Published: March 1, 2011
After a highly successful auction that tallied more than $2 million, auctioneer James Julia is confident that there is little doubt the economy is on the upswing. Optimism and energy filled the atmosphere at Julia’s recent antiques and fine art auction, conducted February 3 and 4.
Many in the standing-room-only crowd were clearly in awe as many lots reached prices reminiscent of prerecession. The two-day event presented an array of nearly 400 American and European paintings offered on the first day of the auction, followed by a full-day’s worth of furniture, folk art and accessories from collections and estates from across the country. Of particular note, the sale marked the final installment from the famed Woolworth Collection, from which Julia’s has sold innumerable objects from the family’s immense compound on the shores of beautiful Cobbossee Lake in Monmouth, Maine.
In addition, were selections from the museum and private collection of Dorothy-Lee Jones. Her husband is a direct descendent of the famous Revolutionary War General Artemas Ward and both she and her mother during their lifetimes had amassed a formidable collection of glass and ceramics. Some years ago, Jones started a glass museum and research center in Douglas Hill, Maine, and her collection and the regular presentations that took place were well known throughout North America.
One such piece from the Jones collection was a rare and highly desirable Marblehead Pottery vase. Decorated with stylized flowers with applied slips on a beautiful matte finish green body, it was originally estimated at $1/1,500, but after the catalog was published, Julia’s Americana department head Bill Gage learned this was a particularly rare example from the Marblehead Pottery. In fact, it was one of only six known by sale time. There were nearly 20 phones in play and the fight was on. After a dramatic bidding battle, the vase brought a final price of $86,250.
European art made a strong showing, highlighted by a busy town scene by Dutch artist Andrianus Everson. Showing a cobblestone avenue lined with shops and townspeople milling about, this stunning piece brought $56,350 against expectations of $3/5,000.
From the Woolworth Collection were numerous important paintings, such as an oil on canvas scene by British artist Heywood Hardy showing a group of fox hunters on horseback congregating in front of a tavern in preparation for a hunt. This work exceeded expectations of $10/20,000 to sell for $29,325. Belgian artist Bernard Pothast’s interior scene of a provincial mother tending to her young children exuded charm and elicited emotion, as good paintings do. It surpassed its $9/12,000 estimate to finish at $20,700.
Across the pond to America’s shores, Julia’s presented a marvelous grouping of Rockport-Gloucester art with highlights including a generous and fresh selection of Emile Gruppe paintings. Included was an oil on canvas winter scene of a stream winding through a sunlit forest. A departure from his usual harbor scenes, it sold for $16,100.
Other American art included a small oil on board landscape of a small mountain waterfall by John Frederick Kensett that sold for many times its $5/8,000 estimate, realizing $40,250. An unstretched canvas panoramic landscape showing several boats on calm water against a mountainous backdrop by Robert Duncanson sold for $22,425, well exceeding the $5/7,000 estimate.
Day two of the auction consisted of nearly 800 lots and showcased a variety of folk and nautical art. Of particular note was a rare and important Cushing & White steam locomotive and tender weathervane. Hailing from the late Nineteenth Century, this recent estate discovery, constructed of zinc, copper and tin, was an exciting find. Modeled with precise details and still retaining its original metal plaque and remnants of an early painted surface, it sold for $43,125.
Other folk art included a recently discovered unframed oil on panel primitive folk art panorama of the Boston area’s Chelsea, which showed how much it has changed from rural farmland in 1827 to its present sprawl. Found in a coal bin in the cellar of a Boston-area home, it had descended through the family for its first public appearance. Active bidding saw the lot sell above estimate at $25,300.
Other folk art included several carousel figures from the early Twentieth Century. The grouping was highlighted by a rare Herschell-Spillman carousel frog, depicting a fanciful crouching green spotted frog inspired by Wind in the Willows , a classic of children’s literature by Kenneth Grahame. In old paint, he sprang to $10,350.
A grouping of several carved Black Forest pieces was highlighted by an unusual owl umbrella and cane stand. Consisting of two detailed hollow-body owls with open tops flanking a branch trellis center, it went to an overseas phone bidder for $6,325.
The auction continued with a wide variety of furniture and accessories, including a fine pair of English Hepplewhite carved mahogany open armchairs from the Woolworth Collection. With overstuffed upholstery and original wood surfaces with crisp carving, the pair, with prior provenance to Stair & Co. of New York, quickly surpassed a $5/10,000 estimate to ultimately sell for $52,900.
Early American furniture included a rare Pilgrim Century Massachusetts carved oak palm-panel chest attributed to the Savell Shop in Braintree. The highly carved quartersawn oak case by one of New England’s revered furniture makers is considered exceedingly rare. This example brought $33,350 against an estimate of $12/18,000.
Other highlights included a collection of more than 50 lots of silver from the private Jones collection. A covered footed serving bowl by Dominick & Haff featuring hand hammered finish highlighted by detailed insect and floral decoration helped to set the tone. It blasted through its $2/3,000 estimate to sell for $22,425.
A Tiffany sterling syrup with overall relief berry and vine decoration, a flying bird finial and C-scroll handle hit $3,680, and an Eighteenth Century egg-shaped London tea urn with delicate vine handles went out at $3,737. An enameled silver hinged round box was covered in a geometric enamel pattern and a lid decorated with a detailed enameled scene of a man and woman taking a winter stroll. From the Jones collection, it easily surpassed its $1/1,500 estimate, selling for $16,675.
The offering of fine metals continued with a collection of coins. Included was a rare 1807 $2.50 gold piece picturing a woman wearing a cap facing right (most US coins show a figure facing left) that sold for $9,200. An 1805 $5 gold piece with similar orientation brought $5,750 against a $2,8/3,500 estimate.
An unusual find that “made the papers” nearly a decade ago, originally located with a metal detector near a Revolutionary War battle site, was a 1652 Oak Tree schilling that made the news again, selling for $3,737.
A diverse offering of miscellany included a scattering of estate rugs, accessories and American Indian objects, such as a Navajo serape from the mid-1800s that sold for $17,250, nearly tripling the high estimate. A fine Aubusson allegorical tapestry depicting a well-attended royal being drawn in a chariot also performed well, bringing $24,150 against a $10/15,000 estimate. A classic 1947 Chrysler Crown Imperial limousine sold within estimate for $6,900. And an offering of Currier & Ives prints was highlighted by a very colorful large folio lithograph of a bird’s-eye view scene of a busy train stop in a mountain valley that realized $14,030.
Firearms and military memorabilia will be the next auction at Julia’s, scheduled for March 14 and 15. For information, 207-453-7125 or www.jamesdjulia.com .
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