Published: July 25, 2006
A diminutive James McNeill Whistler seascape proved that good things do indeed come in little packages as the painting ascended to $1,001,000, including buyer’s premium, at Cottone’s fine art and antiques auction on July 7, making it possibly the highest grossing item at an auction in Upstate New York.
The oil on wood panel, “Violet and Blue Among the Rollers,” in its original frame, came from the Wadsworth family of local prominence and had previously been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The family had held onto the painting for a long time and recently decided to sell it along with a handful of other works that did not have local significance, said Matt Cottone, a partner in the firm.
Presale interest was at an all-time high for the work that had been appraised in the neighborhood of $300,000 while the auction house expected it to easily surpass half a million dollars. Putting 15 phone lines to work for this one item, excitement among the 260 bidders in the gallery was palpable and the bidding rocketed back and forth between several bidders until the price hit $400,000. From then on, it was between the underbidder and private art dealer Thomas Colville, who ultimately persevered.
Cottone said the bidding was basically nonstop between the two phone bidders with no lags. “Both people knew what they were into and it was bid by bid all the way up to $910,000. Then the other guy was out and that was the end of it.”
Members of the Wadsworth family were in attendance to see their painting soar to new heights. “It was an exciting time for the auction house and the consignors,” Cottone said.
The 240-plus-lot sale realized a total of $2.5 million. A complete review will follow in an upcoming issue.
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