Published: December 31, 2002
LITCHFIELD, CONN. – Litchfield County Auctions conducted a fine art and antiques auction on November 16 at the Litchfield Firehouse.
More than 100 people attending the auction witnessed the debut of Nic Thorn, son of Litchfield Country Auctions President Weston Thorn, as auctioneer for the first group of 278 lots. Nic Thorn, 30, has been manager of the company for several years, tending to the behind-the-scenes matters. After a round of applause, the younger Thorn went back to the overseeing perhaps LCA’s most successful auction date, with a gross of approximately $382,000.
Surprisingly, in an increasingly soft fine art market, paintings led the way, with many lots exceeding their estimates and two crossing the $30,000 line. Fueled by a record number of phone bidders (including several from Europe) and bids from the floor, the bidding became heated, sending prices of the many fresh pieces upward.
Most notably “Little Mother,” an oil on canvas by French painter Leon Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1834-1922), estimated at $20/30,000, claimed the crown for the evening, hammering down at $39,100. The 52- by 34-inch gold-framed portrait of a young girl in Nineteenth Century dress holding a baby graced the cover of the catalog and was sold to a phone bidder in Palm Beach, Fla.
From another wall of the same New York apartment came a large (47 by 65 inches), very blackened, Seventeenth Century oil on canvas from the “Circle of David Teniers.” Formerly called “Flemish School,” circa 1666, it depicted the kitchen interior of a nobleman ordering the preparation of a banquet. In need of a good cleaning, it was accompanied by a page from a 1943 Parke-Bernet catalog with the provenance, “Property of a New York private collector.” Estimated at $3/5,500, it went to a phone bidder from Ireland for $14,950.
A handsome oil on canvas, titled “Boats in the Harbor” by Johann van Mastenbroek (Dutch, 1875-1945), signed and dated, was sold to a phone bidder from Scotland for $21,500, despite some flaking. All three of these paintings, as well as other rdf_Descriptions in the sale, were consigned by a New York collector of Dutch origin. Later in the evening, a Connecticut buyer took a $2,300 chance on “Skiff on Shore,” an oil on canvas of a red and blue skiff beached on the shore of a woodsy lake and signed “Homer 66.”
Beyond fine art, four good and better tall-case clocks lined up in the front of the gallery. The tallest and most visually impressive was an Eighteenth Century Dutch carved and inlaid walnut two-tone striking clock with repeater, the dial signed “Joh[anns] Uswald, Amstel Dam,” and the arched hood surmounted by three carved and gilded figures, the center one of Atlas standing on an orb. Bidding for the clock rose swiftly past the high estimate, and it was hammered down at $34,500. Another much sought-after clock was a Federal inlaid mahogany and brass mounted striking clock by William Cummens (1788-1834), Roxbury, Mass., who was an apprentice to Simon Willard. It brought $14,900. The other two clocks sold for $1,600 and $4,100.
Some unusually fine porcelain and faience attracted attention and some nice prices. A group of three Eighteenth Century English delft plates in blues, greens, yellows and rust with central decorations, all different, and two with labels on reverse, “Lorillard Collection,” brought $4,300. Two other groups of three Eighteenth Century English delft plates sold for $2,070 and $917. A large Chinese export oval platter, late Eighteenth Century/early Nineteenth Century, in a variant of the Tobacco Leaf pattern went to a Massachusetts phone buyer for $2,645 after spirited bidding.
Three regal grand pianos were included in the auction, a Sohmer, a Baldwin and a Knabe, with the Knabe going out at $1,668. Three Chippendale-style mahogany corner chairs, estimated at $200 to $300, prompted a flurry of hands in the hall and were knocked down at a unexpected $1,725.
On the earlier side were several pieces of European – mostly Dutch – Eighteenth Century marquetry furniture. A large Dutch marquetry inlaid walnut bookcase cupboard with two glazed upper doors brought $5,175. An imposing late Seventeenth Century/early Eighteenth Century Northern Italian marquetry inlaid walnut two-part bookcase/cupboard was taken for $5,175, and a Louis XV fruitwood marquetry narrow table with a shaped and scalloped frieze closed at $1,725, all obtained a bit below estimate due to condition.
Switching gears, the sale offered the folk art collection of the late New York collector Laura Israel. The select group was represented by many of the best known and sought-after American folk artists, including the Rev Howard Finster, Jimmy Sudduth and Clementine Hunter. A spectacular seven-foot-high composition giraffe by New Mexico artist Rod Rodriguez, although much admired (and to the delight of the children), was snatched up by a Connecticut dealer for $184 – perhaps the buy of the evening – as its size limited its market.
Another piece was a 77-inch-high painted plywood cutout of a man in a black suit with a pattern of white human and animal faces, buildings, automobiles and phrases. Titled “Youth of Abraham,” it was signed on the back, “By Howard Finster, Summerville, Georgia … God bless you all, Howard Finster, Sept. Finished 8-1985.” A telephone bidder paid $2,645 to bring it back home to Georgia.
Clementine Hunter (American, 1887-1988) was represented by a bold, bright oil on board of a vase of flowers (perhaps chrysanthemums) in clear primary red, orange and green. Monogrammed “CH” on the back it, too, went back down south for $1,610. Another lot comprising three contemporary folk art paintings, one by Mose Tolliver, signed, and two by Jimmy Sudduth, paint and mud on panel and signed, brought $625.
Prices quoted above include the 15 percent buyer’s premium.
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