Published: August 14, 2012
A trifecta of auctions had sporting art and decoy collectors heading to New England in July for sales that saw auction records broken and some million-dollar totals.
Copley Fine Art Auctions’ July 12‱3 sporting sale in Plymouth, Mass., featuring more than 650 lots of paintings, works on paper, bronzes, books, folk art, antique bird decoys, and decorative carvings, brought $3,357,389, with Session I fetching $2,126,849 and Session II another $1,230,540.
The sale had record participation of 650 live, telephone, absentee and online bidders. Auction results were up 31 percent from the 2011 sporting sale.
The top lot was Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert’s “Roused, A Tiger and Tigress,” which far exceeded its $150/250,000 estimate, reaching $333,500. The work was highly sought after, with numerous phone bidders vying for the painting.
Copley sold all seven of its original Carl Rungius oils offered from a private Virginia collection above or within estimate, but it was Charles Schreyvogel’s “The Last Drop” from the same collection that broke a record, selling for $109,250, the highest price paid for this casting at auction. Another highlight of the sale was Ogden Pleissner’s “On a Scottish Grouse Moor,” which brought $94,875.
A red-breasted merganser hen from the Captain Samuel Augustus Fabens rig was the mover of the auction, shattering its $15/25,000 estimate, with two phone bidders driving it up to $184,000. Many commented that it was the best duck decoy in the room, with the only lot topping its price being a pair of Shourds hissing geese that fetched $201,250.
Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter
Guyette, Schmidt & Deeter’s annual summer decoy auction July 17‱8 at the Sheraton Harborside Hotel in Portsmouth, N.H., saw many offerings making their auction debut or that had not been seen since the early decoy auctions dating back to the Richard Bourne sales of the early 1980s.
The sale shattered several key records and grossed well over $2 million, with 95 percent of the items offered being sold and 43 items selling for more than $10,000 each, making it the company’s most successful summer sale in seven years.
Many factors contributed to the sale’s success, according to Gary Guyette. “Our guests really enjoy making the July auction part of a summer vacation destination where they can view hundreds of decoys, visit with friends and meet other collectors. Bidding throughout the sale was strong, caused by a renewed interest from seasoned collectors, along with new participants entering the market.
Auction highlights include the top lot at $115,000, a full-size standing wood duck drake by noted Massachusetts carver Elmer Crowell, circa 1915. The carving, bearing Crowell’s oval brand on the underside, is one of only four known full-size wood ducks with Crowell’s earlier oval brand. Pieces like this were carved for Crowell’s best customers and they are rare and desirable. This carving was in the consignor’s family since an ancestor purchased it directly from Crowell’s workshop.
A rare miniature great blue heron made by carver A. Elmer Crowell sold for $31,050 at a summer decoy auction July 15‱6 by Decoys Unlimited, Inc, at the Cape Codder Resort & Hotel in Hyannis, Mass. It was a new auction record for a Crowell miniature, breaking the previous mark set about five minutes earlier. The auction grossed right around $1.15 million for 1,021 lots.
The great blue heron, at just over 8½ inches tall, was about twice the size of a typical Crowell miniature bird of this species, which no doubt drove up the price. It was mounted on a carved “rock” base with subtle undulations and the piece was signed on the base in Crowell’s hand, “Blue Heron.”
“All the Crowell carvings in this sale were strong, as were miniatures by A.J. King and George Boyd,” said Ted Harmon, owner of Decoys Unlimited, Inc, based in Barnstable, Mass. “The market is much stronger than it was in 2008 and 2009. The back-to-back Crowell miniature record-breakers are indicative of a healthy demand.”
While the name Crowell was chanted frequently throughout the sale, one of his decoys was not the top lot. That honor went to a rare red knot in breeding plumage, with carved wings and shoulders, by John Dilley of Quoque, N.Y. The decoy, showing intricately painted feather detail, hammered for $51,750.
All prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, Decoys Unlimited, Inc’s next big sale is tentatively slated for October. For information, www.copleyart.com or 617-536-0030; www.guyetteandschmidt.com or 410-745-0485; and www.decoysunlimitedinc.net or 508-362-2766.
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