Published: July 20, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Lark Mason Associates
NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS, NEW YORK CITY & ONLINE – “We were very happy with the sale,” Lark Mason III said. “Out of all of the lots, we had a nice number sold and a lot of action on lots that got bids. It was a big sale for us, and we were happy to see there was action and strong results. This kind of [mixed category] sale is fun; people bid on things they might not bid on in a specialized sale and we had a lot of new bidders who we’ve never worked with before, particularly for some of the things we don’t often sell.”
Mason was talking about the online auction conducted by Lark Mason Associates that closed on July 7, headlined by the estate of a Connecticut collector with other consignments from Texas and elsewhere. The sale sold 282 lots of more than 450 with an aggregate total of about $511,390.
“We’re not known for selling watches, but we got a great price for that one. I went online and found retail offerings of the same watch selling for less than $50,000. The one we had brought $53,750 with the premium.” He was referring to the top lot in the sale, a Patek Philippe 18K white gold nautilus wristwatch that had been purchased new in 2009 and was accompanied by its original certificate of origin, manual, warranty card, dust cover, presentation case, outer box and additional leather band. With watch experts reporting lengthy wait times for consumers, buying a premium wristwatch at auction may be one of the very few options for buyers who “gotta have it now.” The complete package of this watch undoubtedly helped push the price to a retail level, or beyond. It had come from a Texas estate and sold to a buyer in the United States.
Asian art and antiques are among the firm’s strengths, so it is unsurprising that an Asian work of art be among the top selling items of the auction. Bringing $40,000 from a buyer in China was an Eighteenth Century Tibetan gilt-bronze seated Bodhisattva that measured 6¾ inches tall. Mason said they knew it would bring more than its $4/8,000 estimate but even they were surprised at how well it did.
“The Birger Sandzéns were great. All were very small, but the prices were fantastic,” Mason raved about three works by the Swedish American artist (1871-1954) in the sale, two of which were in oil and brought the third and fourth highest prices of the day. “Snow and Mountain” was done in oil on board in 1925 and measured 9 by 12 inches outside of the frame. It had been handled by Douglas A. Frazier Fine Art and exhibited in two fine art shows in 1998 prior to its acquisition by a private collector in Arizona. An American buyer bid it to $30,002. The same buyer paid $30,000 for Sandzén’s “Twilight,” a 22-by-28-inch oil on canvas work done in 1941 that also had provenance to Douglas A. Frazier Fine Art and private Arizona collection.
The third work by Sandzén in the sale was a watercolor titled “Trees Along the Smoky River” from 1930, which sold to another buyer, within estimate, for $3,751.
Mason attributed the success of the Sandzén works to the effort on the part of his team to reach out to potential buyers directly.
The result realized by a large white marble figural group was one Mason was particularly pleased with. The life-sized figures of Hagar or Sarah and Ishmael that were faintly signed “J. Lucca di Roma 1874” had come from an estate in Texas, which had acquired them, as Mason put it, “not too long ago, for $10,000,” so he was understandably thrilled that it brought $25,033 from a buyer in Texas. “Most of these really large Nineteenth Century biblical or classical figures are hard to sell now; the fact that this one, which was huge, almost doubled the high estimate was fabulous.”
Other marbles in the sale also did well. Bringing $20,000 and four times the high estimate was “Jephthah’s Daughter” by Joseph Mozier (1812-1870), which stood 49 inches tall, nearly 75 inches overall on its veined dark marble base. An unattributed Neoclassical carved marble bust of a leader that was dated to the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century more than doubled its low estimate when it finished at $11,250; it was in better condition than a Neoclassical carved marble bust of a beauty, also Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century, which sold within estimate, for $4,188.
When Mason was researching prices for Emile Louis Foubert’s (French, 1848-1911) oil on canvas painting of a female nude, he saw a recent work – comparable in size and subject – bring a few thousand euros at an auction in Europe in the summer of 2020, so he priced the one he had at $2/5,000. Not only did the $18,750 price realized shatter expectations, but it set a new record auction price for the artist, besting the previous record of $15,600 that was set by Sotheby’s New York in 2005.
The $2,200 price realized by a painting of a male nude by Lieven Herremans (Belgian, 1858-1921) appears to be the second highest price achieved for a work by the artist since 2011; according to AskArt, the highest auction price is $4,545.
Mason did not intimate that the firm would be branching out to sports collectibles yet but was very pleased with the $5,313 achieved for a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth. He said that the ball, which he described as in “pretty terrible condition,” had been acquired in Texas at an estate sale where it was sold as a fake. Mason did the research and realized it was right, and estimated it at $1/2,000, a value that was comparable to other balls signed by Ruth. He noted that it would be staying in Texas.
The estimate for a Japanese lacquer, cloth and metal suit of armor was “right where it should have been,” and it sold for $4,500, to a buyer in the Northeast. Mason said samurai and ninja culture has been romanticized among Western buyers and helps bolster the markets for those antiques. He said the firm had a collection of ninja and samurai works that would be offered in the fall.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For more information, 212-289-5524 or www.larkmasonassociates.com.
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