Published: December 21, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Schwenke Auctioneers
WOODBURY, CONN. – Of the 489 lots that Tom Schwenke marched across the block in his December 12 Fine Estates auction, the far and away stand-out piece was a large reddish abstract painting by Richard Art Hambleton (Canadian, 1952-2017) that sold to a phone bidder for $170,800. Prior to its sale, it had been with a private collector in Litchfield County, Conn.
For those who are not familiar with Hambleton, he is best known for his work as a street artist; Schwenke’s catalog wrote, “He was a surviving member of a group that emerged from the New York City art scene during the booming art market of the 1980s, which also included Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
The rest of the sale saw more traditional and modern offerings, including 118 from the collection of Rod Pleasants and Steve Godwin of the New York City-based interior design firm, McIver Morgan. McIver Morgan had a presence in Washington, Conn.; their collection ran the gamut from custom made designer furniture to Continental and Asian pieces in a variety of vintages.
The McIver Morgan collection was the source for many of the sale’s top lots including a modern walnut dining table made by Charak. It featured a chamfered undercut top supported on two large, ebonized spheres on a smaller rectangular base. The table sold for $8,540 to a bidder on the phone, from South Carolina, who Schwenke said, “was very excited to get it.”
“I was pleased with the way the McIver Morgan pieces were received. Some went quite reasonably; others drew good competition.” Schwenke said.
Part of the McIver Morgan collection included a set of four Scandinavian Neoclassical birch side chairs and a settee, which were offered in two lots. Schwenke said he would have bet that all would stay together but he would have lost the bet: the chairs brought $6,710 from a bidder in Germany, while the settee brought $3,556 from a trade buyer in the American South.
A room-sized Agra Sultanabad carpet that Pleasants and Godwin purchased from an auction at New Orleans Auction Gallery in 2020 more than doubled its estimate, unrolling to $3,660. It was a better result than the $1,220 realized for a room-sized Persian Tabriz that had also been acquired at the same New Orleans Auction Gallery sale.
The McIver Morgan collection offered the traditional as well as modern. For the former, a Louis XV carved and painted duchesse for $2,806, a Georgian carved and gilt mahogany breakfront bookcase at $2,440 and a white-painted Federal pine door surround with glass transom section that realized $2,318. Collectors of Midcentury Modern works had numerous choices, including a black lacquer organic-form long console table at $2,440, a pair of brass pedestal form console tables for $1,342, nearly triple their low estimate; and a pair of mahogany open armchairs that brought $732 from an estimate of $100-200.
Several objects in the collection provided a visual diversity to an American or European aesthetic. Bidders took a Chinese porcelain enameled bowl to $3,172, while a pair of Chinese porcelain vases now mounted as lamps brightened the sale for $1,952. If a large Chinese spinach green hardstone scholar’s rock on stand fell just short of expectations at $488 but expectations were exceeded in an 18-inch-tall African bronze portrait bust of a chieftain that sold for $397.
There was more to the sale than the McIver Morgan Collection. Much more. Schwenke achieved $7,320 for an abstracted oil on canvas painting of a fancy dress ball in a carved and giltwood frame that measured 16½ by 14½ inches. The work had been found in Chester, Conn., and was estimated at $100/200.
“I was very surprised at that,” Schwenke said. “But we had two people who both really wanted it. The buyer was a collector in the Midwest, the underbidder was online. It may have set a record for the artist.”
Herman Miller for Charles Eames chairs are perennial favorites with bidders; a vintage black leather armchair with ottoman from an Essex, Conn., collector was no exception. Estimated at $1/1,500, it brought $6,100.
There were several treasures to be found in an estate from Old Saybrook, Conn. Leading the group at $3,660 was a 9-3/8-inch-tall antique Indian bronze sculpture of Krishna playing a flute. It was followed by an 82-inch-tall totem pole attributed to the Haida Tribe; it was signed “Kathy Woodruff” on the back and brought $3,050. Alfred Steiglitz’s “Venetian Courtyard” photo soared to $2,684, a room-sized Heriz carpet rolled up at $2,196, and an unsigned impressionistic view of the Essex, Conn., boat launch, in oil on canvas, went out the door for $1,952.
Western pottery options were led by an extensive hand painted porcelain service in the Fruits and Flowers pattern by Herend. For those looking for a nearly complete set for eight, this had dinner plates, luncheon plates, bread and butter plates, cups and saucers for both coffee and demitasse. It flew to $3,660.
No room for a large dinner service? A single stoneware crock by free African American potter Thomas Commeraw, who was working in lower Manhattan in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century brought $2,806 against an estimate of $500/700. Decorated with his characteristic cobalt swags and finger hole handles, it had been with a collector in Roxbury, Conn.
Asian furniture in the sale was topped by a pair of Chinese caned rosewood low tables from a Litchfield County, Conn., collection that made $2,318. An antique Chinese hardwood dragon carved altar table from the same seller finished within estimates at $580.
A date for Schwenke Auctioneer’s next sale has not yet been announced.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house but may not include additional online bidding surcharges.
For information, 203-266-0323 or www.woodburyauction.com.
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