Published: February 7, 2012
Buyers put a premium on fresh material in unrestored condition at Keno Auction’s $2,626,000 various owners sale of important Americana on January 17. Including the afternoon session of Woodlands Indian art from the Peter Brams collection, which realized $889,900, the house generated $3.6 million on 435 lots, surpassing its high estimate by $300,000. Auctioneer Leigh Keno said that the sale, 81 percent sold by lot, was his best yet.
The eclectic various owners sale demonstrated the young company’s attention to fine arts, a department now guided by consultant Betty Krulik. Two works by Childe Hassam set the pace. An oil study on panel for the artist’s Isles of Shoals series made $74,400 ($25/45,000) while “Smelt Fishers, Cos Cob, 1902,” a pastel and pencil on paper, garnered $34,720 ($30/50,000).
Another Greenwich, Conn., view, the watercolor “Round Hill Road, Mooreland Estate” by William Launt Palmer, grossed $25,560 ($15/25,000). Palmer’s oil on canvas “Winter Twilight” came in at $43,400 ($15/25,000).
A signed William Mason Brown fruit and floral still life went for $59,520 ($20/40,000). Passed were John Haberle’s trompe l’oeil “The Artist’s Palette” ($20/40,000); John George Brown’s “The Reluctant Bride” ($60/80,000); and Norman Rockwell’s study for “Maternity Waiting Room” ($40/80,000).
Property Of A New York Family
Illustrated in the summer 2006 issue of Antiques and Fine Art magazine, a traditional collection of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American furniture and accessories, much of it assembled in the 1990s by a couple who worked closely with the late Woodbury, Conn., dealer Wayne Pratt, was tepidly received. A carved mahogany Salem, Mass., settee attributed to Samuel McIntire sold for $86,800 ($40/80,000), 35 percent less than it brought at Christie’s 1990 auction of the collection of Mr and Mrs Eddy Nicholson.
There was, however, interest in a North Shore, Mass., blockfront, slant front desk, $37,200 ($15/25,000), a form for which Pratt was well known; a pair of Connecticut Federal shield back chairs, $22,500 ($15/25,000); a paint decorated Federal worktable, $19,890 ($12/18,000); and a pair of girandole mirrors bearing the remnants of a C.N. Robinson of Philadelphia label, $40,300 ($15/25,000).
The Lansdell K. Christie Queen Anne veneered high chest of drawers with carved and gilded shells disappointed at $68,200 ($60/100,000), On the other hand, the market proved robust for six primitive paintings by Cape Cod artist Ralph E. Cahoon Jr. New York dealer Paul Vandekar, who claimed several of the Cahoons ranging in price from $12,500 to $34,700, said he planned to take the works with him to Palm Beach, where he exhibits in February.
There was far more interest in three fresh-to-the-market pieces in attic condition. At $632,400 ($100/250,000), the sale’s top lot was a carved, joined and painted oak chest attributed to the Deacon John Moore shop tradition of Windsor, Conn. Recently discovered in an upstate New York house, the late Seventeenth Century chest descended in one family for more than two centuries. Underbid by Massachusetts dealer David Wheatcroft, it went to the phone.
Seymour scholars Robert Mussey and Christopher Shelton credited a stylish Boston card table with most of its original painted decoration intact to Thomas Seymour with paint decoration by Joshua Holden of the John Ritto Penniman shop. The table belongs to a suite of furniture that includes two chairs, one at Winterthur and one on loan to the New York State Museum. Four chairs in all were formerly with Israel Sack Inc. A New England collector bidding by phone got the table for $347,200 ($50/100,000).
In the folk art category, an unusual Prior-Hamblin School portrait of a baby seated in a cradle holding a sprig of cherries fetched $142,000 ($25/35,000). A life-sized carved and painted Indian chief from an Order of the Red Men fraternal lodge in upstate New York crossed the block at $47,120 ($10/20,000).
Woodlands Indian Art
In the afternoon, Keno had the privilege of selling 435 lots of Woodlands Indian burled bowls and effigy ladles assembled by a New Yorker collector, Peter Brams, who worked closely with New York dealer Steve Powers, a foremost specialist in American treen. Through Powers, Brams bought from top Native American art dealers, including Ted Trotta and Anna Bono, and Donald Ellis. Keno noted his lifelong love of treen and described the influence of Devere Card, a Hamilton, N.Y., dealer who organized the first exhibition of the material in the United States. Card’s painted shop sign was the sale’s first lot. It fetched $868.
Powers, who bought back roughly half of the collection for other clients, said that he began working with Brams around 1998. “We hit it off and shared a similar aesthetic. We like pieces that are very reductive and have real integrity of line. The collection grew from burl and over time became more focused on ladles, which we knew were underappreciated. The significance of the Brams collection can’t be overstated. Nothing like this has ever been assembled before. There were 60 good to great to masterpiece ladles.”
Leading sales was a Great Lakes region figured-maple ladle with a lynx handle. Dating to around 1780, it made $89,900 ($30/50,000). Earlier in date was a reductive Algonquin feast ladle with a human effigy figure for a handle. It brought $68,200 ($40/80,000). Made between 1865 and 1885, a Western Woodlands ladle with a whimsical dog’s face handle passed at $12/18,000.
Powers recalled exalting after he and Brams assembled a trio of burl bowls that resold for $48,360, $62,000 and $46,500. “We considered it a real coup to have them. My favorite has always been Lot 308, the Eastern Woodlands burl-elm effigy bowl, possibly of Iroquois or Ojibwa origin, that may date to the Seventeenth Century,” said Powers.
Keno Auctions’ next sale is scheduled for May 15 and will showcase American paintings among its varied offerings. For information, 212-734-2381 or www.kenoauctions.com .
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