Published: March 12, 2019
Review by Anne Kugielsky
HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. – At Leland Little Auctions’ March 2 estate auction, an inhouse audience competed with phone, online and absentee bidders to push most of the lots well beyond their estimates, finishing the auction at $1.2 million.
“The results of our auctions are a reflection of not just the fresh-to-the-market high quality of our offerings, but also our customers’ knowledge and confidence in the work we do before a lot comes to the block.” Leland Little, owner of his eponymous auction house said, “We are a traditional auction house; our material comes from regional estates, where we visit and choose the items we offer after thoroughly vetting them. And our buyers know this. Many of our sources come from word of mouth or people who have been our customers for years.”
An important ring with a high-quality Kashmir sapphire and diamond had ten people bidding through the high five-figures, Little said, and then two continued the bidding until the ring, estimated at $40/60,000, sold at $153,400. “The sapphire was flawless and the design, although not a signed piece, was timeless.”
Other jewelry lots in the top ten included a platinum and diamond ring with guard that had a $600/900 estimate and ended up selling for $16,520 – definitely a surprise lot. A platinum, diamond and Colombian emerald ring also beat its $5/10,000 estimate, going to $18,880; and a platinum and diamond ring sold at $12,390, well above its $8,000 high estimate.
The prints and multiples department provided several outstanding lots, including a David Hockney (British, b 1937) work titled “Marguerites”; estimated at $4/8,000, it sold at $14,160.
A map of South Carolina, “ordered by the legislature: by John Wilson, late Civil & Military Engineer of So. Car’a [Carolina].” Printed in Philadelphia by H. S. Tanner, 1822, sold at $12,390. It was the first official map of the state.
Another publishing highlight came in a set of The Federalist Papers, as the historic pro-ratification of the US Constitution writings are known. The first volume was published as a compilation in 1788 by J.&A. McLean of New York with a very rare second edition by John Tiebout following in 1799. The set offered by Leland Little was a marriage of the two editions, likely being bound and sold together by Tiebout. “The different editions did not deter bidders,” Little said. “A local collector won it at $24,780, a good price; even though the books need restoration, it is a very rare set.”
While not among the top ten lots, a pair of rare Venetian bronze, mythological figural door knockers were among the lots Little mentioned as interesting and unique. From a regional manor home, the knockers sold at $5,900, well above their $1/2,000 estimate. From the same estate, an large Eighteenth Century Continental chinoiserie pastoral tapestry, 8 feet 10 inches by 15 feet 7 inches, showed an exotic landscape centered with a Chinese pagoda, with architectural design elements among flowering foliage and avian motifs and peacocks in the corner, and a dark blue border with scrolled and floral design. It was estimated at $3/5,000 and sold at $9,440 after strong competition.
Other furnishings included a circa 1800 Southern Federal inlaid walnut sideboard that Little said was, “probably North Carolina, and was just a perfect piece of art in structure and proportions; it had beautiful inlays and the walnut was also perfect.” The piece sported a crusty surface and was completely fresh to the market. Although estimated at $5/10,000, many collectors and dealers recognized its potential and pushed the bidding to $29,500 from a collector who will ensure the integrity of the piece will be restored, according to Little.
He said, “we typically have a very high sell-through rate in the 98 percent range,” and most lots in this important spring auction sold above estimate. Other top lots ran the gamut from a Berger, Peduzzi-Riva and Ulrich, DS 600 organic, flexible sofa and two chairs that sold at $14,750, over its $4/8,000 estimate, to an antique North Carolina slip-decorated redware dish that was a real sleeper of the sale. From the collection of the late Nicholas Ellis, a New York collector, the dish, decorated with a two-color slip and wide borders with triangles in a startlingly abstract design, was a deep redware dish with a flower form compass in the center. At 2 by 10-3/8 inches, the dish was offered with an estimate of $800-$1,200 but the first bid set an upward trajectory – bouncing from the $400 opening bid to $10,500. The competition continued until the final price of $16,520.
In fine art, beyond the David Hockney etching, an oil on canvas by Russian-born American artist Adolf Sehring (1930-2015) also far exceeded its $1/3,000 estimate and might, according to Little, even be a record for the artist. Sehring’s “Gathering Flowers,” a 23½-by-29½-inch painting of a young girl in a field of wildflowers sold at $30,680. (A cursory search of auction prices for Adolf Sehring validates Little’s belief that this is indeed an auction record for the artist.)
Leland Little’s next quarterly auction will be June 15. He and his staff are sourcing items to offer another auction of newly discovered and carefully vetted items. All prices, with the buyer’s premium, as reported by the auction house. For additional information, www.lelandlittle.com or 919-644-1243.
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