Published: October 14, 2008
A recently discovered jar by potter John Alexander Lowe set a record for Tennessee pottery at the September 27 Case Antiques’ auction. John Case, owner, said that state archaeologists dug up pottery shards bearing Lowe’s name at a site in Greene County, Tenn., several years ago. The circa 1860 jar, with extruded handles, incised decoration at the handle attachments and stamped name circling its shoulders, however, is the only known intact piece of Lowe’s pottery to ever surface.
Estimated at $12/18,000, the redware jar soared to $63,000, selling to a collector in the room. The six underbidders included the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Other Southern pottery in the sale was strong across the board. A Nineteenth Century Kentucky stoneware 5-gallon churn, stamped “J&E Wood” and “Maysville KY” in cobalt, smashed its $400/600 estimate to sell for $5,175. A Southwest Virginia stoneware jar with later painting of a bird, one of only two known pieces signed by potter James Vestal, hit $1,800, and an 8-inch-tall stoneware jar by Knoxville potter William Grindstaff, bearing his half-crescent mark, brought $1,238.
But the well-attended sale had more than pottery to offer. Other highlights included a rare ten-volume octavo set by John J. Audubon, including The Birds of America and The Quadrupeds of North America , which sold to a private collector for $36,000. There were also four Audubon “Birds of America” prints from the 1835 Havell edition, which ranged in price from $1,125 to $2,363. All had some condition issues, including toning and folded margins.
A scarce stippled engraving titled “A Cudgelling Match Between English and French Negroes in Dominica” after Agostino Brunias (Italian, 1728‱796) drew competition from European underbidders before hammering down to an American collector for $1,463.
Paintings were led by an unsigned watercolor portrait on paper, dated 1836, of James H. Lowrey, a prominent Tennessee citizen. Case said it is one of the earliest known Tennessee watercolors, but it elicited bidder interest from collectors and dealers around the country, realizing $8,325.
An oil on canvas of the Sam Houston schoolhouse in East Tennessee by Eleanor McAdoo Wiley (American, 1876‱977) earned $2,587, while a small landscape by Thomas Campbell (English/Tennessee, 1834‱914) brought $2,138. A circa 1900 acanthus and leaf-and-dart carved picture frame, bearing the label of Wilmurt and Son of New York, sold to an East Coast dealer for $2,025. (Wilmurt and Son provided frames for John Singer Sargent and Jasper Cropsey.)
A signed East Tennessee sampler, dated 1845, and depicting a house, finished at $6,300, while a Revolutionary War-era scrimshaw decorated powder horn engraved with bird and tulip decorations and signed “John Hoffman, 1773,” brought $3,600, amid national interest. An 1849 Colt pocket revolver with case and accessories reached $2,250.
There were bargains on Southern furniture; the category was led by a Middle Tennessee cherry sugar chest with square tapered legs and some replaced molding, which sold within estimate at $4,500. A tall case clock with wooden works by Read and Watson of Cincinnati and cherry case attributed to Tennessee brought $3,937.
Southern classical and Sheraton chests of drawers brought from $400 to $900, while several work table forms went in the $100 to $600 range; a folky Southern two-drawer example with acanthus carved stiles and spiral turned legs was a star at $1,462.
Metalware standouts included a 163-piece set of Reed and Barton sterling flatware in the Francis I pattern, $4,500; a Baltimore repoussé sterling tea set from Nashville, circa 1900, brought $3,263; and an early Twentieth Century Tiffany sterling organic-form pitcher, $2,250. An early Nineteenth Century American copper tea kettle stamped “W. Heyser Chambersburg PA” with replaced finial sold for $1,125.
All prices given include the 12½ percent buyer’s premium charged.
Case Antiques’ next auction is set for December 8 at the gallery, 5719 Woodburn Drive. For more information, 865-558-3033 or www.caseantiques.com .
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