Published: April 21, 2020
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Hess Fine Auctions
ST PETERSBURG, FLA. – A boutique sale of 104 lots crossed the block at Hess Fine Auctions on April 4, offering an assortment of fine and decorative arts and continental style.
The sale featured about 60 lots from the estate of a Florida businessman who maintained a lifelong collection of Continental decorative and fine art. The rest of the auction was supplied by about ten other consignors offering material in the same genre.
Auctioneer Jeffrey Hess said the Florida consignor bought from everywhere, including a number of New York City shops and antiques shows.
As the outbreak was developing, Hess said, “We considered stopping the sale. But we looked at some our other selling avenues, eBay among them, and noticed that a larger amount of our business was going to China, Singapore and Europe than it usually was. I don’t know if it’s because they’re ahead of the curve, but we noticed that. We talked to the consignors because we believed there was going to be a large pent-up interest. It turned out to be our fourth or fifth most successful online auction that we’ve ever had.”
Given that previewing in-person was not allowed, Hess said, “It was a group effort to answer email inquiries, my constant plea to my staff was ‘help me answer emails, they are out of control.'” That communication paid off for the auction house.
Leading the sale was a drawing that had been attributed to Italian mannerist Agnolo di Cosimo (1503-1572), better known as Bronzino, in a 1961 New York City exhibition at the Drawing Room gallery. The artist was the court painter for Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, beginning in 1539 and remaining in that role for most of his life. The auction house offered that it may instead be by his pupil Allessandro Allori. With a wide open estimate on the charcoal or pencil on paper work, 4½ by 5¾ inches, it sold after fierce competition above high estimate for $22,755 to a well-known European subject expert.
Other European artists sold well, including an owl pitcher by Pablo Picasso that brought $10,824. The white earthenware pitcher dated to the 1950s, colored black and blue on a white background, with partial engraving and brushed glaze. The work measures 10-2/5 inches high and 5 inches wide and comes from an edition of 500.
At the same price was a Toni Costa kinetic wall-mounted sculpture titled “Visione Dinamica” that measures 32 by 32 inches, which sold to an Italian buyer. It had a label on the back from the 1964 Venice Biennale, that exhibition known for the introduction of Pop Art to Europe. That year, 39-year-old Robert Rauschenberg won the event’s Golden Lion award, becoming the youngest artist and first American to ever win it. That he won the award was highly controversial at the time.
A fine French gueridon Sevres table with 18 ormolu mounted porcelain portrait plaques went out at $7,626. The table has an ebonized and gilt base, the top measures 31½ inches diameter.
Other porcelains did well, including a KPM portrait plaque of a lady after Friedrich August von Kaulbach that brought $2,644. A KPM nude portrait brought $2,275. Two Vienna porcelain pictorial floor vases sold for $2,275 and $2,214.
Bronzes were led by a Marion Sanford bird bath fountain depicting a boy holding a fish that took $2,337. A bacchanal figure of two women signed Mathurin Moreau sold for $1,968, while a pair of Egyptian figures, a man and woman each holding a staff, took the same price.
All prices include online buyer’s premium. For information, www.hessfineauctions.com or 727-896-0622.
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