Published: June 27, 2017
Review by Andrea Valluzzo, Photos Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – American history is red hot these days and has been since Hamilton changed the face of Broadway two years ago. Several chapters of American history from the antislavery raid at Harper’s Ferry and the Confederate States to the evolution of American pottery similarly met with acclaim at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates’ Americana and antiques auction June 16-17.
The top lot overall of the auction, which featured antiques from Virginia and the South, and totaled $850,000, including the buyer’s premium, was a bridge piece in American pottery. The Anna Pottery stoneware presentation vase made in 1885 by master potter Cornwall Elihu Kirkpatrick (1814-1890) for his daughter Amy R. Kirkpatrick, then aged 22 or 23, attained $64,350 on the second day of the sale from a major New York City museum (who wished to remain anonymous at this time) and was underbid by another museum. Salt-glazed with brushed cobalt highlights, the vase features an angelic portrait of a young girl, most likely Amy with finely molded facial features and incised flowing hair. Kirkpatrick balanced this tender image with two dramatic eagle-head handles with each eagle’s mouth clutching a well-detailed fish. The vase was acquired directly from the Kirkpatrick family in which it descended for four generations.
Anna Pottery, run until 1894 by Cornwall and his brother, Wallace, is commonly associated with its pig flasks and temperance jugs, as both brothers were ardent supporters of the temperance movement. Both were also active in civic causes in Anna, Ill., so they often made presentation pieces, but this example, which recently resurfaced, represents one of the most important discoveries of Anna Pottery to date and illustrates the Kirkpatricks’ strong sense of family and place.
Amy R. Kirkpatrick was the fifth child of her father’s second marriage in 1849 to Amy Vance Kirkpatrick (1823-1903), sister of his first wife who died in 1848. Never married and often referred to as “Miss Birdie,” the younger Amy was herself an accomplished artist who worked in oils and watercolors in an impressionistic style, having studied at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1882-83.
Auctioneer Jeff Evans said, “This really is the bridge between utilitarian American salt-glazed, cobalt-decorated stoneware to the American art pottery movement, and that’s one of the reasons, I think, the museums were so interested in it.”
Evans, who was showing off the piece back in January at the New York Ceramics & Glass Fair, said his firm waited to sell it at this auction, which usually features the best Americana pieces of any of its auctions during the year, to maximize museum exposure. The strategy paid off in spades with the piece attracting more museum interest than private interest. Another interesting trend in this sale was with 182 registered in-house bidders (up about 50-60 from the usual number for this yearly auction) – online bidders only won about 30 percent of the lots offered. The company usually averages 30 to 50 percent in online sales.
A chapter in numismatics collecting history in America kicked off the auction with 80-some coins, mostly from a Frederick County, Md., estate. Jeff Evans sold the first half of this collection – early American dollars and half dollars – last June. The unrecorded collection looks to have been assembled starting around 1904, and many examples in this sale still have their original paper sleeves bearing typed notations from the collector as well as notes on original purchase prices. The top selling coin this time out was lot 1, a high-relief, wire rim, St Gaudens $20 gold coin ($3/5,000) from 1907 that attained $16,380.
A group of Confederate currency notes followed and yielded the top price of the sale’s first session – a Confederate States $100 Civil War note dated May 16, 1861, ($2/3,000) that achieved $24,570. Only 1,606 of these notes were reportedly issued and just over 140 examples have been recorded. Another standout Confederates States note, also from Montgomery, Ala., and May 1861, was a $50 Civil War currency note ($1/2,000) that earned $14,040. The serial number on each note was not recorded in Criswell’s numbering system.
“We knew the Confederate currency was going to perform well. We just didn’t think it would bring those prices,” Evans said, noting that the Confederate notes were a happy surprise. “It was a fresh estate collection that hadn’t seen the light of day for 100 years or so. That really gets people excited when it’s something that fresh to the market.”
Buyers’ passion for Confederate States history continued with a Fayetteville Arsenal rifle having a walnut stock, buttplate, trigger guard and barrel bands, marked 1863, that more than quadrupled its high estimate to go out at $14,040.
Another chapter in American history represented in this sale was an early John Brown pike with a forged leaf-form blade, numbered 150, and made by Charles Blair of Collinsville, Conn., for the Torrington, Conn.-born Brown (1800-1859), a noted abolitionist who was not afraid to use violent methods to squash slavery. Brown ordered 950 pikes from Blair in 1857 in anticipation of an uprising after his planned raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in October 1859, which ultimately ended with many of Brown’s men killed or captured within 36 hours. The low number on this pike indicates that it was among the first batch Blair made, as he stopped production after the first 500 due to nonpayment from Brown. Brown returned in 1859 to pay and Blair completed production.
On the sale’s second day, Virginia and Southern pieces were prominently featured and found a receptive audience here. A leading piece of stoneware was an important Morgantown, W.Va., stoneware jar brush-decorated in cobalt with a single-humped camel, a tree, cow and a milkmaid, along with two facing figures at a table, the latter being an unusual motif for Thompson family’s Morgantown Pottery. The circa 1860, 2-gallon jar made $5,850.
Southern examples also led the furniture category with a Virginia or North Carolina, Chippendale walnut cellarette/bottle case on stand, circa 1800, having a pleasing diminutive form that fetched $10,530. Other standouts included a Kentucky Piedmont, S.C., walnut huntboard, second quarter Nineteenth Century, at $6,435, and a Kentucky inlaid walnut child’s chest of drawers, circa 1830, for $7,020.
“We always hang onto our best Southern things for this sale and as it turned out there were some really strong Southern pieces across the board,” Evans said. “It was a strong sale overall.”
For additional information, www.jeffreysevans.com or 540-434-3939.
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