Published: June 6, 2017
Review and Onsite Photos by Karla Klein Albertson, Catalog Photos Courtesy Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
MOUNT CRAWFORD, VA. – Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates led off his spring glass sale on May 20 with the Joan E. Kaiser collection of Sandwich and related glass. Superb and comprehensive, this assemblage was an offering that collectors had been anticipating for many years. Kaiser and Raymond E. Barlow were the authors of The Glass Industry in Sandwich, a comprehensive, five-volume study published between 1983 and 1999. She also wrote The Glass Industry in South Boston, published by the University Press of New England in 2009. Many of pieces in this collection had been illustrated in these essential references.
Evans’ facility is in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley, not far from an entrance to the Skyline Drive that runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 1,000-lot auction realized $445,799 with the buyer’s premium, of which Joan Kaiser’s 425 lots accounted for $320,153. The sale had more than 700 bidders, 40 of whom attended the sale. About 40 percent of the material sold online. Jeff and Beverley Evans are longtime friends of the glass scholar. Jeff wrote an eloquent opening tribute to the fully illustrated special-edition catalog for the Kaiser lots.
He noted, “The collection was assembled with great thought and reflects Joanie’s analytical instincts honed from work as a technical illustrator. Her eye for detail, attention to condition and understanding of historical context have been guiding attributes of her collecting objective. Always one to have a clear goal in mind, every piece offered here was carefully vetted and tells a part of the overall story of glass made and used in the Boston/Cape Cod area during the Nineteenth Century.”
Prices for early American glass in general have declined from Twentieth Century highs, but collectors’ desire to acquire something once owned by Kaiser added zip to the bidding. After the sale, Jeff Evans explained, “For most of her objects, she had the earlier provenance as well – where she had acquired it, the collections it had been in. Many of her things had been in one or more exhibitions. Over a hundred of her lots had been published in the Sandwich or South Boston books. Even more common pieces had been illustrated in one of the books, so they brought considerably more than they would have if they had belonged to someone else. For some things, the provenance and exhibition history doubled the value. Which speaks to the fact that everyone should keep all the provenance when they buy stuff. A lot of these pieces she had collected for the specific purpose of using them to illustrate the books.”
What forms drew the most interest? Evans had the answer: “The lighting. Lamps and candlesticks were categories that were extremely hot. Pretty much everything sold well above estimate and well above where we thought they would. All of the really rare items, like the jade green covered hen [lot 109], performed well above expectations – almost like back in the old days!”
Four museums were successful bidders. Institutional buyers included the Sandwich Glass Museum, the New Bedford Museum of Glass, Colonial Williamsburg and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, whose Bayou Bend Collection acquired a pair of early cut overlay punty and flare fluid stand lamps. Examples of lamps in all glass rarely come to market.
Looking over the Kaiser lighting, there were more than 35 lots of single and paired candlesticks with the most vivid colors – especially greens and blues – bringing premiums. A single pressed petal and loop candlestick in an unusual translucent yellow green, illustrated in Volume 4 of the Sandwich series, sold for $2,223, well over its $300/500 estimate. A pair of pressed petal and columnar candlesticks in a bright starch blue brought $3,052 ($500/800) and a hexagonal pair in a startling shade of apple green made $2,691 ($800-$1,200). Both pairs had also been used as illustrations in Kaiser’s books.
Lamps followed the same path, producing precious gem prices for jewel-like colors. The star of the sale was a pair of deep purple-blue free-blown and pressed whale oil stand lamps from the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company, circa 1830. The pair – featured in the 1995 exhibition “Sensational Sandwich” at the Massachusetts museum of the same name – soared to $26,910 ($3/5,000). A pair of pressed three-printie block lamps in brilliant deep emerald green with period pewter and brass double-tube fluid burners rose to $10,530 ($2/3,000) .
When asked what future glass consignments he would welcome, Jeff Evans replied, “We’ve pretty much got everything we’re looking for coming in. We’re sitting on two of the top five collections in the country – one of them next spring, one of them next fall. But, I’d say, good early lighting. The Rushlight Club is very active and the Historical Lighting Society of Canada is another very active club that does a lot of research, scholarly work and publishing. That’s one reason that the early lighting has held up really well.”
Beyond the Kaiser collection, the remainder of the sale included lots of interest to every sort of glass collector – free-blown creations, lacy Sandwich, familiar pressed pattern forms and an extensive selection of flasks. In the latter, an emerald green GII-64 Eagle-Willington Glass Co., Connecticut pint flask brought $1,872 ($400/600). From the Roger Lee Gehman estate collection, a pair of Pittsburgh Strawberry Diamond and Fan cut candlesticks with a turn-over rim socket sold for $4,680 ($800-$1,200).
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium.
In addition to the commercial enterprise, Jeff Evans has put great time and effort into scholarship and education, with an emphasis on material from the Shenandoah Valley and his firm’s specialties. Two days before the auction, he was conducting a workshop for curators and students from the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which administers Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. Archaeological excavations often produce fragmentary material that must then be compared to intact examples. In this fashion, Joan Kaiser gathered evidence from excavated pieces for her book The Glass Industry in South Boston.
Jeff and Beverley’s interests extend beyond glass to other specialties in Americana. He curated and cataloged the exhibition “Vernacular Chairs of the Shenandoah Valley” in 2009, and the couple put together an exhibition at the Virginia Quilt Museum in 2012 on “Counterpanes and White Work of the Shenandoah Valley.” Jeff has partnered with Kurt C. Russ on “The Virginia Safe Project” since 2010. Their book Safes of the Valley is due out shortly from the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley.
The firm’s 2017 schedule is packed with sales. See the complete list at www.jeffreysevans.com.
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