches tall, earned $53,125. The figure was set with four emeralds centering a diamond and was initialed G.T., possibly for Georges Thibault. A pair of Aesthetic Movement gray painted parcel-gilt open-arm chairs, mid-Nineteenth Century, brought $13,750.
Grogan’s recent sales of jewelry have included fine Kashmir sapphires and this sale did as well. Leading those offerings was a pair of signed Raymond Yard platinum, Kashmir sapphire and diamond dress clips, which sold for $90,625. With well-matched sapphires, the floral spray-form clips, each centering an oval mixed-cut Kashmir sapphire weighing approximately 2.00 carats, were framed by prong-set marquise and full-cut diamonds weighing approximately 4.00 total carat weight. The clips were accompanied by a recent AGL certificate attesting to the quality of the sapphires. Nearly all of Grogan’s high-end jewelry has been submitted to AGL or GIA for certification, eliminating any guesswork on the buyer’s part.
With a GIA certificate attesting to the quality of the stone, a platinum and diamond ring and band realized $53,125. The 3.1-carat diamond was rated D (nearly colorless), and VS 1 for clarity. The set was boxed with original papers from Tiffany & Co. An 18K gold and diamond necklace brought $43,750. The fancy-link necklace suspended a removable central drop with two diamonds plus 20 drops, each with old mine-cut diamonds.
One of Lucy Grogan Edward’s favorite items in the sale was a platinum ring with a fancy intense yellow 3.1-carat diamond. “What I liked about it was that it was an older Art Deco ring and the diamond was set horizontally, or east to west. That’s not the usual mounting.” It realized $36,875. Edwards also said that she particularly liked an aquamarine bracelet that was sold with matching ear clips. She said, “It’s unusual to see such a large aquamarine stone set in a bracelet. Bracelets are usually comprised of smaller stones so this was a very striking piece. It was an Art Deco style, probably over 100 years old and it was something I really liked.” The bracelet and ear clips reached $13,750. Commenting in general about the sales results, she said, “It was a strong sale. We had good material, so that makes it easier.”
Not all jewelry brings five and six figure prices. There’s a wide selection of hand-picked items at all price ranges, including a 14K gold and carved jadeite and diamond brooch in the form of a swan that reached $3,750. A 14K gold, silver and ruby brooch in the form of a lizard went out for $563 as did a 14K gold and diamond brooch in the form of a donkey. A Tiffany & Co 18K gold, platinum and diamond bangle bracelet with ten brilliant cut diamonds sold for $7,500. There was plenty more to choose from.
The company is expanding the jewelry department that Lucy Grogan Edwards directs, in addition to running the Portland, Maine, office. Twenty-seven-year-old Taylor See, with the company for four years, now works with Edwards as the jewelry specialist. She catalogs the jewelry and she is currently enrolled in her second GIA course, aiming towards the GIA graduate diamonds diploma. She commented, “One part of the job that I like best is going out on the house calls and getting to work closely with our consignors. They often have great stories to tell. It’s also interesting to get to know the history of the items and hear what our clients have to say about the pieces we’re offering.”
After the sale, Winthrop, who shares the podium duties with Michael Grogan, said, “I was really surprised at how active bidders were. There were numerous left bids, the phone lines were steady and the internet platforms were really active.”
Michael Grogan was asked about the success of the sale and he responded: “I can sum it up in two words: quality sells. We had good stuff and we’re selling to very knowledgeable buyers. We’re using a lot of pictures and the descriptions are as accurate as we can possibly make them. Like everyone else, we’re seeing fewer buyers at our preview but they’re comfortable buying from what we show them online. We’re also seeing a lot of new bidders. The Portland office is functioning smoothly and we’re seeing good stuff coming from there. In fact, the Czech painting came through Portland, as did some of the Ripleys. We’re expecting a strong 2021.”
The firm’s next sale of 125 Oriental rugs, a specialty of Michael Grogan, will be in January.
For information, 617-720-2020 or www.groganco.com.
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