Published: February 14, 2012
Julia’s February 2‴ auction was filled with American, European and Asian treasures †from paintings, furniture, folk art, marine and nautical items to bronzes, silver, weathervanes, Oriental rugs, historical items, porcelain, Orientalia and more. Auctioneer James Julia called it possibly the firm’s most diverse auction ever †and he got it right.
Leading the $3,058,000, three-day sale was a pair of huanghuali yoke back chairs from the Richard B. Hobart collection. Bought in 1921 in Beijing by Janet E. Hobart, these chairs featured flowing lines, pagoda crossbar tops and stylized lotus flower carvings. The chairs hit within their presale estimate, selling for $460,000.
Packed into the three-day schedule †which called for some degree of multitasking on the part of absentee bidders on February 4 as Super Bowl fever gripped the nation †were 400 American and European paintings, as well as furniture and accessories, plus more than 400 lots of Asian items from the private collection of the granddaughter of the last emperor Puyi.
“I was pleased overall with the sale,” said Bill Gage, the firm’s head of the antiques and fine arts division. “It was our second biggest sale to date, and although the three days were broken up into distinct groups, the sale was diverse across each of the days. Each of the days had something for everybody.”
Day one started things off with approximately $1 million worth of paintings covering American and European artists, local New England artists, illustration art and more. Included were more than 30 works by Maine artists and coastal scenes. A standout in this section was an Impressionistic snowy New York City street scene by American artist Edmund William Greacen (1877‱949) showing the bustling downtown in the midst of a chilling blizzard.
The painting carried a $6/9,000 estimate, but, like the scene it depicted, it blew forcefully past this and settled at $21,850. “This was just a beautiful example by this artist,” said Gage. “It was fresh, had always been in the family, so there was a lot of action on it.” Greacen studied painting at the Art Students League in New York. Between 1906 and 1909 he lived in Paris and Giverny, studying the works of the French Impressionists, particularly those of Claude Monet (1840‱926), before returning to America to open the first of two art schools in New York City.
The star of the fine art on offer in the sale came in session two when James Edward Buttersworth’s (American, 1817‱894) “Yacht Racing In New York Harbor,” also fresh from an East Coast consignor, attracted at least ten phone bidders †perhaps the most in the entire sale, according to Gage †one of which, an agent bidding on behalf of a client claimed it for $63,250. The oil on board yacht racing scene showed two side-by-side black-hulled single-mast yachts sailing left to right in the Upper Bay of New York with Castle Garden on the tip of Manhattan on the left and Castle William on Governors Island on the right. Several other ships could be seen in the 8-by-12-inch work, signed lower right “J E Buttersworth.”
There was strong fervor among bidders as well for an original oil on canvas by Philip R. Goodwin (American, 1882‱935) that had great crossover appeal to lovers of firearms, early advertising and American illustration art. “Hunters In A Cabin” had originally been commissioned in 1920 by Peters Cartridge Co of Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the largest ammo manufacturers of the period, for use as a calendar. The oil on canvas depicts four men in period hunting gear, two with double guns, eagerly preparing for a cold weather hunt inside a cozy wooden shack. A wooden crate of Peters shot shells prominently placed in the right foreground is an early example of product placement.
The Peters Co. was sold to Remington Arms in 1934, as was the original painting. Sometime prior to 1970, it is not known exactly when, Remington sold the painting privately. Again in 1983, the image became calendar art when the original painting was loaned back to Remington Arms for production of a retro-look calendar. Won by an agent buying for his client, the 40-by-30-inch painting went out at $54,625.
It was an unusual situation that faced Gage and his staff when they were invited into a home to view a George Catlin (1796‱872) North American Indian portfolio. The 25 fine hand-colored lithographed plates after Catlin by Catlin and McGahey, lithographed by Day and Haghe, had each been mounted on a card within ink-ruled borders, put into shadowbox frames and displayed on walls throughout the house. “I like going into local houses,” said Gage. The disassembled portfolio, however, created a challenge in estimating the lot and the auction house put a $40/60,000 estimate on the collection of hunting scenes and vistas of the Rock Mountains and prairies of America as depicted by the artist during his eight years of travel among 48 remote North American Native tribes.
Inscribed on the back of Plate 15, “Buffalo Hunt on Snow,” was the line “Given by a grateful patient 1850‱860 to Dr Daniel A. Dodge to his daughter 1870 Miss Susan Ross Dodge to her nephew 1930 Edward R. Squibb 2nd,” from there to the portfolio’s consignor. Good condition and color led to a good sale price: $48,300.
Heading back overseas after a long sojourn in a Rangeley, Maine, private collection is an outstanding large historical oil on canvas scene of the monumental cemetery at the northern edge of the Cathedral Square in Pisa, Italy. The artist is Adolphe Antoine Perrot (French, 1818‱887), and the painting, “Campo Santo At Pisa, Italy,” 37 by 53 inches and signed lower right “Perrot 1881,” brought $40,250, well above its $5/10,000 presale estimate.
It would not be a Julia’s auction without the inclusion of a stellar weathervane or two. Filling the bill nicely was an exceptional full body Goddess of Liberty copper figure in a dramatic pose offered on day two. Made in the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century and attributed to Cushing & White, Waltham, Mass., this example depicting a cinch-waisted Lady Liberty displaying a flag, mounted on a museum stand. The vane was from a private Maine collection and stood 43 inches high. The lot exceeded its $15/20,000 presale estimate, realizing $29,325 following bidding action conducted primarily on the phone, according to Gage.
Gage, who has certainly seen it all, recounted a humorous anecdote about another weathervane offered in the sale. An A.J. Harris & Son “Ethan Allen and Wagon” weathervane had been stolen from atop a Maine barn and subsequently recovered by local police. While the vane was being held at the police station, the owner died, recounted Gage, subsequently the vane became part of the estate and was designated for sale by the attorneys. “When we picked it up from the Dunstable [Maine], police station, it still had the yellow crime scene tape on it. I kept the tape,” Gage chuckled. In the end, despite its checkered past, the copper horse-drawn sulky with a weathered patina was contested by collectors and dealers, finally selling to an agent for a collector for $77,050.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.jamesdjulia.com or 207-453-7125.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm