Published: July 28, 2020
MAMARONECK, N.Y. — A 1935 still life oil painting by Joseph Henry Sharp (American, 1859-1953), together with a Spanish Colonial chip carved chest that once belonged to Governor of New Mexico Charles Bent, brought $335,000 at Shapiro Auctions’ July 25 sale.
The painting, titled “A Prehistoric Bowl — Excavated Near the Pueblo of Zuni, New Mexico,” had its subjects described in the artist’s hand to the back: “A Prehistoric Bowl — Excavated Near The Pueblo of Zuni, N. Mex. ($500 prize Pasadena Art Inst. 1935). Chest was property of Gov. Bent, 1st Gov. of New Mexico, killed in the battle of Taos in last war of Indians + Gov’t Red drapery I bought from the back of a camel (over howda) in Biskra, Africa. –J.H. Sharp. Taos, N. Mex.”
Five bidders were on the lot, including the anonymous Western US bidder who ultimately purchased it. Jim Balestrieri was the underbidder. Shapiro said interest was spread through collectors, dealers and institutions.
The oil on canvas painting measures 39¾ by 36¼ inches and was executed in 1935. It featured provenance directly from the artist, described in the catalog as: “Purchased directly from Sharp by Laura Scudder, at whose house in La Habra Heights, California, Sharp used to stay during the 1930s and 40s. Mrs. Scudder bought the painting with the blanket (now lost), and was later given the chest by Sharp. It was thence by descent to Mark Scudder (1943-2017), grandson of Laura Scudder.”
The chest, seen in the painting under the bowl, dates to the late Eighteenth Century and is attributed to the Valdez family of Velarde, New Mexico. It measures 66 inches long.
Auctioneer Gene Shapiro had never offered a physical subject in tandem with the still life painting it was pictured in.
“That was new for me,” he said. “It added depth to owning an artwork, especially a still life. A lot of still lifes are paintings of subjects that don’t necessarily last, but here you have a painting of a subject that has lasted throughout centuries, and it brings that much more historical significance to the painting. It is wonderful to exhibit them together for educational purposes, they can pique anyone’s interest. When you see something like that in a private house or in an institution or anywhere, it draws your interest and you want to find out more about it: why it was painted, when it was painted and why these things stayed together.
“We were very pleased with the result,” Shapiro said. “It goes to show that an auction house that puts an emphasis on advertising can assure that people who should know about it were able to find out about it. It got perhaps more exposure because it was not just another lot in a Western Art sale. It’s the new economy: a good piece properly advertised, well-researched and fresh to the market will stand out and collectors will find it.”
For additional information, www.shapiroauctions.com or 212-717-7500.
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