Published: May 8, 2018
Story and photos courtesy Freeman’s with contributions from Antiques and The Arts Weekly
PHILADELPHIA – Befitting Dorrance “Dodo” H. Hamilton’s status as the queen of Philadelphia society, Freeman’s pulled out all the stops for its April 29 auction of fine and decorative arts from Hamilton’s estate. A fixture of Philadelphia, Newport and Boca Grande, where she had houses, Hamilton, who died in 2017, was a dedicated philanthropist and horticulturalist. She lived a life of country-house refinement, surrounded by things she loved, from French and American Impressionist paintings, botanicals and Audubons to Staffordshire figures of dogs.
“Those lucky enough to have met Dorrance ‘Dodo’ Hamilton all attest to her brilliance, kindness and quiet devotion to the people, institutions and organizations that surrounded her,” Freeman’s wrote in tribute.
The company reported the spring event a resounding success with 99 percent of the works sold. The sale drew international interest from collectors who competed in the room, on the phone and online for the works. Many lots doubled and tripled estimate. The auction lasted nearly four hours and totaled $4.9 million.
“Today’s results are truly a testament to the caliber of the collection,” Alasdair Nichol, Freeman’s chairman and principal auctioneer, said. “Mrs Hamilton’s legacy in Philadelphia and beyond is well-known and wide-reaching, and we were honored to have had a chance to bring so much of her personal collection to auction.”
Freeman’s organized special events in London, Paris, Hong Kong and New York with highlights from the collection on view to a wide range of international interest. The Main Line and Philadelphia exhibitions had extended viewing hours. Works were thoughtfully presented in museum-style settings. The nearly 200-page catalog featured specialist essays and detailed entries.
The sale opened with Eugene Boudin’s “La Plage de Berck.” It achieved $162,500, doubling low estimate. Lush and colorful landscapes by later French Impressionists Armand Guillaumin and Henri Jean Guillaume Martin exceeded their estimates, achieving $40,625 and $50,000, respectively.
“Chestnuts in Bloom” by Sir Alfred Munnings, depicting the lawn and paddocks at Munnings’ home, Castle House in Dedham, went for $162,500 ($40/60,000).
Topping Hamilton’s art collection was a painting by Paul Cézanne titled “La Vie des Champs.” It sold to a phone bidder for $1.45 million. The canvas’s original owner was the art dealer Ambroise Vollard, who gave Cézanne his first exhibition in 1895, and whose clients included Dr Albert C. Barnes of Philadelphia. The painting then passed to Prince Antoine Bibesco, a Romanian aristocrat who counted Marcel Proust as a close friend. It subsequently passed through the hands of noted dealers Pierre Matisse, Alex Maguy and Acquavella Galleries before entering the collection of Elinor Dorrance Ingersoll, Hamilton’s mother.
Hamilton expressed her love for nature, surrounding herself with landscapes, seascapes and still lifes. The floral portrait “Narcisses Simples et Doubles Dans un Verre Long” by Henri Fantin-Latour brought $286,000 ($100/150,000).
Also included in the collection were four watercolors from the “Les Liliacées” series by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, which originally belonged to Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais, first wife of Napoleon I. Each watercolor exceeded estimate. “Iris Germanica” drew $200,000, making it the third highest price for a watercolor from the Les Liliacées series ever sold in the United States. A seascape by American artist William Trost Richards more than doubled its high estimate to bring $81,250.
Paintings formerly in the collection of prominent Philadelphia collectors Meyer and Vivian Potamkin surpassed their estimates. “The Walk Around Island” by Childe Hassam achieved $430,000, and Maurice Prendergast’s “The Point, Gloucester” made $292,000.
Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings included “Children in the Garden” by Martha Walter, $21,250; two works by Daniel Garber sold for $137,500 each; and “Girard Trust Building: Third Liberty Loan, 1918” by Paulette van Roekens achieved $46,875, an auction record for the artist.
Auction records were also set for the American artists Horace Carpenter, Carl Johan David Nordell, Walter King Stone, Adolphe Borie, Paulette van Roekens and Edgar Hewitt Nye.
In the decorative arts category, Hamilton collected across a range of specialties, surrounding herself with what she loved without concerns for trends. The wicker and rattan furniture drew fierce competition with some lots going for as much as ten, 20 and 30 times their estimate. All of the American and European furniture offered sold above estimate. Stickley, Meissen, Staffordshire and Newcomb Pottery pieces were equally popular among buyers. They reflected Hamilton’s personal style and love of the natural world in its many forms.
Jewelry from Hamilton’s collection was slated for Freeman’s May 9 Fine Jewelry auction.
Prices, supplied by the auctioneer, include applicable buyer’s premium.
Freeman’s is at 1808 Chestnut Street. For more information, www.freemansauction.com or 212-563-9275.
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