Published: March 22, 2011
Nearly 750 lots crossed the auction block over the weekend of February 18 during an impressive two-day sale conducted by Louis Dianni Auctions and Marine Art. Dianni, a dealer/auctioneer whose name is most often associated with the New York area, conducts annual auctions in Florida during the winter months. As the firm’s name might suggest, marine art was prevalent, but so, too, was a good selection of jewelry, Americana, porcelains and historical items, as well as firearms, swords and armor.
Bidding at the auction was fast-paced for many of the items, as the large crowd was in attendance competed with a large volume of absentee, telephone and Internet clients. Dianni reported a standing room-only-crowd for day two of the auction, which, he commented, “was refreshing.”
“We really had a great sale,” stated the auctioneer in the days following the sale. “There were a lot of serious buyers in the room, but they had to compete with 580 registered Internet bidders.” The auctioneer reported strong bidding from outside of the room, however, with “80 percent of the auction [selling] to Internet and telephone bidders, and the bulk of that going to the Internet.” Dianni added, “We had every European country represented and we are shipping merchandise to Australia and a host of other far-off places.”
Leading the auction was a rare pair of Miquelet locks pistols, circa 1775, with elaborate silver overlay and engraving. Consigned to the sale from a private collection, the pistols were sold to a buyer who was from “out of the country.” Dianni originally cataloged the pistols as Spanish in origin, but later learned that they were by a Spanish maker that had immigrated to Mexico. Profusely decorated with silver inlay and engraved with Mexican designs, the rare pistols attracted quite a bit of attention.
Dianni stated that four telephone bidders were lined up to compete for the pistols, and that they were purchased above the $15/25,000 estimates by a “savvy” telephone bidder for $34,500. “There are very few Mexican makers known,” he said.
Another of the lots to attract serious attention was a Sixteenth Century Saxon sword with elaborate engraving. The German sword, circa 1590, had a hilt of blue steel, pommel, quillions and branch terminals capped with engraved silver. The eight-sided pommel was engraved with an intricate foliate design.
Once again, a host of telephone bidding and Internet action was in play as Dianni opened the lot; however, two buyers in the room dominated the skirmish. The rare sword sold for $28,750, going to a buyer who had flown in specifically for the item. Dianni noted that a nearly identical example of the Saxon sword is housed in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Of the artworks in the auction, a rare folio set of pencil-signed chromolithographs by Fred Cozzens did well. Discovered in California by a gentleman who purchased them on a hunch and had no idea of their value, the 26 images were identified on the back with an “artist’s proof” label and each of the lithos was numbered. Published in 1884, the rare set sold to a buyer in the room for $11,500. “The consignor is thrilled,” stated Dianni.
Marine paintings and other works of art in the auction included an oil on canvas by J.G. Tyler titled “Tugboat H.A. Crawford ” that created quite a stir. The 27-by-34-inch oil was actively bid, selling to a local Palm Beach retail buyer for $18,400. An Antonio Jacobsen portrait of the E.J. Spicer , a rare work that depicts two sailing vessels flying American flags, sold at $10,350. A ship portrait by English artist W.H. Yorke of the barque John Ehls sold at $6,900, while an oil on board by Jacobsen of the Antilles brought $6,325.
Other paintings in the sale included a Carl Peters painting in the Rockport style titled “Fitting To Go” that depicted two men readying themselves for a day of fishing. Selling between the $5/7,000 estimates, the lot went out at $6,900. A John Mooney oil titled “Florida Sunset” attracted interest from local buyers, going out at $5,750, while a portrait of a woman in an Italianate landscape by E. Belli realized $4,887.
A preparatory sketch by W.H. Powell that was executed for a commission for the east stairway of the Senate Wing of the Capitol brought $4,600. A lithograph of the same scene sold at $575.
Historical firearms in the auction included a pair of cased dueling pistols that belonged to Lieutenant Philip Auguste Stockton, who served on the USS Constitution . Bearing a brass tag on the case that identified R. Constable, Philadelphia, as the maker, and a presentation plaque for Stockton, the rare pair of American pistols sold for $12,650.
A .44 caliber Colt single-action pistol from the first year of manufacture, dated 1882, sold for $6,325, while a Colt sheriff’s six-shooter with elephant ivory grips carved with Miss Liberty was knocked down at $8,050.
A selection of canes did well, with a “whaler’s going ashore” carved and scrimshawed whalebone cane selling at $9,775, while another whalebone cane with a handle carved into a hand holding a ball brought $2,587. A commemorative cane carved from relic wood from the USS Lawrence and with an engraved gold cap celebrating Admiral Perry’s victory at the Battle of Lake Erie reached $2,875.
A selection of historical flags included a rare 13-star flag from the Mexican-American War period that sold to a major flag dealer bidding by telephone for $17,250. A Confederate Secessionist 12-star flag from the Civil War period also attracted a great deal of attention; it knocked down at $8,050.
Also sold was a grouping of Civil War material belonging to Francis Lord, Salem, Mass., including his cadet’s uniform and discharge papers, that realized $10,925.
One quirky item in the auction was a pair of ornate hearse lanterns in all-original condition. The pair arrived at the auction packed inside small elongated boxes that Dianni commented resembled coffins. Active bidding pushed the price above estimate, with the lanterns selling to a phone bidder for $2,587. Dianni revealed that the lanterns went to the owner of a funeral parlor who bought them for a period hearse coach that he owns.
Prices include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.louisjdianni.com or 954-895-8727.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm